Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Last week I covered one of many nutritious wild plants, the dandelion. There are so many edibles currently available that it’s hard to choose with one to cover next! Last week I ran a four day Wild Edible & Medicinal plant intensive (Spring session). Ten adventurous souls were in attendance and eager to learn about and experience Natures bounty.
Our salad consisted of violet leaves, lambs-quarters, dandelion, wild garlic, ox-eye daisy, sheep sorrel and poor-mans pepper. Some reserved wild garlic, dandelion and lambs-quarters found their way into our stir-fry accompanied by plantain, burdock root, thistle, daylily tubers and bamboo shoots. A cooked green of wood nettle provided some variety as well as a nutritious tea to wash it all down. For good measure we also made fresh sassafras root tea which went well with our clover fritters (drizzled with honey) for dessert! YUM! Are you hungry yet?:))
Seriously, all of these plants and many more are currently available and FREE for the picking, literally. As the economic picture continues to look bleak, I’m surprised that these plants continue to receive little attention. Maybe it’s ignorance or fear that keeps them off our dinner plates, or perhaps a combination of both. I think too often people associate eating weeds with poverty, though nothing could be further from the truth. Their abundance and nutritive value should definitely be more mainstream, especially considering the fact that 50 million Americans are currently on food stamps.
The day-lily (Hemerocallis fulva) is one of those plants that goes almost entirely ignored. It provides an abundant source of food almost year-round. While technically labeled a “garden escapee,” it has found a home among its wild neighbors. It’s blooming everywhere here in western North Carolina and I suspect it’s near most of you as well. Positive ID, while not difficult, is a must here. Some people confuse Irises (poisonous) with day-lilies, but the leaves are entirely different. Daylily leaves are folded and the sword-like leaves of Irises are not. It’s pretty simple really, but always err on the side of caution when in doubt.
The young shoots, flower buds, tubers and flowers are all edible, but need to be prepared properly. Many, like myself, find the uncooked flower buds and raw tubers a bit irritating to the throat. Don’t let this deter you however, as cooking removes this completely and easily. The young shoots pop up early in the Spring and can be eaten raw, but I recommend trying a few small bites first to make sure they’re agreeable to you. The root system is quite extensive and boasts numerous tubers (swellings) that when cooked are reminiscent of small potatoes. I find Spring and Fall to be the best time to gather these. I either throw them into stir-fry’s or steam them until thoroughly cooked. Soups are another good option here. The numerous unopened flower buds can be prepared the same way. Fresh flowers can be added to salads, soups or made into fritters. Like any wild edibles, you should eat small amounts first to see how your body handles it. Too many day-lilies can invoke a cleansing reaction in the form of loose bowels, so don’t overdo it unless this what you seek:))
Each year I add to my knowledge of wild foods and can honestly say that it’s had a huge impact on my health and overall well-being. There is something primal about eating from the wilds, something difficult to put into words. I’m fairly certain I’m slowly turning feral however:)) The following quote is one of my favorites…
"One of our greatest fears is to eat the wildness of the world. If we eat the wild, it begins to work inside us, altering us, changing us. Soon, if we eat too much, we will no longer fit the suit that has been made for us. Our hair will begin to grow long and ragged. Our gait and how we hold our body will change. A wild light begins to gleam in our eyes. Our words start to sound strange, non-linear, emotional. Unpractical. Poetic. Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it, the more we will awaken."
As always, I welcome your thoughts and input. Please consider joining a group I started called “Traditional / Primitive Living Skills” and I do encourage you to ask questions and contribute.
Richard Cleveland lives in Asheville, NC. He is the founder and director of Earth School. A self-trained Naturalist, fishing and nature guide, he has taught traditional native skills to thousands of people, of all ages. For info about his programs visit www.LoveTheEarth.com
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