I suddenly understood i was interested in wild edibles today.
When planning on turning my urban lot into as close to a food forest as i feel i can get away with, i realized things which grew wild here are a better choice then tomatoes. When growing up, i swear my mom hammered into our heads everything was poisonous so it will be a big change for me to go into the near by forest looking for food to eat and to move to my house.
We used to eat wood sorrel and dew berries when was about 9 years old. I got older and saw a show were a millionaire would go out and be a hobo for a while. He showed how he found wild food everywhere. I was like WOW. Now I want to learn it all.
Growing up in the suburbs we still had peppermint and dandelions and honeysuckle. And grew tomatoes and peppers. And clams and fish at the beach in the summer.
Much later, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to the primitive skills workshops. And I started eating the weeds.
Earthskills workshops let me go on plant walks with Doug Elliott, Sam Thayer, Josh Fox, Luke Learningdeer, Andrew Ozinskas, Snowbear, and many others over 30 years. I still learn something every time.
Check out the workshops at primitiveskills.org, the longest continuous running primitive skills gathering in the US. Or piedmontearthskillsgathering.com in NC in September or floridaearthskills.org in FL in February.
First, when I was very young, I was told about edible wild fruits and greens by my parents (especially my mother). Of course blackberries, but also wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) and blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), and green plants like stinging nettles and wild garlic.
As a teenager I became a member of the youth-for-nature organisation my parents too were members of during their youth (called NJN, now over 100 years old). There I learned even more, or maybe I became more interested.
The most special wild edible I remember from that time is 'zeekraal' (English name glasswort or samphire, Latin Salicornia europaea). We camped at the island of Vlieland and there it grew in the Waddenzee (sea where at low tide the water is gone, showing large mudflats). It was picked and then eaten as a vegetable, tasting really delicious!
"Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them" (Luke 6:31)
I would say that the first thing that got me learning about wild food was the reports about lack of micronutrients in industrially grown food. Learning about all the wild foods that grow spontaneously on my land - both native and imported - has encouraged me to encourage those edible plants! Some are easy - like dandelion. Others are much harder like our local red huckleberry which only likes to germinate on the right kind of stump after passing through a bird's gut. Even chain-sawing off the stump and relocating the plant hasn't been successful at propagating (we had a couple in the way of projects - I tried, I really tried, so save their lives!)
Life is all about balance. Most wild plants don't produce a large enough quantity of calories in my ecosystem. But we've got a fair bit of forested area, so I'm happy to encourage useful plants that can self-seed and look after themselves (at least mostly) in that area.
paul wheaton wrote:
I wouldn't be surprised if we all started with blackberries.
We used to make family outings of blackberry picking in August and September, so it was almost certainly my first experience of wild harvesting.
One of my earliest memories is of foraging round the back of our house where there was a bit of rough ground. There were the biggest and sweetest blackberries I had ever seen (and eaten!) I helped myself to a few, and then picked some to take home to my Mum. I was on my bike with no bag, so I tucked them into the top of my knickers to take home. When she saw them, my Mum said they were probably boysenberries (they had actually been growing over someone's back fence so not technically wild (!)) We moved from that house when I was only four. How times have changed...
There was a patch of wild black raspberries at the edge of the woods where my mom & step-dad moved, when I was 10 or 11. Every year, we harvested all we could, then made jam, pies, crumbles/crisps, muffins... Then, my grandma came to visit, and introduced me to the poke salat she found in the yard...
What got me interested in foraging was the whole December 21, 2012 apocalypse/mayan calendar ordeal. I was fresh out of high school, depressed, frustrated and rebellious. The talk about the apocalypse made me realize how I would not be able to survive without modern conveniences and food and that didn’t sit well with me. I thought of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples thriving without modern food for all of history and decided that I needed to get in touch with some of those skills and information.
I got into it slowly with berries and herbs, then got into mushrooms, flowers and medicinal plants. I would actually love to have foraging lessons at our home once we have more time and perennials planted.
Maybe Life is always like being on a trapeze or a tightrope at the circus...
I am to old to spend the energy foraging for wild edibles. I just let them grow as part of my permaculture plan. Weeding and harvesting have become combined as one activity. Some plants are less desirable so they get harvested as soon as they are recognized Some of the wild flower are my favorite foods and also the deer's.
Blackberries in South Africa were the first wild edible I harvested. My mom had foraged for blackberries in our home country, the Netherlands.
Next were wild strawberries on a property in southern Oregon that we homesteaded in the late 80s. A neighbor gave us some morel mushrooms, but my husband almost died after eating one so that cooled my interest in trying to find any ourselves. I also read about dandelion wine in a Mother Earth News mag and tried that but wasn't overly impressed with the result.
After moving back to the city, we would glean whatever fruits and nuts were not being picked by the owners, sometimes with permission, and this continued with moves to other cities. A friend introduced me to sorrel and miner's lettuce.
I learned about lamb's quarters from a backyard farming group in Nevada, but the ones on our suburban lot did not taste good to us. Once I was introduced to permaculture, I found the permies website and discovered there were many more edible things to try.
Now that we are back in a more rural area on a few acres, I have renewed my interest. We have a lot of wild mustard here, so this year I harvested a bunch of leaves and put them in the blender with water (water is easier to add than oil and makes for easier cleanup too) and froze the mix in ice cube trays - a cube or two makes a good addition to any cooked dish. Have tried the baby leaves of mallow, which is also ubiquitous, in salads - it's okay as long as it's not the dominant green, in my opinion. Just discovered that dock, chicory and plantain are edible, so will try those next spring. The most recent discovery was madia elegans or tarweed - the Native Americans ground the seeds into flower or baked them, apparently, although the seeds are pretty tiny and it would take a lot of them to make much of a meal. We also have a big stand of soaproot a.k.a. soap plant, which the Natives used as a shampoo - I just read that the leaves can be eaten when they are young and the bulb too, as long as they are roasted slowly. Lastly, we have acorns that could be ground into flour, and lots of different types of grasses, some of which look like cereal grains - so more research needed.
I grew up in a frugal home. Most of what we ate came from our property - a large vegetable garden, a few fruittrees and bushes, chickens for meat and eggs, and wild game (I actually grew up believing that hamburgers were normally deer meat). We also picked wild "black caps" (black raspberries), black berries, and mulberries. We collected wild black walnuts and spent hours in the winter with a rock and a hammer breaking the things open in front of the woodstove (shells went into the fire). We bought "deer apples" to eat and make applesauce with. We did lots of home canning and freezing. Hunt for morels.
College. I was forced to buy a meal plan, had no need to get any other food, but I collected wild onion/garlic greens to add to my occasional bowl of ramen soup. I knew where the apple trees were on campus, as well as the one cherry tree, and I frequented them when they were in fruit.
Life in the "bush" of Alaska. My first teaching job was on the tundra in a Yup'ik village. The natives told me that ALL the berries were safe to eat (although some tasted better than others), and showed me what greens could be collected to eat or make tea with (I really miss Labrador tea/tundra tea) I went RVing with my mom and two best friends around Alaska that first summer, and my mom kept telling me not to random stuff in my mouth, but the stuff I was eating was the stuff that the Yup'ik people had shown me. My friends tried much of what I showed them.
Dirt poor, tampering with freeganism. I came back from my lucrative job in Alaska to be nearer my future wife. I had 2 years of barely breaking even - renting cheap housing, biking to work at a low paying job, the only "spendy" thing I did was drive 2 hours every other weekend to see my girlfriend/fiance - we would go to church together, have lunch together, do something recreational/social together, then I would drive home. She was a student and very devoted to her studies. The first year I survived on 1) a deer I harvested, 2) a ton of apples I picked and did my best to store in a cool closet, 3) beans and rice, and 4), whatever I could glean from the staff lounge snacks at school (everyone knew my situation, they shared with me). The second year was a different state, different situation (fiance was now in grad school). Still lots of local apples, cleanup from grad school social events (one of the perks of helping clean up was that she could take all the leftovers, most of which went to me), and dabbling more with freeganism and foraging.
Marriage. Serious freeganism. Lived in town. Still collecting wild apples and berries. Explored website https://fallingfruit.org/
Move back to the farm. Much less opportunity for freeganism. Big garden to feed the family, started doing more foraging. Making a serious attempt to know what I can eat in my neighborhood/on my farm. Started planting only perennials with food potential - nothing that is purely decorative. Eating: Lambsquarter, wild apples, berries, redbud blossoms and pods, wild mushrooms (morels and learning about a few other edibles from elderly neighbors), wild plums, juneberries, daylily blossoms, dandelion greens.
Still trying to learn more, but in balance with the rest of my life.
Education: "the ardent search for truth and its unselfish transmission to youth and to all those learning to think rigorously, so as to act rightly and to serve humanity better." - John Paul II