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Author Topic: Wildly edible  (Read 1576 times)

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Offline CatManDo

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Wildly edible
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2011, 09:54:28 AM »
During lean times, Joe Wolven's mother foraged for her family on their farmland in northern Missouri.

"She'd find a nice, juicy dandelion plant, plop it on that bread and butter and that was our sandwich," Wolven said.

Wolven and his wife, Cathy, both master gardeners and Missouri Forestkeepers, have continued the tradition of gathering and eating wild plants. The Wolvens live on 18 acres near Galena with more than 500 indigenous plants.

There's been a revival of interest in eating wild plants in recent years, Wolven said. He thinks there are several reasons for this renewed interest, including saving money, avoiding foods with colorings and artificial ingredients and a general trend of getting back to the land.

"It keeps food on the table, and it's very nutritious."

Wild elderberries will be ripe soon, and the Wolvens plan to turn them into jelly. In addition to berries, the couple uses wildflowers for a variety of jellies. They use Queen Anne's lace, dandelions and wild roses. A few years ago, they won a blue ribbon at the Ozark Empire Fair for their wild violet jelly with lavender.

"It's a novelty," he said. Joe got the recipe from a friend but said that most wildflower jellies can be made by using the mint jelly recipe on a package of pectin. Just substitute an edible flower for the mint.

Wild greens are another popular option for foragers.

"My mother always said you have to have eight varieties to make it good. I don't usually find that many," Wolven said. He cans wild greens each spring and usually includes lamb's-quarters, wild lettuce, plantain and carpenter's square.

Bob Liebert, owner of Teeter Creek Herbs and author of "Medicinal Herbs of the Ozarks," teaches a popular class on the topic at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center every year -- so popular, in fact, that this year 43 people were on the waiting list.

"The Ozarks is one of the most botanically plant-rich regions in the world," Liebert said.

Many common "weeds" were brought to the Americas from the Old World for their medicinal properties, Liebert said. American Indians called the plantain "footprints of the white man." The chewed leaf is a good drawing poultice for insect bites and stings.

Wild hydrangea roots are good for the bladder, kidneys and urinary tract. Goldenseal has antibacterial properties and is good for the gastrointestinal tract, Liebert said. "Herbs stimulate the body's own immune system, instead of doing it for the body like antibiotics."

Deanna Fleck was surprised to learn that the flowers and seed pods of the redbud tree are edible.

"It amazes me," she said. "You step outside and there are plants already there you can eat and use as medicine."

Peter Hanson, who attended Liebert's class, said he enjoys foraging for day lilies. The plant is 100 percent edible and it tastes like a leek, but not as strong. They can also add a lot of "culinary beauty" to your meal, he said.

Wolven stressed the importance of research.

"You don't eat anything you don't know about. Some are very poisonous. You have to watch." Wolven recommends "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" and other books by Euell Gibbons as a good starting point.

He also cautions against picking roadside plants. Not only is it prohibited by a state statute, but those plants might have been sprayed with poisonous chemicals.

According to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, collections of "nuts, berries, fruits, edible wild greens and mushrooms may be taken only for personal consumption" in most Missouri conservation areas.

Local exceptions include the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and the Twin Pines Conservation Nature Center near Winona. Another option is to obtain the permission of a landowner.

"It's a very healthy way to eat if you know what you're doing," Wolven said. "It's kind of a study, for sure, but it's there for anybody who wants to take the time."