What wild foods do you eat, if any?

5:21 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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I guess I've been watching too much Survivorman and Man vs. Wild, because my interest in edible wilderness foods has grown dramatically. I dug out all my old survival books and scout handbooks, and decided to refresh my memory with what is safe, and not safe, to eat.

How about all of you? Do you have any common greens you like to treat yourself to? Eat any grasshoppers, snails, cattails, or dandelions lately?

We used to try just about everything when I was in scouting. It's a wonder none of us ever got real sick!

5:33 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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This is a long and involved subject and I could make an extensive list of all the wild edibles I've eaten thru the years in the NC and TN mountains. But knowing this subject well on other backpacking sites and other threads, I have a feeling people will chime in on the rules, regulations, edicts, announcements, judgments and self-induced ridicule of picking and eating wild edibles. Litigious types may blunt your enthusiasm but I would pay it no mind, get your field guides and your wildflower books and have at it.

6:51 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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I love wild black raspberries.

7:22 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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Hey all,

I see nothing wrong with harvesting some edibles for supper.

I have seen the discussion get all legalistic as Tipi points out, some people are too protectionist of natural resources, that may be necessary in certain places I guess. In the Great Smokey Mountains for example, picking edibles is allowed as long as you follow a few simple rules. In other areas it may simply not be sustainable due to the amount of traffic vs. the scarcity of plant life or the fragility of that ecosystem.

In the Southern Appalachians I don't think it hurts a thing as long as you KNOW what you are doing & you are careful not to tread on endangered plants etc. which do need to be protected.

It is also important to be aware that the patch of blackberries you just discovered may indeed already be claimed by other critters, the berries may be new to you, but if a bear has been visiting that spot for several years he may feel a bit put off by your sudden presence IF he happens to be in the area and IF he's feeling a bit territorial that day. Just something to consider.

I taught myself (with a cookbook) how to make blackberry tarts in a tuna can, and boy is it cool to enjoy something you picked and prepared all by yourself. I think it is a good skill to have even if you don't do it all the time.

I also enjoy catching fresh fish & crawdads. A real supper is hard to beat after a few days on the trail, and for me it is part of the experience. I don't see anything wrong with it as long as we are careful to balance our use of the wilderness with preserving it for future use. This will be a different balance for different areas.

8:55 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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Hey Trout,

I have thought about doing some fishing while packing but, when you do catch fish on the trail how do you dispose of the parts you don't us such as the guts? Especially in bear country. I think the smell would be like a road map for them and other critters.

9:54 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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I can tell you what I and a lot of other people do, It makes sense, plus it is a more natural process.

Most times I eat what I catch, sometimes I eat oatmeal if I'm off my game, HaHa. As soon as I catch a fish (I usually wade fish)I clean the fish in the stream and let the entrails go downstream as they would if the fish had died naturally, let a raccoon have this meal somewhere else I say, away from my camp.

This is a bit easier with Trout as they do not have scales and can be cleaned very fast.

There are several benefits to this technique:

1. More natural way to dispose of "leftovers".

2. Keeping them on a stringer is cruel IMO, and makes it hard to work the stream, you must either tow the stringer, or go to it every time you catch a fish. If you're fishing from one spot on the bank this isn't so bad, but if you must wade over to the stringer each time it just double works you, plus makes way too much underwater noise & vibration as you scramble to the stringer each time (the fish all swim away).

3. As you know, entrails left around your camp will attract critters, even buried down by the stream they will get dug up before morning in my experience. Cleaning your fish in the water (downstream from you) really does cut way down on the amount of odor you and your clothes pick up, plus there are no entrails left at your fishing spot to attract bears. Leaving a mess close to a trail or stream is not good LNT of course, and no one likes walking near it days later.

4. Fish keep longer without the entrails anyway, I store them dressed, in a plastic bag with wet moss or green leaves and tucked in my vest or lumbar pack. During warmer months use common sense of course. This way they are hidden from eye sight of bears, fish splashing on a stringer can attract a bears attention and will be tempting when bears are coming out of hibernation and need a meal.

Most places that I backpack into I will keep my fishing gear in a bear bag at night, fishing clothes too. I wash up with soap and hand sanitizer in my kitchen area, after supper, and before going to my tent for the night. These are things I do anyway, so no big deal really. This is how I was taught to do it by several great guys, a couple are fishing guides in the Cherokee & Pisgah Forests of TN & NC.

10:56 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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Makes since to me. Thanks!

2:21 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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I'll have to try that technique. I've done quite a bit of trout fising in montana and wyoming (trip was more for fishing that packing). I was always leery about cleaning them... it seems like I can always still smell it on me.

I've made sasafrass tea more than once, and I happen to enjoy stinging nettle. Makes a nice bed of greens for some rice and dehydrated beef. Boil thrice or you're in for a nasty night!

10:44 p.m. on February 21, 2009 (EST)
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About the only wild foods I eat are berries (although a few years ago I had some great trout in the Sierra). Easily identifiable, and some of my favorite foods anyways. I have yet to be in a survival situation where I might need to eat other stuff (like cat tails), so I have not done it. I'm content to eat the food I brought.

Last summer we came across a nice blackberry patch, and within minutes walked through a blueberry patch that stretched above and below the trail for over 1/2 mile (Slickrock area, NC). And they were ripe! I was in berry heaven. Most of the boys got impatient with how often I stopped to get another handful. One of them collected about 1 liter of berries and ate them after dinner with his instant cheesecake.

I saw no evidence that bears had been in that patch - lots of berries, no sign of harvesting, no broken bushes. But literally seconds after I commented that I was surprised that bears had not been in that patch we came across fresh scat on the trail.

2:00 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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I'll eat a few berries (blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, wild strawberries) on the trail if there are plenty around. If it's sparse I'd definitely leave them all for the animals though.

In our own yard, we have small wild strawberries, which are fun to pick with the kids, along with our own blackberries. I love berries.

4:56 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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I like wild mountain fresh air and water....

9:16 p.m. on February 23, 2009 (EST)
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wild blue berries, cranberries, and was once lucky enough to run into a feast of huckleberries. Other than that flies and mosquitoes mostly.

12:41 a.m. on February 24, 2009 (EST)
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What wild foods do I eat? Well, there's this Mexican place down near Oklahoma City....

Seriously, not much. When I was younger, I kinda got into knowing what was edible and what was not, etc., but found that most of 'em tasted like something you'd scrape off the underside of the lawn mower, so that put an end to that. I will occasionally grab a few wild berries, though in my experience, berry patches are like bear playgrounds, judging by the amount of sign left, etc.

I learned on a trip in Montana years back why they used to call sage grouse "fool's hen". As I was tramping down the trail, I came across a hen who was riding herd on a pack of little chicks, probably about six or seven, I think I recall. They were all right smack in the middle of the trail, pecking at the ground, running, bumping, and bouncing around as chicks will, as I turned a corner and approached.

I got close enough I could've just whacked momma with a stick if I'd wanted, and it wasn't as if I was trying to be sneaky. Just calm and quiet. It was only at that point that the whole family scrambled off into the undergrowth. Have to admit I've sometimes wondered what grouse would've tasted like, fresh and roasted over a fire in the wilderness of the Northern Rockies. Glad I didn't, though. Would've felt bad, leaving those chicks homeless and orphaned without a real need to do so.

11:51 a.m. on March 9, 2009 (EDT)
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I love mulberries and paw-paws.

Both grow extensively here in southeast Ohio.

1:37 a.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Wild, (are there any other kind) Dandelions. The stems can be crushed and the sap fermented into wine. The yellow flowers can be dipped in batter like mushrooms or zuccini and fried. And the leaves are like either fresh salad or steamed like spinach. Or chopped into soups. The roots of very old plants can produce very good tubers, like radishes in taste.

Be sure and blow the white heads and make more to eat and enjoy.

8:51 p.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Hmmm....you can ferment them?

Give process please.

9:18 p.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
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10:21 p.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
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My mother used to do it and make wine, I just know thats how she did it. Not sure the process and she is no longer around to ask. I only know she used all the plant from the yard.

I learned the flower dipped batter method from a guy in Denali Park Alaska about 30 years ago.

10:36 p.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Here in PA, volunteer fire companys hold dandelion dinners as fund raisers. They serve it with a hot creamy bacon dressing. It's a PA Dutch thing.

It's crazy, you can buy it in grocery stores in little plastic bags!

11:12 p.m. on March 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Have you tried it? If I ever make it up that way I might have to try it just to say I did.

6:54 a.m. on March 11, 2009 (EDT)
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It's OK. Truth is, I don't like the dressing very much - and with a name like Klock! Oh my poor dutch ancestors must be spinning.

I have eaten dandelion leaves right out of the ground in front of school kids at the nature center though. We use no chemicals on the grass (hence the dandelion) so it's safe. I love the look on their faces when I take the first bite, but then they immediately want to try it. I let them. The taste reminds me of raw spinach a bit.

Found this: It's in April, if you happen to be in PA! http://www.perryvalleygrange.org/id321.htm

8:51 a.m. on March 11, 2009 (EDT)
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Thats cool site, as a cook I really like that. Never worked anywhere they actually served Dandelion tho.

Funny how on the TV commercial for weed killers they portray it as a pest. My mother would go out every week before my father moved and pick all the dandelions to make her wine,get the greens, but we never ate the flowers. And she always let me blow the seed heads anywhere.

7:20 p.m. on March 11, 2009 (EDT)
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Yes I never saw dandelion served at a restaurant before, interesting! Several years ago I made wine on dandelion flowers, still have some bottles left I think. Much work I remember, but noone guessed what wine i served. Each spring I have at least one nettles soup, really very good.

Here I eat a lot of "wild" products. I pick a lot of blueberries, and last year was fantastic. We also pick the cloudberries, but last year was lousy. I also have some supply of fish from private catch, both redchar and trout, as well as cod and coalfish. The latter I fish in Saltstraumen just near by.

On tours I use to do some fishing, mostly when I'm at the sea. If I'm out of luck then there are lots of mussels to be picked at low tide. Just need to know where to find them, and I do! The small sea-snails are also good as a small treat. Tastes chrimp-like, just boil them in seawater and use a needle to pick them out. They are abundant here north.

But picking berries and fishing like I do, is only for people my age and a tiny few younger enthusiasts. We are the last generation of berrypickers and hunters I'm afraid. The young generations does not bother, and why should they? You may buy anything at the shops today.

1:57 a.m. on March 12, 2009 (EDT)
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my father was an eagle scout back int he 50's and mentioned to me one can boil dandelions. never tried. now i can't wait till they pop up.

9:18 a.m. on March 16, 2009 (EDT)
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I always look for dandelions, wild onions, wild carrots, and cat tails (whose roots, when boiled, are great in soups/stews) whenever I'm near a campsite. If I'm going to be camping in am area where I know these grow plentifully, I'll pack less food and lighten my load.

8:18 p.m. on March 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Mostly just blueberries, blackberries etc. that I find along the trail. I have had dandelion greens as well; I found them kind of bitter but figured out that putting a little lemon juice on them makes this less noticeable. What's a good book for learning to identify edible wild plants? It would be interesting to learn more about them and try some others.

10:07 p.m. on March 18, 2009 (EDT)
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One of the finest meals I have ever had was out on a trail- Grilled salmon with a side of sauteed morel mushrooms and some steamed fiddleheads. Little bit o' oil, some garlic... can't beat it. There are also the berries and edible flowers, such as the dandelions discussed here already, but bluebells are edible and make a sweet trail treat. Chocolate lily roots can be used like rice. Watermelon berries, or twisted stalk, are also good. And many mushrooms and fungusare not oly edible but delicious, but it is IMPERATIVE that you know what you are doing- that being said, morels, boletes, chicken-of-the-woods, hedgehogs, shaggy manes, puffballs, are all really good... Pineapple weed, also called wild chamomile, makes a very nice tea. Look these things up, get a good wild edibles book, and become a Hiking Gourmet. Enjoy...

11:54 p.m. on March 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Oh yeah, pine needle or spruce tip tea is also very tasty, and a great way to get some vitamin C...

2:25 p.m. on March 22, 2009 (EDT)
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Plenty of white pines where I'm at!

3:06 p.m. on March 24, 2009 (EDT)
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I stick to fish, bass mostly, but preferably Walleye, and barries. Anybody ever tried wild squirrel before?

10:00 p.m. on April 29, 2009 (EDT)
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nuts, berries, mushrooms, fiddleheads, dandilions, violets, etc.


..all depends on local availability and season!

10:06 p.m. on April 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Berries (blackberries lately, lots of them) and nuts mostly. Wife wants to try nettles, but we dont know how to prepare them.

10:14 p.m. on April 29, 2009 (EDT)
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Blackberries are starting to ripen in Coastal SC. YEA!

12:00 a.m. on April 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Pinon nuts.

4:22 a.m. on April 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Wintermint, Pine nuts, Clover nectar, Sumac tea, Mashed cattail tubers, Blueberries, Huckleberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Golden Raspberries. - Look 'em up. They're not just an award for bad acting. ;-) Trout, Bass, Pike, Pickerel, Muskie, Walleye, Catfish, Carp, and probably more that I can't remember right now.


3:28 p.m. on May 1, 2009 (EDT)
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3 qts. dandelion blossoms (yellow, fully open, and dry)

4 qts. boiling water

3 lbs. sugar

2 lemons

1 orange

1 yeast cake


Collect the dandelions as early in the day as possible because it takes quite a while for the mixture to cool to 100 degrees. Pour the boining water over the blossoms. Let the mixture stand 3 hours; do not stir it. Strain the mixture into a big cooking pot and add the sugar and the lemon and orange rinds. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Cut up he orange and lemons and place them in a 2-gal. crock, jar, or plastic pail. Pour the cooked mixture on top of the fruit. When the mixture cools to 100 degrees (a little warmer than body temperature), add the yeast which has been dissolved in 1 cup of the warm mixture, then add the rest of the mixture. Let it stand 12 hours and strain it once again. Return the mixture to the crock, cover and let it stand 2 months. Strain into bottles and sample it in 6 months.


Source: The Wild Gourmet, A forager's cookbook, by Babette Brackett and Maryann Lash


Do note that there are variations of method, but the ingredients remain pretty much constant throughout the many recipes I've sampled.

11:25 p.m. on May 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks pcasebere, for that recipe, I'll print it, for my own use of course.

Another wild food I eat is Taco Bell. This may be the last time.

9:14 p.m. on May 13, 2009 (EDT)
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When picking those dandelion flowers, don't forget about making pesto with the leaves..

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