Walk lightly and take only what you need.
Hungry? Looking for a free meal? Well, you’re in luck! Food is all around you! There is a literal cornucopia of wild edible foods right under your feet and you probably don’t even know it! Learning to wild forage can help you become more aware of your environment, and the abundance of wild food that surrounds you every single day of your life! Once you know how to identify wild edible plants and wild edible mushrooms, you will feel a lot more self sufficient and confident that no matter what happens, you will always be able to feed yourself and your family!
In this blog I am documenting my experiences with wild foraging, wild edible foods, plant and mushroom identification and all the beautiful things I find along the way. Here you will find a wealth of images and information about wild foraging, wild mushroom hunting, wild fermentation, gardening and other skills that feed into a self sufficient and sustainable lifestyle.
This site is newly constructed and I am still in the process of entering in all of the wild mushrooms and plants that I have encountered over the past several years. This will of course take some time, but in the meantime feel free to check out all that I have gotten loaded up into the site so far, and then you can also visit my Facebook pages, which contain much of the same information I am working to enter into this website, dating back over several years. Thanks and enjoy!
Thanks for visiting and please check back often!Read More
You don’t need to be a seasoned wild foraging expert to be able to recognize dandelions. In fact, dandelions are probably one of the best known wild edible foods in the entire world. Most people know that dandelion greens can be eaten, and most people have probably also heard that dandelions can be made into wine, but then why do so many people spend so much time and money trying to eradicate them from their lawns instead of eating them? They probably just don’t know how tasty dandelions are! In this article I am going to show you a couple of things you can do with your dandelion crop from your own lawn, rather dump harmful chemicals into your land to eradicate them, I’ll show you how to get rid of them by eating and drinking them!
One of the easiest ways to get into wild foraging is to start in your own front yard! Almost everyone who has a lawn will have dandelions pop up at some point or other. Why not make use of these dandelions and become a wild foraging wine maker in the process? People who are new to home brewing and wine making might not realize how easy it is to make dandelion wine. With a minimal investment of time and money, you can turn those pesky weeds that ruin the pristine appearance of your front lawn into a fine table wine! To get started making dandelion wine, first you will need a gallon sized jug. I’ve found these for sale online for cheap, just around $4, or you can try to find local apple cider sold in a gallon sized glass jug, or even re-use the glass jug from a gallon size purchase of store bought wine. After you get your jug you will need an airlock. You can buy a S-type airlock and rubber stopper for around $5 total online, or if you are strapped for cash you can use a balloon with holes poke through it with a pin (don’t put the holes in while it is inflated with air). The purpose of the airlock is to prevent oxygen from entering the jug while simultaneously letting carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation process out of your jug. If you are buying your jug and airlock online, you might as well also purchase the brewing yeast you will need for your dandelion wine then too. A packet of wine yeast will cost you around $3. I chose to use champagne yeast because I like it, and had a bunch on hand already. You could use any other wine yeast you like, or you could even delve deep into the wild foraging bag of tricks and make use of a wild yeast, but that will be a topic for a different post. Right now, let’s just get this wild foraging wine making party started!
Now that you have gathered the items you were likely to not have on hand already, it’s time to start “wild foraging” dandelions from your front yard, or else from some location that you are sure is not treated with harmful chemicals. Go outside in the early part of the day, after the dandelion flower heads have all opened wide. Collect the dandelions that are cleanest and without signs of spoiling. You will need roughly a gallon of dandelion flower heads. I just use a gallon size container to measure as I forage the dandelion heads. I know, I know, we’re still in our own front yards, so it’s not technically wild foraging, but everyone’s gotta start somewhere! Feel free to compress the dandelions down in the container to jam as many dandelions flower heads in there as you can. Try to collect as little of the green parts as you can because once you’ve collected the dandelion flowers, the next step is the only real pain in the butt in the whole process – separating the dandelion petals from the green parts. You want to try to remove all the green you possibly can. The green portions will impart a bitter taste to your wild foraged dandelion wine, although some folks I talk to say they are too lazy to go through this step and leave the green, and find their dandelion wine to still taste great, so it’s up to you. Personally, I like my dandelion wine to be as floral and clear as I can make it, so I spend the time pulling the petals out from thee green. If you are taking the time to separate the petals from the green, good for you. if you’re bored, maybe now is a good time to play the old game, she loves me, she loves me not! Maybe you’ll find true love in the process! but you probably won’t love doing it though…I know I didn’t…the act of separating the petals is quite tedious but I put on a nice jazz concert in the background, and did my best to enjoy the process. Most likely you’ll just be glad when it’s over, as the total time spent here will be at least an hour, most likely 2 hours. But that there is the hardest part! Now go show someone how your fingers have stained black! Whuuut?! Yes, that’s right, you’ll see!
The next step is the fun part — magically transforming your wild foraged dandelions into wild wine! This part always makes me feel like a wizard or an alchemist…First add your yeast and a couple tablespoons of sugar to a cup of warm water and stir those up. Cover that with a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let it sit until it bubbles or froths up. This will take maybe 30 minutes. What you’re doing here is creating what’s known as a “yeast starter”. Basically you’re waking the yeast up and giving them some heat, and food and getting them a head start doing their thing. As that is going on, start to boil a gallon of water. Into the boiling water add your dandelions, the juice of 2 lemons, the thin peeled and sliced rinds of 2 lemons, the juice of 2 oranges, the thin peeled and sliced rinds of 2 oranges, and 4 handfuls of raisins (this will help to add tannins to create the proper body and mouth feel) and 4 cups of sugar. I also happened to add in a handful of wild foraged rose hips that I had on hand just because I thought it would be a good opportunity to use them up. You can experiment with additional flavorings as you like.
Let all this boil for an hour, then turn off your heat and allow your brew to cool to around 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it cools, add in your yeast starter, which should have a nice frothy head on it now, and stir every well. Cover this all with a lid and let it sit now for 3 days, stirring it frequently over the course of those 3 days. After 3 days, strain off the solids (SAVE THEM for the bread recipe next! A little bit of liquid is fine too) and pour your liquids into your gallon size jug. If you happen to have more liquid than will fit in your jug, it’s fine to drink it up! No, it won’t have very much of an alcohol content by now, but what you will taste is a wonderful wild soda like beverage. I was really enamored by my brew at this point and thought it tasted a lot like Orangina soda. I loved it so much I almost aborted the whole brew so I could drink the whole gallon as is! But perhaps that will be another project soon, to make a gallon of wild soda…but since we’re making wine here, go ahead and fit your airlock on the jug, and now the waiting game begins! You will need to let the fermentation process play out for at least 3 months before it is time to bottle your wine. After that, most wild foraging wine makers like to let their dandelion wine age for 6 months before drinking it. I am not so picky, and will sometimes just enjoy the wine after 3 months. In either case, take a taste at the 3 month point so you know what it tastes like then and make up your own mind what you want to do. It will be totally safe to try at that point. No worries!
Now that you’ve made your dandelion wine out of the dandelions you wild foraged, it’s now time to take the leftover solids from the wild foraged wine brewing and use them to make a really delicious, and healthy, dandelion artisan bread. This is a lot simpler than it sounds, and is a great way to make use of all the dandelion flower heads you spent so much time foraging for and then picking apart! Why waste them if you can reuse them? Artisan bread is such a cheap yet delicious bread recipe and works perfectly as a way to re-use up those leftover wine brewing solids. (Hint: this recipe works with several other fruit based wine leftovers as well.)
All you will need is 6-10 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of bread yeast, a quarter stick of butter, a tablespoon of salt, and your left over foraged dandelion wine solids and 3 cups of warm water. Mix 6 cups of flour with all the other dry ingredients and butter in a mixer first, then add in your wine solids, and then your warm water. If your dough is very wet, add more flour until it takes on a more solid state. This is why I said 6-10 cups of flour, you might need it, you might not. I needed all 10 cups when I made my loaves.
Now let your dough rise in a greased bowl with a clean towel laid over it. This can take anywhere from an hour to a few hours. Once the dough has risen, punch it down in the bowl and get the air out of it, then take the dandelion bread dough out and form it into 2-4 circular loaves, whatever you loaf size preference is, and place those formed loaves onto greased cooking sheets and cover them with your towel again to rise. Again, this will take about an hour. Once your loaves have risen, dust them with flour on the top and slice an X across the bread top. This will help it not crack unpredictably as it bakes.
Now we are almost done! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. On the bottom rack, or in your broiler tray, add a couple cups of water to a high walled baking dish. This will create steam which will help to make a fantastic crust to your wild foraged dandelion wine artisan bread. Once the oven is ready, bake your bread for around 25-30 minutes, leaving the oven door shut to keep in the steam. You will want to see golden brown on the outside of your bread to know that it is fully baked. Once it is done, let it sit for at least 10 minutes, although I know this will be near impossible with all the great dandelion artisan bread smells filling the air! Once you taste it you will probably be amazed that such a simple recipe can taste so wholesome and delicious. I think there is really something added to the taste by the addition of the brewing yeasts in the left over wild foraged dandelion wine solids in combination with the baking yeast that really makes this bread stand out. The taste of the left over raisins, dandelions, and fruit rinds all add wonderfully to the taste. And there you have it! You have successfully turned your wild foraging efforts into 2 food items, wine and bread! Congratulations and bon appetite!Read More
Few wild edible foods are more well known by non-wild foraging types as ramps. Despite them being very well known, and despite several years of looking for them, I had yet to find any ramps of my own…BUT my wild foraging mojo must’ve changed this week for me because I finally found ramps! I had eaten ramps before, but never was I able to find my own. Thankfully, I finally did, although with all the ramp laden food I have been eating since, I might have distanced a few friends and family members with my rampy breath!
Sometimes called a wild leek, ramps are a member of the genus Allium and are native to North America and a relative of garlic and onions. This early spring vegetable was once considered a tonic and medicine by Native Americans and early settlers, providing vitamins and minerals sorely needed after surviving the scant, cold winter season. The eager anticipation of these early wild edible foods has carried over today into the many ramps festivals that occur wherever ramps grow in abundance, such as the Southern Appalachian Mountain regions.
Ramps have 2-3 pointed, elliptic, light green, smooth leaves with veins that run parallel. Leaves are anywhere from 4-12 inches long, and 1-3 inches across. The leaves have a somewhat rubbery feeling to them, and sometimes droop towards the ground. The stalk is purple, and hairless and wrapped in a sheath at the base. The whole plant has an onion/garlic like scent to it. The bulb will have anywhere from 2-6 layers, be white and somewhat teardrop or pear shaped with a cluster of fibrous roots at the base of the bulb. The bulb is roughly and inch or so long.
Ramps can be eaten raw or cooked, and as you probably have guessed, ramps have a strong onion and garlic like scent. The flavor in my estimation is better than either. The bulbs have a crisp, sweet yet pungent onion like taste, and smell more potent than the leaves but both parts are edible and delicious. Some folks foolishly throw away the leaves which are a bit less pungent, but no less tasty. Ramps go great with eggs, soups, as a pizza topping, made into a compound butter, mixed into casseroles and rice, or mixed into mashed potatoes. Pretty much any way that you can use scallions, garlic, or onions, you can use ramps much the same way. Sadly, ramps don’t hang around for very long before the leaves die back. By midsummer, the leaves will all have wilted and died. In order to preserve them, chop the ramps up and freeze them for cooked dishes. You can also preserve your ramps through pressure canning.
Due to over-harvesting in recent years however, it is suggested that you only harvest the leaves from your ramps, leaving the bulb behind to continue to grow and hopefully reproduce. If you do dig up the bulbs, be sure to leave more than you took, taking roughly no more than 15% of the ramps growing so that there is enough to repopulate and regrow. Also remember, if you find ramps, especially in a public park, there are probably going to be others who find and harvest from the same patch. If everyone took a bunch from the same spot, there won’t be any ramps for anyone before too long.
Despite this warning, most people who do hunt for ramps will dig up the entire plant, and consume the bulbs, which are admittedly are delicious. I harvested some of the bulbs myself in order to at last try them once, and to be able to be sure of my identification, and take pictures. After trying a few, I replanted the rest in a spot in my yard, hoping to start my own ramp patch with a little bit of luck. However, over-harvesting of the bulbs has actually led to shortages in some areas, forcing local governments to enforce limits and bans on harvesting in order to protect the ramp population. Taking just the leaf top will help ramps re-establish in areas where they have become less abundant. You can also purchase seeds online to try and start your own ramp patch. They liked shaded, woodland type areas with rich, composted soil. The seeds need a period of cold striation, then warm, then cold again and usually take 2 years before they germinate. Knowing how long it took me to actually find ramps in my neck of the woods, I can assure you I won’t be over harvesting them, and will respect the local ramp population by not harvesting too many, and probably won’t harvest any more bulbs now that I know what they’re all about and have made a positive ID. The leaves were plenty tasty, and with the bulbs I transplanted and the seeds I planted, hopefully I will have my own patch of ramps within a few years to do with as I please.Read More
I love when I look down and find a Downy Rattlesnake Plantain. It always makes me stop and be amazed by the beautiful snake skin like pattern drawn in white on evergreen across its fuzzy leaves. It’s not a plantain though, but does resemble one. It is actually an orchid.
The plant is relatively scarce, and in most cases shouldn’t be harvested but does have some history of medicinal use. Native Americans used it to treat a variety of ailments, including treating loss of appetite, bruises, insect bites, rashes and burns.
Despite their scarcity, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain is an evergreen plant and during the winter are one of the few useful plants you might wild forage to treat burns in the wild. It was also used in the treatment of tuberculosis.Read More
This year I’m excited to go foraging for lots of Japanese Barberry fruits to make wine, fruit leathers and jelly. It is an extremely invasive plant that spreads via rhizomes, spreading and produces a great many seeds per plant, which germinate at a very high rate, at roughly 90 percent. It is a food source for local birds, who eat it and scatter the seeds to germinate elsewhere. Due to how invasive it is, I really won’t feel bad going out and collecting lots of the fruits, even if it makes the birds look around a little harder for lunch.
If you decide to also go wild forage some Japanese Barberry, be warned there has been suggested a link between lymes disease and Japanese Barberry due to the plant creating ideal living and breeding conditions for ticks, so dress appropriately and wear lots of bug spray. It will be a few months before the fruits appear though. Right now what you’ll see is the bushes forming little compacted flower heads waiting to unfurl.
While out making my wild foraging rounds today I found a few of these plants in an open field today. They have square Stems which means they’re probably in the mint family. When the leaves are crashed and smelled the scent is reminiscent of oregano, which makes me think this is a Wild Bergamont or Bee Balm. Last season when I came to this same field I found many Wild Bergamot plants here. The leaves also seem to match as they are toothed and lance shaped. The leaves were also purple underneath.Read More