AS you read this, I shall be struggling up a hill somewhere above Bride's Pool on the Hike for Hospice walk, my knapsack weighed down with publications on Hong Kong plants. For besides hiking the hills for a worthwhile cause, I hope to identify a few plants that are edible. I may find some astringent yau kam chi to quench my thirst, young leaves of hawk's beard to chew or sweet berries of rose myrtle to nibble. I've been inspired by all those European cookery articles about gathering and foraging. There's a great sense of romantic self-sufficiency and adventure in eating off the land. But which wild plants in Hong Kong are edible? Anthony Tse of the Clover Nursery in Shouson Hill was particularly enlightening on weeds. We went for a walk around his manicured nursery. He kept plucking clumps of weeds, popping them into my bag, while reeling off Chinese names, Latin names, common names and recipes. I took notes furiously. 'There's quite a lot edible, but probably not much you would want to eat. The Chinese are amazing herbalists and a lot of wild plant parts are used in medicinal soups,' he said. Back at home, my bag of weeds yielded what can best be described as an interesting lunch. The wild amaranthus (Amaranthus viridis), a relation of Chinese spinach or ein choi, was stir-fried with garlic. It was edible but fibrous, and tasted like Chinese spinach. Well, sort of. The hawk's beard (Youngia japonica), which looks a bit like dandelion with elongated, serrated leaves, was tossed into a salad but was fibrous and slightly hairy. Both the plantain (Plantago major) and the shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa pastoris), with its little purse-shaped seed sacs growing off the stem, were boiled to produce an edible but tasteless dish. A few days later, at a stall in the Graham Street market in Central, I found bunches of plantain. The weed is recognisable by the broad leaves growing from the base of the plant and tall, grass-like flowers. The chatty vendor called it teen kung cho and said it can be made into a soup with barley and crystallised sugar. This would clear the kidneys and act as a mild diuretic. I was elated that something I had gathered was of value, even if you could buy a bunch for $4. Weeds aside, some of the best places to find edible plants are around abandoned New Territories villages where fruit trees planted by former residents are often still bearing fruit. On various walks, I have seen pomelo, starfruit, guavas, peach and wong pai. Wong pai (Clausena lansium) are small, soft-skinned, brownish-yellow fruit that grow in bunches. The fruit is acidic but tastes fresh and clean. Pomelos leaves can be put in a bath to refresh and soothe. Near Pak Sha Au in the Sai Kung Country Park in autumn, I have gathered the bright red cranberry-like fruit of the water banyan (Cleistocalyx operculata). They have large seeds that need to be laboriously picked out, but they make a piquant jam. There's also a strawberry tree (Myrica rubra) at the Middle Gap Road end of Aberdeen Country Park, which in summer yields small red fruit. It's sweet and tart and pleasant raw. The fruit can be made into a drink. Botanist Martha Dahlen, who wrote Chinese Market Vegetables, found me all kind of edible things. Yau kam chi (Phyllanthus emblica) are small, green, round fruits. They are crisp, sour, astringent, high in vitamin C and known to be thirst quenching, but you would have to be pretty thirsty. The seeds, roots and leaves have medicinal value and the dried leaves are used as a pillow filler. The fruit of the Chinese white olive tree or pak lam shu (Canarium album) bears small, elongated green fruits. They are no relation to the Mediterranean olive and the fruit is usually salted as a savoury condiment or preserved with sugar and liquorice as a sweetmeat. Gloria Barretto of the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic garden told me about wild raspberries she used to eat as a child. 'We would prise the fruit out of its calyx, sprinkle it with sugar and milk and pretend they were strawberries.' Then, of course, there's rose myrtle or Kong nim (Phodomyrtus tomentosa). It's one of Hong Kong's most common flowering shrubs with showy pink flowers in a single petal arrangement. The berries ripen to a deep red in autumn. They're very sweet and high in vitamin C. Excellent for jam or cordial. The Urban Council publishes an excellent series of books on Hong Kong plants, available from the Government Publication Centre in Pacific Place. But a word of warning: it is an offence to gather plants or plant parts in country parks.