In June 2011, a group of us went on a weekend camping trip to Kalaloch, on the Washington coast. We camped in a forested campground right on the beach, and edibles were growing everywhere (though unfortunately it was too early in the season to eat most of them, and others I couldn’t identify conclusively while we were there).
Several of these grow in Seattle as well, but you’ll need to find a good forested area, probably a park. The next several posts will focus on plants I saw at Kalaloch.
Wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) is so named due to its ginger smell when the leaves are crushed. The most interesting thing about wild ginger to me is that each leaf has its own stem, and 2 stems connect to each node. (1) The wild ginger propagates by rhizomes, which are located more or less underground – this quality also makes them easy to divide and propagate in your own yard, if you have a mostly shaded forest-y yard. (1)
|Wild ginger has heart-shaped leaves that grow close to the ground. Flowers appear in April (this picture was in June).|
You can eat the leaves of wild ginger in salads and stir-fries, but because some studies in rats show that the asarone it contains causes illness or tumors in high doses, it’s recommended that you use it as a garnish, condiment, or minor ingredient. (2) I very much doubt it can really do you any harm, since people tend to like to feed rats insanely high amounts of substances just to see what happens. Nevertheless, this warning appears most places that wild ginger is described as an edible plant, so better safe than sorry.
There are also other species of wild ginger that occur elsewhere in the world. (3)