WHY EAT WILD?

"In wildness is the preservation of the world." -H.D. Thoreau

Why eat from the wild? The answer is obvious to anyone who has felt the emotional uplift from the weight of a basket brimming with morel mushrooms, the earthy-sweet scent of digging Sassafras roots, or the heavy pulsing of a fish testing the limits of your fly rod.
There are a million reasons to eat wild, to get dirty, to taste fresh food. It is here where we connect to the Earth, our Ancestral past, immediate present and hope for a healthy future...

"Nothing else can build such awareness as surely and powerfully as practicing the ancient ecological art of humankind - foraging. It is not observation of, but rather participation in the phenomena of Nature that brings us to our greatest understanding of our place in the mosaic of life."
-Samuel Thayer The Forager's Harvest



Foraging in the Tip of the Mitten!

Previous Forays

 Photos, Plants and People and other Wildlife 2010

Foraging can bring lots of people together. Not only do you gather wild food, you learn more about Edibles and make new friends. But you can find lots of awesome and interesting things out there; things that would escape the eye of a casual hiker, mountain biker, and even artist...
Here are some photos from previous foraging forays, and remember THIS IS NOT TO BE USED FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES! There are many poisonous look-alikes that can easily be confused by the untrained.
Ahh, springtime! A Forager's Breakfast no doubt. Chaga mushroom tea, Wild Leeks, Farm fresh eggs, Venison and of course, Morel Mushrooms! With spring comes the urge to cover vast amounts of ground just taking in the new warmth, smelling the fresh thawed earth and all the while keeping a keen eye out for the elusive morel.
But remember to take in your surroundings or you may become lost! For some of us, getting lost isn't half as bad as missing out on some of the wondrous things spring is presenting to us. Many tromp right pass dramatic displays of Nature and ignore it's hidden beauty in an obsessive and narrow search for a single spring ephemeral: the Morel...
Here's just a few amazing things we've found while Morel hunting in the Spring of '09:
Above: A Yellow-Billed Cukoo Nest in a Red-Berried Elder Thicket.  The Yellow-billed Cuckoo spends it's winters in South America and is declining severely, as are many birds. This elusive bird is heard much more than it is seen. A favorite folk-name of mine is the Rain Crow.
 
Bufo americanus, the American Toad. Seen here with Gaelicus bufophyle, or the Irish toad-lover.


Most folks round these parts stop foraging once Morel season is over. A shame? Maybe. More for us? Sure, that's one way to look at it. Especially if you don't mind your bountiful foraging grounds turned into a cornfieild or a parking lot of cars with bumperstickers reading "No Farms No Food". Most people think the only wild food worth harvesting is venison or Morels - everything else is just WEEDS...
And thats where WEEDS comes in! Wild Edibles For Ecological Dietary Sustainability! 

 

Here are some more pictures from other forays and adventures:

The Flowers of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). I love them in salads! They bloom in early summer. A staple for the Monarch Caterpillar who migrates all the way down to Central Mexico for the winter!
 Snails like Coral Mushrooms too. This is a lesson in always leaving some behind for others. Not only for the mushrooms themselves to spawn and flourish, but for other wild foragers out there such as this Land Snail.

Look closely and see if you can interpret the forager that left its sign behind. This animal specializes in listening to underground movements under moist soil. It bobs its body to-and-fro to try and get the earthworms to move, then it sticks its beak into the soil and listens, for its ears are in between it's eye and beak!! With forcep-like pincers on the end of its long bill, it can pinch and pull at the earthworms which compose up to 90% of it's diet. Can you see the footprints and the holes made by it's underground beak probing? Here's a closer look:
The single most visible track has three long toes and is facing away from view toward where it stuck its beak in the mud. Can you guess what it is? It should be clear that it is a bird, since I said 'beak' a bunch, but what kind of bird? Give up?





It's an American Woodcock! In the spring, the Wagbo Farm and Education Center does "Woodcock Walks" where we try and sneak up on these elusive birds while the males, newly returning from migration, do their dramatic mating display just after sundown. These tracks however, were found while in the Jordan River Valley harvesting Swamp Tea, aka Labrador Tea:

Swamp Tea (Ledum groenlandicum  aka Rhododendron groenlandicum

 Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum). A Rare treat and a very complex orchid. Did you know that Vanilla comes from the fruit of an Orchid - a relative of our Lady's Slippers? (not edible)

Oyster Mushrooms! (Pleurotus ostreatus) one of the more sought-after mushrooms, often adorning dead and dying Aspens like funeral wreaths. 
An Osprey, or Fish Eagle. These often are seen 'kiting' or hovering with wings swiftly beating while the body says stationary over water. They are watching fish keenly when doing this and if you are patient, you may catch them tucking in their wings and diving under water after them!
Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psychodes) a rare and crazy lookin orchid. It's even called Psycho in the botanical name! (not edible)



 Check these out!! These are lampreys, but not the invasive kind. In fact they are Native and non-parasitic! There are several native lamprey in the Great Lakes basin. This is the American Brook Lamprey. They spend several years blind and living in slow backwaters until they grow eyes and run up streams and brooks to spawn in shallow pebbly beds, like salmon, and die. Aren't they cute?
These beauties were running up a feeder stream of the Jordan River. Look at the sucker on that lamprey! Remember these are the harmless kind...




The following are pictures from our Autumberry Harvest. Thanks to Doug and Linda from Raven's Roost Farm in Bellaire for sharing their Invasive Bounty!!


Elke Lewis-Knauf with her basket of Autumberries.
Autumnberries, better known as Autumn Olive (Elaegnus umbellata) are an invasive shrub introduced from Asia to North America. The bane of habitat restoration workers, this shrub can completely choke out a prairie. But few know that it's fruit is edible! They ripen in the early fall and we'll be out picking as many as we can handle. The kids LOVE them! Elke's mom made fruit leather from the berries the kids didn't shove into their mouths raw.
If there were an award for "Loving Autumberries More than any Known Human" it'd be Elke's brother Inigo. We eventually had to keep him away from them, or else he'd eat POUNDS upon pounds.



We'll update more soon. Keep an eye out for the following spring  2011 forays:
1. Maple Sugaring!!!
2. Wild Parsnip Diggin
3. Wild Greens and Salad Foraging
4. From Pest to Pesto: Garlic Mustard