A lot of folks ask me what wild foods they can find this time of year. Here in the South, we can find fresh, wild foods to eat throughout the year. Wild greens are plentiful in the winter and early spring – check out my last article on wild salad greens in Edible Austin for a list of some greens to watch out for this time of year.
We can also find dried fruits that ripened in the fall still hanging on branches this time of year. Recently, I’ve found dried prickly pear fruits, farkleberries and chile pequins still on the plants and still perfectly edible. Actually, you’ll probably be able to find fresh and dried chile pequins on the same plant. I was walking with my friend in the greenbelt near Barton Springs Pool a few days ago and found a huge patch of chile pequins with red, green and dried peppers all over them.
These tiny little chiles are native to our area and are some of the hottest peppers you will ever taste! Of course you can use them just like you would any other hot pepper. I am experimenting with some salsa recipes for my book and am convinced that there are very few ways to tone down these spicy babies. So, look for chile pequins hanging on the spindly limbs of the shrub-sized chile pequin plant on your winter walks – they look just like their cultivated cousins but have smaller leaves and smaller peppers. Also, the plants might be dead or dying since they do die back in the winters, but the fruits are still fine to harvest and eat.