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Kat and Kevin Yares
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Wild Foods Equals Free Food
Many people know that dandelion greens are edible. And rumor has it that the flowers make great wine (by the way, this is true). But what about the other things that grow in nature, such as morel mushrooms, berries and ferns? Then there are cattails, nuts, wild onions and garlic all to be found free. With a good guide or guidebook* from the library, you can take a drive down a country road and return home with a bountiful harvest. If you live in the city, make it a Sunday outing. Your family will enjoy getting away.
Morels are available in the early spring. Look for them on North facing woodsy slopes that get some sunshine. They thrive on moisture. Just be sure to leave a few to propagate the next harvest.
Huckleberries (Natures Blueberry) begin to ripen in May and early June. Unlike the domestic blueberry, they grow on low bushes.
Blackberries and Raspberries begin to ripen in late June and July. Most roadsides are full of them, especially if you can find dirt roads. Don't ask me why.
Ferns begin uncurling in the early spring. Find them while they are young for the tenderest shoots. The same goes for Poke - get the young shoots and leaves for a tasty salad.
Eating wild foods can be intimading to those who have never done it before, so I've included below ways to prepare your harvest.
Dandelions are great and plentiful, especially in the city. Pick the leaves as soon as possible in the spring. Slice the bleached underground part of leaves for use in salad. Boil crown bases 4 minutes and serve with butter and seasoning. Or just sauté them in butter until evenly browned. Dip blossoms in fritter batter and serve with syrup.
These tasty little ferns are ready to be harvested in May and early June. After that, they become bitter. Wash freshly picked ferns and add a small amount of boiling salted water. Boil until tender. Drain, add butter and salt and serve.
All parts of the cattail are edible; depending on what time of the year you harvest them. In the early spring, dig up roots to find the small pointed sprouts at the ends. Sprouts are edible raw or cooked. Until the plants are about 3 feet tall, pull straight off breaking at root. Peel away the tough leafy layer to reach the heart. This is excellent raw, like celery or sliced into salad. Or cover with boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve with butter, salt or a oil and vinegar dressing. The pollen can be sifted and used for flour. I think you get the idea, keep experimenting.
BERRIES & NUTS
Just like wild veggies, berries and nuts can be harvested in season. Dewberries and huckleberries are all ripening in June. Blackberries and raspberries usually come in July. These can all be jellied, frozen or canned.
Nuts are ready in the fall. The nuts should be husked and dried until the kernels and rather brittle. The dried nuts will usually keep for about a year, if stored in a cool place. They will keep indefinitely if stored in the cool freezer.
We usually put out nutmeats in a shallow pan that has been coated with oil, on top of the wood burning heater and allow them to roast. This can be done in a heavy skillet on top of the stove or on a cookie sheet in a low oven. Plus, they are always ready for a quick and easy snack. The meats can also be ground to be used as a flour substitute.
For Rural and City Living