Sunday, November 14, 2010

You're Walking on My Dinner

No, nobody’s up on top of the dining table in golf shoes, treading about on the good china (although this would make for a wonderful mental image!). No, I don’t eat concrete, asphalt, or carpeting, either.

Think Euell Gibbons. For those of you who are overseas or too young to remember, he was a well-renowned and sometimes highly annoying naturalist who used to do commercials for Grape-Nuts cereal. He would advocate making your own toothpicks out of tree logs and other foolishness, but I digress.

He also did us a favor that hardly anyone took him up on (except maybe the hippies of the era): teaching us to forage for wild edibles. Some plant life in this world is free for the taking, and surrounds us every day—the trick is knowing what is safe to eat and when.

I myself buy dandelion greens, lamb’s quarters, and other “weeds” from my health food store because I don’t know enough about the wild greens to go picking them willy-nilly. People who live in heavily urbanized areas will also have trouble finding wild greens because most everything’s been paved over.

If you are inclined to supplement your salads with wild edibles, I STRONGLY urge you to seek competent, thorough knowledge about these plants (with graphics) before rummaging out in your front yard or in the woods. Some look-a-like foods are highly poisonous, and can kill you if eaten. Go out with a fellow forager who’s got experience, or get a copy of a wild edibles book. Old boy scout manuals are useful for this if you can find one (pre-1980 publication). These books also come in handy for disaster and emergency planning.

I’m searching for an old boy scout book myself, and when I find one, the front yard will likely be picked clean! Until then, though, I plan to continue purchasing “weeds” from someone who knows more about them than I.

It’s hard to believe that if you just look down in the grass, a whole feast could be growing at your feet--wild onions, miner's lettuce, mushrooms, berries, even fallen nuts. Imagine what an impact this knowledge would have on your grocery bill and needed food storage space.

Places you can forage besides your own yard: national/state/local parks, sports fields, vacant lots, abandoned homes/buildings, the side of the road, the outer edges of the dump, pastures (get permission from the owner first), green spaces at airports and apartment complexes when mowing time is past...wherever you end up going, take an up-to-date, well-photographed foraging manual with you to make sure your finds are edible.


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