Posts Tagged With: Greens

WAMPSDUH – Part II: How Did We Get Here?

We all pretty much universally recognize that Grandma and Grandpa could do things we have no clue how to do nowadays…

But how did it get to be so that we are so very less skilled than our forebears?

I think that perhaps part of the answer is very simple. We don’t have to be.

Why was this knowledge never passed on to our parents, and then from us?

Again, same answer. It didn’t have to be.

It was the modern age, after all. Why bothering teaching your children such things as cooking and gardening, when they’ll never be burdened with having to do such things for themselves. We’re America, after all. We’re all Middle Class here! We’re rich and prosperous and on top of the world… until we’re not.

But even now, after the serious economic troubles in 2007 things haven’t changed one whit.

We’re still spoiled rotten, as a general thing. We’ve been born into a world where nearly everything is handed to us on a silver platter. Near magical devices such as microwaves are the norm now instead of the exception. Just put it in, press a few buttons, and voila! Near-instant heated and cooked food!

I remember the first microwave my family bought back in 1982 or so. It was a combination microwave/range. And it cost something like $900. And that was the sale price as it was a scratch/dent model. Regular MSRP was something like $1200, but my Dad got a good price on it because it had a dent in the side on the bottom. Well, as that side faced the wall, no biggie. πŸ™‚

It was very neat to be able to cook hot dogs in about 45 seconds, instead of having to boil a pan of water first on the stove. But thankfully, my parents stressed that the microwave was a convenience, not a replacement, for knowing how to cook. After the newness wore off, my father only used it to heat up leftovers and to heat water for tea and coffee. He never actually ‘cooked’ whole meals with it, as so many folks do today. Today, if it can’t be cooked in a microwave, it isn’t cooked at all.

This is how my wife learned to cook. When I married her, she could barely boil water on the stove top, or even cook noodles. If it couldn’t be cooked in a microwave, she couldn’t cook it. She would make (reheat) mac and cheese and cook fish in the microwave and think it was delicious. Now, she can’t stand the taste of such things prepared in that manner.

Nowadays, microwaves can be had for around $50. And if anyone knows how to cook anything, it’s usually in a microwave. And that’s the extent of their skills. No one thinks they need to know how to really cook anymore. Heck, I’ve met people who can’t even operate a toaster. I kid you not.

But these are only symptoms of a larger disease. A disease in where we can get away with sitting on our duffs all day long without having to give too much thought to anything at all.

Most of us have running hot/cold water on demand, centralized heating/cooling on demand, electricity on demand, food on demand that we don’t even have to prepare ourselves… (Would you like fries with that?) The list is nearly endless.

And all of this happens without us having to do a damn thing other than turn on a faucet, press a button, flip a switch or speak into a microphone.
Wow! Aren’t we skilled?

Sometime when I was around 13 or so, I started to feel quite embarrassed as a human. I just woke up one day and asked myself what skills I had. I mean REALLY had. Sure, I knew how to do a bunch of different things, and thanks to my parents, knew how to cook extremely well from a very young age… and sure I could catch fish fine and hit a moving target with either an arrow or long arm, but what ELSE did I know? Could I live on my own if I had to? What if something happened to my parents and I had to live on my own, or truly be a ‘man’ at a young age, like my own paternal grandfather had to do at age 12? What if war broke out and I had to take care of myself or my family? (These things historically do happen, you know. Even if they’re not pleasant to think about.)
Was I physically and mentally capable of doing so? Would I even survive?

I asked myself, in my current mindset, what was the skill that I was the proudest of? My own answer astounded and horrified me.

I was a whiz kid at video games. I wasn’t just good, I was darn good. I could beat Super Mario Brothers in record time. That’s what I was most proud of. That was my ‘accomplishment’ that I held nearest and dearest to my heart.

Wow, I thought. That’s pretty pathetic. So pathetic that it sickened me.

At the age of 13, my grandfather was already a man. Working a full time job, doing a man’s work, and supporting his family.

And what was I doing? I was pressing buttons on a video game controller nearly 40 hours a week.

I was ashamed. For all of the useful things I knew, I wasn’t a man. Not even close. I was a boy playing with toys. I wasn’t a worthy heir of my grandfather’s noble legacy.

I also thought about what I was learning in school. That was also pretty pathetic, and ultimately, totally useless. Nothing I was learning would ever help me even survive, much less thrive. I’d already long since learned the ‘Three Rs’ and there was nothing else they could teach me other than rote memorization fluff that I could absorb on my own, if I was thus inclined to spend tremendous hours on such worthless endeavors. (I haven’t found an actual use for Trig or Calculus yet!)

But still I had to show up and have 9 hours of my life vacuumed from me against my will every week day.

Did you know that handwriting isn’t even taught in most schools now? And that they actually graduate kids who can’t even read and write beyond a rudimentary level? I’ve even read that they graduate kids who can’t read or write at all. How is that even possible? How can you make it through twelve years of school and not know how to read or write? Well, thanks to the failed Prussian school system model, we now have the largest group of idiots to ever walk the planet graduating from our fine places of learning.

The schools have failed. The parents have failed. The government has failed. We have failed.

It’s time to take a new look at this problem of cranking out utterly useless people each generation, and find a way to fix it.

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Nature, Preparedness, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Are Modern People So Darn Utterly Helpless? – Part I: Intro

Henceforth known as ‘WAMPSDUH‘.

I thought of using the word ‘Useless’ in the title, instead of ‘Helpless’, but I figured that everything has a use. Even if it’s an example of what NOT to be. Or cannon fodder. πŸ˜‰

This isn’t really a ‘rant’ post, so much as it’s a ‘Let’s recognize this for what it is so that we can go about fixing it!’ kind of post. πŸ™‚

But as to the helpless/useless concept, this is a question that I’ve asked myself for quite some time now.

I looked back at the things my father could do, and before that, my grandfather, and great-grand father.

It is an overall fact that, by and large, we keep getting more useless with each passing generation.

And by ‘useless’, I mean that we need someone or something else to do what I consider very rudimentary and basic things for us. Things that our ancestors didn’t need someone to figure out for them.

Think of how useful and dynamic most of our grandparents or great-grandparents were. (Was there anything they couldn’t do?) And then look at your neighbor, or your family members, or maybe even yourself. Can they or you even make minor plumbing repairs without having to call someone? Can they or you hammer a nail straight? Hell, can they or you even find their/your own food and cook it for dinner without having to purchase it from someone else at a marketplace or have it cooked FOR ya’ll?

Let’s face it… modern people are nearly helpless compared to their ancestors.
We’re fatter, weaker, and less Renaissance.

I recognized this when I was in my early teenage years and sought to reverse the trend.

I was determined that I’d at the very least be equal in usefulness to my father. In some aspects, I’ve achieved that. In others, I still have a way to go. And in some fields I know I’ll never be as good as he was, for he was truly exceptional at a few things, whereas I’d simply term myself ‘better than average’ in those same areas.

You may be asking yourself by now β€œWhat does this have to do with foraging and/or wild food?” The answer is: EVERYTHING! Guess what skill the vast majority of people DO NOT have? That’s right. The simple ability to feed themselves.

This series will be in several parts. Currently three parts are planned, but it could go longer if necessary

The parts will be posted as they’re written and checked for any glaring grammar or spelling errors. πŸ˜‰

In part II, I will share some of my thoughts on how we got where we are today as a people and society.

In part III, I’ll go into some details of what I think we can do about it.

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Nature, Preparedness, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Greens Medley!

Springtime means fresh Spring greens. And fresh Spring greens means FOOD!

I did make a smaller dish a few days earlier, but this is the first real, substantial, spring greens dish of the year, so I went all out and gathered a nice medley to mix and prepare for the family, and to share with you.

The following went into my Spring Greens medley.

(Click pictures to enlarge.)

Wintercress – Barbarea vulgaris, is a member of the Brassicaceae family.

Wintercress

Raw, they are a bit bitter and so-so. Cooked, they become absolutely mouthwatering. This was definitely the champion green of the dish. Everyone raved about it. It really does become a foundational green when boiled, but with a very delicate and delicious flavor.

Garlic Mustard – Alliaria petiolata, is also a member of the Brassicaceae family.

Garlic Mustard 2

Raw, they are a bit meh, in my opinion. Cooked they become less meh. Good, but not as good as Wintercress. πŸ˜‰ The stems can be stout and a bit stringy as they grow, so take only the first few top inches of the stem. Unless of course you don’t mind the stringy aspect. It all cooks down fairly well when boiled for a few minutes.

This is the amount of Wintercress and Garlic Mustard I collected to use for the meal I made. A lovely mess of greens, isn’t it?

Mess of Greens

Wild Garlic – Allium Canadense.

Wild Garlic

I like to use the greens from these more than the bulbs. The bulbs will grow new greens, and I rotate the area I collect from so as to be sure to never over-harvest. As such I’ve maintained (and expanded) my patch of wild garlic exponentially over the past few years. All the garlic taste you love, with none of the commercial product’s signature ‘garlic breath’.

Dandelion – Taraxacum Officinale

Dandelion

What wild spring greens dinner would be perfect without a little bit of dandelion? I gathered a whole decent sized plant from the tip of the root up, and it was enough to impart it’s goodness to the whole dish. Every part of the plant was used and later chopped up. Leaves, buds, crown, and a tiny bit of the root. Delicious!

Thistle – Cirsium spp.

Thistle

An ‘unknown’ but delicious thistle made it into my Spring Medley. I say unknown, although that’s really not the case. I’ve been eating it for over 30 years, and my father ate it for 50 years before that. I just don’t have the stupid Latin name for it pegged as of yet. More on that later.

So, the wifey and I took a nice little walk and collected these greens as we went. It’s mighty handy to carry a plastic grocery bag in your pocket, and a folding pocket knife. You never know when you are going to run into wild food that you want to bring home with you!

This is a picture of all the greens that went into the dish:

Greens Board 2

The greens (sans wild garlic) were boiled for a few minutes. I boiled them longer than I would have since they were a ‘mixed’ greens, and some were more bitter than others. Probably about 10 minutes, tops.

The garlic greens were chopped and sauteed first, and then the boiled greens were also chopped and sauteed in some olive oil, and given a dash of ancient sea salt and cracked black pepper. The meat was given identical seasoning in it’s own separate pan. The key here is to not overcook the meat, and to use a lid so that it comes out nice and tender.

I call this dish, ‘Brassica and Bambi’.

Brassica and Bambi

Delicious was not even the word for it. It has to be one of the top five meals that I’ve ever prepared, in any medium, wild food or otherwise. Mouth watering delicious. Almost better than sex, delicious. Yea, it was that good.

Total cost? About $1 worth of rice and 75 cents worth of salt, pepper, and olive oil. And that’s to feed three people. Otherwise, free. The bambi was donated by a friend specifically to give this dish a more ‘wild’ aspect. Thanks M! πŸ™‚

Thistles, Continued.

For those who are interested, regarding the prior unknown thistle, read on. Otherwise, the article ends here. Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

When is it OK to eat an ‘unknown’ plant? When the only way that it’s unknown to you is that you don’t have it’s specifics tacked down, but in which there are no non-edible or toxic family members or toxic look-alikes. In other words, if the whole family of plants is ‘safe’, then it doesn’t really matter much, now does it?

I’m not ashamed to say I haven’t really cared enough to narrow this thistle down to a specific species. Mostly because I truly don’t care. Not even a little. It’s food. End of story. I have bull thistles in my yard (Cirsium vulgare.) This isn’t one of those. I originally thought that it could be a Cirsium edule, but those are supposed to be confined to the West Coast, and now that I’ve actually found pictures of what the leaves look like, they look nothing like Cirsium edule. Pictures of anything other than a bull thistle are very hard to come by. It could be what they call a ‘pasture thistle’, but the bottoms of the leaves aren’t silver, just kind of green and shiny. Oh well… It would be much easier to ID if it actually bloomed, but it’s kind of hard to tell when the idiot city comes along and mows them all to the ground before they have a chance to flower. (They tend to grow along the SIDES of the fields, not so much IN the fields proper, around where I live…) However, all true thistles are equally edible, and this is a true thistle. Beyond that, the specifics are strictly academic and don’t really interest me. That might be an odd statement for a forager to say, especially from one who is usually interested in the academic end of things, but it’s absolutely true.

Basically, I think we tend to over complicate things when it comes to foraging. As I’ve always said, the Indians didn’t differentiate between different edible plants of the same species unless there was a real need to do so. If it was edible, that was that. Maybe one was choice and one wasn’t, and they’d certainly have had a preference if that was the case. And they’d know if one was ‘toxic’ and to avoid that one.

But they would not have cared one whit to differentiate between thistles that were all equally edible, and in my experience, pretty much all taste quite similar.

So, who am I to do so? Unless something is going to damage me in some way, I don’t care about the useless nuances.

Let me give you a modern example:

Do you really give a rip about the differences between a Fiji, McIntosh, Granny Smith, Red or Golden Delicious apple at the store, other than perhaps the difference in taste? No, you don’t. You don’t give a rip about it’s Dead Latin hoity toity name. In fact, not one in a hundred thousand of you could tell me that apples are Malus and pears are Pyrus. You know it’s an apple, and all apples are edible, and that’s about as far as your caring goes.

Doesn’t sound so strange when you look at it from that point of view, now does it? πŸ˜‰

However, if anyone actually knows what this thistle is, I’m all ears. Or eyes, as it were.

(And I’m talking about actually KNOWS from hands on, REAL, personal knowledge and experience, not looking it up and best guessing using some friggin’ ‘key’ and saying… ‘Gee, I THINK it kind of looks like this one…)

So, if you’ve been eating this thistle, and know for sure what it is, send me a line. I suppose that finally knowing the official name for this thing would probably be better than calling it ‘unknown thistle’, as I tend to use it quite a bit, and it does grow quite prolifically around here.

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Nature, Nature Photos, Organic, Organic Gardening, Organic Meat, Plant Photos, Preparedness, Recipes, Survival, Wild, Wild Cookery | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Janos’ Plant Profiles, Part I: Spiny Sow Thistle

The full profiles will be posted to, and updated, on the Wild Cookery Forum. I have planned to do these for at least the past year, but have never quite gotten around to it. So without further ado…

Janos’ Plant Profiles, Part I: Spiny Sow Thistle

Common Plant name: Spiny Sow Thistle

Hoity Toity (Dead Latin) Name: Sonchus asper

Classification: Choice Edible Plant

Identification: This plant, a member of the Asteracea Family, has spiny, serrated leaves that curl along and around the stem of the plant. When in bloom it has yellow flowers which look dandelion-like superficially. It’s quite spiny, and prickly to the touch, and you may mistake it for an actual thistle if you aren’t familiar with the two plants. But it’s spines are softer and nowhere near as rigid as a real thistle. The spines are also part of the leaves, and not separate from it and detachable such as with an actual thistle. You can eat the smaller leaves raw without any problems. The older ones however, may be prickly enough that they need to be trimmed or cooked before consumption.

Juvenile Plant Photos

Here are some little guys:

Sonchus asper - Young Juvenile

Sonchus asper – Young Juvenile

Sonchus asper - Juvenile

Sonchus asper – Juvenile

Sonchus asper Juvenile comparison

Sonchus asper Juvenile comparison

Sonchus asper - Juvenile plant in nature

Sonchus asper – Juvenile plant in nature

Flowering Plant Photos

(Pictures to be added when in season)

Plant in Seed Photos

(Pictures to be added when in season)

Uses: You nom it of course! The leaves, buds, flowers, new shoots, and upper part of stem are all edible. Young and tender here is much better than old, tough, and rank. Especially on latex exuding plants. The leaves can be eaten at any time equally well, though younger is typically more tender and less bitter. I like to get the flower buds before they open and use the top section of the plant as kind of a ‘sonchusparagus’ I’ve also cooked and eaten small roots before along with the greens, but can’t officially recommend that as I haven’t been able to find any reference material on it’s use.

Nutrition: Sonchus asper are quite rich in Fiber, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese. Equal to, or more so than most common domesticated vegetables.*

Preparation: Typically I’ll boil these, no matter what part it is, for 15 minutes or so, drain, and then use like any other foundational green. In fact one of the spring delicacies my family looks forward to every year is fresh spiny sow thistle greens mixed with wild garlic greens and mushrooms over rice. It’s a seasonal spring treat that everyone raves about.

Preparation Photos

Sonchus asper and Dandelion leaves

Sonchus asper and Dandelion leaves

Wild Greens Noodle Medley - Two kinds of sonchus, dandelions, wild garlic, chicory, plantain, thistle, dock, and sprinkled with ox-eye daisy petals

Wild Greens Noodle Medley – Two kinds of sonchus, dandelions, wild garlic, chicory, plantain, thistle, dock, and sprinkled with ox-eye daisy petals

Cautions:

There are some unreliable sources that classify this plant as a ‘Noxious Weed’. That’s fair enough, as I classify those sources as pretty darn noxious myself.

I’m sure it’s possible to get a rash from this plant. Maybe even a severe one if you’re that one in a million who has such an allergic reaction. But let’s interject some reality here. Will it likely happen to you? Probably not. You’ll probably be struck dead with a micrometeorite first, or hit by lightning. I collect these barehanded, and even eat them raw from time to time. Guess what? Nothing happens. If someone has issues, they are probably also allergic to other ‘milky’ latex exuding plants, such as dandelions and wild lettuce. I highly doubt most are allergic to this plant in particular.

But that doesn’t mean that one in a zillion people won’t be affected by something like this, so use caution.

There’s the token safety disclaimer. Use caution when picking if you are allergic to other latex exuding plants. Some people are allergic to peanuts too. For the rest of us, it’s a fantastic nutrient dense wild food.

The vast majority of all people will find this plant to be delicious and nutritious.

References:

* Dr. John Kallas, PhD, β€œEdible Wild Plants” – Pps 358 – 359.

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Green, Janos' Plant Profiles, Nature, Nature Photos, Organic, Organic Gardening, Reclaimed Edibles, Wild, Wild Cookery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter’s Dying G(r)asp

Cross-posted at the Wild Cookery! Forum.

Well I woke up to Winter’s last gasp this morning.

Winter in March

Last year this time we had mid 70’s weather and I was picking 6 inch wild garlic greens, along with dandelions and some plantains.

This year? Well the ground was ALMOST unfrozen when I walked on it yesterday. Almost. Kinda almost, but not quite, squishy, yet still frozen crunchy. Well, today it’s frozen solid again. But now it’s supposed to warm up to a high of 36 before creeping back down to a low of 25 overnight.

Currently, it’s a balmy 33 degrees.

With a several inch glazing of fluffy snow.

There’s supposed to be even more snow on the way. We’ll see I suppose.

In my walk yesterday I saw that my hyacinths were barely poked up as were the daffodils, but only in the planter right next to the house, where it’s warmer. The ones in the main yard are still not even above the lawn yet.

There is a very marked difference from year to year. Which is why I always and very strongly encourage people to get used to paying attention to their weather when it comes to wild plants. Screw what your foraging book says about ‘time of year’ on the plant tables. Pay attention to what your local weather is doing.
As I said, last year, I was harvesting half a foot tall wild garlic greens and decent sized dandelions in 70 to 80 degree days. This year? Everything is still winter-purple colored as the alcohol in the leaves hasn’t changed back into sugar yet. You don’t want those over-wintered leaves anyway. Leave those for the critter. What you want is the new spring growth, and that simply hasn’t happened yet. AT ALL. Not even the wild mustards or the garlic mustards have poked their heads up yet. (Other than the garlic mustard that have over-wintered, which is normal, but again, you want the new and rapid spring growth.)

Snow over the Dandelions

My pet dandelion on my windowsill is looking out into the yard, with sad leaves and yearning for sunnier days. It’s hard to see a size comparison from the photo, but the leaves are about eight to nine inches long, and he’s survived fine all winter on the windowsill. I grew him from a tiny little root shard from a dandelion that I’d collected about two years back now. He hasn’t bloomed yet, just puts on very nice looking leaves. I don’t eat this one. It’s my winter ‘greenery’ to look at and enjoy, when all else in the world is dead and frosted over.

So, here’s a toast to winter’s dying g(r)asp, and may all of us in the northern areas finally have some green to forage soon! Slainte Mhor!

Categories: Foraging, Nature, Nature Photos, Plant Photos, Wild, Wild Cookery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wild Cookery Forums are now LIVE!

Wild Cookery Forums are now LIVE!

I am proud to announce the official launch of the Wild Cookery Forums!

The forums may be found at: http://wildcookery.prophpbb.com/Β  http://wildcookery.freeforums.org/

Freeforums

This forum will be what YOU, the members help make it into. It’ll grow along the lines of your contributions.

This is your chance to make forum and Foraging history and create something great from absolutely nothing.

It’s also your chance to get in on the ground floor as a founding member of one of the very few Foraging forums in existence. This means that you’ll have a say in the direction of the forum, and can help make it into the kind of forum YOU’D like to see!

New boards can and will be created upon request, and if you have a specialized interest that you’d like to see represented and discussed, we can create a board or sub-boards to cover that.

*Please note that this forum will be geared to adults 18 years and older, and you must fit that category in order to officially join as a member. If you are under 18 you are still welcome to come and read the forum, as the content will be mostly publicly available, assuming that you have the express permission of your parents or guardians to do so.

The first thing after signing up would be to go to the Announcements and Updates pageΒ  and read the very brief documents listed there. That would be the Member Agreement, Moderation Policy, Legal Disclaimer, and FAQ.

Don’t worry, as I said, they are all very brief and straight to the point. No wall of text to read.

After which, if you plan on posting pictures to the forum, you can read the tutorial that I created on how to do that, here

Be sure to stop by the member’s only area Wayfarer’s InnΒ  once you have signed up and introduce yourself! πŸ™‚

I hope to see you all there! πŸ™‚

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Nature, Organic, Recipes, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Joys of Foraging

Ah foraging. Yes, foraging…

That most wondrous of activities that allows us to share in nature’s bounty whilst at the same time being a part of (as opposed to distinctly removed from) nature.

Though, I haven’t been foraging anything for quite a few months. Foraging Pennsylvania in the wintertime is not exactly a pleasant activity. It’s possible, if need drives such a thing. Just not very ‘joyful’. Hunting on the other hand, is wondrous in Pennsylvania over the winter. I haven’t hunted for years, but there is a plethora of big and small game here that is a hunter’s dream come true.

But we are slowly nearing the end of winter.

Springtime is just around the corner. Though most here wouldn’t believe it. We’re still getting snow and twenty-degree weather here at night, and the ground is still frozen solid.

But like the slow march of inevitability, Spring must finally break, sooner or later.

Two months from now the forest floor will be carpeted in verdant greenery like one reads about in fairy tales and stories of olde.

Forest Floor

Life shall spring anew from the dormant soil, and shoots will push up through the now frozen ground to breathe new life into a world now in stasis.

And during this time of rapid growth, is perhaps the best time to be learning about, and foraging for, wild plants. Especially greens. There is nothing in the world like fresh spring greens, both in quality and quantity. They are typically more tender and, depending upon the plant, much less bitter, than older plants. Remember: rapid growth = tender and delicious when it comes to edible plants. Spring greens are no exception.

For me, there is nothing in the world like that first dish made with fresh spring wild garlic (Allium canadense), dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), and dock (Rumex crispus/obtusifolius). It’s a yearly spring ritual at our house. All fried up in olive oil, with a dash of cracked black pepper and ancient sea salt, and served over a nice bed of rice.

There are few culinary pleasures that it can compare to after being frozen solid for typically five months from late November to mid to late March or April.

But those first delicious wild garlic greens are likely still two months off.

What will come up first are the garlic mustard. (Allaria petiolata)

Garlic Mustard Groundcover

As well as the mustardy wintercress greens (Barbarea spp) and other Brassicacea. Whilst nowhere near as delicious, in my opinion, as the wild garlic, they do provide some much needed spring nutrients after a winter of dormancy and being cooped up in the house all season long. So, even though less delectable, they are still very highly desired.

Brassica 2

As spring unfolds here in the Frozen Northlands, I’ll be sure to post some pictures as things thaw out and provide that first delicate snack of the season!

Brassica 1

A field of Brassicacea as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately by the time the flowers have opened they are super bitter. If you see a sight like this, remember where they are for next year and get them before the flower buds open!

 

Categories: Food Health, Food Storage, Foraging, Green, Nature, Nature Photos, Organic, Plant Photos, Preparedness, Survival, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern Vegetarianism: ‘Ungreen’ as it Gets.

I posted this about a year ago on GDF, but never on my blog. I had a brief brush with *shudders* vegetarianism in my youth.

Grab a comfy pillow or a bean bag chair boys and gals, it’s STORY TIME!Β  8)

Many moons ago now, I had a brief run in with vegetarianism. I somehow gotΒ  it into my head at the time that eating animals was ‘wrong’. Of course, my Dad being a lifelong hunter and fisherman just laughed, and told me “Hey, whatever floats your boat, son. Have at it, it won’t last long.” Oh yes it will, says I. This is my ‘new’ way of life, says I again.

This went on for about a month or so with mixed results. I was young, and dumb, and full of crumbs, and couldn’t possibly have any idea what I was doing to myself health-wise. I lost about 10 pounds or so as I went from eating meat and potatoes to eating mostly fruit.

So mother was all concerned and father said “Don’t sweat it, the kid can’t possibly be that stupid. It’s just a phase.”

But mother took matters into her own hands. She called up my uncle and he arranged to take her and I out to dinner. To Red Lobster. I had no idea where we were going, just that we were going ‘out’ to eat, which in and of itself was an incredibly rare occurrence. We were also going out with my uncle, which means it would be a ‘good’ restaurant, and not some place crappy like McDonalds. My uncle also wasn’t ‘cheap’ when he took folks out to eat. It was a time to enjoy yourself, and get something nice that you normally didn’t get. Half the time, he’d order the most expensive item on the menu just to see whether it was worth it or not.

So, anyway, there we were and I’m pretty upset by this time, thinking that I’m getting the shaft by going out to eat at a nice place that has nothing I can eat but a salad.

My uncle tells me to “Order whatever you want, but you have to eat it all, and it has to be some form of meat. If you don’t want meat, then order fish. We Catholics lie to ourselves all the time about that one, since it’s an animal, but somehow not considered meat. Good Friday and all that stuff.” He was of course, just messing with me, as he was wont to do.

Earlier my Mom had told me to make sure not to eat anything so that I was really hungry because we were going out with my uncle, and she didn’t want me filling up.

So, by the time dinner with uncle came around I was REALLY darn hungry, not having eaten since breakfast. I had no idea what to order, so my uncle ordered an appetizer. it was shrimp scampi.

I was so hungry by this time, I didn’t care. I snarfed one and about died in gastronomic shock. Garlic, and butter, and YUM!

I’d never had shrimp scampi before. Heck, I’d never had SHRIMP before. To say it was good would be the understatement of the century. I knew what shrimp were. Sea bugs. I had nothing against eating bugs, sea or otherwise, and my uncle knew this. They weren’t cute and didn’t look at me with sad eyes before I ate them, which was my excuse for not eating beef, pork, chicken, and bunnies. He’d planned this all along.

So, we polished off that appetizer and I ordered the biggest Admiral’s Platter of shrimp they had. Some $30 worth of 3 or 4 different shrimp styles. Butterfly shrimp, shrimp scampi again (YUM!), popcorn shrimp, and beer batter shrimp. Also served on the side was darn near endless snow crab legs with hot melted butter. I think I ate 3 orders of it, as that portion of the meal was ‘all you can eat’.

After this dinner, I pretty much gave up on vegetarianism. I hadn’t eaten any land animals that night, but I was forced to look at the reasons I was going vegetarian to begin with.

They were all pretty spotty. I didn’t want to hurt animals, but I was perfectly OK with destroying thousands of plants instead. Plants who didn’t do anything, but were destined to die to feed me. The only difference was the animals were ‘cute’, and the plants were not. As a human, we still must destroy and consume matter in order that we may live. So, I thought it was rather hypocritical of me to select one ‘favored’ type of life to consume at the exclusion of all others. Life is life. Why should one kind be raised above the other? So, I resolved to eat an equal share of plants and animals as most other humans had done before me since the dawn of humankind. It seemed the most proper, natural, healthy, and ‘ethical’ thing to do.

I spoke with my uncle some time after giving up my whole vegetarian stretch, and asked him how he knew I’d give it up. He said that he’d gone down that path once before himself, for about 15 years, as he was after all a baby boomer and it is the supposedly ‘ecological’ and ‘green’ thing to do. He finished up with the statement that it’s all crap, leads to all kinds of bad health in later years, and that the best thing I could ever do for myself was do my OWN darn research and never trust what some clinical study said about anything. Turns out the old fellow was quite right. Thanks uncle.

Strict vegetarianism is just cruelty to plants. Singling out a particular form of life to kill and consume, because it doesn’t look at us with sad doe-colored eyes, and we don’t have to get our hands all ‘icky’ by cleaning and gutting it. When one large animal (one life) could have sustained you and your family an entire winter if judiciously prepared. But instead, you need to consume hundreds, possibly thousands of pounds of plants instead. Now that leaves one heck of a ‘carbon footprint’. πŸ˜‰

But really, I have no problems with real vegetarians, as long as they grow their own or forage their own. Knock yourself out. Just don’t make the rest of us subsidize your urbanly unsustainable lifestyle. You want to be a veggie? Move out from the metro and get serious about it and put some effort into it. None of this “I’m too busy, so I have to go to Whole Foods for my dandelions and I’m saving the planet each time I purchase my organic soy chai latte from Starshmucks or Peeberry.” πŸ˜› Bullshit.

And let’s face it…

In a grid down situation, honestly, those folks are hosed. Unless they have a massive storage of their type of food for the winter.

Foraging a plant-only diet through a PA winter? I’d have a very tough time of that. I could do it, but I’ll tell you now, it would NOT be fun, and I’d probably scrape through barely alive and incredibly malnourished by the time spring came around. But I’d never do it. Birds and bunnies and squirrels would be on the menu immediately. Humans need those animal fats. The first thing the ancient peoples went for was the fat and marrow. Not the ‘lean’ cuts of meat.

The Vegetarian lifestyle is wholly dependent upon modern ‘just in time’ supply systems, and as such is neither ‘green’ nor ‘sustainable’. Now, if someone wants to grow their own stuff, or whatever, more power to them. It’s not any of my business. But when my tax dollars are lobbied to make certain things ‘more accessible’ for a minority who wants to live a certain way, and it costs outrageous amounts of resources to do this, it’s sheer lunacy, at best. So in that sense, I have zero respect for folks who can’t seem to figure out that a modern mainstream veg diet is extremely harmful to the planet they purport to want to ‘save’.

Those that don’t forage or grow their own, haven’t a leg to stand on, morally.

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Green, Nature, Organic, Organic Meat, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Garlic Mustard Madness

Ah, the humble and sometimes hated Garlic Mustard…

Known in the hoity-toity world of Latin based taxonomy as ‘Alliaria petiolata.’

Garlic Mustard GC

I just love Latin taxonomy names. Especially since I learned all the plants the old fashioned way from my father who never referred to this plant as an ‘Alliaria petiolata’, and would have wondered what the heck I was talking about if I’d called it that and not ‘Garlic Mustard’. Yep, Latin names. Just love them to bits. And they make oh-so-much sense. Oh well, it gives me something to do in the second half of my life. Maybe if I work really hard at it I’ll sound like an official ‘expert’ in the next few decades. πŸ˜‰

But ‘Alliaria petiolata’… It’s one of those Latin names that I forget quite often, (right up there with Hypochaeris radicata), but know it instantly again whenever I see it written in text. Allaria is a reference to the garlic family, and petiolata is a reference to being long stemmed. This is one of those rare exceptions where the Latin name actually makes sense.

This oft reviled plant is actually one of nature’s powerhouses of nutrition. It’s eaten and adored in Europe, and we spend all kinds of public funding here to eradicate it by spraying and burning, and herbicides. No one seems to bother with the logical solution. Eat it!

The leaves, stems, and even roots of this plant are edible. In fact, it’s one of those lovely plants which, like a dandelion, are edible 100% of the time of year. Even the seeds and seed pods are edible if you really want to eat them.

So, what does it look like in depth, and how do we identify it?

Let’s take a leisurely tumble through the tasty realm of the humble and hated garlic mustard.

One can find many pictures of this plant on the net, some good, some not. But rarely will you actually find anything that shows you the plant in it’s younger and less identifiable stages.

I strive to use my own pictures for everything, and try to include ones that have some manner of clarity towards the parts of the plants that are in the most need of accurate identification. I hope they help.

This plant is definitely a Brassicaceae (also genus Brassica), as you will see if you are even passingly familiar with the ‘mustard’ family of plants.

Garlic mustard starts life as a little guy, who soon forms a basal rosette.

Garlic Mustard 1st Year Oct

At this stage it can be hard to identify if you aren’t familiar with garlic mustard, as it looks like any number of other green little plants.

Garlic Mustard Leaves 1st Year Oct
However, note the root and the sharp upturned ‘L’ like way the main root curves?

Garlic Mustard Root 1st Year Oct
That’s pretty prominent in any garlic mustard that I’ve ever dug up, and it’s also a good aid in identifying the plant.

The young basal leaves of this plant look quite different from the mature leaves, which have a more pointed shape. All are easy to recognize once you’ve seen the plant through all stages of it’s life-cycle, you’ll begin seeing this plant everywhere. Which, if you are in a temperate forested area like I am, will indeed be darn near everywhere, on the side of the road, near any forested area.

This is what the plant looks like in the ‘wild’. Though in this case, it’s outside my back door near my planter. No, I didn’t plant it there, it just grew there. I’ll harvest it before it goes to seed this year. This picture was taken in January and shows how big the plant is already having just grown from seed the previous fall and how it’ll bolt up in the spring.

Garlic Mustard - Back Planter

I found a large second year plant last spring that was still in a bushy basal rosette, and brought it into captivity so I could photograph it as it grew.

Pet Garlic Mustard 2

Here is the plant when it bolted. It did so quite quickly, and grew to a large size very rapidly.

Pet Garlic Mustard 3b

Here is a picture of the close up of the soon-to-be-blooming stem. Notice how the leaves are vastly more arrow shaped versus the original rounded or kidney shaped leaves of the basal rosette.

Pet Garlic Mustard 4b

Also, this plant can grow to a very large size. Here one of the mature basal leaves is almost as big as my hand.

Pet Garlic Mustard 5

Unfortunately, even though this plant did grow quite large, it didn’t bloom from lack of sunlight in it’s location in my nearly lightless garage, so we’ll have to go back to the wild do show you some blooms.

Garlic Mustard Blooming 1
The older name for the genus is ‘Cruciferae’ “Cross-bearing”. An allusion to the way the flower petals of this genus form a cross. This also makes them very easy to identify when in bloom.

The flowers have four petals in typical mustard fashion. The petals are very strikingly white. It will have six stamen. Four longer and two shorter, like all members of Brassica.

Though you won’t really need that detail to identify this plant in bloom. The arrow shaped leaves and white cross flowers should be enough.

The leaves along the stem are very arrowhead shaped in comparison to the lower basal rosette leaves which tend to be rounded or kidney shaped.

Garlic Mustard 2nd Year Bolt
As the plant matures, it gains the very prominent long signature seed pods with tiny black seeds that mustards are famous for, and which in other mustard varieties are made into the common condiment we call, not surprisingly, ‘mustard’.

The plant is prolific. Mostly because it exudes a chemical into the soil that kills off mycorrhiza in the soil as well as most competing plants. [1] Thus, enabling it so slowly take over. It’s a nasty little bugger. But it’s also delicious when properly prepared. And it’s pure nutritional dynamite.

I like to briefly boil (5 minutes) then fry the leaf greens with something fatty, such as bacon, or with olive oil and then serve over whatever you like. In my case, rice.

The upper several inches of the stem can be made like asparagus. Just snap it off where tender on the stem, and cook the whole thing. Even though it’s called ‘garlic mustard’, I don’t find it to have any real kind of ‘garlic’ taste. Thus, I like to pair mine with some fresh wild garlic greens to spice things up!

The roots are also edible, and quite spicy. Think horseradish, but not quite. Though I haven’t used these for much, they are edible. (I’m not a huge fan of horseradishy flavored things.)

If you eat this plant, many people will thank you. Or at least they would if anyone cared about the forests becoming a monoculture. Eat all you can find, and worry not. Nature will make more.

This plant can really take over, and has done so in many northern areas, such as Pennsylvania. Apparently the seeds need a freezing component to germinate, which would explain why it’s advance south has been somewhat halted.

As far as I have seen, and ever read, there are no toxic lookalikes [2], but do your homework and research and be sure of the plant you have. It’s pretty hard to misidentify this plant, but I’ve seen it done before.
If you ever mis-identify this plant, it’ll probably be for young Ground Ivy or another of the Mustard family of plants. Maybe even a violet. If you’re drunk. Or don’t know your plants very well. πŸ˜‰ None of which are harmful and are also edible.

There are also much better ways to control this plant than simply trying to physically eradicate it [3], and the one I like is perhaps the most simple. Eat more of it! Or start eating it, if you aren’t eating it now. Though I do highly recommend the linked references below for identification purposes.

I don’t typically do references, as I don’t typically write from anything other than my personal experience. I find that to write about things which one does not have direct experience with to be disingenuous, and dangerous, especially where edible and toxic plants are involved. However, I’ve included some references for your further reading enjoyment and education.

References

1. “Edible Wild Plants” Dr. John Kallas, PhD pps 231 – 248

2. ‘Wildman’ Steve Brill. http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Garlic%20Mustard.html

3. Janet Van Sloun Larson. Natrual Resource Specialist, City of Minnetonka, Natural Resources Division. http://www.eminnetonka.com/public_works/natural_resources/restoration/documents/garlic_mustard_presentation.pdf

* Also be sure to check out Green Deane Jordan’s site:Β www.eattheweeds.com It’s my favorite source for all things wild, edible, and delicious

Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Nature, Nature Photos, Preparedness, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wintertime = Very Little Wild Cookery!

Winterforest

The first snow has laced the ground a few days ago with it’s silvery veil. Dusting the forest floor in a sheet of white. The plants are all covered in snow and the temperature has dropped low enough that most of the greens have been storing their energy in their roots now and pumping alcohols instead of sugars into their leaves in an attempt to survive the cold.

It’s melted now. But it shall return.

What greens exist now are scraggly little things. Barely clinging on since the turn of the seasons.

Gone are the tall dandelions, dock, thistle, plantain, and abundant wild garlic greens.

Those won’t be back until late March or early April.

Now enters my least favorite time of year.

Foraging is pretty much nil, and we rely on the supplies that we stocked up during the warmer and more fruitful months.

Unfortunately this year’s winter storage of wild food has been nearly a complete bust, for reasons earlier this year that readers are aware of, and which do not need to be repeated here.

Which means that we’ll be forced to rely on more store bought goods than we usually would.

Which also means that our normally much more ‘wild’ diets will begin to suffer a bit, as we’ll only have a limited amount of wild foods on hand and will have to ration them out through the winter.

Oh, we’ll have plenty of food. No worries there. It’s just what KIND of food it will be.

Usually half way through winter I’m so hungry for spring greens that I practically pounce on the first dandelions when I see them poking up in early spring, and tend to nab a few when they’re only a few inches long. Same with wild garlic. But what tends to come up first is the garlic mustard and the bitter cress, which I definitely will be looking for and forward too this coming spring, as I’ll definitely need the wild nutrients after a winter of modern so called ‘food’.

I’ve never looked forward to a spring, the way I look forward to this coming spring in 2013.

The weather has warmed up a bit, and will continue to do so the next few days, or so the weatherman says. One last ‘hurrah’ of 50’s before we plummet full on into winter and get ready for 3 months of freezing hell.

I found some Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) at the edge of my garage still hanging on. It’ll overwinter just fine. Then, in the spring, I’ll let it get a bit bigger before I eat it to ensure it doesn’t take over my phlox and irises. πŸ˜‰

Garlic Mustard

Oh well, I’ll have a quarter of a year or more to remember why I hate the cold so much. πŸ˜›

Which reminds me. Now is the perfect season to learn about foraging, where you’ll have all winter long to read over things and learn them, and when the first snows melt,Β  you’ll be able to jump in with both feet and go find some wild goodies! πŸ™‚

You can start here: www.eattheweeds.com

Also there is a Youtube channel that ‘Green’ Deane Jordan has with over 130 videos. http://www.youtube.com/user/eattheweeds

And there is also a forum available for you to get to know other foragers, ask a few questions, and make a few fine foraging friends! πŸ™‚ http://eattheweeds.com/forum/index.php

Categories: Food Health, Green, Plant Photos, Weather, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

%d bloggers like this: