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Learning More About Wild Food

January 12th, 2011

“People simply fall in love with wild foods. Lord knows these wild things swept me away. Folks want to be seduced by their mystery, their freedom from the bonds of agriculture. Our human civilization, based on agriculture, has struggled for millennia to no longer depend on foraging in the wild. But here at the start of the twenty-first century, the old hunter-gatherer luring in all of us just won’t let go.”

Connie Green
(The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes)

I’m really enjoying reading through this book right now. Every year I try to learn a little more about wild edible food that I can forage for, they’re delicious and super healthy (and free).

We hunt for morels every spring and enjoy those thoroughly, I’d love to learn about more edible mushrooms in my area. I also harvest wild plants like plantain for salves along with dandelions, garlic mustard and wild violets for salads. We have a plentiful supply of wild blackberries close by that we freeze and enjoy all winter long.

Winter time is when I focus on learning about more wild foods that I can find in the woods around our home. I haven’t decided what new wild foods I’m going to be searching for this year, any suggestions?

Do you eat any wild foods? Where do you learn about them?

23 Comments to “Learning More About Wild Food”
  1. Kira on January 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Morels are so yummy :) i have been mushroom hunting a couple of times with my adopted american parents :) she and her husband are OBSESSED with them! They have hunted them since she was a little girl it was most definately an experience the first time i went with them. They are so delish! Last summer i collected violets and made violet jam its most definately a pretty flavour thats for sure i didnt make to much as i wasnt sure how my family would like it. My best friend and i found wild black berries which we collected and made syrups and jams out of :)

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  2. A Year In My Garden on January 12, 2011 at 10:04 am

    The morels look lovely – so does the salad. Foraging opportunities are limited here in the city centre, unless you count people’s abandonded McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    Reply to A Year In My Garden's comment

  3. Nebraska Dave on January 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I have foraged the delightfuly delicious morel delicacy. They are very plentiful some years here in Nebraska. I have foraged for gooseberry, blackberry, elder berry and, persimmon. If one knows where to go wild growing aspargus and rhubarb can be found. Many things can be foraged from old derelict farm home places. With permission of course, a variitable plenthera of old fruit trees, berries, and other perennial plants, that have been left on their own to suvive, can be harvested or transplanted.

    Have a great wild day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

    • Susy on January 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      There is a lot of wild asparagus in one area around here, but they spray the local fields with sewage sludge so I do not pick it. I keep wanting to try to collect seeds in the fall so I can plant in around here, but I always forget.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Bast on January 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Dave–I am in Lincoln. Do you know of any foraging groups or classes? Thanks.

      Reply to Bast's comment

  4. kristin @ going country on January 12, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Ramps. We call them wild leeks, though they aren’t technically a leek. My husband and I have a tradition of collecting them every spring and making potato soup with them. They grow in great profusion on the gully banks here. Whenever we eat them, I always imagine how extraordinarily welcoming that fresh, strong flavor must have been for people in the past who had been eating bland stored root vegetables for months, anticipating the first sign of green in the spring. Ramps are the first sign.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  5. Rhonda on January 12, 2011 at 10:21 am

    You can eat the green seed pods and pink blossoms of the Redbud tree. You prepare the green seed pods just as you would snow peas. I’ve had them. They’re pretty good. I’ve read about some people who take the dried seed pods and harvest the seeds inside. They cook those seeds like lentils. I’ve never tried that though.

    Lambs quarters are a favorite of mine. With lambs quarters it’s like I can have spinach just about any time.

    One more thing, if you go to youtube, there’s a man on there called Green Dean. His videos are called Eat the Weeds. He’s very helpful and I enjoy watching him. :-)

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

    • Trish on January 12, 2011 at 10:38 am

      I really want to try lambs quarter, which is abundant here. how do you pick it and prepare it? just lightly steam?

      Reply to Trish's comment

      • Rhonda on January 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

        You’ll want the smaller, younger leaves. Just about anything you do with spinach, you can do with lambs quarters. :-)

        to Rhonda's comment

  6. Abby on January 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

    We are constantly trying to learn more about foraging. Though we have a little on our ten acres, we have good luck at a lot of the local parks searching for morels, ramps, and the like. I was going to try may apples last spring, but missed my chance. And found a puffball mushroom, but it was too late. We keep trying, and the hiking time doubles for some exercise! We bought a great edibles field guide that has the poisonous counterpart listed as well, and some Iowa (where we are) specific guides at the state historical building and Seed Saver’s Exchange, too.

    Reply to Abby's comment

  7. Terry on January 12, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I love learning about wild foods. I haven’t tried very many of them but I am learning. It seems that there are endless things to learn. Lots of good new books coming out about the subject too.

    Reply to Terry's comment

  8. Marianne on January 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

    My father and I became interested in edible wild plants almost 20 years ago. We used an earlier version of the Petersen Field Guides Edible Wild Plants:

    As it is gaining popularity, I’m sure there are other resources out there that may be better.

    Reply to Marianne's comment

  9. Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog on January 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    This is really interesting, and those morels are gorgeous. I don’t even know where to look in Northern California for something like that, though they must be around. Foraging is definitely an interest, so more posts on this would be welcomed! The only wild plant I harvest is a crazy blackberry bramble at the back of our yard. Totally rampant in certain parts of San Francisco, but it keeps our freezer full as well!

    Reply to Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog's comment

  10. Jennifer Fisk on January 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I’m not sure you can call digging dandelions foraging for wild food since they grow in lawns, up through hot top, along foundations and roads but they surely aren’t planted either. I love those first messes of dandelions in the spring. I boil a hunk of salt pork and some potatoes until almost cooked and then put as many dandelions as I can into the pot to cook. The result is a meal of spring tonic which is even better reheated the next day.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

    • Susy on January 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      Yes true, dandelions aren’t really “foraging” but they’re wild food since we don’t plant them. They are quite tasty though and so good for you. I never get enough and have to buy them dried for tea & soups.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Debbie on January 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    We have so many edibles growing in our backyard. Dandelion (of couse) lambs quarter, purslane, plantain, stinging nettle (yes, wild) and a beautiful wild black raspberry bush that popped up a couple years ago. LOVE it. But, I have a question for you, Susy. Do you have a picture of your garlic mustard? That’s what I believe is taking over half of our yard each spring, (it’s a huge problem here in Ontario) but wonder if you have a decent photo? I’ve used google and am pretty sure I’ve identified it properly but…would love a second opinion. Thanks.

    Reply to Debbie's comment

    • Susy on January 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      I’ll have to check, I may have a few photos of garlic mustard. Those heart shaped saw toothed leaves in the front of the the salad with violets are garlic mustard leaves. I keep wanting to save the seeds and try to make mustard with them, but I’m always too busy when they go to seed and completely forget.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Sincerely, Emily on January 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    What beautiful morels! I would like to learn more about wild mushrooms. Growing up we would pick wild blackberries and asparagus. There was an old unused farmhouse near an area we used to camp that had a few lovely plum trees we would pick. I have fond memories of all that and I am ready to get back to that and do more. Emily

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  13. Kim Morrissey on January 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Yes, I am an avid forager. Many years ago, I found a copy of Gibbons “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” and I was hooked. I like violets, nibble on garlic mustard, use daylilly blossoms, shoots and roots. I love fiddleheads cooked with garlic and white wine. Marsh Marygolds baked with cream of mushroom soup and bread crumbs. I use coltsfoot for coughs. I pick wild strawberry leaves for tea, also mint. I nibble on blueberries, raspberries, wintergreen and cranberries. Last year I learned how to make wine. I have a batch of wild elderberry, a batch of blackberry and another from windfall apples. And I’m forgetting elderblow pancakes, jelly made from queen anns lace and the big patch of Jerusalam Artichoke.

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  14. Marcia on January 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Wow! Those mushrooms look simply delicious. When I was a little girl, I used to go mushroom hunting with my best friend’s grandmother. She then would make the best mushroom soup in the world. But I don’t trust my vague memories about what the mushrooms looked like so I don’t pick them anymore. I still pick cattail buds though. Yes, the part that gets all fluffy. When they are young, they are covered by a papery husk and are bright green and densely packed. You peel off the husk, boil them 5 minutes and eat them with a bit a butter. They taste like…peas…but not quite…kinda like asparagus…they just taste wild and yummy. They come apart in your mouth like the inside part of a daisy. My mom, who was a scout leader, taught us to pick them and I taught my niece and nephew last summer. You have to pick them before they lose that papery husk though.

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  15. Andrea on January 14, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I just bought Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer. I love that he focused on plants which grow across the US so everything applies to Ohio. There are also tons of pictures showing all the growth stages of plants. I’ve been foraging morels, wild berries and onions since I was a kid, but this year I really hope to get beyond the basics.

    Reply to Andrea's comment

  16. margaret on January 14, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I used to go mushroom picking with my mom, I think she picked honey mushrooms but I don’t live close to her now and I don’t trust myself to pick the right mushrooms. My next door neighbours picks oyster and chantrelle mushrooms and share with me…yum! Blackberries are plentifull here and I pick them every year. I also pick young dandelion leaves and sautee them with spinach.

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  17. Stone Soup on January 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

    In the spring it is our tradition to go along the banks of streams and small creeks to gather fiddleheads! They are truly a delicacy and we pick 5 gallon buckets full at a time so that we can freeze them for later months. It’s a process to pick them (surviving the black flies is the worst and the ground is usually pretty wet), then clean them, blanch and freeze them. But . . . our whole family enjoys them! So it’s worth my time to collect what nature grows for us free of charge!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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