Wednesday What Not: Edible plants in nature

I was speaking with a lady at work about dandelions.  She did not understand why we worked so hard in the United States to rid our yards of the dandelions.  I couldn’t understand why she was so attached to what I considered a weed.  She then told me that she had survived on dandelions while hiding from the enemies in Bosnia.

Then, I remembered that my grandmother made a dandelion soup.  Oddly enough she had lived through the depression and I wonder if her obstacles had led to the creation of this soup.  I’m not sure that I even remember eating the soup.  Oddly enough there are lots of recipes online for dandelion soup.

Greenfield Village Dandelion Soup. Photo by JanuaryBride

So, I began to wonder what other natural plants are safe to eat and the important things to know in order to not get ill from eating these plants.  The polk county conservation page had 10 rules to follow when eating edible plants;

  • Always be 110% sure to clearly identify the plant you are picking.
  • Select only healthy plants.
  • Choose the young green leaves of edible plants. Many leaves develop a chemical called “tannin” and become bitter with age.
  • Apply the rule of 10: harvest only one plant for every 10 you leave behind. Removing a few leaves, petals, fruits or seeds from several plants is better than taking all you need from one plant.
  • Harvest only what you will need for your recipe.
  • Harvest only the edible parts of a plant that are ripe. Out of season edibles can be very bitter.
  • Dismiss all rules of harvesting which begin with a sentence like “All blue berries are edible…” There are no across-the board rules.
  • If one plant in a botanical family is edible, it does not mean that all plants in the family are edible.
  • Sometimes, only a special part of a plant is edible. The rest may be indigestible or even poisonous.
  • Be knowledgeable about the area you’ve selected for harvesting. Is it part of a park? You’ll want to know if herbicides or pesticides have been used there.

So, what are some edible plants?

Some recommended by School of Self are;

Wild Foods Menu:

Acorn, Cactus, Carob, dandelion, epazote, lambsquarter, mallow, miners lettuce, Mustard, Nasturtium and Sowthistle.

Now, I was not sure what some of these items were or how I might use them.  However, this page was very helpful.  For Example, this is the advice on preparing acorns;

I bring all the acorns home from collecting, and dry them in the oven at pilot light temperatures or very low heat. This is just to dry them and kill off bugs.

When I get around to it, I crack the shells off, and then I soak the shelled acorns in water. Generally, I soak the acorns for a few days to about two weeks, changing the water at least twice a day.

When the acorns are no longer bitter, I grind them while wet through a meat grinder.

The coarse meal is then placed in cookie pans to dry in the sun or oven.

When dry, I store in large jars in the cupboard. (I still can’t figure out how the freezer fits into all this).

The meal is then used in place of wheat flour in recipes, or half and half in various recipes.

There are, also, many books on this subject.  If I might, I’d like to recommend the Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants

I think this might be a fun activity to do with the kiddos!  Happy nature hunting.

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