Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Wild Foods

It's worth knowing which weeds and decorative plants are edible in your part of the country. In southern California I often breakfasted on eugenia berries, included dandelion leaves in a salad, or roasted their roots for dandelion coffee, or snacked on natal plums or the rather bland fruit of the strawberry tree. Wild blackberry is a treat not to be missed in the northwest. In the Spring if you can run, just after Easter abandoned rabbits are fairly easy to wear out, capture, and dress for dinner. If you know your wild foods, life can go a little easier.

Be ready to be told that the berries you are eating are poisonous. If you know better, just ignore foolish advisors. I've been told eugenia berries are poisonous more times than I can remember, though I've been eating them since early childhood and every book on botany and horticulture notes that they are edible. On more than one occasion I've been told that a perfectly ordinary fig or strawberry was poisonous. Just figure that the foolishness factor on unsolicited advice is about 90%.

17 Comments:

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Ryn said...

::wave:: I love your site and your guide is great. My friend Andy and I spent the day hiking and we found some bushes we thought were raspberry. They weren't ^.^
My stomach is angry at me.
Anybody got a good visual guide for edible berries?

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger PaintedRavenArts said...

Can you please give more detail on how to make dandelion root coffee?
-Thanks in advance

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger alyceclover said...

Talk about beggars not being choosers, dandelions yuck, and twice as yuck on rabbits. My Dad used to make dandelion salad, so yes, I've tried it, and even made dandelion wine, took about hangovers. Also cooked more rabbits than I care to remember. The most I ate was oranges found on sidewalks, hoping someone won't accuse me of stealing them off trees and forced self not to trespass on grass to get one. From PA, know some berries.

 
At 1:50 AM, Anonymous formerly homeless in a2 said...

Morel mushrooms!!! Just make SURE they're morels (there are look alikes that will kill you or make you so sick you'll WISH you die-been there, done that)I don't know if they grow anywhere besides lower Michigan, everyone I talked to out of state (or the U.P.)have never heard of them...

pity...

 
At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Peterson Guide to Edible Plants is terrific. I've learned to identify a lot of what is around me, both wild edibles and edible ornamentals.

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While on a long backpacking trip I discovered sassafras leaves.

Dried, these are made into the cajun spice, file (fee-lay), as made famous in the Hank Williams song (Jambalaya, crawfish pie and a file gumbo....). They are wonderful eating just right off the tree as well. The young leaves are the best, and make a great salad course.

The sassafras tree is very easy to recognize by its three types of leaves (see here http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=sassafras+leaf+types&btnG=Search+Images). All three are very tasty. Like eating perfume - I mean that in a good way.

Be advised though, they are a natural laxative (natural stimulant too, like caffein) so don't overdo it. Have a few now and take a handful for later. Makes a nice addition to ramins or various rice or pasta dishes.

Young unopened lilly buds (as long as they haven't been sprayed with any chemicals) are great this way too.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great blog, however, there is one thing that I am always fearful of that keeps me from consuming wild plants: the use of commercial pesticides on many plants. While this might not be a big issue for most of the country, I (like you) reside in Southern California where I see pesticides sprayed on everything all day long. I was wondering if you had any advice on this issue. Thanks and keep up the good work!!!

 
At 9:34 AM, Anonymous awcmaineman@gmail.com said...

awcmaineman>>>.Being from Maine and homeless I have developed a great interest with wild foods.As to your comments about dadelion coffee..wrong..it's very easy to make..it's from the roots..simply sun dry them and then grind them with some old coffee grounds.You will find it to be both smooth and close to coffee if you let the mixture sit uncooked for about a week.

 
At 7:11 PM, Blogger Piper said...

My mother used to make eugenia berry jam when I was a child. It was delicious!

By the way, fruit that hangs over into an alley or public way is free for the taking. It's good to scope out neighborhoods that used to be orchards as sometimes the street trees are the old orchard trees. Here in so cal you can find avocados and walnuts and probably others like oranges.

Other so cal street trees I've seen that bear edible fruit include loquats, pecans and macadamias (good luck cracking them!). I'm sure there are others. Not sure how you can use the olives from olive trees.

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Fresh olives are inedible. They must be processed to remove tannic acids and other poisons before they can be eaten.

 
At 7:35 PM, Blogger Monstur said...

Lily buds and flowers are good to eat. They taste a little like fresh peas. But be careful that they are only the original wild variety, orange. Some of the breeding done to produce different colors for gardens created inedible types.
Dandelion is one of the most readily available sources of vitamins and minerals found throughout the U.S.
EAT IT

 
At 4:34 PM, Anonymous br james said...

as a motorhomless person--I go to the south salton sea area during dec-to- march--the cantelope melon fields are still full of fruit after harvest and they will let you glean from the remainder--lettuce and many other crops too are abundant after harvest and available for gleening--also citrus fruit--I have picked enough so that I could give 5-6 boxes to a local food bank--as for rabbits--be careful of how you prepare wild desert hare--clean the meat from the bone and boil it before sauteeing in oil or fat--I would not recommend eating any rebbit internal organs--throe them in the campfire they contain some bugs--I'm 64 and live in a van now so I have a stove--1 burner--its all one needs really--people are planting wild potatos in some places and they are really tasty--grow like wildfire!--I trade for mushrooms with a wild pickin pro and have never got sick--be careful of fungi--they can be mean if you make a mistake

 
At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We also have morels and a variety of other edible mushrooms in Oregon,along with a variety of roots, berries and the like.

 
At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, false morels don't really look like morels. With mushrooms, though, it is better safe than sorry. Orange shelf fungus is sometimes called "chicken of the woods" because it is edible and is quite common across North America. I'd avoid it if it was growing on the likes of black walnut or other trees that are known to be less then edible. There's also "Hen of the Woods" which can be mistaken for a large chicken with ruffed feathers. I've been watching for that one, but have not had the chance to try it yet.

For edibles, young dandelions are best. The older ones can make you sick (as will most with milky sap). There's chickweed, common plantain (a broadleaf weed), and the inner core at the base of the cattail plant. Garter snakes are tasty, and have flaky, fish-like flesh. Gut them and then hang them on a stick or, if you have foil, wrap them in a bit of foil. You'll need to pick away for the meat on the smaller ones, but the bigger ones can be a decent meal.

 
At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

formerly homeless in a2,

Morels can be found in Wisconsin and Minnesota, too. In Wisconsin, there's a lot of public land and you can find many. If you have access to orchard country, they can be found in and near there, too. The problem with morels is that they typically are available for only a short time in the spring. Shelf fungus, hen of the woods, and some others are available through much of the year.

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger Isha said...

Heh. I always have a good laugh whenever I'm told that crab apples, wild strawberries and wild raspberries are poisonous. It happens way too often. Oh well, more for me.

 
At 11:13 AM, Anonymous the best said...

I have always been told that berries in the wild are poisonous...but it goes to show you that if you REALLY want the facts, you have to do your own research!

 

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