Respecting Intuition while Getting Over the Fear of Eating Wild!

Ductifera pululahuana

I know the feeling...the exciting one you get when walking through the woods and someone says, "Hey, you can eat this!"  I also know the feeling of looking at Ductifera pululahuana on a log and thinking...say whaaaa? I'm supposed to eat this? Then if we're adventurous enough to take some home to try, it sits... and it sits, because we don't know how to use and enjoy it. I know the feeling.

I also know the feeling of finding different sources that say plant "x" is edible while others say it's not. Ductifera pululahuana is not considered a "choice" mushroom like morels. Some sources even claim it is inedible. I was lucky to have found these with my Chinese and Lithuanian friends and after some extensive research into the fungus, proper ID and cross reference between the three of us...I boiled it, made a sweet soup and ate it. It was delicious, and different to my palate. While it was new for me, this mushroom is commonly used in Chinese soups and is also noted to be supportive to female health. Knowing this history gave me more confidence to eat it traditionally sweet rather than savory. It has the taste of rain + minerals mixed with a delicious sweetness from the broth.

After this mushroom experience I realized that there is a process of trusting, intuitively saying yes, and building a relationship with a plant or fungus. With time and practice you will become more and more familiar with perennial wild plants so that you too can confidently prepare and enjoy these plants, fungi, and mosses. 

Today, I'm sharing my triple check when foraging for wild edibles. Much like the three object/composition rule in visual art, we're going to use three checks when building a relationship with perennial wild edibles. 

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Creamy Chickweed Pesto with Sweet Potato Fries

 

As the days are getting hotter and hotter here in Chicago my body is craving lighter meals packed with nutrition. Spring –Fall are busy times for me, so I want to be sure have quick simple meals that fill me. For this I have been making a Creamy Chickweed Pesto (GF/V) made with cashews, chickweed, a pinch of salt, and garlic all blended up. Easy, simple, beautiful and oh so good!

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Foraging a Taste of Nature

Foraging is growing in interest and popularity thanks, in part, to the growth of microbreweries, “farm-to-table” and “field-to-table” restaurants that source local, farm raised, and foraged ingredients like ramps, dandelion greens, violet flowers, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, and garlic mustard. People are excited about these new foods, flavors, and smells and want to experience more.

Fascination with foraging is really a return to our roots. Our ancestors fed themselves primarily from foraging. Acorns, greens, root vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, fruits and berries all grew in abundance within the forests, along the waters’ edge, in meadows and prairies. Families had their favorite spots to harvest, and children carried on the tradition.

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Awakening the Forager

Wild Plant IDSince I began learning about edible wild plants and herbs three years ago, it has been a joy to walk around and “see” all of the food and herbs growing everywhere, in cracks in the sidewalks, in yards, along trails, in forests. At first, most of my knowledge was applied to designing edible landscapes, but now I’m fully enjoying feeding myself from my yard and community. I take walks every day to notice the abundance around me, harvest where appropriate, process, and enjoy. Just this week, I have been enjoying a variety of teas (peppermint, pine needle, lemon balm, dandelion root, and comfrey leaf), stinging nettle infusions, “weed” pesto that I froze this fall, hazelnuts, and grape juice canned this summer. Each year, my “wild” plant diet expands, and with it a deepening connection and appreciation of the natural world.

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Discover a new world

DSCN1475For those of you who have had at least one experience foraging wild food, you understand how it changes your vision. When walking, biking, and driving your eyes are now drawn to finding food amongst the plants and trees. It is like a whole new world has opened up and invited you in. You find yourself taking photos and asking friends with more experience, “Can I eat this?”  Facebook has groups where people post photos of their discoveries and ask “friends” to help them id the plant and if what they found is edible. Foraging is like hunting for hidden treasures, but without the tools the treasures remain hidden.

You can obtain the tools to find these hidden treasures by taking Pat Armstrong’s Edible Wild Plants courses. Pat will teach you the basics of plant identification and about the common edible plant families in the seasonal Introduction to Plant Identification classes. Once you have basic plant id skills, you can advance to the seasonal courses where you will learn about the seasonal edible wild plants to be discovered in our area.  Each course focuses on about 70 different plants that grow in our biome and can be harvested during that season. Pat will teach you how to identify the plants, what part to harvest, when to harvest, how to prepare the harvest, and because each class includes samplings, you can experience the taste of a few.

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