Wild plants: winter foods.
Most writers and teachers in off-the-grid living, country lifestyles, wilderness studies, outdoor education and so on, have almost studiously stu·di·ous
a. Given to diligent study: a quiet, studious child.
b. Conducive to study.
2. avoided any treatment of surviving off the wild landscape during the winter, despite the life-threatening challenges posed by extreme weather conditions. The most glaring omission is any discussion of wild plant food, on the assumption that we will eat meat, canned garden vegetables, and supermarket goods--or nothing at all. In this article I try to fill this gap, showing how we can store up wild plant food for the winter, and even find it out in nature itself.
Eating wild plants in the middle of winter is a topic hardly addressed by experts in survival in remote locations (for an exception, see Schufer, 1997). But there are a lot of reasons for taking the issue seriously. First, hypothermia hypothermia
Abnormally low body temperature, with slowing of physiological activity. It is artificially induced (usually with ice baths) for certain surgical procedures and cancer treatments. is our biggest threat in the outdoors, and the more ways to fuel our internal fires, the better.
Second, the usual ways of getting animal protein for food in the wild--hunting, trapping, fishing, egg-gathering--are limited by animal migration, hibernation, and ice and snow conditions. In some situations, plants may literally be all there is to eat.
Third, despite the common view that edible wild plants, especially out in nature itself during the winter, quickly lose their taste and nutrition, in fact there are many ways--natural ones--to prepare and store them to preserve their values.
So, while enjoying the wild, why not gather your winter plant food at the same time?
If you follow just a few principles, stored wild plants rival any fresh food in terms of taste, nutrition, shelf-life, and so on.
* Time your foraging for maximum nutritional and other values. For instance, gather the roots of biennials in the late fall of their first year when they're biggest--when nature has just finished supplying them with all the necessary nutrients to survive the coming winter. Likewise, pick leaves just before flowering for most nutrition.
* To reduce spoilage spoilage
decomposition; said of meat, milk, animal feeds especially ensilage. , gather fruits directly from the trees and not from the ground, and nuts as soon as possible after they drop.
* Store the material as whole as possible. The less the processing, the better the preservation.
* You can use organic protection for your stored plants. Pack the material with natural preservatives, like antibiotic essential oils as in mints, and store in containers that repel plant-eating pests, like cedar bowls, to reduce losses. (So, when studying any plant in the field, note whether it has any insect damage; if not, it might be a good storage protector against the pests. And so on.) In fact, many such preservatives are valuable food sources in their own right (say, honey) (see Buhner, 1999). (Table 1 offers several such possibilities gathered from personal experience and that of other wild crafters.)
* By cleaning both plants and containers thoroughly before storing, the chances of deterioration are reduced.
* Store each plant separately to avoid mixing flavors. Especially store fruits and vegetables separately, lest the former spoil the latter.
* Pack in sturdy containers (say, clay pots, glass jars) in a cool, dark, dry, low-lying, and well-protected space to reduce loss.
* Label containers with expected date of expiration Date of Expiration (2002) is an aggrotech single by Funker Vogt. Track listing
* Eat the earliest-gathered material before the later-gathered, and the fastest-deteriorating food before the longer-lasting. For example, leaves, flowers, and fruits rarely last more than six months, whereas roots and seeds can last up to three years. Dock seeds have been found buried in ancient Egyptian tombs, whereupon exposure to water caused them to sprout!
* Whenever possible, consume the water used to store and cook the material, since it contains valuable nutrients that have leached out of the plants. For this reason, soups and stews are the ideal dishes.
In this article I omit most of the common civilized ways of storing food (canning, brewing, fermenting, juicing), since they're well-known and involve a lot of work, ideal conditions, much equipment and materials, and so on. Instead, I focus on simpler, easier, less costly, and more natural methods, namely "nature's fridge," freezing (including "cold caching" and "forcing"), drying (including "sanding"), and pickling. I concentrate on the plants of the U.S. northeast, while paying special attention to those commonly found across North America (say, dandelions).
A natural selection
Which plants should the beginning forager, who has a day job and limited time and energy, start working with? Some species are far more amenable to winter storage than others.
I decided to find out by scoring the plants I've enjoyed in winter on 23 criteria comprising a variety of factors, including nutrition (for instance, abundance on the landscape), ecology (non-threatened species), conservation of energy (ease of preparation), economics (monetary cost), convenience (seasonal availability), health (value for winter ailments), enjoyment (taste and texture), flexibility (ways to store effectively), and other applications (non-food uses). The criteria, with examples of less and more useful plants, are shown in Table 2.
For example, one criterion is taste and texture, which matter a lot, even in a critical starvation predicament. Your body benefits little if it rejects a nutritious--but vile-tasting--plant. For example, I've yet to find a way to eat stored fern fiddleheads without a grimace--they're horrible dried or frozen, and worse pickled. Other plants, in contrast, like bee balm, taste wonderful even after months of storage.
Another criterion is suitability for the special physical problems posed by winter, such as protection against hypothermia (say, stimulants that warm and increase peripheral circulation such as mullein mullein: see figwort. ); immunity from colds and flu (anti-virals like elderberry elderberry,
n Latin names:
Sambucus nigra, Sambucus canadensis; parts used: buds, fruit; uses: common cold, toothaches, headaches, diaphoresis, hay fever, sinus infections, epidermal irritations, lacerations, liver disorders, inflammation; ); richness in protein, given limited animal sources (such as cattail cattail or reed mace, any plant of the genus Typha, perennial herbs found in almost all open marshes. The cattail (also called club rush) has long narrow leaves, sometimes used for weaving chair seats, and a single tall stem bearing two pollen); and high concentration of vitamin D vitamin D
Any of a group of fat-soluble alcohols important in calcium metabolism in animals to form strong bones and teeth and prevent rickets and osteoporosis. It is formed by ultraviolet radiation (sunlight) of sterols (see steroid) present in the skin. , given reduced sunshine (such as nettles net·tle
1. Any of numerous plants of the genus Urtica, having toothed leaves, unisexual apetalous flowers, and stinging hairs that cause skin irritation on contact.
2. Any of various hairy, stinging, or prickly plants. ).
Using this list, I scored each plant on each criterion from 1 (lowest) to 3 (highest). For example, seaweeds received a score of 2 on geographical range, since they can be found on both coasts but not in the interior. I then added the numbers for every plant, which resulted in a final score for each ranging from lowest (23 or all 1's) to highest (69 or all 3's). The "premium plants"--those receiving the top 15 scores--are listed in Table 3.
The winner, perhaps not surprisingly, is the cattail, the famed "supermarket of the wild." It scores high on almost all criteria, such as geographical range (widespread), food parts (rhizome rhizome (rī`zōm) or rootstock, fleshy, creeping underground stem by means of which certain plants propagate themselves. Buds that form at the joints produce new shoots. , corms, shoots, reproductive spikes, pollen), ways to store (dry pollen, pickled shoots, frozen spikes), and so on. The runner-up, again not surprisingly, is the much despised--but amazingly versatile--dandelion.
Unexpectedly, though, goldenrod goldenrod, any species of the large genus Solidago of the family Asteraceae (aster family), chiefly North American weedy herbs. They have small yellow flowers clustered, often in panicles, along a wandlike stem. and coltsfoot coltsfoot, Eurasian perennial herb (Tussilago farfara) of the family Asteraceae (aster family), now a widespread weed in most northern lands. The scaly flower stalk bears a yellow flower head and downy, somewhat dandelionlike fruits. ranked very high. Goldenrod leaves and seeds store nicely, the leaves can be used in soups or as a tea, and the galls can be pickled for an appetizer treat. Coltsfoot flowers can be frozen for stews, roots boiled with honey for a dry candy, and leaves dried for tea, soup, or tobacco for respiratory problems.
Also making the list are day lily day lily: see lily. , a much underestimated food source (although the Chinese know better), which can be used as a dried condiment (flowers) and delicious pickles (tubers and shoots). The seeds of amaranth amaranth (ăm`ərănth') [Gr.,=unfading], common name for the Amaranthaceae (also commonly known as the pigweed family), a family of herbs, trees, and vines of warm regions, especially in the Americas and Africa. and lambs quarters, of course, are ancient grains for porridge or soup thickener thick·en
tr. & intr.v. thick·ened, thick·en·ing, thick·ens
1. To make or become thick or thicker: Thicken the sauce with cornstarch. The crowd thickened near the doorway.
2. , while the leaves are highly nutritious veggies Veggies of Nottingham, also known as Veggies Catering Campaign, is a campaigning group based in Nottingham, England, promoting ethicalbum alternatives to mainstream fast food. . Nettles store very well, and have so many medicinal values that I once heard a world-famous herbalist herb·al·ist
1. One who grows, collects, or specializes in the use of herbs, especially medicinal herbs.
2. See herb doctor. advise, "When in doubt, prescribe nettles."
Finally, elderberries are a powerful anti-viral against winter colds and other ailments (think: bird flu bird flu: see influenza.
or avian influenza
viral respiratory disease, mainly of birds including poultry and waterbirds but also transmissible to humans. , for which there's no effective vaccine as yet). Mints, sassafras sassafras: see laurel.
North American tree (Sassafras albidum) of the laurel family. The aromatic leaf, bark, and root are used as a flavouring, as a traditional home medicine, and as a tea. , and wild strawberry are always tasty, eaten whole (leaves or berries) or brewed as a tea (leaves or root bark). Plantain plantain (plăn`tĭn), any plant of the genus Plantago, chiefly annual or perennial weeds of wide distribution. Many species are lawn pests and the pollen is often a hay fever irritant. P. seeds are abundant and store well. And seaweeds are packed with nutritional and health benefits, making excellent additions, chopped or powdered, to soups and stews. (Also receiving high scores but not listed are, in ranked order: mushrooms; Japanese knotweed; jewelweed jewelweed, common name for the Balsaminaceae, a family of widely distributed annual and perennial herbs. The principal genus is Impatiens, so named because of the sudden bursting of the mature seed capsules when touched. ; wild carrot; chicory chicory (chĭk`ərē) or succory (sŭk`ərē), Mediterannean herb (Cichorium intybus ; prickly pear; blackberry; blueberry blueberry, plant of the large genus Vaccinium, widely distributed shrubs (occasionally small trees) of the family Ericaceae (heath family), usually found on acid soil. They are often confused with the related huckleberry. ; violets; acorns; marsh marigold; thistle; wild apples; burdock burdock (bûr`däk), common name of any plant of the genus Arctium of the family Asteraceae (aster family), coarse biennials indigenous to temperate Eurasia and mostly weedy in North America. ; leeks; wintercress; and milkweed milkweed, common name for members of the Asclepiadaceae, a family of mostly perennial herbs and shrubs characterized by milky sap, a tuft of silky hairs attached to the seed (for wind distribution), and (usually) a climbing habit. .)
A variety of storage containers can be used, from glass jars to underground pits. You can make natural ones out of bark (baskets, nets), rawhide Rawhide
series depicting cowboys as cattle-punchers along the Santa Fe trail. [TV: Terrace, II, 235]
See : Wild West , coal-burned wood, and so on.
Which storage method?
Which storage method is best? In Table 4 I've listed a number of criteria, including financial cost, storage space, and so on, and judged each method on each. For example, with respect to monetary cost, according to one study using supermarket food, drying is far cheaper ($24.29 per 500 lbs. of food) than either canning or freezing ($31.00 and $81.17), while also proving superior for retaining nutritional value (Excalibur/KBI, 1999).
Clearly, "nature's fridge"--just going outside during the winter and gathering the plant in its natural state--ranks as the best method. Except for the extra labor involved in gathering (bundling up in warm clothes, trudging through the snow, trying to find the plants, and breaking through icy substrate), your best bet is to do nothing--let nature do the storing for you.
Drying (naturally, not with a commercial dryer) clearly ranks second, with freezing and pickling trailing far behind. Drying may be done almost anywhere. It requires no pots or pans or fuel for cooking; no ice or electricity or plastic bags for freezing; no vinegar or salt or large bulky containers for pickling; and so on. The greatly reduced moisture allows for very safe storage, and you don't have to deal with the possibility of pickled mush (MultiUser Shared Hallucination) See MUD.
1. (games) MUSH - Multi-User Shared Hallucination.
2. (messaging) MUSH - Mail Users' Shell. or freezer burn. For the backpacker, of course, dried food makes for minimal weight and volume. Shelf life too is optimal, with leaves and flowers lasting up to one year, and roots, barks, and seeds up to three. And you don't have to worry about power crashes or broken and leaky jars. Clearly, nature's fridge and drying should top your list of best storing methods.
So, why work hard to store food in your shelter--and take up valuable space there--when nature can do it for you? Just go out and forage--you'll get the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and no bugs at all. You'll also get relief from the boredom, "seasonal affective disorder seasonal affective disorder (SAD), recurrent fall or winter depression characterized by excessive sleeping, social withdrawal, depression, overeating, and pronounced weight gain. ," and "cabin fever cabin fever Relapsing fever, see there " of winter.
A fair amount of plant food remains available in the winter wild for the hungry forager (see Table 5). Let's start with "nature's antifreeze antifreeze, substance added to a solvent to lower its freezing point. The solution formed is called an antifreeze mixture. Antifreeze is typically added to water in the cooling system of an internal-combustion engine so that it may be cooled below the freezing point "--the constituents in evergreen boughs, which make for wonderful teas. Try pine, spruce, fir, hemlock hemlock, any tree of the genus Tsuga, coniferous evergreens of the family Pinaceae (pine family) native to North America and Asia. The common hemlock of E North America is T. (the tree, not the stalked plant), cedar, and juniper (make sure of identification--the yew, for example, is toxic). Use the boughs right after you bring them home (recall the needles under your Christmas tree Christmas tree
Evergreen tree, usually decorated with lights and ornaments, to celebrate the Christmas season. The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands as symbols of eternal life was common among the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. ). Just toss a handful of sprigs into boiling water and let seep for a warming brew.
Some of the same trees can yield edible inner barks (an acquired taste, I admit) that's easy to remove in late winter and early spring when the sap is running. Here the animals can help--they know exactly when a plant source provides the most nutrition. (Never use animals to determine edibility; many eat plants toxic to humans.) I look for sapling trunks recently foraged upon by whitetails in early spring.
Acorns may still be available beneath oaks--deciduous trees that retain some of their leaves (as well as acorn caps) in the winter, so just look up for brown leaves rustling in the wind. In early spring, of course, you can tap maple and birch trees for sap to make syrup.
You can also find dried and frozen fruits still on their stems--remember that sour fruits may turn sweeter after the first frost. Frozen persimmons, for example, are delicious. I've eaten highbush cranberries well into March.
Symbiotic associations of fungi (mycobionts) and photosynthetic partners (photobionts). These associations always result in a distinct morphological body termed a thallus that may adhere tightly to the substrate or be leafy, stalked, or hanging. may also be found on the ground or trees. Also, don't discount small seeds. I've eaten plantain seeds still on their stems in January. A tasty treat as well is brooklime, a plant used much like watercress watercress, hardy perennial European herb (Nasturtium officinale) of the family Cruciferae (mustard family), widely naturalized in North America, found in or around water. , that can be seen atop icy waters. You can look under the snow for hardy greens like wild strawberry leaves. Even some delicate greens like bedstraw bedstraw: see madder.
Any low perennial herbaceous plant of the genus Galium, in the madder family, found in damp woods and swamps and along stream banks and shores. persist well into winter.
Also available may be the dormant roots of biennials, waiting for the spring to start their second year's growth. These roots have stored up a lot of nutrition for the coming year. Look for tall stalk "flags" of old second-year-growth plants. Or, mark the sites in the fall before snowfall, then cover with a thick layer of grasses and leaves. They can then be dug up just after snowmelt snow·melt
1. The runoff from melting snow.
2. A period or season when such runoff occurs: streams that flood during snowmelt. and ground--thaw. Even the old second-year root may have some survival nutrition left.
You can also search for Jerusalem artichokes, cattail rhizomes, and other nutritious subterraneans. Sometimes a distinctive "clearing" or other sign marks the site on the landscape.
Realize too, of course, that in the previous spring you could have planted edibles for your flower garden, then harvested the food results this winter. They're close by, and you know exactly where they are. Day lilies, roses, and Jerusalem artichokes are beautiful--and delicious--an emergency larder right outside your door.
You can also store in your home freezer. Use high-quality plastic freezer (not sandwich) bags with zipper-seal tops, or plastic or glass containers. The disadvantages of freezing, of course, are appliance and electricity costs, freezer burn, loss of nutrients, and the ever-present possibility of power failure.
More primitively, in the fall you can "cold-cache" the plant food by digging a "cold-storage root cellar" outside, lined and covered with stones, grasses, leaves, and soil. Put the plant food in baskets or lay directly into the pit. Another possibility is simply laying the food on grasses, then covering it with a high mound of debris. Don't wash the plant material--just remove the unwanted parts, then brush clean. Leave a small piece of the stem attached to the tops of roots. Experts recommend several small caches rather than a single huge one, so that all the food can be removed at once without the need to repack Re`pack´
v. t. 1. To pack a second time or anew; as, to repack beef; to repack a trunk. s> .
The cache sites should be cold, semi-humid, ventilated ven·ti·late
tr.v. ven·ti·lat·ed, ven·ti·lat·ing, ven·ti·lates
1. To admit fresh air into (a mine, for example) to replace stale or noxious air.
2. , dark, well-drained on high ground, and close to your shelter, with the food likely to spoil first placed near the top. Pack materials loosely, store fruits and vegetables separately, and layer with bark or other separations. Cover the site with grasses, or better, insect-and rodent-repelling plants, and very large slabs of rock or bark that can act as roofs, deter small critter-marauders, and allow for easy retrieval. Mark the site well with a tall sign lest the food get lost under heavy snow. Alaskan natives, for example, stored containers of food in the frozen tundra for winter dining--a "natural deep freeze deep freeze
see freezer. ." Food in such caches has been known to last for decades (Hobson, 1981; Storey Communications, 1978).
Another cold-storage possibility is "forcing"--bringing soil and dug-up roots into your shelter in the fall after the first frost, and growing the plants in containers in the dark with nothing more than an occasional watering. Don't be surprised to see the leaves blanched--that is, your greens suddenly looking white (without light the leaves don't turn green with chlorphyll). Wildcrafters have had success with roots of nettles, wild rhubarb rhubarb: see buckwheat.
Any of several species of the genus Rheum (family Polygonaceae), especially R. rhaponticum (or R. rhabarbarum), a hardy perennial grown for its large, succulent, edible leafstalks. , poke, dandelion dandelion [Eng. form of Fr.,=lion's tooth], any plant of the genus Taraxacum of the family Asteraceae (aster family), perennial herbs of wide distribution in temperate regions. , chicory, violet, plantain, and mint in these "wild winter gardens."
Prior to the storage of plants in your freezer, materials should be well cleaned, cut into small pieces, patted dry, and placed in small containers for easy retrieval. Some edible plants with toxic principles (say, marsh marigold, milkweed) should first be boiled in changes of water. Remember that water expands upon freezing, so leave a little room at the tops of containers. Eat immediately after thawing.
Most plants lend themselves to freezing quite well (see Table 6). High-fat materials like pine nuts and acorns might be frozen, as well as berries without skins (say, strawberries, raspberries). Soft, overripe o·ver·ripe
1. Too ripe.
2. Marked by decay or decline.
over·ripe fruits can be juiced See Joost. See also juice. , then put in ice cube trays for winter popsicles. Plants that make wonderful teas but lose their oomph upon drying (say, cleavers) can also be so "popsicled." Shelled and leached acorns freeze well, as do most thick and succulent greens such as sedum sedum: see stonecrop.
Any of about 600 species of succulent plants that make up the genus Sedum, in the stonecrop, or orpine, family (Crassulaceae), native to temperate zones and to mountains in the tropics. and wintercress.
But I've gotten poor results freezing wild parsnips and evening primrose roots--tough and stringy string·y
adj. string·i·er, string·i·est
1. Consisting of, resembling, or containing strings or a string.
2. Slender and sinewy; wiry.
3. Forming strings, as a viscous liquid; ropy. would be the best descriptors. I've also seen strawberry leaves turn brown. Coltsfoot leaves and flowers proved disappointing, as did hawthorn haws and partridgeberries.
Drying is best for nuts with shells, fruits with skins, as well as thin leaves and stalks. The plants with which I've had the best results are shown in Table 7.
On the other hand, I've had singular lack of success drying some parts of certain species. I've seen leeks shrivel to nothing, and fail to rehydrate re·hy·drate
1. To cause rehydration of something.
2. To replenish the body fluids of an individual. into any meaningful shape. Mushroom stems turn to nails, almost endangering one's teeth (freezing produces much better results). Leaves of cinquefoil cinquefoil (sĭngk`foil) [O.Fr.,=five leaves], name for any plant of the widely distributed genus Potentilla of the family Rosaceae (rose family), chiefly herbs of north temperate and subarctic regions. , ground ivy ground ivy, trailing perennial herb of the genus Glechoma of the family Labiatae (mint family), closely related to catnip and naturalized from Europe. It forms a dense ground cover and spreads rapidly, thriving in cool, damp places. , plantain, and cleavers lose any semblance of flavor and so, presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. , nutritional and medicinal value. Dried dandelion leaves, as well as mayweed mayweed
see anthemis cotula. , goutweed gout·weed
A European plant (Aegopodium podagraria) widely naturalized in eastern North America, having small white flowers grouped in compound umbels. A variegated form is commonly grown as an edging or ground cover. , Canada mayflower, and clammy clam·my
adj. clam·mi·er, clam·mi·est
1. Disagreeably moist, sticky, and cold to the touch: a clammy handshake.
2. Damp and unpleasant: clammy weather. everlasting, leave much to be desired. I've had aster leaves turn brown, and those of dame's rocket turn yellow. Wild grapes have dried into nothing resembling raisins, and chokecherries always seem to collect mold (juicing these fruits, I think, is the way to go, although Indians ate a lot of dried chokecherry chokecherry: see cherry.
One of several varieties of shrub or small tree (Prunus virginiana) of the rose family, native to North America. cakes).
For best results, forage when the weather is dry and the dew has disappeared, especially after a few days of hot and rainless weather. Don't gather acorns with holes in the shells--weevils are busy at work inside. Upon arrival home, prepare the plants for drying immediately lest wilting, molding, and other problems arise.
Prepare the material in a warm, dark, dry, and well-ventilated space, especially during a period of hot and dry weather, since nutrients, flavor, and texture are best preserved if drying is fast. Realize that aquatic plants, such as horsetail horsetail, any plant of the genus Equisetum [Lat.,=horse bristle], the single surviving genus of a large group (Equisetophyta) of primitive vascular plants. , may require longer time to dry.
Experiment with drying outside and inside. If outside, you can spread the material on the ground, or hang from branches or horizontal tripod racks suspended over fire coals. Be sure that the temperature is hot and humidity low; that the material is in the shade but exposed to the south and a breeze, and covered by some porous material like cheesecloth cheese·cloth
A coarse, loosely woven cotton gauze, originally used for wrapping cheese.
a light, loosely woven cotton cloth
Noun 1. , newspaper, mosquito netting, or door-screen; and that the plants are brought in every night.
If inside, dry the material as high in your shelter as possible (say, an attic)--remember, heat rises, and the plants won't be under foot. Try clothes hangers and hooks, collapsible hat racks, nails, threads strung along your fireplace, and so on. If you dry on the floor, put materials in line with open doors, windows, and heating vents, and turn over every day.
Long stalks of leaves are best bound together at their bases, then hung upside down from branches or nails, or from cords strung in between them. Tighten the bindings every few days, since the stalks will shrink upon drying, or use rubber bands. Seaweeds can simply be draped drape
v. draped, drap·ing, drapes
1. To cover, dress, or hang with or as if with cloth in loose folds: draped the coffin with a flag; a robe that draped her figure. over cordage cordage (kôr`dĭj), collective name for rope and other flexible lines. It is used for such purposes as wrapping, hauling, lifting, and power transmission. Early man used strips of hide, animal hair, and plant materials. "clotheslines." Loose leaves like dock can be put in paper bags and shook daily. Dry any catnip stalks well away from cats, especially if you live in an African village.
Experts agree that microwaving is a bad idea. The machine can be damaged, and the plants may well wind up burnt on the outside and moist on the inside. A 150[degrees]F oven with door ajar, however, produces good results for many. A commercial food dryer is expensive but does the job well. Some foragers dry their plants under the rear window of their car that is facing south with the other windows open.
If cutting is necessary, make the parts the same size so their drying rates are the same. Be sure to remove all unwanted parts before drying, since shriveling and curling can mask a host of defects. Thick roots should be cut lengthwise length·wise
adv. & adj.
Of, along, or in reference to the direction of the length; longitudinally.
Adj. 1. lengthwise , right after gathering, for fastest drying speed.
Nuts should first be husked husk
1. The outer membranous or green envelope of some fruits or seeds, as that of a walnut or an ear of corn.
2. A shell or outer covering, especially when considered worthless.
3. , then stored whole and shelled just before eating. Or, they can be shelled right away and parched parch
v. parched, parch·ing, parch·es
1. To make extremely dry, especially by exposure to heat: The midsummer sun parched the earth. in a large frying pan, or on flat smooth stones propped next to a campfire. Smaller seeds are also best preserved and palatable after roasting. Parched dock seeds, for example, are surprisingly tasty. The roasted nuts and seeds can then be stored, or further ground up into flour.
Large fresh fruits like apples can be sliced thin, dipped in citric acid citric acid or 2-hydroxy-1,2,3-propanetricarboxylic acid, HO2CCH2C(OH)(CO2H)CH2CO2 and salt, then dried on a horizontal thread. Smaller fruits can be dried as is, and the smaller they are, the faster and better the drying. Elderberries, for example, dry well right on the umbel (if you remove the berries first, mold can form where the skins have broken). For soft overripe fruits, and those without skins, you can make fruit leather by crushing, straining out the seeds, and spreading the puree pu·rée or pu·ree
tr.v. pu·réed or pu·reed, pu·rée·ing or pu·ree·ing, pu·rées or pu·rees
To rub through a strainer or process (food) in a blender.
n. over large, flat, smooth rocks next to a fire. Turn the material several times so both sides dry well, then roll up for storage.
Lichens can be soaked overnight, boiled, then dried. Mushroom tops can be dried, gills down, on plastic door-screen stretched between wooden slats, which then can be stacked to save space. Put cloth or newspaper underneath the slats unless you want spore print designs on your floor or carpet. Some roots, like sweetflag and wild ginger, can be boiled in honey (a natural preservative), then dried for winter candy.
Put the material into storage containers on a hot dry day. Avoid packing too tight--I like to think of the residual moisture needing space to exhale exhale /ex·hale/ (eks´hal) to breathe out.
1. To breathe out.
2. To emit a gas, vapor, or odor. . If leaves are on thick stalks, strip them off (called "garbling garbling,
v in herbal medicine, to separate the useable part of the plant from any irrelevant matter, including dirt or other plant parts. ") and compost the stalks. I've ruined many a good leaf that remained on a thick stalk still moist inside. If leaves are stored in glass jars, check after a few days for condensation inside. If present, remove the plants and try re-drying. If you pack in jars, remove any cardboard inside the lids, which tends to keep moisture. You might also try topping the jars with cotton, or absorbent leaves of mullein, elecampane elecampane (ĕl'əkămpān`), hardy Old World herb, Inula helenium, of the family Asteraceae (aster family), naturalized in America and sometimes cultivated in gardens. , or similar fuzzy species. Nuts in the shell are best stored in porous containers, such as bags of paper, parfleche par·fleche
1. An untanned animal hide soaked in lye and water to remove the hair and then dried on a stretcher.
2. An article, such as a shield, made of this hide. , leather, netting, or cloth. Put all storage containers in a cool, dry, dark space.
Another possibility for dry storage is "sanding"--simply layering the material, especially roots, in large containers of sand in your shelter. This works very well for roots of dandelion, Chicory, burdock, and wild parsnip. Don't be put off by the shriveling--rehydrate for a day and the roots will return more or less to normal. I've also heard of similar "sawdusting"--if you have a lot of pileated woodpeckers near you, this may be easy to pull off in a purely "abo" way.
When ready to use, test for quality with the vision test (looks fresh), touch test (feels crispy, crumbly crum·bly
adj. crum·bli·er, crum·bli·est
Easily crumbled; friable.
Adj. 1. , leathery leath·er·y
Having the texture or appearance of leather: a leathery face.
leather·i·ness n. ), and sniff test (smells fruity, rooty, nutty, herby). Rehydration rehydration /re·hy·dra·tion/ (-hi-dra´shun) the restoration of water or fluid content to a patient or to a substance that has become dehydrated.
1. is fastest if pieces are cut very small and boiled in water.
You can consume the dried plants in many ways. Leaves, lichens, nuts, and seeds can be pulverized pul·ver·ize
v. pul·ver·ized, pul·ver·iz·ing, pul·ver·iz·es
1. To pound, crush, or grind to a powder or dust.
2. To demolish.
v.intr. to thicken thick·en
tr. & intr.v. thick·ened, thick·en·ing, thick·ens
1. To make or become thick or thicker: Thicken the sauce with cornstarch. The crowd thickened near the doorway.
2. soups and stews. Crushed and powdered sumac berries make a delicious "Indian lemonade," dessert topping, or after-dinner smoking tobacco. Powdered seaweed serves as a nice salty condiment. Dried seeds can be ground into flour. Tiny seeds like lambs quarters can be mixed with cream-of-wheat or other hot cereal. Some ground-up roots like chicory and dandelion make excellent "coffees." Some dried leaves, such as coltsfoot and mullein, make excellent recreational or medicinal tobaccos. Others, like goldenrod, can be ground into a "parsley" for sprinkling over spaghetti, granola, porridge, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, and so on. Still others can be cut into flakes for a dried soup mix.
Pickling is a much underrated method, requiring only vinegar with a 5-6% acid content (ordinary apple cider vinegar does fine) poured to about a third of a container's volume, natural non-iodized salt (a couple tablespoons per quart), and boiled water up to the top of the container. You can experiment with making your own vinegar from wild apples, cider, or wine (see Mindell and Johns, 1999; Proulx, 1980; Romanowski and Larrow, 1999). You can also try seaweeds for salt (which you can also eat as "pickles from the sea," which are surprisingly tasty if a bit slimey).
For added safety and taste, you can add the anti-microbial herbs listed in Table 1 (just like using dill with cucumber pickles), or honey, maple sap or syrup, or other natural sweetener Sweetener
A special feature added to a debt obligation or preferred stock to promote marketability.
Warrants and convertibles are two popular sweeteners.
See also: Convertible Bond, Kicker, Warrant
Sweetener . Just make sure the containers and plants have been well cleaned and boiled for safety (see U.S. FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration
n.pr See Food and Drug Administration.
n.pr the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration. , 2003). Store in a cool, dark, low place (remember, cold sinks).
The pickles will last until spring if not longer. In fact, one crate of pickles that sank on a Mississippi steamboat steamboat: see steamship.
Watercraft propelled by steam; more narrowly, a shallow-draft paddle-wheel steamboat widely used on rivers in the 19th century, particularly the Mississippi River and its tributaries. proved fresh and tasty after 132 years of "cold storage" in "Davy Jones' Locker." Just be prepared for some strange colors (recall how supermarket pickles look different from cucumbers).
Many plants are excellent pickled (see Table 8). Dandelion roots are wonderfully crisp and succulent, and lose their bitter taste. Marsh marigold flower buds are also very tasty, but a bit mushy mush·y
adj. mush·i·er, mush·i·est
1. Resembling mush in consistency; soft.
a. Excessively sentimental. See Synonyms at sentimental.
b. . Evening primrose roots too are delicious, even after losing some of their peppery pep·per·y
1. Of, containing, or resembling pepper; sharp or pungent in flavor.
2. Vigorously sharp-tempered: a peppery sales clerk.
3. taste and radish-like flavor. You're also bound to enjoy the crispy, tangy taste of pickled day lily shoots and tubers. Cattail shoots are positively delicious. After eating the wild pickles, save the vinegar to spice up boring salads, soups, and other fare.
I've gotten far less successful results with other plants. Burdock roots turned out sandpapery sand·pa·per
Heavy paper coated on one side with sand or other abrasive material and used for smoothing surfaces.
tr.v. sand·pa·pered, sand·pa·per·ing, sand·pa·pers
To rub with or as if with sandpaper. , while chicory roots kept their horribly bitter taste. Redbud redbud or Judas tree, name for trees and shrubs of the genus Cercis, handsome plants of the family Leguminosae (pulse family), covered along the branches in the early spring with deep rose or (rarely) white flowers resembling pea blossoms. flowers produced a soggy texture and horrible color. Sedum tubers turned to mush.
Upon consuming, be creative. Many people complain about the bitterness and other features of wild plants, but this only reveals their unwillingness to experiment. Bitter roots like sweetflag, for example, can be boiled in honey and dried for a delicious candy snack. You can put less tasty greens into a blender with yogurt for a wild green smoothie smooth·ie also smooth·y
n. pl. smooth·ies Slang
1. A person regarded as being assured and artfully ingratiating in manner.
2. A smooth-tongued person. , boil them with a single--very inexpensive--bouillon cube for a delicious soup, or cut them into small pieces and mix with tastier plants in scrambled eggs and so on. They can also be powdered and sprinkled lightly over hot dishes.
You can even make that paragon of supermarket pseudo-nutrition--Jell-O--work for you. I've enjoyed, without so much as a grimace grimace Neurology A humorless facial 'mask' typically seen in Pts with catatonia. See Amimia. , some of the bitterest herbal teas on the planet--gentian, wormwood wormwood, Mediterranean perennial herb or shrubby plant (Artemisia absinthium) of the family Asteraceae (aster family), often cultivated in gardens and found as an escape in North America. It has silvery gray, deeply incised leaves and tiny yellow flower heads. , and the like--made with this dessert. I didn't believe it till I tried it. Trust me on this--your sugar-junkie kids will thank you later (the idea is herbalist James Green's [2000:230-232]).
In the beginning, you can just substitute wild for supermarket food. In the end, though, you may want to serve this complete winter meal. Open with an appetizer like pickled stalks of Japanese knotweed or shoots of cattail. Go on to a steaming bowl of nettle nettle, common name for the Urticaceae, a family of fibrous herbs, small shrubs, and trees found chiefly in the tropics and subtropics. Several genera of nettles are covered with small stinging hairs that on contact emit an irritant (formic acid) which produces a soup, followed by a salad of sedum, dandelion, jewelweed, and violet leaves, topped with apple cider vinegar and parched dock seeds. Continue with a stir-fry of burdock root, then a dessert of blackberries covered with maple syrup. Top it all off with a hot cup of dandelion root coffee, while you enjoy a relaxing smoke of mullein leaf tobacco.
But I've only showed you some of the ways to store wild plants. You can also try fermenting (soaking succulent plants in salt water)--dock leaf "sauerkraut," anybody? You can also try cultivating "mushroom logs" in your shelter--just keep them wet and warm. You can also make fruit jams and jellies using honey, maple syrup, or molasses molasses, sugar byproduct, the brownish liquid residue left after heat crystallization of sucrose (commercial sugar) in the process of refining. Molasses contains chiefly the uncrystallizable sugars as well as some remnant sucrose. .
So, here's a challenge. See if you can replace 20% of your civilized diet during November-March with wild plants. Then next year try for 30%. And so on.
Resources on food storage
Ball Corporation. N.d. Ball Blue Book of Preserving. Muncie, IN: Alltrista Consumer Products.
Bingham, Riota, and Esther Dickey. 1999. Passport to Survival: 12 Steps to Self-Sufficient Living. Edmond, OK: Natural Meals.
* Bubal, Mike, and Nancy Bubel. 1991. Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables. North Adams, MA: Storey.
Buhner, Stephen. 1999. Herbal Antibiotics. Pownal, VT: Storey.
* Chadwick, Janet. 1995. Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food. Pownal, VT: Storey.
Chesman, Andrea. 2002. Pickles and Relishes. North Adams, MA. Storey.
* Chioffi, Nancy, Gretchen Mead, and Linda Thompson. 1991. Keeping the Harvest: Preserving Your Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs. Pownal, VTG VTG Variable Turbine Geometry (turbochargers)
VTG Vicksburg Theatre Guild (Vicksburg, MS)
VTG Voice Technologies Group, Inc. : Storey.
Coleman, Eliot. 1999. Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.
Costenbader, Carol. 1999. Food Drying Techniques. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications.
* Costenbader, Carol W. 2002. Big Book of Preserving the Harvest. North Adams, MA: Storey.
DeLong, Deanna. 1992. How to Dry Foods. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : HPBooks.
Dickey, Esther. 1993. Skills for Survival: How Families Can Prepare. Bountiful, UT: Horizon.
* Eastman, Wilbur. 1975. Canning, Freezing, Curing, and Smoking of Meat, Fish, and Game. Pownal, VT: Storey, VT.
Excalibur/KBI. 1999. Preserve It Naturally II: The Complete Guide to Food Dehydration. Sacramento, CA.
Green, James. 2000. Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.
Gullett, Walt, and Jane Gullett. 1981. Everyone's Guide to Food Self-Sufficiency. Happy Camp, CA: Naturegraph.
Hertzberg, Ruth, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene. 1975. Putting Food By. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Greene.
Hobson, Phyllis. 1981. Build Your Own Underground Root Cellar. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications.
* Hobson, Phyllis. 1994. Making and Using Dried Foods. North Adams, MA: Storey.
Holm, Don, and Mytrle Holm. 1996. Food Drying, Pickling, and Smoke Curing. Caldwell, ID: Caxton.
Kaysing, Bill, and Ruth Kaysing. 1996. Eat Well for 99 Cents a Meal. Port Townsend, WA: Loompanics.
Kerr Group. N.d. Home Canning and Freezing Book. Jackson, TN.
Macmaniman, Gen. 1973. Dry It--You'll Like It. Fall City, WA. Self-published.
McTague, Imogene. 1980. Jams, Jellies, and Preserves. 1980. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications.
Mindell, Earl, and Larry Johns. 1999. Amazing Apple Cider Vinegar. Los Angeles: Keats.
Neff, Bernice. 1984. Let's Dry It. Blaine, WA: Hancock House.
Peterson, Marlene. 1998. Marlene's Magic with Food Storage. N.p. Self-published.
Proulx, Annie. 1980. Making the Best Apple Cider. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications.
Romanowski, Frank, and Mark Larrow. 1999. Making Vinegar at Home. Northampton, MA: Beer and Winemaking Supplies.
Schufer, Vicki. 1997. "Winter Foraging." Wilderness Way 3, 4 (Winter):35-38.
Stevens, James. 1998. Don't Get Caught with Your Pantry Down. Austin, TX: Historical Publications.
1. One that stones.
a. One who is habitually intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
b. One who is a delinquent or failure. , Carol. 1977. Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow, Naturally. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.
Storey Communications. 1978. Cold Storage for Fruits and Vegetables. Pownal, VT.
Survival Press. N.d. Food Storage for Survival. E1 Dorado, AR: Delta.
U.S. FDA. 2003. Preventing Foodborne Illness. Washington, D.C.: Publication No. 03-1300.
* These titles are available from the Countryside Bookstore. 1-800-551-5961
Dr. David Kowalewski is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at Alfred University, where he has taught courses on Wild Edible Plants, Wildlife Tracking, and related topics. His articles on wild plants have appeared in Educational Research Quarterly, Green Teacher, and elsewhere. He is the author of Deep Power: The Political Ecology of Wilderness and Civilization (Nova Science, 2000).
DAVID KOWALEWSKI, PH.D.
ALFRED, NEW YORK Alfred is both a town and a village nested in Allegany County, New York, United States.
Table 1. Natural preservatives for storing wild plants. Universals: Salt, honey, sugar, vinegar, alcohol, citrus juice. Specifics: Antibiotics: hops, allspice, cloves, mace, cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, chilies, nutmeg, turmeric, vanilla, bamboo, thyme, garlic, onion, oregano, juniper, tarragon, cumin, lemongrass, rosemary, marjoram, mustard, bay, sage, fennel, coriander, dill, basil, eucalyptus, parsley, tobacco, yarrow. Anti-fungals (vs. mold or mildew): eucalyptus, alfalfa, thyme, crowberry, red cedar, coltsfoot, usnea, garlic, angelica, club moss, tansy. Anti-insects: wood-smoking, white fire-ashes, fleabane, black pepper, cloves, sagebrush, cedar, birch bark, fir, elder, chokecherry, pineapple weed, bay, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, mints, catnip, tansy. Anti-oxidants: tannins, vitamins C and E, plantain chicory, heal-all, huckleberries, haws, grapes. Anti-rodents: walnut leaves, sagebrush, peppermint, cedar, juniper, Labrador tea, mints, birch. Anti-mice: spearmint. Anti-rats: catnip. Table 2. Criteria of desirability for winter storage of wild plant species. Non-threatened species (wild ginger vs. chicory) Environmental impact (root vs. leaf) Invasive species (wintergreen vs. purple loosestrife) Unavailability in winter (Jerusalem artichoke vs. nettle) Seasonal availability (aster vs. dandelion) Geographical range (day lily vs. wild asparagus) Abundance at a site (agrimony vs. violet) Winter value [tonic, anti-viral, fat, protein, vitamin D] (strawberry vs. elderberry) Ease of gathering (burdock root vs. sedum tuber) Ease of preparation (thistle vs. dandelion leaves) Cost [containers, electricity, menstra, and so on] (Japanese knotweed vs. dandelion) Edible parts (elderberry vs. wild strawberry) Amount of food [weight and volume] (violet vs. dock leaves) Nutritional value (wild lettuce vs. cattail) Safety [toxic look-alikes, contraindications] (wild carrot vs. lambs quarters) Taste and texture [personal and wildcrafter consensus] (mountain ash vs. raspberry) Food uses [appetizer, soup, salad, stir-fry, potherb, and so on] (bee balm vs. nettles) Ways to store (fleabane vs. day lily) Natural preservative [see Table 1] (dandelion vs. mint) Storability [maintenance of color, texture, taste, aroma] (coltsfoot flower vs. day lily) Storage space (wild apple vs. elderberry) Shelf-life (dandelion vs. clock leaves) Other uses [medicinal, cosmetic, craftal, insect repelling, and so on] (chicory vs. mullein) Table 3. Top 15 list of wild plants for winter storage. Score Plant 62 cattail 61 dandelion 61 coltsfoot 61 mints 61 goldenrod 60 dock 59 nettles 59 amaranth 59 elder 58 lambs quarters 57 day lily 57 wild .strawberry 57 plantain 56 sassafras 55 seaweed Table 4. Criteria for judging storage methods. Criterion Nature's Fridge Drying Pickling Freezing Gathering labor high average average average Preparation labor none low high average Nutritional value high high low average Financial cost very low low high high Storage space none low high high Safety high high risky average Shelf life average very long average short Storage loss low average average high Flavor and texture high high average average Portability weight none very low very high high Portability volume none very low very high high Table 5. Best plants in "nature's fridge." Subterraneans (A): arrowhead; biennial first-year roots (B); cattail; chicory; dandelion; day lily; Jerusalem artichoke; sedum; sweetflag; thistle Needle boughs: non-toxic evergreen trees (C,T) Lichen: reindeer moss Leaves: bedstraw; brooklime; chickweed; Labrador tea; partridgeberry (T); watercress; wintercress; wintergreen (T) Fruits: barberry; bearberry; cranberry; crowberry; highbush cranberry; juniper; mountain ash; nannyberry; persimmon; rosehip; sumac; wild apple Seeds/Nuts: acorns; dock; plantain Sap (D): maple; birch Inner bark (D): edible evergreen trees (C) Key: Italics: excellent color, taste, and texture, according to personal preference and other wildcrafters' consensus. A--roots, rootstocks, rhizomes, tubers, corms. B--say, burdock; these might be found next to dead second-year stalks of the previous year. C--say, pine; D--late winter or early spring; T--normally used only as a tea. Table 6. Best plants for freezing. Subterraneans: burdock; cattail; chicory; dandelion; garlic; leeks; sweetflag; wild onion Spring shoots: cattail; day lily; Japanese knotweed Stems/stalks: milkweed (E); mushroom stems; thistles (F); wild rhubarb Leaves: amaranth; aster; daisy; dame's rocket; dandelion; dock; field pennycress; garlic mustard; heal-all; Japanese knotweed; jewelweed; lambs quarters; leek; mallow; marsh marigold (E); milkweed (E); prickly pear (F); sedum; sow thistle; wild lettuce; wild mustard; wintercress (T) Reproductive spikes: cattail Buds/flowers: day lily; heal-all; milkweed (E); rose; wintercress Fruit: barberry; blackberry; blueberry (including bilberry, huckleberry); elderberry; mountain ash; mulberry; prickly pear (F); wild raspberry; sumac (G); wild strawberry Juice (H): wild apple; black cherry; chokecherry; highbush cranberry; sumac (G); wild grape Seedpods: milkweed (E) Seeds/nuts: acorn (E); pine nut Key: E--boil in 1-2 changes of water first. F--remove spines and glochids first. G--make juice with cold water. H: for ice-cube popsicles, purees, and sauces. Table 7. Best plants for drying. Subterraneans: blackberry (T); cattail (I); chicory; coltsfoot; dandelion; burdock; sassafras (T); sweetflag; wild ginger; wild parsnip Leaves: amaranth; bee balm (T); bird-foot trefoil; blackberry; black-eyed Susan (T); blueberry; blue vervain (T); catnip (T); chickweed; coltsfoot; dock; fleabane (T); ginkgo (T); garlic mustard; golden ragwort (T); goldenrod; green-headed coneflower (T); hedge bindweed (T); comfrey; hemp nettle (T); horsetail (T); Japanese knotweed; mallow; marsh marigold; melilot (T); mints; motherwort (T); mugwort (T): mullein (T); nettles (J); pearly everlasting (T); prickly pear; purple loosestrife (T); raspberry; sassafras; seaweed; sheep sorrel; turtlehead (T); vervain (T); violet; wild basil; wild strawberry; yarrow (T) Lichen: reindeer moss (K) Flowers/tops/buds: clover; daylily; honeysuckle (T); mushrooms (L) Pollen: cattail Fruit: barberry; bearberry; blueberry; cranberry; currant; elderberry; haw; juniper; serviceberry; sumac; wild apple (M); wild cherry; wild plum; wild raisin Seeds/nuts/grains/pods/keys: amaranth; acorn (N); bulrush; dock; fennel; goldenrod; hazel; hickory; lambs quarters; maple; nettles; peppergrass; plantain; reed; sunflower; walnuts; wild carrot; wild mustard Key: I--peel rhizome, dry well, then eat soon to avoid mold. J--stings are removed upon drying (after 24-48 hours) or boiling. K--soak 24 hours, boil, dry, grind to powder. L--dry the tops, gills down, on screens and store in cloth or paper bags. M--slice thin, dip in sumac juice, and dry on hung thread; or puree then dry as "leather." N--in shells in mesh bags, or ground-up as flour. Table 8. Best plants for pickling. Subterraneans: dandelion; day lily; evening primrose; leek; wild carrot; wild parsnip. Spring shoots: day lily; cattail; Japanese knotweed. Galls: goldenrod. Buds/flowers: dandelion; day lily; marsh marigold (E); milkweed (E).