new videos
hot off the press!  
    more about rocket
mass heaters here.

more videos from
the PDC here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

wild calories  RSS feed

 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Now how's that for a thread title!? what sorts of plants have potential for harvest as calorie or substinence foods. There is lots of talk about tea and greens but I like to develop a mental list of things to look for that can do more than tide someone over for a few days and could actually contribute to long term dietary calorie needs. The closest things I can think of are nuts and possibly some fruit. tubers?
 
Susan Hoke
Posts: 36
Location: Western NC
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leah Sattler wrote:
Now how's that for a thread title!? what sorts of plants have potential for harvest as calorie or substinence foods. There is lots of talk about tea and greens but I like to develop a mental list of things to look for that can do more than tide someone over for a few days and could actually contribute to long term dietary calorie needs. The closest things I can think of are nuts and possibly some fruit. tubers?


Tubers:
Soloman Seal

Jerusalem Artichoke
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thanks! that is the sort of thing I was looking for. I actually  somewhat regretfully planted some jeruselum artichoke last year and I can see how it likely occurs wild, that stuff is a weed! (in a somewhat good way I just chose the wrong place for it). I'm going to have to keep my eye out for the solomon seal. It looks as if it is fairly easy to identify and very common. http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/solomon_seal.htm
 
Kelda Miller
Posts: 769
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Also: Cattails (Typha latifolia) have tons of carbs, the rhizome can be ground up and made into a flour. Or in a backwoods setting, just cooked and eaten.

Burdock (Arcitum minus) also packs a good punch. The edible root (or even the seeds) have protein and carbs. 

Just in case you can't find j. chokes out in the woods
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22172
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
FWIW:  sunchokes make great pig feed that the pigs can harvest themselves.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22172
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know that we are trying to dodge greens, but I think netttles in the spring are extra filling.  Most greens are not all that filling.
 
Kelda Miller
Posts: 769
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I just gathered some dock seeds yesterday, tons of them are ripe right now. But palatable? uhhh, they're kind of papery and with a bitter aftertaste. Jason, do you toast them first? or winnow away the papery-coat?
 
Kelda Miller
Posts: 769
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Amendment: I tried the dock seeds on my morning oatmeal. The moisture in the oatmeal made the papery skins a non-issue. I couldn't really taste them: just extra crunchy bits.

It was nice to know I was getting extra nutrients from the seeds, but it was pretty neutral eating experience.

It was though Very easy to harvest this time of year. What would be impressive is if I could make a whole morning porridge out of the dock seeds. But the bitterness.....

That's the next experiment
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thanks for being the guinea pig! will keep my eye out for dock. I just want to catalog and locate some wild sources of food in my brain for emergency backup mostly.
 
Kelda Miller
Posts: 769
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nevermind Leah!

I just read a bit more about dock in Agroforestry News. It says that because of the papery-ness, and that the bitter means that they're high in tannins, it's actually not so good to eat a lot of it. They said it was more of a famine food. What! After all the experimenting!

I still might try it, soaked. I've heard that many tannins in acorns can be soaked away with multiple water changes. But seeing the article definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm.
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
well darn! sounded promising. I have read about leaching the tannins from acorns too. I wonder if it would work for dock?
 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you want to wildcraft for calories I think you are on the right track looking at nuts. I'm not sure where you are, but I'd be looking at acorns, walnuts, butternuts, hazels, chestnuts, and chinquapins depending on your location. Bear in mind that acorns were a primary calorie source for many native people in North America. They require some processing and some are better than others, but I've had really tasty acorn flower wildcrafted in California.

If you want to go a step further into the realm of horticulture you can even find selections of these wild nut trees with bigger, better, or easier to process nuts. Check out Oikos Tree Crops (http://oikostreecrops.com), Badgersett Research Farm (http://www.badgersett.com/), Burnt Ridge Nursery (http://burntridgenursery.com/), Nolin River Nursery (http://www.nolinnursery.com/), and Red Fern Farm (http://www.redfernfarm.com/).

You also mentioned tubers. I suspect that if you harvested them responsibly and helped to ensure future harvests you could get quite a volume of calories from Camas, Wapato, and Spatterdock.

Finally, if you want to harvest something wild for calories I'd suggest considering deer. Most parts of the US have pretty dense populations due to predator extermination. Deer are about the most concentrated source of wild calories and protein I can imagine.

Cheers!

Dave
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was thinking Along the lines of plants. Venison and turkey are plentiful and easily hunted and are a first option but don't provide some necessary bulk and nutrition in the diet. wild pig is available too I don't hink there is even a limit, but I have never had that and I am just a little irked I guess because of the whole trichinoses thing. A freind of mine killed a momma once and brought the two piglets to stay at the stables I worked at. Those things were kinda scary!
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you wanted to try camas, you'd best harvest while they're still blooming.  The blue-flowered ones (Camassia quamash) are edible, the white-flowered ones (Zigadenus species) are deadly.

Sue
 
                    
Posts: 63
Location: N.W. Arkansas
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I keep thinking pemmican.

The native Americans, dried meats, fish etc.  And dried berries, then they mixed them together, often with buffalo fat for a binder.  Are you sure that you would like this?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a time machine, and peak over their shoulders and see all that they ate?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
my favorite wild edible book is
isb n 0 8069 7488 5

Edible Wild Plants a north american field guide sterling press an outdoor life book

it not only shows great photos and  info but also nutritional info in all their descriptions and a lot of recipes for how to use the plants..i love this book
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes pemmican sounds like it might be gross.
We used to make our own version of it.

If you are out in the wild all day, your palette is free of man made influences like indoor air & chemicals, things taste quite different. I enjoyed our pemmican, especially because you get so hungry when working outdoors all day but also because my seances were not dulled by indoorness . D
 
Chuck Freeman
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ozark Lady wrote:Wouldn't it be nice to have a time machine, and peak over their shoulders and see all that they ate?


In a sense you can,  they learned much of what to eat from watching animals. They watched not only what they ate but what but the time of the year they ate it. Most plants have there highest protein content just before they flower. I believe no matter where you live there is natural food, plant and animal. Our boys knew by the time they were 5 or 6 years old what was safe to eat and what wasn't. Wild-crafting and gathering is something everyone should learn.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds like you know a lot about wild crafting! please share some of your wisdom with us! We would all love to hear. D
 
Chuck Freeman
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dianne Keast wrote:
Sounds like you know a lot about wild crafting! please share some of your wisdom with us! We would all love to hear. D


My wife is working on a wildcraft & gathering section on her homeschool blog. Jenny is a RN who got disillusioned with "modern medicine" so she started to do a lot of research on more traditional methods much of what she has learned is from native elders. She is just getting started so there is not a lot in it just yet. Unfortunately most of our knowledge is on local plants. the best thing you can do is to get started is to find a local plant book. Research as many different books as you can find before you buy, the ones written by local authors are usually the best.

Anyway here is the link to Jennys blog

Wild Plants
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That is very cool!
I home school also, I would love to read her blog.

You know I feel like I know nothing but people have reminded me this week that I do know quite a bit, I just want to learn more & more!

What part of the globe are you in? I'm in Montana.

thanks for sharing with me I look forward to your next post!
 
Chuck Freeman
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dianne Keast wrote:
That is very cool!
I home school also, I would love to read her blog.

You know I feel like I know nothing but people have reminded me this week that I do know quite a bit, I just want to learn more & more!

What part of the globe are you in? I'm in Montana.

thanks for sharing with me I look forward to your next post!


Alaska, if you follow the wild plant linj above it will take you to her blog. She'll love to here from you.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Chuck,
Are you in the cold part of Alaska or the part where the weather is nicer than it is here in Montana??

Oops, I do not see a link here??

D
 
Chuck Freeman
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here you are, we live in the southcentral part about a 45 minute flight in a Cessna 206 out of Anchorage. The weather is fairly mild with a lot of snow we usually get 10 to 15 feet with about half that amount on the ground. We usually don't get lows lower than -30 more typically 0 to -10.

Wild Plants
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Chuck, I look forward to checking this out.

We are hoping to find a guide here in town to take us on a wild edibles walk soon, if we go I'll post some pics her in this thread.

Your climate sound great compared to the crazy wind-chills we get here.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
WATCHING ANIMALS EAT IS NOT A RELIABLE GUIDE TO WHAT IS EDIBLE!

If there are human foods that kill animals its not a big mental leap to realize that there are animal foods that can kill humans. While we do have a nice big liver deer for instance have different suites of digestive enzymes than we do, there are lichen that a Sitka Blacktail can live off of for months that will kill a human is fairly short order.

Humans naturally learn what is good to eat and what is not from their parents and peers (many other animals do this too) and since we evolved elsewhere our instincts don't necessarily work all that well on the plants we are surrounded with these days, every summer it seems I hear about some poor parents who have lost a child to bane-berry or Datura or Amonitas that they thought knew better than to just eat things.

As for calories nuts, fruit (especially berries) and meat, store the first two when you can, and get meat when you are running low on nuts and berries. In a real pinch you can eat the cambium layer on a willow tree, but it is not a fun experience. It's not much good to you in the mountains but I know in the northern end of the PNW a lot of beaches have a fleshy plant that I've heard called fish grass that smells a bit iffy but can be the primary calorie source for months(according to old shipwreck tails).

Anyone know about the calorie content of rosehips? around here wild roses are in abundance, I'm sure someone harvesting just after frost could get gallons and gallons a day.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Emerson,

I would think that rose hips, depending on the type would have some carbs, they sure seem starchy when you eat the fat ones.

I'll see if I have any info in my books.
 
Chuck Freeman
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Emerson White wrote:
WATCHING ANIMALS EAT IS NOT A RELIABLE GUIDE TO WHAT IS EDIBLE!

If there are human foods that kill animals its not a big mental leap to realize that there are animal foods that can kill humans. While we do have a nice big liver deer for instance have different suites of digestive enzymes than we do, there are lichen that a Sitka Blacktail can live off of for months that will kill a human is fairly short order.

Humans naturally learn what is good to eat and what is not from their parents and peers (many other animals do this too) and since we evolved elsewhere our instincts don't necessarily work all that well on the plants we are surrounded with these days, every summer it seems I hear about some poor parents who have lost a child to bane-berry or Datura or Amonitas that they thought knew better than to just eat things.

As for calories nuts, fruit (especially berries) and meat, store the first two when you can, and get meat when you are running low on nuts and berries. In a real pinch you can eat the cambium layer on a willow tree, but it is not a fun experience. It's not much good to you in the mountains but I know in the northern end of the PNW a lot of beaches have a fleshy plant that I've heard called fish grass that smells a bit iffy but can be the primary calorie source for months(according to old shipwreck tails).

Anyone know about the calorie content of rosehips? around here wild roses are in abundance, I'm sure someone harvesting just after frost could get gallons and gallons a day.


Just like anything else you have to use common sense. Many of the native elders I've known over the years will tell you that. They will also tell you animals are a very good indicator which was also my point. I'll keep my trust in a culture that has survived eons living from the wild.  By the what animal eats bane berries? We have tons of them out here and I've never seen any animal eat them, not even birds. That in itself is enough of an indicator to me not to eat them. There are relatively few lethal plants when compared to all of them that are out there. I have never heard of a lichen in Alaska that is deadly to humans some may keep you in the outhouse.

Rosehips are a good source of vitamin C old natives up here dry them and eat them during the winter to keep from getting scurvy.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alright, let me lay this out. Ask those elders to tell you about when the Russians came and took over their village. If they can tell you about what year happened and who the Russians were trading with then it's a safe bet that they learned it from a school, or from a person who learned it from a school; if they can tell you what season the Russians showed up, and the name of the leader of the village and the names of the first people the Russians killed then you can believe that it came in their oral histories. I'd bet a years wages that if they can tell you anything about it it will be the first set of data not the second, because that kind of historical data is not important to oral histories and because the elders we have now, the very oldest ones were born after the elders born in an Alaska owned by the US had died, two complete generations have been born and died since that change over. Before that there was a complete generation under Russian rule. Now oral traditions are really good at holding onto information that is useful day to day, season to season, because the children  must do with  their parents what their parents are doing, and so they do and they learn. Your particular patch of native elders may know a lot of the wildcraft that natives would have known 500 years ago, and they either got that handed straight down through the line, or they got it in a broken line of information from the caucasians who ran the boarding schools, who in turn learned from watching the natives. At no point does actually watching the animals to learn what to eat come in, because that is extremely dangerous.

At some point, over an extended period of time, experimentation happened, and a lot a lot a lot of people died and or got very sick in the experimentation process. Some of those experiments were doubtlessly driven by watching animals eat plants, some foods like seaweed are typically never eaten by any animals that humans get to see with out diving gear (which the natives did not have), some eperimnetation is driven by extreme hunger, or curiosity, or misinformation or misidentification. The important thing about culture is that it gets to hand on information that cost thousands of lives to obtain, so millions of people (over time) get to avoid those risks, that is why humans have been able to conquer new territory, and adapt to new situations, not because they copy animals, because they copy humans.

Watching a bird eat a berry is NOT an indication that that berry is REMOTELY safe for humans to eat. Virtually all of the toxic berries in the world are eaten by some kind of mammal, bird, or reptile. Anyone copying those animals would kill themselves in the learning process. Virtually none of those toxic berries are eaten by people, because people die when they eat them. The food culture has been put through the crucible and is well tested, the story that you've heard from the elders has not been tested and left out the big important part where thousands of people died. It's very important to your survival that you not die in the process.

WATCHING ANIMALS EAT IS NOT A RELIABLE GUIDE TO WHAT IS EDIBLE!


Edit: looks like either you've modified significantly since I started my response (and walked away from the computer) hours ago, but baneberries are eaten by birds, they are completely non-toxic to the vast majority of birds; did you ever stop to think about how they got to be spread everywhere? If nothing could eat them then the bane berries with little flesh would be able to produce more seeds than those with lots of flesh and in a few hundred generations the baneberry would be nothing but seeds with skins, evolutionarily that pulp is maintained as a bribe to birds who distribute the seeds.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cattails, Yummy,

I found this video about eating them, I know that you can eat the roots & stalks & pollen but I didn't know about eating the new heads like corn. Pretty cool!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90vHr7Ck924
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Does anyone know what percentage of a stand of cattails can be sustainably harvested? I'd like to harvest from a ditch near where I live, but don;t want to take to much, but would rather get what I can.
 
Chuck Freeman
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Emerson White wrote:


WATCHING ANIMALS EAT IS NOT A RELIABLE GUIDE TO WHAT IS EDIBLE!

Chuck wrote:
In a sense you can, [font=Verdana]they learned much of what to eat from watching animals[/font]. They watched not only what they ate but what but the time of the year they ate it. Most plants have there highest protein content just before they flower. I believe no matter where you live there is natural food, plant and animal. Our boys knew by the time they were 5 or 6 years old what was safe to eat and what wasn't. Wild-crafting and gathering is something everyone should learn.

This is my original post nothing in it says watching animals is a definitive guide it is simply an indicator.


Edit: looks like either you've modified significantly since I started my response (and walked away from the computer) hours ago, but baneberries are eaten by birds, they are completely non-toxic to the vast majority of birds; did you ever stop to think about how they got to be spread everywhere? If nothing could eat them then the bane berries with little flesh would be able to produce more seeds than those with lots of flesh and in a few hundred generations the baneberry would be nothing but seeds with skins, evolutionarily that pulp is maintained as a bribe to birds who distribute the seeds.

All I can tell you is bane berries are the only berries we have that are intact when the snow flies.
I live on a land locked lake with trout how did they get there?

You believe what you believe and I believe what I believe. Lets just agree to disagree and get on with life.

 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Flood, oxbow river, eggs on water fowl.

It's not a trivial matter, like who is the best quarterback in European American Football, people really die from doing what animals do.
 
                          
Posts: 34
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
No need to reinvent the wheel. The predominant source of calories for most people for most of human history has been: Acorns. Oaks grow throughout the temperate zones, and produce storable starch by the ton. They require processing before they're edible, though, and there's a lot of ignorance and misinformation on the internet and in print about it. (I think Samuel Thayer is the best authority. His book Nature's Garden devotes a full chapter to it.)

And to continue the tangent this thread has gone off on, because it's important: Animals eating a plant emphatically does not imply that it's edible for humans. Squirrels will eat Amanita mushrooms that are deadly to us. Birds will eat stones. Deer will eat acorns, hellebore, skunk cabbage, loco weed, deadly nightshade, poke and woody browse, all of which are toxic to humans, at least without significant processing. Take a little bite of raw skunk cabbage and see for yourself. It won't kill you, but it'll feel like a mouthful of bees, and it'll sure convince you that we have a different physiology.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Have you ever eaten Cattails??

Cattails Are Yummy!


I found this video about eating them, I know that you can eat the roots & stalks & pollen but I didn't know about eating the new heads like corn. Pretty cool!

PS.- if you are going top do this be sure the water up stream is clean, ie. not a pig farm or fields full of chemical fertilizer or any thing like that.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90vHr7Ck924
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The next time that we eat cattails I'll try to make a video for this thread.
 
Lisa Paulson
Posts: 258
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
While not supplying much for calories  I count on a few wild gleanings. We put seaweed in our homebaked bread and it was delicious, and likely provided some micro minerals .  Right now chickweed is more reliable than my garden greens and much appreciated in sandwiches, salad and smoothies.
It is presently saskatoon berry and huckleberry season here in the PNW and  I have had a few filling sessions browsing them. 
 
Warren David
Posts: 187
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oblio13 wrote:
The predominant source of calories for most people for most of human history has been: Acorns.
No. It was meat and fish.
 
                          
Posts: 140
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The Chippewa Indians lived for thousands of years in some mighty cold climates.  Their primary sources of food were wild rice and maple sugar, supplemented by plenty of fish and some venison.
 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1181
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
199
books cat dog food preservation hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Meat and fish provide good oils and protein, but winter meat is too lean to survive on without some additional calories.  (Stored fatty meat might be fine, but most people had some carbs to add for bulk foods.)

Around here in Oregon, staples included salmon (dried and smoked), camas (slow-roasted and dried), wapato (harvested in November when other wild foods were done, baked or stewed in various ways), and the afore-mentioned acorns, berries, nuts, etc.
There was an honored quartet of feast-food, which I think was salmon, game, berries, and tubers.

Along the coast, there was a brisk trade in edible oils such as oolichan and whale fat.

I picked up another tip from wild foods nutritionist John Kallas (www.wildfoodadventures.com, he has been doing a wild foods newsletter for ages and it's good reading for well-researched recipes and tips.  Man has a PhD in nutrition, because they don't give a PhD in wild foods.)
He said that natives here ate a lot of foods we wouldn't because the calories mattered more than the taste; berries and choke-cherries would be prepared with the seeds intact, not pitted.  Seeds would be crushed, and the resulting bitterness offset with rich oils in making our version of pemmican.  Yes, choke-cherries contain cyanide, but the body can expel it when it's in small quantities.  And those seeds also contain most of the fat and protein for the fruit.

He impressed on us that poisonous foods do not always taste bitter, nor are bitter foods always poison.  And an "edible plant" is a plant, certain parts of which, harvested at the right stage, and prepared in the right way, can be safely eaten in certain quantities.  There are few plants with all the parts edible, and few plants with all the parts poisonous.  And he made sure everybody knew the most toxic plants we passed, as well as the edible ones he was introducing us to.

Between him and other teachers, and my own family upbringing, I feel like I've gotten a healthy balance between caution and interest in wild foods.  I also recognize that safe learning is about getting guidance in the fat times, and never having to experiment when you're starving.  You learn to recognize the friendly families (rose/apple/berry is a good one), the pretty-decent families (nettle/mint, huck/blueberry/salal, ribes), and the guide-or-ten-foot-pole families (carrot/hemlock/cow parsley, any red berry you don't know, nightshades).

I'm sorry the thread about watching what animals eat has gotten so vehement.
It's true that cautious foragers live longer. And most of us are several generations removed from starvation, so there is no excuse for pigging out the first time we find a new mystery berry. 

But it's also true that certain animals, like bears and pigs and canines, have a lot in common with us for nutritional requirements.  And that some plants produce rich fruits that are edible by a wide range of animals.  And that slugs go for ripe strawberries before they go for tansy or hemlock. 
It's also a human instinct to remember and warn about the worst toxins - just mention camas around here, and every third reply will warn you about death camas, even if that person has never eaten either.

If you were stranded in unfamiliar territory, like most of our ancestors were at some point, you can do worse than watch the animals before eating something yourself.  Another way that animals can be useful, again in a subsistence "find food or die" situation, is when birds flock to a good food source and you can follow.  If it's blueberries or ribes, you score.  If they're eating something suspicious, you can always leave them to it, or catch one of the birds for supper. 

Stories from my family and other suggest that subsistence cultures are very practical about wildlife watching.  In fat times, you watch the squirrel cache your nuts, and in lean times, you eat the squirrel and the cache.  You don't have to eat acorns raw just because the squirrel does; but if it's that or horse chestnuts, the squirrel might give a clue as to which will reward your leaching efforts with better oils and proteins.

One of my college professors had the "no dummy" theory of reading ancient texts: if something has been passed down to us since the Dark Ages, through considerable effort, then the author probably wasn't a dummy.  Might have been wrong sometimes, or an a$$#*(@, or even a liar; but not a dummy. 

So maybe we can apply that theory to these elders, and if we interpret their words according to the No Dummy Theory, see what that gives us.

When the safer paths had been exhausted (like eating the Russians' canned goods, or learning directly from an intact tradition of hard-won knowledge, or staying in Siberia where the known food were getting hard to find), maybe they used the animal guide tactic ALONG WITH OTHER METHODS to determine what foods were safe. 

Like tasting before swallowing, and eating very small quantities to test for ill effects before gorging.  And purging, with other known plants, if the experiment went badly.  And cache-ing and cultivating the best plants so they wouldn't be forced to experiment for more than a few weeks out of the year.  And making it a cultural practice to fast for a while, so young person lost in the woods would recognize that they can go hungry for a while and doesn't gorge on the first mystery-food they find.  And teaching their kids, "don't go near that, it killed Uncle Joe," or "made me really sick," whichever applies.
These skills, along with warnings of all known poisonous plants, are something that most wild fooders learn early. 
And smart subsistence eaters use every tool in the kit.  Which includes family lore, academic experts, animal tracking, personal caution, and personal intuition.

The practice of 'asking the plants', or 'asking the animals,' can open one's own powers of observation, and allows intuition to emerge as a guide or warning about things one may not consciously recognize. 
It doesn't excuse a person from following other sensible precautions, but it is a worthwhile practice for exploring the edges of what you might know.

I didn't hear Chuck say the elders took whatever any animal ate, and served it to their hunting buddies as Mystery Stew or Picnic Pizza. 
You get an occasional young person who does this and survives to brag about it, but mostly the elders have witnessed a near-miss and know their own mortality.  They tend to pass on the warnings and bad experiences along with the explanatory legends.  (And it pays to watch what they do, as well as what they say.)

  If these elders encourage watching what the animals eat, it may be for reasons that apply to local survival: good hunting skills, emergency preparedness, or a sense of abundance that keeps people sane during long dark winters.  Local elders don't know everything, but they embody lessons worth learning.  The elders who died young are already dead.  If their young people are dying of cultural attrition and despair, drunk driving, or diabetes and gluttony, then reclaiming a wild food heritage can be life-saving advice.

Emerson's vehement warnings may come from personal, or near-personal experience.  Sometimes an otherwise intelligent and well-fed person recklessly gorges on an unfamiliar wild species.  Those stories don't tend to have a happy ending.
 
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal! And this tiny ad too!
2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
https://permies.com/wiki/63312/permaculture-projects/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-Jamboree
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!