Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Topic Converging: Edible Wild Plants

My maternal grandmother spoke of edible wild plants. She told me for years to look for the books written by Bradford Angier. I was not interested to be honest. Near the end of her life she came across some of Angier's books and gave them to me. She pressed me to read them and use them. She wanted me to use edible wild plants for food and medicine. I don't know that she ate edible wild plants but I heard some stories of making homemade medicines using Native American recipes that helped one friend of the family get over an emergency kidney condition, a kidney stone blocking him, it might have been.

When I read the book about the raw food diet called "Fresh" the authors mentioned eating wild greens. The things they mentioned grow in my yard and woods and I was thinking about trying them out. (Read my book review of "Fresh" here.)

(I am seriously considering doing a 100 day raw food challenge or maybe even a 50 day raw food challenge. I want to see if it gives me more energy as raw food dieters claim they feel and also see what changes may happen to my body such as easy weight loss.)

The wilderness school that my children attend for a homeschool program teaches my children about edible wild plants and also ways to use wild plants such as for fabric dyes. Recently one instructor told me a recipe to make pesto but instead of garden-grown Italian basil to use half stinging nettles (in a food processor to destroy the spines) and half garlic mustard (an invasive plant taking over our woods in Connecticut whose roots emit a toxin that kills native maple trees). Note: related post: My Kids Love Experiential Learning.

On a recent hike at the wilderness school's woods my older son relayed which plant is what and what it can be used for. I heard of spicebush tea and soups made from wild plants that he actually tried (gasp).

As I spent time outside gardening this spring and ridding my gardens of weeks I am reminded again that perhaps some of the most nutritious foods that I could eat would be the wild plants not the ones I'm trying so hard to grow in a cultivated garden.

I visited the site of Wildman Steve Brill and see he has many walking tours in which he teaches participants to identify and take wild plants to use to eat. I am surprised at the number all around my home, so close to me. I am thinking of attending one or more if my schedule allows. He charges half price for children and has a sliding scale for anyone who is financially hurting.

Today on Twitter, Dana Hanley, a homeschool mom of the blog Principled Discovery tweeted about a YouTuber who does video tutorials about eating wild edible plants. I was surprised to see this one about Pokeweed, something that grows wild in my yard and in the gardens I try to tend. My children leanred to use pokeweed berries to make dye with, and we did do that last year and dyed some wool roving. Pokeweed is toxic and my husband had a terrible skin reaction when he was trying to remove it from our yard and the juice got on his skin. According to this tutorial the plant is safe (the stem and leaves) if picked when the young plant is 4-6 inches (but no higher). Very interesting!

His YouTube show is called "Eat the Weeds". He lives in Orlando. Interestingly enough he says he does not own a TV or watch TV but here is he using a recorder and making video tutorials. I love it.

What I am interested in is the fact that edible wild plants are full of nutrition, perhaps moreso than the cultivated vegetables we can buy at the grocery store. Edible wild plants are free of chemicals. I love the idea of putting to use something that exists naturally around us and especially those that we don't want where they are, such as the dandelions growing in my yard.

Is not responsible wildcrafting of edible plants the utmost in sustainable food?


1 comment:

Amy said...

Living in the South, I am familiar with "poke weed" as a food, although I've never eaten it (willingly). It's usually called "poke salad" (or "salat," as they pronounce it) by the older generation. I think it's rather bitter.

I read your blog (almost) daily, btw. I just don't comment much. I really enjoy it!