Foraging on the bike path

Every time I’m biking from my house in Northampton to campus and back along the bike path my eyes can’t help but wander into the woods on either side looking for edible plants. It’s slightly scary when the big frost heaves come up surprisingly fast, but all that looking has been fruitful! I finally went for a ride with the sole purpose of foraging, so I was prepared with bags and did not have all my books, and came back with many different plants.

The first, and most plentiful, plant along the bike path is garlic mustard. It borders the entire 10 mile stretch from Northampton to Amherst on both sides of the path. Garlic mustard is a very aggressive non-native plant that usually takes over the woods so eat away!

Garlic mustard in abundance, as always

Mixed in with the garlic mustard in this section is lots of stinging nettle. Although some people I know bravely harvest it without gloves, I biked that day with my  oven mitt – got to look stylish while foraging!

Garlic mustard and stinging nettle hanging out

In the shadier sections where garlic mustard is not hogging all the space, there are patches of violets. The leaves and flowers are edible. Be sure not to take too much, however, because violets are not as bountiful. And other people want to see the pretty purple flowers too!


The plant I had seen along the path and was most excited to try was japanese knotweed. This is another one considered an invasive species and so people will be happy if you eat it.

Lots of japanese knotweed, too big for eating

There were stalks of many different sizes, and lots still sprouting up. Japanese knotweed grows fast and the end of its edible season is approaching so hurry to your local colony!

Japanese knotweed at the best size for harvesting

I made a stir fry with all of my finds. I boiled the garlic mustard and stinging nettle for about 1 minute before stir frying. People said to boil the garlic mustard to tone down the overwhelming taste, but I don’t think it was necessary because I could barely taste garlic mustard. I peeled the outer skin of the Japanese knotweed, although I’m not sure it was necessary. I think I will try it next time without peeling because it was quite tedious. The Japanese knotweed provided an interesting tangy taste and then I mixed all of it with soy sauce and garlic. I will definitely make this again!


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