Have you ever heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch? Well, there actually is…almost. It will cost you some time and knowledge. Anything else depends on your palate, wallet and preferences.
Hello, my name is Julie Diehm. Welcome to my world of volunteer vegetables and other curious delights! I’m going to take you on a journey to find and prepare your own wild food. It can be found out your back door, to a nearby field, fencerow, and beyond. No, I am not a botanist. The good news is that you don’t have to be either. Just grab a field guide and follow along. As with anything enjoyable, there are a few safety rules you will need to follow.
1. Start slow!Trying to learn too much at once can cause confusion and mistakes. It’s also a good idea to introduce new foods a little at a time. This allows you to make sure your body will react positively. Many of these plants have desirable properties, such as diuretic and cleansing, but too much of a good thing isn’t always a blessing! You may start by introducing the new item mixed with something you already eat. Just take your time and enjoy.
2. Always make certain you can positively identify the plant.When In doubt, leave it out. Use the rule of two for positive identification – Two good field guides or one good book and an experienced forager. Be sure to gather the proper plant part in the proper season with the proper preparation. Don’t skip this!
3. Be sure that you have permission to be on the property and collect plants. Some property does not allow disturbance of plant life.
4. Forage plants only from pesticide/herbicide-free areas.Stay away from landfills, chemical dumpsites, industrial areas and heavy use roadways. These areas can have contaminated soil from runoffs, automobile exhaust, heavy metals, or road treatments.
5. Unless you are in a life-threatening situation, limit your collecting to leave at least half of the plants undisturbed (but no more than you can actually use).Collect only the parts of the plant you wish to use, unless they are invasive plants. Leave enough to reproduce. This rule does NOT apply to collecting mushrooms in most cases.
Now grab a few Field Guides and we can safely begin our foraging adventure!
Who hasn’t taken the time to stop and pick a few black raspberries and popped them in their mouth to savor the fruity goodness. Even at the expense of stained hands and clothes, or a poke or two from the thorns. Black raspberries are ripe right now, easily identified and harvested so I want to share with you one of my favorite recipes for salad dressing.
I start with fruit-infused vinegar. This is easily done by placing clean, prepared fruit into a glass jar. The container size depends on the amount of fruit you wish to use. No set amounts, just place in a glass jar or stoneware crock and cover with your chosen variety of vinegar. My favorite would probably be balsamic or rice vinegar. The type used only affects the flavor of the finished product and that is subject to personal taste. Take the fruit covered with vinegar, cover the container and place it in a cool dark place. Leave it set for about two weeks. After that time, sieve out the fruit and place the vinegar in a clean container. Compost the spent fruit. Your fruit vinegar is now ready to use.
For my favorite salad dressing, simply mix equal amounts of fruit-infused vinegar and real maple syrup. Serve as a wonderful vinaigrette-type dressing with grilled chicken or fish, salad greens, sliced fruit and toasted nuts.
Until next time – Happy Foraging!