Raw Hummus with wild Tumbleweed

tumbleweed7This morning I was walking around the farm assessing the non-native plant situation where I’m planning to start my epic herb garden. Most things are going to seed and dying at this point in the season except one prominent plant that I’ve been seeing popping up on the local hillsides lately. They are better known after they have dried up and are found rolling around during the Santa Ana winds here in Southern California. This is our friend, the tumbleweed, also known as Russian thistle (Salsola tragus) or windwitch.

tumbleweed6While dead tumbleweed has its fame as a supporting element in wild western movies, it is has much more to offer in its early stages of life. If gathered when it is young, it is less spiny and tender. The tips of more mature plants can also be used. Unfortunately I have not been able to find much information about its nutritional profile except for its application to livestock but it is definitely palatable and mild flavored. It does contain a fair amount of oxalic acid, much like spinach and other leafy greens, so those who are susceptible to kidney stones and poor calcium absorption should use those vegetables moderately.

In my search for a delicious way to incorporate this spiny gift into my lunch, I didn’t find much other than simple cook and season methods.

I decided that there has to be a more creative way to incorporate it into a health promoting and vibrant meal.

tumbleweed2I was planning to make some raw hummus anyways so I decided to harvest a bit of the soft tips of the plants and toss them into the food processor as well. Since the cold and flu season is approaching, I wanted to add some immune boosting ingredients as well so there’s a heavy dose of raw garlic (great for combating infections, supporting heart health, lowering blood pressure, anti-cancer and protective against dementia) along with raw tahini with its high levels of plant-based calcium, hemp seeds for their excellent protein and omega-3s. The base of this hummus is raw zucchini from the farmer’s market rather than the traditional boiled chickpeas, which provides a great variety of vitamins and minerals while being lower in calorie and carbohydrates. For seasoning (since tumbleweed has very little to provide in terms of flavor), I added a generous amount of cumin and a bit of cayenne, even though its already a bit spicy from the raw garlic.

Why zucchini? It is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and A, magnesium, beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus! It aids in preventing atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. These vitamins and minerals are anti-inflammatory, helpful in conditions where inflammation play a role such as asthma, osteoarthritis and and rheumatoid arthritis.

Enticed yet to try some wild weeds in your hummus? Here’s the recipe, and of course it can be adjusted to your preferences. Not a garlic fan? Use 1 clove rather than 4. I encourage you to experiment and try out different variations, also… I’m sure other edible wild greens could be substituted for the tumbleweed depending on the season! Enjoy!


Raw Tumbleweed Hummus

2 medium zucchini
1 handful of young and tender tumbleweed shoots or tips
1/4 cup raw tahini
4 cloves raw garlic
2 lemons, juiced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp extra virgin cold press olive oil
1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
Cayenne pepper to taste

tumbleweed3Combine all ingredients into a food processor or high speed blender and process until creamy. Don’t worry much about the spines, the processor will take care of them if they are tender enough to begin with. If you are worried at all or if they are a bit more mature than ideal, you can always lightly steam them first.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to enhance. Use within 2-3 days.



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About Jess

Jess Starwood

Jess Starwood is an established author, chef, herbalist and educator. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine and Holistic Nutrition. In 2021, she wrote and photographed her first book, Mushroom Wanderland: A Forager’s Guide to Finding, Identifying and Using More Than 25 Wild Fungi.

She also writes regularly for Edible Ojai & Ventura County, Edible San Fernando magazines and The Mycophile—the publication of the North American Mycological Association (NAMA).

Jess founded The Wild Path School where she teaches foraging, wild foods, herbalism and nature education classes for adults and children. She is a member of the Culinary Committee for NAMA and is on the board of directors for the Arizona Mushroom Society and the newsletter editor for the Los Angeles Mycological Society. She has also worked as a wild food consultant and forager for Michelin starred chefs Niki Nakayama and Aitor Zabala. Jess has been featured in National Geographic, The Guardian, and the Orange County Register.

Classes and workshops for adults and children are held regularly in the Greater Los Angeles area and west coast. Weekend and week-long wild food adventures are also occasionally available. Be sure to check out the event calendar or join the mailing list to be notified first of openings and availability.