Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Common Wild Food

Cat tails.  Dig up or pull up cattails from clean wetland, ponds etc.  The rhizomes are the horizontal fleshy root covered with tiny roots.  Wash and allow them to dry.  Peel them with a knife or a vegetable peeler.  chop up and allow to soak in water.  Drain when the starch has gone into the water.  Squeeze out any extra.  Alternatively, squeeze the rhizomes from one end to get the starch to come out the other.  Allow the water and starch to settle in a bowl, then drain off and dry in the sun.  Grind the starch into a flour.  Mix with other flours to use in bread(this will not have the glutens necessary like Rye flour to make the bread rise properly without the wheat flour) or make cakes with oil  or butter and flavorings of seeds and other organic foods and fry or bake like a thick cracker, or make pancakes from it.  The buds(corms) at the top of the rhizomes, and the young shoots can also be cooked and eaten, though you may have to peel them as well. 
Early man roasted the unpeeled rhizomes in the coals and squeezed the starch out to eat it or they just chewed up the fibrous insides till it went dry and then spit out the fiber.
You need a lot of these to make a meal, but then, there are a lot of them around.  They also re-establish themselves fast, especially when you leave bits of rhizome in the mud.  If you cut them down or burn them, the new shoots will come up and most of them will be edible and tender.  Like leeks, when they begin to turn green they are already too tough to eat.

Dandelion leaves are at their best in the spring, when little else is ready to eat.  They are much like Endive in taste.   Collect the tiny leaves (yes, you can eat the bigger ones but they will be bitter and benefit from a couple of changes of water) saute them in oil or meat fat, bacon etc.,(do not be sqeemish about animal fat in survival situations as you need to keep the calories up.  If you are working hard it will not hurt you in moderation...burn it off!)  You can steam them or boil them as well.  You can mix them with other early greens like fiddlehead ferns.  They will give your food an added dimension that the plain greens will not have.  Mix them(after steaming or sauteing) into goat or your own home made ricotta cheese as a filling with chopped bacon or other cured meats in tiny mince.  If there are red or other peppers of any kind available, mince them very finely and mix in for color and either a sweet or hot accent.  Stuff them into crepes or edible flowers if they are available at the same time of year. Stuff this or similar fillings into ravioli or big shell pasta or even into fried cannoli shells.  You may have some dandelion available when the infertile flowers of pumpkin or squash can be stuffed.  Mix the filling with egg if it is to be cooked.  If you wish, you can use the flowers when they have the tiny squash developing on the bottom, but that is a bit of a waste as it will become a full sized vegetable in time. 
Make a shallow pie crust of any size, even a cookie sheet or lasagna pan size.  Mix the dandelion filling made any way you like into beaten eggs (along with other greens if you like)  Pour into the half baked crust. Drizzle with oil or bacon fat, and bake till the eggs set.

Fiddlehead ferns.

Fiddleheads are the smooth moss green to emerald green ferns that come up in damp ground or along streams in the spring.  They are covered partially with a thin brown paper, but they DO NOT  have hairy or white or gray fuzz on them.  Smooth and slightly glossy surface to the stem.
  They are just snapped off at the base as they grow.  Once the fern starts to unfurl, they are OK, but will not cook well and may disintegrate.  Wash well and remove the paper while soaking in salted water. 
We used to gather bags and bags of them every year.  They were frozen and canned for later use, though we loved them and could eat them day after day when fresh.  Sautee them, steam them or boil them.  Mix with other greens or cured meats. 
Any way is good, but some may object to the musty or boggy taste or smell at first.  Well cleaned, it will be very faint, but still, it is there. 
Make sure you know what you are picking.  You can buy them canned.  Just try a can so you know what you are looking for or take a good look at them when in the market to avoid mistakes.  Even if you hate them canned, try them fresh as there is a world of difference. 
You can plant them in your less than dry land or garden.  They are an attractive plant in semi shade.

Other edibles in the garden or field include:
Nasturtium, leaves or flowers
Pansies and Johnny jump up
Wild leeks and asparagus (you should plant Asparagus as it is free food for years)
Wild nuts

look at this video for good methods of working with acorns.


To be continued:

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