Heart of the Home: Foraging for Wild Edibles

A reader share her story of foraging for wild onions and wild berries, and going morel mushroom hunting.


| May/June 2015


Each spring, with a shovel and paper sacks in hand, my maternal grandfather foraged for wild edibles on the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He returned from the wilderness with those same sacks stuffed full of wild onions, filling the air with the aroma of fertile soil. Grandma, Mother and my aunt took up positions around the kitchen counters to clean and trim the bounty. It’s hard to remember at what age I was allowed to help — being allowed to help is always more exciting than becoming forced labor — but I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11. If you’ve never cleaned wild onions or wild garlic, it’s no small task. The bulbs are small, which makes soily root removal delicate work, and many of the green shoots are woody and tough. Don’t let this description of tedious work dissuade you, though, because the feast is worth the effort.

From that early time until now, the wild food adventures continued. My dad was raised in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri, and he passed down the lore and knowledge of eating off the land. My husband and I, along with various family members, hunt morel mushrooms. We also forage for wild greens — nettles, cleavers, henbit, dandelion (leaves, buds and flower heads), plantain, chickweed, sorrel, dock, purslane, and more. In addition, we dig wild alliums, pick wild berries (which we use in cobblers and for making jams), harvest the occasional wild fruit tree (with permission, of course), and collect pecans, hickory nuts and black walnuts from native Oklahoma and Arkansas trees. We love wild foods so much, we even grow wild edibles in our vegetable, herb and flower gardens.

Over the years, part of the satisfaction with this way of life comes from researching wild foods: reading the works of Billy Joe Tatum, Euell Gibbons, and other wild foods authors; collecting identification guides; poring over numerous knowledgeable magazines; and learning recognition skills, botanical names, nutritional data and proper cooking methods. Joy is found in the knowledge that these undomesticated beauties come from unadulterated sources.

Collecting foods chock-full of nutrients, taking them straight to the kitchen for use, and then serving them fresh from the field is very fulfilling. Also, using some of these same untamed delicacies for healing during injury or illness brings a smile to my face.



Last fall, my dad found a woodland beauty that we’d not seen or eaten before: a hen of the woods, or better known as a maitake mushroom. The family was gathered for our annual fall campfire at my parents’ place, and my dad couldn’t wait to show us his discovery.

When he took us out to where it was growing, debate commenced. Do we leave it to make sure it reproduces, or do we take the chance and harvest it now? The decision was made, and we plucked this rare gem from the forest floor. Once it was in the kitchen sink for cleaning, its size and beauty was even more greatly appreciated. It was huge. We cooked it over the fire with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Reviews were mixed, with some declining a taste, but I thought it was delicious, just as was promised in everything we’d read. Apparently, this mushroom is considered quite a delicacy.







mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe today

Capper's FarmerWant to rediscover what made grandma’s house the fun place we all remember? Capper’s Farmer — the newly restored publication from the rural know-how experts at Grit.com — updates the tried-and-true methods your grandparents used for cooking, crafting, gardening and so much more. Subscribe today and discover the joys of homemade living and homesteading insight — with a dash of modern living — that makes up the new Capper’s Farmer.

Save Even More Money with our automatic renewal savings plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 4 issues of Capper's Farmer for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $22.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265