Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What do I need for my wildflower expeditions?

It occurred to me that you might be wondering what you need to forage for wild foods successfully.  My answer to you is, not much.  As Green Deane (http://www.eattheweeds.com/) and so many other enthusiasts of wild foods will attest, the first thing you need to do is know the plant

Plant identification is imperative and is relatively easy to do for the common plants. Start with what you know and research it.  For example: you know what a dandelion looks like. Maybe it is edible maybe it's not but, at least you recognize the dandelion. 
Your next step is to look it up. 

  1. Is it definately dandelion?  There are other yellow lawn flowers.  Always make a  positive identification!
  2. Is it edible?  Old wives tales do not work here.  Make sure to verify.
  3. How to prepare it?   This is the easiest step.  Find a recipe or invent one.
Reliable information can come in the form of internet information or books.  Regarding the internet, you want a reliable source, not just any internet source.  Most often I use those sources with .edu or .gov.  or .USDA.  There are some good sources on  http://www.youtube.com/. but you should definately know what you are talking about before believing everything that is available.   Green Deane does a great job educating his audience on youtube in a reliable manner.  Some of the others do not.  You  have to be picky.  When it comes to wild foods, absolute certainty is a must.  So always double check your resources before deciding to eat the greenery.

When it comes to books you really do need to invest in at least one field guide on southern wildflowers and one or two books on edible plants .  Books will tell you even more about the plant in question and supply you with additional pictures.  You can always take a book with you on your foraging adventure. 

Almost all plants have some form of flowers and, seeing as you are going to be examining flowers of the southeastern states selecting a book in this category is a great idea.  I always carry at least one reference on the trail because this hobby is a never ending learning trip.  Two of my favorites are:

Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains by Smith
Field Guide to Eastern Wildflowers from the National Audubon Society

After you have some books to facilitate plant identification, it is helpful to carry around plenty of brown paper lunch sacks.  They are readily recyclable and they allow you to separate your specimens for later identification.  Too, paper doesn't allow your plants to sweat.  And why is this important?  A sweating plant wilts; encourages insect eggs to hatch that might be on the leaves; and causes plants to start decomposing which is not very appetizing in the long run.  Hence, the brown paper bag routine for collecting.

I also like a magnifying glass and a camera.  Not everything is edible but nearly everything is beautiful.  One of my favorite pastimes is really looking into the soul of the plant...the blossom -- the leaf -- the stem -- the hair-like structures that encourage pollination...  I hate leaving anything unexplored for fear that something beautiful will be missed.  I have discovered that the eye of the camera provides me with another moment for joy.  It captures elements I did not see whilst standing there.  And, as I have my pictures on the computer, I use them as a screen saver so I can re-live all those lovely moments of peace and tranquility.

And yes, the dandelion is edible.  You can eat the washed leaves as a salad with a lovely bacon/vinegar dressing; in a mixed salad; or you can take the flower heads when they are yellow, dust them in a bit of flour and saute them in olive oil or bacon fat (depending upon your heart condition).  You can even make a coffee-like beverage from the roots.  Some call the dandelion natures most perfect vegetable.  Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment