Forage Albuquerque

In season through

Native range:

Elm trees in the desert

What's your nearest tree? If you're in an older neighborhood in Albuquerque, there's a good chance it's a Siberian elm. Planted in mass throughout the West to fight the dust bowl, these trees have further seeded themselves through urban landscapes as well as the bosque, where in many areas they have replaced native cottonwoods.

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Elm flowers and budding seeds.

As winter turns into spring, elms are our first tree to green up. Leaves? No—these electric green discs are edible seed pods called samaras with a mild, fresh leafy taste. To harvest, simply strip the seeds from the branches. The tree won't be harmed, and don't worry if you get some leaves and flowers, they're edible too. Get them quick: once spring has fully sprung they'll turn brown and crunchy, then blow all over the neighborhood and sprout a weedy forest.

Pop elm seeds into your mouth for a fresh greens snack on a spring walk! But they really shine in a salad—they'll even stand alone as a salad with your favorite dressing. If you like an arugula-like kick, look for some khardal barri growing in the tree's shade; its season peaks at the same time.

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A handful of elm seeds. The small brown specks are flowers.
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Elm seeds, khardal, sunflower seed, fennel and radish flower salad.

The Siberian elm may be confused with the lacebark elm, as both species are often called "Chinese elm," and both are native to East Asia. Lacebark elms can be found in younger, more dignified landscapes around Albuquerque, since they lack their cousin's invasive habit and are a better choice for planting. But odds are you won't need to plant an elm for the seeds: more likely than not, as a walk around your block will show you more elms than you can eat!

A chicken eating elm seeds.
ELMo mauled by Big Bird! Elm seeds are a treat for chickens.