Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day 2, more to do

Last night I was experimenting with shelling and eating the seeds out of my green beans gone to see. Yes, I will save seed, but there is more than enough of that. I cooked the green bean seeds in salted water and added a touch of butter and it was really good. Mrs. Neighbor stopped by in time to comment that next we'll be finding a use for tomato leaves.

As challenge winds down, I thought a good topic would be food foraging. This is not my strongest area, and so much is location dependent that I hope you all will chime in on the subject.

Picture that the time has come when you have eaten and shared or lost all your stored food. You have made the switch to being committed to a truly simple lifestyle or perhaps TS really has HTF. Either way, you are looking to supply some of your calorie needs without spending any money.

Currently one can ask the produce manager if you can take the vegetable trimmings to feed to chickens or pigs. Often what you get is a lot of usable produce that you can sort out and use yourself before headed out to the animals. Some stores now have rules against such a thing, but often times employees set discarded produce by the dumpsters. Yesterday's MSNBC had an updated article on frugalists or regular employed persons who are stretching their dollars by eating out of the garbage cans. I'm not thinking I'll go there anytime soon but I have been known to happily pick things up from the curb with a 'free' sign - the precursor to freecycle.

In order to get my liberal arts degree in social sciences in college, I had to pass a certain amount of hard sciences. One way I got the credits was to take a really weird biology class called 'survival biology'. In this class we had to show proficiency in foraging, shelter making, orienteering and other things. We learned that bugs like grasshoppers are edible and nutritious but that they have to be cooked because they carry parasites. The test was then to eat baked grasshoppers - I suggest removing their scratchy legs first. Vermin are also quite nutritious - there's a lot of meat on a rat, and pigeons are all dark meat. Yes, we had to kill, cook and eat lab rats. (Luckily we were allowed a partner and my partner was a hunter - phew). Unfortunately city pigeons can also carry up to 65 diseases harmful to the human as well as toxins from pollution - so handle them carefully and don't eat them from a really dirty area. I'm thinking the pigeons who litter my rural church are pretty clean, and there are actual recipes for squab. Dog is still on the menu of many people in different cultures.

If that's too hard core for you, as you get out on foot and bicycle more, you will notice that down many a neighborhood alley way are fruit trees that grow over the fences, as well as herbs and perhaps strawberries that have left their yards. Few will object to your picking the fruit that grows into public space. You may even notice trees that are going unpicked and may ask to pick or to pick for the owner in trade for some of the crop. The same for the end of season gardens. If you have seen a large lovely garden, the owners may be done and would let you glean the last vegetables from the garden before winter. I mentioned in the comments of Shasha's blog that I had people gleaning in my garden this last week (and this is not the first time) but that while I have plenty to share, I would have liked to have been asked first.

I know a young man who grew up quite poor whose childhood play included gleefully gathering honey from a wild comb and picking edibles with his mother. And when I was a child I would get up very early in the morning with my cousins and my Uncle would send us out into Denver neighborhoods picking mushrooms. My Uncle was however thepresident of the mycological society at the time and so knew his shrooms.

The gathering of wild plants is so individual to your area. I have grown up knowing little by litte about the edible plants in my area: wild turnips, garlic, sego Lilly roots, tiger lilly roots, apples, currents, pinyon nuts, walnuts, paintbrush, lambsquarters, nasturtium, dandelion, Acorn (flour), prickly pear fruit, rose hips, purslane and cattail hearts to name a few available in the southwest. I lived for a short time in Tennessee and while I LOVED the green growth everywhere, I just didn't know it.

The plants I've mentioned are all pretty easy to spot - you probably can picture them in your mind and they don't have close poisonous look alikes - and so could use them in a pinch. However, if you are going to start in on wild harvesting, learn about all your plants - that way you will know the poisonous ones when you meet them, too. If a bit of jimsome weed were to accidentally get mixed in with edibles it would really wreak havoc with your health and mind. Avoid gathering beside busy roads as traffic pollution will gather in the plant, and know if the yard where you gather has been sprayed!

Do you have foraging stories? Do you have a favorite food that you forage? Could you identify enough plants to get a meal in good season where you live?


fullfreezer said...

My daughter and I went gathering black walnuts on Sunday afternoon. We stepped them out of their slimy covers and washed them off. Unfortunately when I put them to dry I didn't secure them well enough and by the time I got home from work Monday afternoon we had lots of VERY well fed squirrels in the neighborhood. LOL! I guess it's live and learn..
I've been following you for a while. Thanks for the inspiration to be better prepared.

Robj98168 said...

I do a small bit of foraging- I pick blackberrys in the overflow parking lot at work, as well as plums- there is a plum tree there too. They also have apple trees but there is a group at work that picks tose for the food bank. When I was younger we use to pick mushrooms, the hallucinogenic kind- but I am guessing that aint what you're talking about!

Anonymous said...

A few of us on our local Freecycle shared locations of 'public' apple and pear trees with each other, after I posted a request to glean folks apple or pear trees if they weren't using the fruit. I've found great wild grapes, and mediocre mulberries, and this week I'll again check the wild persimmon trees to see if the fruit is ripe enough to pick.

One move back, I could count on harvesting chickweed from the yard all winter for greens, and lots of wild mustard greens in the spring.

We get a LOT of use out of wild onions in our area. We make chinese style scallion pancakes out of them. We might try korean style this year, too - they are cool weather plants, so grow spring and fall. I could tell when I went by a just-mowed lawn that the onions are growing again by the scent!

I wonder if the streams near me have crawdads ... I'm not about to fish in the river, it's polluted, but the local streams might not be as bad - certainly they don't have untreated sewage dumped into them.


Wendy said...

Please don't eat the tomato leaves. They are poisonous ;).

I have too many foraging stories to share without feeling like I'm hijacking your comments section :). My favorite this year was blueberries and blackberries, and I wild foraged enough of both to have a freezer full of blueberries and several jars of blackberry jam.

The funny thing is that now that I've realized that foraging may be necessary, I've started to notice all of the apple trees, unpicked, unpruned EVERYWHERE! We may not have much else, but apples and eggs, but at least we won't starve ;).

Oh, and can I just say that being married to a hunter is bound to pay off eventually - especially if TS really does HTF ;).

As for the freegan thing, I don't have a problem with picking wild stuff, but I kind of do have a thing about picking garbage. I know it's probably all cultural, but also, I just don't think that picking garbage in an economically depressed world will feed me, as there won't be much that's thrown away. Learning something about wild foraging, though, will definitely be useful.

Brad K. said...

fullfreezer, "Billll's Mind" covered a 'squirrel gun' for depopulating his area of squirrels, or at least reducing an overpopulation. As you point out, an unbalance in the ecosystem can produce more vermin than is strictly necessary. As I recall the story, it progressed from a workplace problem with rats, a compressed air system, a control valve made of a lawn sprinkler head, and a length of tubing balanced to trigger the valve if a rodent entered the tubing. It progressed to Billll's yard and devolved to a piece of 4" PVC pipe about 4' long, placed with one end in a bucket of water and propped against the fence. Peanut butter smeared inside the tube was sufficient bait, and the squirrels ended their raiding in the bucket. Billll discovered accidentally that something craved squirrel, and would abscond with the body overnight, if left out by the tree.

I mention this in case you want to thin the squirrel population where you are.

I was amused to find the occasional walnut in the street when I lived in San Jose, CA. A neighbor pointed out the local crows would carry a walnut above the street, drop it a couple of times to crack the shell, then enjoy the pickings. The crows didn't seem to care whether they dropped on cars or asphalt.

The last couple of winters I gathered more pecans than I could use under a neighbor's trees - they made up most of my Christmas gifts for my mother and sister. 20 to 100 pounds of pecans under a mature tree in a good year is possible. I gave half what I picked up to my neighbor for the privilege. I understand hazelnuts are the most efficient food crop for unit of soil. But I do like pecans.

TheCrone said...

If you cover your dandelions for a few days it blanches them and they have a more delicate flavour.

Make sure that you have a true dandelion though, not an imposter.

I know that it's Autumn in the Northern Hem. atm but next spring try to plant some things that most people wouldn't realise are edibles like arrowroot and sweet potatoes. Jerusalem Artichokes also hide their 'food status' really well :)

Anonymous said...

We have just started foraging. blackberries, raspberries, black caps, wild apples, and plums.

We have also started foraging wild elderberries, making tea from sumac berries, jerusalem artichokes.... We also eat the "undesirable" parts of things -- beet greens, turnip greens, dandelions, etc.

There are some great foraging books available.

Chile said...

Great post, Verde. I've posted a number of foraging stories here. And also addressed eating pests such as pigeons, other birds (allowed by law), rodents, and insects with links to how to build traps for the birds and recipes for all of them.

Bon appetit!

Mary said...

Tomato leaves can be used to dye wool ;-)

Kati said...

Found you through Wendy and Gina (and others, I'm sure)....

Here in the Fairbanks area of Alaska, foraging is actually a very common autumn activity. Personally grew up in a subdivision with a VERY good wild-blueberry patch at the end of the street. I've been lowbush-cranberry picking up at the "family" hunting spot, a couple weeks before hunting season starts. We also had multiple wild-rose patches in our acre-sized yard. When I started having migrains, before the Dr had diagnosed me, I would make my own tea from willow-bark, wild chamomile and clover harvested from my own front yard and dried. (Also used REAL cat-mint, in the same proportion as the rest: Small, equal pinch of each in a tea-ball, into a mug with boiling water. Steeped for about 5 minutes, then quickly drunk. I'd have to be in bed within 15 minutes of drinking this, then I'd sleep soundly for 4 hours and wake without migrain.)

My daughter has grown up periodically picking rose-hips from the yard at the inlaw's house and sucking down 2 or 3 at a time. Now if only I could find the time this fall/winter to get some of them picked and dried. She also liked to munch on a couple of the (tiny) crab-apples that grew in the yard at my dad's house. (The yard I grew up in, which is no longer in the family.)

Anonymous said...

Lots of people have Loquat trees here, but most people don't eat the fruits. Some don't know you can and others think it too much trouble. I like em. I also discovered that a weed that grows REALLY well here called Bidens or Spanish Needle is edible. It grows about 9 months of the year. My chickens really love it. It self seeds, but I gathered seeds just in case I need to spread it in more places.
Cindy in FL

Robj98168 said...

Forage? Lesee- I picked wild blackberries as well as plums at work, Of course, There is my affinity for dandelion fritters, which I pick in my yard and in the ditch