Posts Tagged ‘wild edible plants’

As I mentioned yesterday, I was planning on eating some of the Solomon’s seal and ostrich fern in our yard, and today I did (and I shared a taste with others at the dinner table).

I made sure today that the ferns were indeed what I thought they were (ostrich) and verified again that both types of plants are edible. I didn’t want to kill the fern, so I was only able to pick one little shoot, but I noticed other ferns were coming up and am hoping that I can harvest a few more.

I also picked four Solomon’s seal shoots, but I think I was a little too late, because when we boiled and ate them they were very bitter. It was odd, though, because when I tried a piece raw, it didn’t taste bitter at all to me.

Anyway, the raw ostrich fern fiddlehead seemed just a little bit slimy in the middle to my parents, sort of a mild okra sliminess. I had some just after I picked it and it was not slimy so maybe it was because I put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. I think this is best when eaten just after it’s picked.

Anyway, I thought both of the vegetables tasted slightly sweet and mild when raw, and the ostrich fern had the tiniest hint of an apple flavor.

These are both quite enjoyable vegetables, and I think I might try to start some more Solomon’s seal in random places. It’s good to know that you can eat this stuff!

Today my dad and I went to harvest some cattails. We pass a place where they grow when we go on bike rides, so we packed up some digging gear and dug up a few plants to bring home with us.

Since a cattail is a weed, and they spread by rhizome fairly quickly, I’m confident we did not do any harm by taking a few plants.

Anyway, a lot of cattail parts are edible. The part we tried is called a lateral. A lateral is the beginning of a rhizome, and if you want to eat them,  you have to get them before they toughen up into a mature rhizome. If you miss this time, you can only make flour with the laterals, which mature into rhizomes.

We only had one tender lateral, so I first ate some of it raw. I thought that it tasted like a cross between a watermelon and a carrot. It was tender but slightly crispy, and it was very good. I steamed the rest of it and had it with a bit of butter, but I think I liked it better raw. We were, unfortunately, a little late harvesting them, so it was the tiniest bit tough.

We then planted the cattail plants we harvested in some large pots and we’re hoping they grow nicely in them so that we can eat more of this plant in the spring/summer.

I was very happy. This was quite a good find!


Posted: October 31, 2015 in Wild Edible Plants
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Yesterday I rode past our local library, and I noticed some trees that had little berries. I recognized these from my wild edible plant book. I quickly rode my bike back home to get my book for a positive identification, and upon inspecting the trees closely, I figured out that they definitely are hackberry trees.

This tree was once widely used as a food source, and indeed, the berries are enjoyable. It’s a pretty dry berry that is more like a nut than a berry. There is a thin sugary coating surrounding a pit. This pit is medium hard, usually, and upon being bitten open, a multitude of tiny little seeds spill out.

The tree itself is a little bit larger than your average mature dogwood tree, and its grey bark is deeply grooved. The leaves are ovate with faintly to strongly toothed margins.

If you eat the berries whole, it tastes like a mixture between a fig and some sort of nut. The combination is very nice. The berries are also very filling as they have high levels of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and they are one of the few wild edible plants from which you can get an (almost) full meal.

Unfortunately, I found these berries a little too late this fall, so the pits were usually too hard to bite open, but now that I know where they are, I’ll be heading back next year to try to get a better harvest.

If you know of a tree around you that makes red-brown berries, you should check it out to see if it’s a hackberry! Definitely a keeper.

Today I went walking on the C&O Canal Towpath to look for some wild edible plants, and I found three plants that were (probably) edible, and one that was not. The three edible plants I found were wild garlic mustard, stinging nettle, and three black walnuts.

The garlic mustard had a light garlic flavor and is only really used for flavoring. The stinging nettle is eaten boiled with salt. You can eat both the stems and the leaves, but I’ve already done a lot of stems and leaves boiled with salt, so I passed on the nettle.

The walnuts are the only thing really worth eating, so I shelled the outside skin and am now drying the hard shell that encases the actual meat. So now I have red acorns and black walnuts drying 🙂 I read later that a single black walnut log is worth $1,000 dollars. It’s very valuable wood for furniture and stuff like that.

Lastly, I saw some berries on a vine that looked like wild grapes, but I’m almost positive they were inedible. The plant could have been multiple things, but most probably, Canada Moonseed, which is actually poisonous.

Just goes to show you that you cannot simply eat anything you find that looks edible. You can make yourself very sick by doing that!

Yesterday I gathered acorns for my wild edible plants class. I’ve never really thought of an acorn as a nut or even something you could eat, and on occasion I’ve even heard that they are poisonous. That is very much not the case.

The guy who wrote my wild edible plants book, Samuel Thayer, is a big fan of acorns; or maybe he isn’t, but he dedicated fifty pages in one of his books to how to harvest and prepare acorns. Apparently, some Californian Indian tribes depended on acorns for a lot of their food, which makes sense, because some of the best varieties of acorns grow specifically in California.

The reason I heard they were poisonous is because if you ate about thirteen and a half trillion acorns at once, you would probably die. They have a lot of tannin in them. In low amounts, tannin is fine for the average human to consume, as almost everything has some tannin in it; apples, green tea, persimmons, for instance. The reason acorns are feared for their tannin content is because it is higher than levels of tannin in other foods.

You can leach the acorns, and then they are fine to eat.

I wanted to find out what those Californian Indians were so very enthralled with. We went out and gathered maybe a pound, possibly less, of red oak acorns. It wasn’t very much, but they were kind of hard for us to find surprisingly. Anyway, for those of you who haven’t read about eating acorns, weevils like to lay eggs in acorns, and their maggot offspring grow up in the acorn, feeding off the nut inside. Later in their development, they eat a hole through the shell of the acorn large enough for them to crawl out and turn into weevils.

Obviously you don’t want these acorns, but we did pick up a few. How to get rid of them? Well, the acorns the weevil larvae have eaten are light, so, in theory, if you were to fill a bucket with water and dump all your acorns in it, the bad ones would float. So that’s what I did, and it eliminated most of the bad acorns, of which there were about six.

I then proceeded to crack and shell the acorns. The author of my book said that this is easier to do when the acorns are slightly warm, so I put them in the oven at 200ºF for about 4 minutes. Then I went outside, laid a towel on the garage floor and hit the acorns lightly with a hammer, not hard enough to obliterate them, but hard enough to crack them so that we could pry the acorn out of the shell.

Once I had done this, I noticed a thin skin on the acorn – the testa. It’s kind of like the skin on a peanut or an almond. Some people say this skin is especially high in tannins, so they feel it is imperative to remove the skins. On white oak acorns, it is (apparently) pretty easy to take them off, but on red oak acorns, which is what I had, the task is more difficult due to the large ridges on the meat which the testa sticks to very stubbornly.

As I read in the book, the best way to get the skins off is to submerge the acorns in water for five to ten minutes, stir vigorously, let them dry, and the testa should become loose and you should be able to rub the acorn against your hand forcing the skins off. Alternatively, you can wet the acorns with a spray bottle which results in less discoloration than complete submersion. That is what I did, but the testa didn’t come off so tomorrow I’m going to try the other method.

That is as far as I have gotten in my acorn processing. I now have to dry my acorns, which can take one to eighteen weeks depending on the species. Once they are dry, I shall write about my further adventures. However, if you want to read for yourself how to make acorns edible, you can read articles online or just buy Nature’s Garden. It’s about wild edible plants in general, so there’s a lot more in the book than just acorns. It seems like a very reliable source, given that it’s written by a guy who eats wild edible plants daily.

Until you’re dry, acorns!