I loved the pecans in zilker park. 😉
There was also a lot of pomegranate in the east side where I lives for a while. I also love prickly pear fruit though I never ate the pads. I also loved how the Chile piquin peppers would grow inside the cactus for extra warmth. I used to forage around Austin all the time. Good stuff.
I'm in Alabama now so most Texas plants won't do me any good. We do have some similar things I've noticed. I never knew Turks cap Lily grew so well here. We also have optunia and the chili piquin here too in some spots.
That's a good list.
I always get mixed up with the Turks cap. It's not Turks caps Lily it's Turks cap (In hibiscus/mallow family. Right? That's what you put and I think that's right. Agarita is another one I ate a lot. If you get past the prickly leaves they are good. I tried to eat the mesquite beans raw and they were too much for me. Be better processed I'm sure.
The memories.. What's the little creek called that runs perpendicular to 6th street and to the bookstore... Can't remember name of either creek or store..
Anyways I always found good stuff there next to creek but was scared to eat it. Even found squash and tomato plants out there.
Thanks to Jennifer for bringing the discussion to specifics. I would encourage people to look into the staple native crop of my bioregion, the oak. There is a huge amount of information out there on how to use acorns as food. Here is a pleasantly folksy and down-to-earth one: Acorns and Eat'em In addition, there are nut shellers out there that are able to handle acorns in a hand-crank tool. Here is one I've used: nutcracker
Camas, lilies, brodiaea, wild onions. amole, and other onion-like root crops seem particularly well adapted to cultivation, since they were perennials where the rate of increase was multiplied by human use. (Digging and breaking up the clusters sped up normal propagation.)
Yampa is more of a wild parsnip type, so spreads more by seed than by offsets, but is adapted to very dry hot hillsides, which the alliums are not. Camas is available as a decorative bulb from several suppliers of ornamentals. Brodiaea and some of the others are available from native plant specialists. The only one I know of that can be ordered from a vegetable seed company is amole.
Of course, berries are always easy to eat and use. Most berry seed is aimed at propagation by birds, and so many need to go through a bird's digestive tract before sprouting. (or the equivalent: Acid treatment, scoring the seed with sandpaper, and planting in the late summer/fall so the seed can over winter are all common strategies.)
There was another major staple carbohydrate of California, pinole. While Amole was root food, pinole was seed food. Many many wild plants, (including some of the most gorgeous wildflowers) were harvested for seed. People would walk through the meadows with wide collecting baskets and paddles or fans and knock the ripe seed into the basket. Then it was tossed with coals if necessary to scorch off any hull or fuzz, and parched or roasted for eating. It is a sort of vision of paradise to think that the unbelievable swaths of color that made the hills look like they had been covered in paint were also a source of abundant food. If you want to explore this possibility, here is a place to start: California Foraging While most of us will never see wildflowers to the horizon, we do have "weeds" all around us that produce edible seed. I got about a cup of seed from the buttercups that covered the paths between 3 garden beds. A free yield from otherwise unused space, and ready before most of my cultivated stuff.
Have you faced any challenges including native foods in your diet, Jamie? How does your family feel about them? I've tried serving some native foods and they have generally gotten a "yuck" rating at the table. The one we do eat regularly and like is Canada Onion. Cattails, acorns, sotol all got a yuck.
As a FWIW, being just south of the Canadian border and due north a few states from Jennifer R., we are trying to use as many native crop choices as we can, but not exhaustively. Beans, maize, squash, all part of the local native diet, are used, but probably not the original genetic spread of those crops. Sunflower, potatoes, tomatoes/tomatillos, chilies/peppers, etc. all grow remarkably well up here. Hazelnuts and shrub fruits, when considered in terms of different times of harvest, are a great addition. What we can't do as well as those in the warmer climates is easily extend the growing season. Clearly, hoop-/greenhouses can do this a bit, but it's not as easy as leaving some plant in the ground that you can pull up over many weeks throughout the winter. But the above are all complemented by other crops from around the globe that are cold-hardy, low maintenance, and add to the dietary and storage (root cellar, drying, chest freezer) diversity of the operation.
“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”― Albert Einstein
When I was raising kids, we lived in the Southeast Alaska rainforest, and the wild foods we ate were more on the order of clams, winkles, sea cucumbers, and of course all kinds of fish as well as venison. We lived in a cabin with only boat or floatplane access, so when we weren't commercial fishing we were just living in the woods, and doing subsistence stuff. While we didn't limit ourselves to a "whitebread" idea of what was good to eat, we didn't eat stuff we didn't like, either. The kids were used to eating weird stuff from the sea and didnt think about it. So we ate fish eggs and other native specialties, tripe, limpets, and so on. We didn't make fermented fish which was a traditional probiotic food that, alas, has produced several cases of botulism when not done right.
Wild plant foods there are scarce, and I have to say I didn't use them much except berries. In that climate, greens, peas, and especially potatoes all thrive and I enjoy gardening so we just used those. (The Tlingit and Haida adopted potatoes quickly. They would dig a pit, fill it with fish pulp left from rendering the oil out of candlefish, plant the spuds in there, and come back in the fall to huge yields of potatoes.)
I find that in general wild plants tend to be harder to work into your diet than wild animals. Often plant sources of protein and fat, carbs, and other concentrated food either take work to get to the edible part (nuts, seeds with hulls) or require processing to leach out poisons (acorns, quinoa, buckey, poke, etc) so they are harder to work into a "modern" life.Once you've done all that, they often taste great--acorns taste like chestnuts pretty much and make great mush, breads, cookies, souflees.... But wild plants have to protect themselves from browsing by everything from aphids to deer, and tend to have quite an arsenal of strong-tasting constituents. Many wild greens are pretty bitter and tough compared to lettuce or kale; that's where I find resistance from both kids and adults. That's why miner's lettuce is such a treasure. Here are a couple more wild or near-wild edibles that are good-tasting and available from seed (most are not native to here, but will naturalize in permaculture systems without fuss.) Berries are an exception because their whole strategy is to be attractive to creatures that can carry them far from the mother plant and deposit them, surrounded by fertilizer, in a new spot...
Now that I'm in California and working a job, I find that the main constraint is time. Wild plant foods take a long time to find, clean, and prepare. Again, I tend to fall back on my garden unless I have time available. So the foraged foods I use most are the ones that coincide with a break in my work schedule more than those that are abundant. If I weren't on deadline in October, I'd use a lot more acorns. Of late, natives have been on my mind because in arid lands, the native/non-native thing is far from theoretical. In contrast to the southwest, with its monsoon pattern, we have no rain during our frost-free season. period. So, in that context, corn and eggplant are equally non-native, though one came from the North America. I doubt that agriculture that uses irrigation is actually sustainable, so we have some serious breeding work to do with crops like yampa.
I'm very anxious to find out more about dehesa agriculture in Iberia, so if anyone knows where to get details about that and other systems that worked long-term in Mediterranean climates can they please post some links? It seems to me that a blend of systems and native germplasm from similar climates worldwide will give us the tools we need for the future. The Northeast is ahead on this because it was settled by immigrants from a similar climate, and the palette of plants that will naturalize when you have summer rain is huge. In dry climates it seems that most of the things that are able to grow here on their own are invasive inedible monsters like pampas grass that smother native plant and pollinator communities rather than adding to them.
Realizing I could be a lot clearer on the question of yuck. Acorn was well-received when used in recipes with store ingredients in there too, less so when plain, although as long as you can salt the mush I think it is actually better than oatmeal, just different--familiarity helps. Greens tend to be kind of acrid and the ones like miners lettuce that are edible unprocessed and mature are precious. The wild greens that we loved in Alaska were fiddleheads, young twisted-stalk sprouts, goosetongue, and beach asparagus(pickleweed). Of those, only the last two were eaten when mature. We actually ate more seaweeds than land weeds--wild nori, laver, dulse, kelp, and sea lettuce. All are very mild. Wild orach and "beach greens" were available and possible but we found the flavor unpleasant--too metallic/acrid compared to the seaweeds. Here in California, miner's lettuce, spring beauty, wild letttuce (feral, actually) and chickory/dandelion are probably the ones we use most, and love.
The buttercup seeds I mentioned a couple of posts ago, like blazing star and some other native seeds, are actually oily enough to make almost a peanut butter rather than just flour, which probably means more nutrients. Wild grains that have a seedcoat that is hard/shiny/thick are not digestible as is and must be ground up some or they just go through you unchanged. (you'll be changed, though, for the worse.) Traditionally I think they were toasted and then minimally ground on a metate and used in water either cooked or uncooked (like chia). I hear about pinole being just eaten by the pinch after roasting, like tiny popcorn. Red Maids were used that way. Some of them are peppery but by and large seeds are pretty easy for a modern palate. Camas is fine, but has the same sorts of starches as Jerusalem artichoke. Brodiaea is edible and choice, like a water chestnut. Chocolate lily is kind of bitter, but not any more than radicchio.
It is important to avoid lupines, vetches, and other wild legumes unless you have positively identified them as food plants, because there are a bunch that are poisonous, like locoweed.
Wild fruits are deserving of more mention, I think. We gathered blueberries, cranberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, rowanberries, currants, nagoonberries, salmonberries, crowberries, thimbleberries and huckleberries up north where tree fruits are not able to produce. Here, it is easier to find naturalized apples and plums than wild berries, because every apple core that gets thrown out the window of a car seems to make a tree here in norcal. Birds spread little wild plums into every creekbed. Himalayan blackberries are everywhere. They aren't technically natives, but they certainly have made themselves at home and have grown from seed with no care from humans. So even while we were in a trailer park, we could drive out in the country and gather apples from the road margins to dry, can, and so on.
Now that I have land, I do have cultivated apples pears plums cherries, etc, but I don't depend on just them. I also plant seeds of many "unimproved" fruits , along with the suckers that come up below the graft on my grafted trees. These rootstock sprouts are not supposed to be countenanced because they are too vigorous and will out-compete the named scion on top. So, I try to get the best of both by separating them off (dig down and use a wooden wedge to split them off with a piece of root) and planting them in my fruit thickets along the fenceline where they get little care and can take their best shot at survival/adaptation. For a small property this seems the best balance between Sepp Holtzer's untended/ungrafted/unpruned orchards and the smallholder's need for something a bit more sure-fire in a small space. Plums are almost always sweet from seed, so I plant lots of those. I have elderberries quince, and hawthorns in the thickets, along with currants of all kinds--2 native and 2 european. Filberts (european version of our native hazelnut)and (existing) native black walnuts. This year I'll be putting in the shrub level--aronia, native blackberries, serviceberry, crampbark (highbush cranberry), knickkninick, and so on, as well as some exotics that I have seen survive untended here like passionflower. Here is a great source for fruit trees and shrubs from seed.