Scientific Name(s): Valerianella olitoria
How: raw or cooked when young before flowers appear
Where: moist shaded yards, borders, and woods
When: fall, winter (in Houston), spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamins A,Bs,C
Dangers: Beware the inedible, similar-looking Cudweed.
Young corn salad, ready for picking.
Mature Corn Salad (doesn't taste good at this point)
Close-up of Corn Salad flowers
Close-up of the Corn Salad stem. Note how the stem leaves encircle the stem itself.
North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Even though Texas is not marked on the USDA map I have found it in Harris & Montgomery counties as well as assorted places in East Texas, from Dallas to the Louisiana border.
Quickly sprouting up in late spring, Corn salad appears in sandy, shaded soil. It's delicate club-shaped leaves grow in an alternating opposite arrangement and that is when you want to eat it. In just a few weeks the plant's stem will split into two stalks and them two more. Where the stem splits the leaves fuse into a single, pointy leaf surrounding the stem. At the top of the stalks a small cluster of white flowers appear, followed quickly by it going to seed. This plant grows and dies in just a few weeks.
Corn salad is not native to North America but came over with French settlers. It is a common, domestic salad vegetable in France. It has escape French gardens and can now be found in growing in thin stands in sandy, well-drained soil but needs a fair amount of moisture.
Be careful not to mistake Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium species) for Corn Salad. Picture below is the inedible (but medicinal and smokable) Cudweed. Note it has many more leaves than corn salad and the underside of the leaves are gray.