Read a great piece yesterday, and watch the accompanying video from Mark Bittman of the New York Times about wild foods that grow in the green spaces and the cracks between sidewalk sections all over the US. This knowledge about what is edible, when they show up, what are the best parts of our plants in our neighborhoods, is actually available from your agriculture university extensions. He goes around with some professors from Berkeley, but I could probably find similar help from the University of Missouri.
Ancient peoples that lived in Missouri must have known all of this, and the knowledge would be handed from mother to daughter from generation to generation. We don’t know this because we brought foods with us from our mothers and fathers, transplanting the potato and corn to live on, and ignoring to a great extent the cornucopia that are available all around us in every season except winter.
There are tons of advantages to eating wild plants. First and foremost in my mind is that they are hardy. That hardiness is passed on to you. Their resistance to disease and pest is passed on to you. They are also as fresh as any food you have ever eaten, because you will eat them practically the moment that you pick them. Nothing is lost from them because they must be picked too early, like commercial fruits. Nothing is lost from them because they were picked too long ago.
If you must eat fruits and vegetables in order to feel like you are eating healthy, you owe it to yourself to find out what grows all around you that you can use. Bittman provides us with this handy guide, click this link and print the guide that comes up. Use it to find things you try every year to kill, that you can eat instead.
Here the accompanying video produced by Bittman and the NYT:
It is possible to find out which plants are best in your locality. I found a great article here at CenterForDeepEcology.Org where they show pictures and describe a short list of plants to start with. This one grows over my privacy fence, for instance:
Edible parts: Grapes and leaves. The ripe grape can be eaten but tastes better after the first frost. Juicing the grapes or making wine is most common. The leaves are also edible. A nutritional Mediterranean dish called “dolmades”, made from grape leaves are stuffed with rice, meat and spices. The leaves can be blanched and frozen for use throughout the winter months.
Here is another great link, but the pictures are not as pretty. The list does not repeat very many plants, either and includes great Missouri fruits like paw paw. I intend to go on excursions this year to find some of these things for myself.
This all has piqued my interest in learning about living off of the land…my land. There is bounty all around us, and there is information all around us concerning how to to take advantage of it. I recommend that you read up and look up. I will, and I will be posting more in the months to follow.