Friday, December 04, 2009

Outdoor Grocery Store

I have for many many months now enjoyed breaking my fast with fresh raspberries, muscadines, and only for the last few weeks, fresh persimmons as well. But the first two of these I must admit are cases of gleaning, not really foraging as they are intentionally planted plants (not by me, but by a neighbor) as opposed to true wild edibles. The persimmons on the other hand, if any were intentionally planted the original planter has long since passed, and no one but me, and very rarely Rancher Bob makes any use of them.

However these are far from the only wild edibles I have been either enjoying, or working to positively identify so that I may enjoy them in the future. A few other examples are henbit, which I described in the past and look forward to enjoying here again soon, as they are the first of the greens to come up. Since it is either ignored or hated by most gardeners, I have no problem harvesting more than I can possibly use in exchange only for strange looks and even rarely some gratitude for "weeding" a small area of the garden. The henbit is used much like cooked spinach. I am partial to using it in italian style dishes mixed with other ingredients, but it can easily stand on its own as a "pot herb." "Pot herb" being just another name for any cooked greens.

I gleefully took advantage of the fresh briar leaves, as some may recall. And I have enjoyed clovers, and clover look alikes such as wood sorrel and yellow sorrel, both of which are wonderful slightly sour additions to salads. I read recently that they also make fine lemonade like drinks.

Still, I very much consider myself a novice forager, one still learning as much as is possible while trying to identify as many plants as possible. Some such as pecan are ridiculously easy, others present more of a challenge, such as mushrooms, though I am making some progress on that front as well having positively identified two mushroom varieties on the land which are edible.

Last month, I finally managed to find and correctly identify a Jerusalem Artichoke, which is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke, but is related to the common sunflower. The tubers it produces are edible and can be substituted for potatoes for those on low starch diets. I had and still do plan on growing this as a vegetable, but finding on in the wild is an unexpected delight.

With the cold temperatures, around 20F currently, the search for wild edibles turns largely to meat. With any luck at all, I will be filling the freezer with beaver meat which I have come to learn can be used in any recipe calling for beef, but is leaner than beef. With the arrangement I have made with Captain Rob, I hope to have no need to buy meat again. Between the beaver harvest each year, and what I take of rabbit, perhaps even squirrel if I feel like it, I should have an abundant supply of meat for every occasion!

Add to that the chance at turkey and deer, and I should be able to set quite an extravagant table when I desire to do so. In some ways it is hard to believe that some folks claim that there is a food shortage. In truth there is a shortage on knowledge, and a shortage on willingness to try "new" (or very old) things..

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