From Backyard to Table: Ohio State Weed Science program creates foraging cookbook using those pesky plants from your garden

March 5, 2018
Bruce Ackley

Written by Collin Sparling, STEAM Intern, fouth-year in English

What if you could make spinach artichoke dip but without the spinach and it would taste nearly exactly the same? What if the alternative was some greens you pulled out of the ground in your backyard?

These are the types of ideas that professor Bruce Ackley along with graduate student Alyssa Lamb had when creating their book, Delicious Forages: Rediscovering the Lost Virtues of Edible Weeds. Bruce and Alyssa both work for the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University. When they aren’t traveling and gathering data on weeds growing throughout the state, Bruce and Alyssa are reveling in their love for food.

“This was nothing but a passion project.” said Bruce, “We just love food.”

Bruce and Alyssa spent months on end doing various amounts of research, pushing themselves to meet tight deadlines for their weed identification books. When they had finally finished the fifth book, they were ready for a break. It was then that they came up with the idea of combining their research with their biggest passion.

Choosing which weeds would be used for these recipes was no small feat, however. Through much taste testing and revising, Bruce and Alyssa were able to narrow the list down to five particular plants. With this list intact, they went on to create recipes like “leg of lamb with pigweed and feta cheese.” Of course, when selecting these five weeds, they went in with certain criteria:

“Number one was probably ease of ID (identification),” said Alyssa, “Something we were concerned about was the liability aspect of all this. Don’t want someone to ID something from your book and get sick or poisoned.”

“We wanted something that could be easily ID’d, readily found everywhere in Ohio, and tastes good.” Bruce chimed in, “Those were the three pillars.”

In addition to the recipes already in the book, Bruce and Alyssa plan to continuously add new recipes as they discover more useful weeds. Beyond that, people from the community are welcome to suggest new recipes to be added to the book, with the goal of creating a hub for all things foraging and cooking.

You can find Delicious Forages: Rediscovering the Lost Virtues of Edible Weeds on iTunes as well as Google Play, or follow the link below:

Bruce Ackley and Alyssa Lamb