YUMMMMMMMERS! If you haven’t tried this one you’re in for a treat! Wild sweet pea is incredibly delicious with a flavor that is reminiscent of pea sprouts. This plant is great in salads, Asian dishes, soups, stir-fries, or just as an exotic garnish. One might think that because this wild edible is related to store-bought peas it would be natural to harvest the pea pods, but this is not so! Wild sweet pea pods are tough to chew and quite are bland tasting. Instead of eating the pods, try devouring a few curly tips (called tendrils) or a couple brilliantly pink flowers. You’ll be hooked in no time! Watch the following video for identification tips:
Over the years wild sweet pea has received a bad rap in the press. The worst blow to its image came from the story Into The Wild, which depicts a young man (Christopher McCandless) dying after ingesting a wild-crafted pea variety. If you’re interested to read a summary of what supposedly happened you can google: “Into The Wild” and read all about it. However, be careful what you choose to believe as there is a lot of false information out there. Since McCandless’s death, various wild pea varieties have been studied extensively and it has been concluded that none of them are poisonous. In his book, Nature’s Garden, Samuel Thayer does a fantastic job summarizing the true events that lead to McCandless’s demise. I highly recommend this book and think that all serious foragers should have it in their library. Thayer states that the official coroner’s report on McCandless states that the young man was not poisoned, but died of starvation. Unfortunately, the media (authors, news reporters, movie producers, and the like) decided that that wasn’t a good enough story and blamed it on an innocent pea plant.
I have have questioned the edibility of wild peas over the years and have come to conclude that they are harmless. I have eaten them hundreds of times without any ill effect and will continue eating them again and again. By mentioning Into The Wild I am not trying to scare you, just prepare you. When you start consuming wild edibles on a regular basis, the people close to you will begin to worry about your well being and bring up “the case of the guy in Into The Wild.” I think it’s a good idea to read several different account of this event and decide for yourself where you stand on the matter!
For more info on foraging download my wild edible iPhone app: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wild-edibles/id430951647?ls=1&mt=8
No iPhone? No problem! Use the web app version for free: http://sergeiboutenko.com/wildediblesapp/ (works on android phones)