earlier this week, Jim Merkel was in athens for a presentation during earth month. an interesting fella no doubt, but one of the most interesting things he talked about was wild edibles. i guess i've known for a while that wild edibles are good. high in nutrients and if harvested carefully, sustainable (thought, with all of the habitat fragmentation out there- it is a questionable practice these days).
My housemate and I went scavenging for wild edibles this weekend. He's sort of like a mini-wild edible book, and pointed out about a million and a half more things in the forest than i can remember. but, what we picked, i now know- and thought i'd share. but, unfortunatley, i've been unable to find nutrition facts on these things.
These delightful little things, are trout lilies. They are sort of spotted, like trout, with lighter green markings. These tend to grow on the shady side of hills, down in the valley. They are similar to spinach, and are sort of sweet. They make a great salad, and I imagine you could cook them down too, but I don't plan on it. When we were out, the patches were few and far between, so again, being aware of the amount you're taking is key.
Ramps, ramps, ramps. These well known appalachian wilds are great. Sort of garlicy, sort of oniony. They have fairly large, long green leaves and tend to have two leaves per plant (from what I've seen anyway. maybe they get more later in the season). These tend to grow in patches, and hang opposite side of the valley from the trout lilies. Many people dig up the bulb of these, because it tends to be spicier and pack a bigger punch. But, you don't need to do that and you probably shouldn't. if you take ramps out by their bulbs, you've killed the plant, it won't come back. and the leaves are plenty full of flavor. These were more abundant and the patches tended to be very full, but it's always good to be aware of how much you're picking. i tried to only take one leaf from each plant, and to not over harvest any patch. these can be used sort of like green onions. cook them, use them raw on salads etc. i have not cooked with them yet, so am not sure what happens to their flavor intensity, but i did make a really delicious ramp pesto (as inspired by integration acres). from a brief look, you can find lots of recipes online using ramps (none of which i've tested). But, fair warning, as with strong garlic, ramps can fend off those close to you (particularly close to your mouth). totally worth it.
These lovely leaves are also found around these parts, but seem to be pretty uncommon. i didn't notice (or perhaps more accurately, joe didn't point out to me) any kind of growth pattern, but these were very sparse. Therefore, we only took a couple of leaves, mostly just to try them out. We made tea with them (along with a few other things, like pine needles- which hold a ton of vitamin c).Like ramps, the roots can be harvested and apparently are quite wonderful, but that kills the plant. And since these were so sparse, we didn't even try them. We've planted some ginger in our yard, so hopefully in a couple years folks living here can have a solid source of wild ginger.
Red Buds and Violets
There are a lot of wild flowers that are edible, but these two are great, and both of them are in my yard. Violets don't hold too much flavor, but they look very nice and likely pack a decent amount of nutrients. Red buds, however, do have some nice sweet flavor. Both of these look lovely on a fresh salad, but in this case I added them to some homemade yogurt. (which, is so easy to make and wonderful- you can check out how from the Ohio Food Shed blog, Eat With The Season)
other totally edible things around here: dandelion leaves, root, and flower, stinging nettles, wild onions, milkweed, wild lettuce, garlic mustard, Sheppards purse, clover flower, wild asparagus- and probably a lot more.
oh- and just saying- take someone out with you who knows whats happening before you go around eating a bunch of things you're not sure of...