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Free Groceries, Safely Foraging For Wild Foods
For hundreds, even thousands of years, man lived without a grocery store. Somehow he managed to feed himself and his family by foraging in the wild, finding edible foods and preparing them. Those same foods are available to us today, still free for the taking all over the world.
You must, of course, be able to identify the foods and know how to prepare them for taste and safety. Acorns can be eaten but must be handled a certain way to release the tannins in them. It is important to be able to identify mushrooms because some are deadly. A good guidebook and some common sense can help you not only cut down the grocery bill, but expand your abilities in self sufficiency!
Tools For Foraging
So, you have a warm day ahead of you and you are ready to fill your larder with wild foods! What are some of the tools that you need to take with you?
Here is a list of the basics, as you gain experience there are things you will want to add to it.
- A good, sharp pocket knife. This is good for cutting stems, pieces of roots etc.
- Moisture-proof bags. You can use zipper closure bags, recycle plastic grocery bags, or sew your own drawstring bags with waterproof fabric. You need to be able to keep things separate.
- A small shovel or trowel for digging up edible roots.
- A pictorial Guide to edible plants in your area. Sometimes it is hard to tell what something is from just the description. A good pictorial guide is invaluable!
- A moist washcloth in a waterproof bag for cleaning your hands.
Be sure that you get permission to forage on private property and be careful about foraging in state parks and preserves. Always make sure that you are acting with in the laws. Don't overlook your own front yard, though. One year we had dandelion greens several times a week harvested from our own front yard! If you have a few acres it is even more likely that you will be able to find natural foods at home. Like anything, the ability to find edible wild plants successfully has alot to do with preparation and practice.
A good rule of thumb is to take only what you need. Remember, the plants will die out if over harvested. Don't let the materialism mentality create greed. It is important that you learn to be a good steward of the bounty of nature. Taking too much of a plant will kill it, taking too many plants form a patch will mean less plants next year and eventually no plants at all. By foraging carefully you will both preserve nature and learn to live in harmony with the cycles of it.
Decide what you are o.k. with. For example, are you going to stick to plants and nuts or are you going to do some hunting as well? Are you willing to try crayfish, frog legs, or wild duck eggs? What about turtles? By adding hunting and fishing to your list, and keeping an open mind, you will increase your ability to glean wild eats.
Some Wild Recipes
Following are some ways to prepare the free groceries you find. Again, if you are ever in doubt about the safety of a plant best to leave it alone!
Acorns are nearly everywhere and are amazingly versatile little nuts if prepared properly. The bitter taste is from the tannin so it is important to be sure to get all of that out before making your recipe. This is called leaching.
- Crack the acorn using a hammer and shell.
- Place in a blender with about a quart or so of water and pulse for a few seconds to make the skins come off and float. Skim the skins off and repeat until no more skins come off.
- Grind the acorns in the water until it turns white
- Pour the milky liquid through a sieve into a bowl. The material in the sieve should be ground again and then the process repeated.
- Pour liquid in the bowl through a cheesecloth into another bowl. This material needs to be leached again. Add it to another container of water, shake up and then let set for 10 -20 minutes. Strain again through cheesecloth let sit overnight covered with water. All the milky liquid that passes through the sieve and cheesecloth should be allowed to settle overnight.
- Pour the water off and cook equal parts of meal and water, about 1/4c each, to check for tannin. Tannin wil lbe easily recognizable by a bitter taste or the mouth feeling dry.
- IF tannin is detected repeat the leaching process. If not then continue with the recipe.
2/3 c finely ground acorn meal
2/3 c unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg (chicken, or duck, goose is too big) beaten
1 1/4 c milk
1/4 c melted butter
Combine dry ingredients. Mix egg, honey, butter, and milk and add to dry ingredients. Spoon onto hot griddle and turn when top begins to bubble.
Cattail roots can be dried, ground, and used as flour. The pollen can be used as an extender to flour and also adds a unique flavor.But the easiest way to eat them is as follows, based on a recipe from Prodigal Gardens.
Cattails-on-the-Cob with Garlic Butter
30-40 cattail flowerheads, peeled
½ cup unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
12 garlic cloves, crushed 1 c fresh basil or cilantro Make garlic butter in a food processor by whipping the butter, salt, fresh garlic and basil together until smooth.
1. Boil cattail flowerheads in water for 10 minutes
2. Make garlic butter in a food processor by whipping the butter, salt, fresh garlic and basil together until smooth.
3. Drain the cattail flowerheads and cover them generously with the garlic butter.
4. Eat them just like miniature corn on the cobs.
from Prodigal Gardens.
The unopened buds of milkweed can be boiled and eaten like broccoli
The roots can be sauteed with onion and garlic in some olive oil.
Leaves are delicious sauteed with onion, garlic, mushrooms, and bacon.
Can be steamed and eaten like an artichoke
This is by no means a complete list. Be sure and get a couple of books on the subject and start slowly. Gathering wild foods is a satisfying way to eat organic and save money doing it. There is something empowering about knowing that you can survive without a Kroger if you need to.