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Fairfax Teacher Eats Unusual Greens

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Violets are reported to have a taste similar to Spinach, for those who think to eat them.
Jonh Lodder: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlodder/8670353036/
Violets are reported to have a taste similar to Spinach, for those who think to eat them.

Patrick McCafferty, 26, is tall, so it's a bit of a surprise when he emerges from a tiny cottage behind a small house in Charlottesville.

He's dressed in blue jeans and soft leather shoes that fit like gloves, with a place for each toe. He loves the feel, and when he heard that this line of shoes would not be made anymore, he bought five more pairs.

"Maybe close to 75 to 80 percent of the greens grown in your yard are edible," he says. "This is dead nettle. You can steam these, and they have a flavor that's actually reminiscent of mushrooms. Down here we've got some violets as well, which a lot of people will recognize by their heart-shaped leaves. It's very similar to spinach in flavor and texture. You can steam it or eat it raw."

McCafferty has always loved being outside, and in college he met a woman who lived in a wigwam and foraged for much of her food. She taught him the tricks of that trade, and he's become a master of plant identification.

"On the highway, I can identify weeds going 60 miles an hour," he says.

Actually, he avoids most land along highways, fearing air pollution that settles there. He also avoids rail lines, which are often sprayed with weed killers. Above all, he's learned which plants are poisonous.

"There are really only a few to look out for that are really dangerous: poison hemlock, that has leaves that look like carrots leaves. It's easy to confuse. Some people do try to find wild carrots, which are around here, also known as Queen Anne's Lace, so anything that resembles carrot or parsley leaves, I would stay away from as a beginner."

He also advises students at the elementary school where he teaches to avoid milkweed, pokeweed, and poison ivy.

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