Eating Wild Food
Edible Wild Plants
Back in the mid 90's, I went to work for a woman as a live in caretaker. She was 99 years old (she died at 105 years old), and she had many flowers and plants around her house and yard. One day I heard that Day lilies had edible flower petals. Being the adventurous sort, I went out into the back yard and took a single petal of one of her tiger lilies and ate it. I found it to resemble a sweet, crispy leaf of lettuce, and I could easily imagine how well it would go in a salad. I also learned that dandelions were edible when picked young, but I never seemed to find one at the right stage to try. This lady also had a huge honeysuckle plant and if you pick a flower head and pull the stamen out it produces one tiny drop of pure sweet nectar.
When I moved to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I checked out a book on native edible plants. I have since forgotten most of them, but I thought I would share some of what I found. One of the plants I actually tried myself was the cattail. Since when I learned about it was late winter, I had a bit of a time digging up the root/tuber. I am not sure I dug it up at the right time or not, but I found it to be sweet and starchy, if a little pithy. I found it quite enjoyable. I have read that the only thing not edible on the cattail is the leaves. the brown part, when harvested young and green can be boiled like corn on the cob and eaten with butter, salt and pepper.
Another plant I tried was the fruit of the Chokecherry. I found them to be rather bitter sweet, but tasty regardless. I ate quite a few seeds while eating the cherries, and only recently learned they were toxic. But then, apple seeds are also considered to be toxic, and I know I have eaten quite a few of those in my lifetime. I have also eaten Buffalo berries, which I found to be sweeter than the Chokecherries, though they do leave the mouth a bit dry. Another fruit I have eaten is the wild plum. It is very tasty and juicy.
Some of the plants here that are edible, I have not yet tried, like Timpsula, or wild radish. It is still gathered every year here in late June. It is a root of a flowering plant and can be eaten raw, baked, fried or boiled. They can also be made into flour and make very tasty fry bread.
Then there is the Soaproot Yucca. I did not even know it had any edible parts until very recently. I have used its roots to make a soapy lather and washed my hair with it Makes a lovely hair cleanser.) But I had no idea that its flowers were edible. I shall have something to look forward to when our Soaproot Yuccas flower next time.
Another plant that is perhaps more well known is the wild sunflower. It's seeds may only be big enough for a bird to manage, but its roots can be eaten like a potato or made into a flour. I was quite looking forward to digging up a bunch this fall as our whole back yard was completely packed with them this year, but sadly they were all destroyed when the tribe decided they needed to pack the ground where they put in our septic system and so they bulldozed the whole lot of them. Oh well, maybe next fall will be as promising.
I love the idea of eating wild plants, and the ones I have tried so far have been tasty plus I have the added benefit of knowing they are high in nutritional value.