Today an inspired beginning forager went out in her back yard and found some cool looking weeds. She wanted to know whether they were dandlion and stinging nettle and sent us a photo inquiry.
Here are some tips about identifying dandelion and stinging nettle using the carefully thought out field guide section of Foraged Flavor.
1. dont rely on photos alone since wild plants can vary a lot in size and color. On the other hand you dont need to know EVERYTHING to ID a plant. STRUCTURE is more important than matching color and size ( i.e. do the leaves grow opposite or alternate form on the sides of the stem) as well as that telltale aroma.
2. SEASON. dandelion and stinging nettle are generally found in spring so you should not expect to find them in July and, if you find the odd plant or two, they may not be at their peak time for flavor.
3. KEY: every plant has a box with key characteristics. The dandelion grows from a “basal rosette” where all the toothed leaves come together at a central point. In the picture below this is not the case.
4. LEAF structure: as for stinging nettle: are there any stinging hairs? also the leaves are arranged OPPOSITE each other on the stem (not the case here)
Once you familiarize yourself with these few characteristics (we have left out botanical jargon like “hirsute”) you will be well on your way to easy foraging! AND BY THE WAY our intrepid forager DID end up identifying yellow wood sorrel in her back yard!!