People by nature are hunter-gatherers, although, for most, foraging for food means making a trip to the grocery store or local farmers market. But the thrill of eating something you procured with your own hands can give you an appetite for learning more about all the abundance nature has […]
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is commonly thought of as a weed, but they are actually one of the most nutrient-dense plants you can eat, and they’re likely growing in your backyard. All parts are edible, and the taste resembles a slightly bitter green, like arugula. You can eat them fresh in salads or boil them with other greens.
Groundnut (Apios americana) is one of the more unknown native edibles. Related to beans, groundnuts form a vine that produces a tuberous fruit and can be used in recipes as a substitute for potatoes. Groundnuts take two or three years to grow to a usable size and can be found in low thickets and along streams and ponds, or they can be grown in raised beds or pots.
Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as sunchoke, can be found on the borders of streams, ponds, and prairie wet spots. The edible parts of sunchokes are the elongated tubers, and these can be consumed raw in salads, pickled, or used to flavor meat stews. The flower petals are also edible and can be used to garnish salads.
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) grows in the open woods, in streams, along fencerows, and along roadsides. The lacy white flower clusters can be breaded and fried for a tasty fritter. The berries become ripe in August through September and are best when dried and used for baking or in the production of wine.
Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is one of the tastiest wild fruits and can be found along the borders of woods, in prairies, and abandoned fields. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, a locally grown persimmon can predict the weather according to the shape of the kernel inside. If the kernel is spoon-shaped, expect plenty of snow to shovel. If it is fork-shaped, plan on a mild winter with powdery, light snow. If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect frigid winds that will “cut” like a blade.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) is similar to a blueberry and can be found in open woods and steep wooded slopes and bluffs. The fruit is delicious to eat raw or can be made into a jelly or pie.
Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) is not only a delicious mushroom, but also has health benefits like lowered blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. These clusters can be harvested from September through November and are usually found at the base of oak trees.
Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) are a summer mushroom harvested June through August and best sautéed in butter and onion and used in soup or even as a pizza topping. Beware as they are dangerously similar to the poisonous Jack-o-lantern mushroom (Omphalotus illudens).
Following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, Josh remembers squirrel and rabbit hunting when he was barely able to carry a gun. As he grew, hunting became more than a hobby — it became a passion. “It’s the connection to nature and experiencing all the woods has to offer that keeps me coming back for more,” he shares. He remembers the first time his dog, Ina, had a successful quail hunt. “She was looking birdie, pointed, and then flushed a giant cubby of quail,” he reminisces, smiling.
While most might assume hunting deer is best for a novice hunter, he suggests squirrel hunting. “They are a small game but there are lots of them – teaches you how to be quiet and sneak around in the woods,” Josh says. “And don’t worry if you scare one off — there are dozens more.”
Josh loves the challenge of cooking the parts of wild game that are usually discarded. “The front shoulder of the deer is tough and sinewy, but braised low and slow with a little red wine, and you’ve got something surprisingly flavorful.”
“Wild leeks grow naturally in woodlands and shaded areas. You can find extensive locations where they grow, but when people discover them, they harvest too much. I want to teach people to grow them on their own land and learn to take only a little,” she says.
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