Posts Tagged ‘Wild Foods’

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wild Foods: Cattails

TOS_CattailsLast winter I spent three months exploring East Africa, traveling through ten different countries and covering over 8,077 miles. I was continuously impressed with how much local guides knew about their surroundings, in particular the human uses of various plants. In some instances we could not walk more than ten feet without stopping to learn about another plant and all the ways it could save your life.

This experience made me curious about plants in my own backyard. A quick skim of foraging articles on the Internet revealed that cattails, with their various edible parts, are often referred to as “nature’s supermarket.” I was thrilled to learn that I had a 40-acre produce section right outside the back door. » Continue Reading.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cattails: A Culinary Tale of Nine Lives

cattailsThe two cats at my place have survived many life-threatening traumas such as falls, fights and even the compulsory “devotions” of small children. It’s amazing the hazards they can evade. I think if pets could drive, only dogs would get speeding tickets – cats would always find ways to wriggle out of a citation. Sadly, my contacts in the veterinary field continue to assert that cats have but a single life, and that the whole “nine lives” thing is just a cat tale.

However, the story about cattails having (at least) nine lives is no yarn. An obligate wetland plant, the common cattail (Typha latifolia) is native to the Americas as well as to Europe, Africa and most of Asia – basically the planet minus Australia, all Pacific Islands and most Polar regions. It can be found growing along wetland margins and into water up to 30 inches deep, from hot climates to Canada’s Yukon Territory. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Samaras: Maple’s Other Delicacy

TOS_SamarasHelicopters. Keys. Whirligigs. Samaras. Whatever you call the winged seeds released by maple trees, here’s one more word for them: delicious.

Like many New Englanders, I have fond childhood memories of dropping maple “helicopters” from a height and watching them twist and twirl down to the ground. My children do the same now. They gather fistfuls of maple samaras, toss them over the railing of the upstairs porch, and watch them flutter earthward. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wild Salads: Eat Your Weedies

TOS_wild_saladIn the early 1960s, Euell Gibbons wrote Stalking the Wild Asparagus and introduced millions of North Americans to the virtues of harvesting wild foods. Since that time, gathering wild edibles has become increasingly popular, and in our region, woods-grown delicacies such as ramps and fiddlehead ferns appear in grocery stores each spring.

Yet you don’t have to lace up your hiking boots to enjoy the wild repast. If you resist the urge to use herbicides, you are likely to find a diverse array of edible wild plants growing in your lawn and vegetable garden. » Continue Reading.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Running Silver:
Restoring The Fish Migrations of Atlantic Rivers

Running SilverEver wonder what pristine runs of migratory fish in Atlantic rivers looked like to early colonists? Some saw so many salmon, shad, alewives and other species that they said the waters “ran silver” with fish as they swam upstream to spawn.

John Waldman’s Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations (Lyons Press, 2013) covers the biology, history, and conservation of shad, salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, eels and the others that complete grand migrations between fresh and salt waters.

This includes the evolution of these unique life cycles, the ingenious ways that native people and colonists fished for these species, ‘fish wars’ between mill dam operators and fishermen, the ravages of damming, pollution, and overfishing, and more recent concerns such as climate change, power plant water withdrawals, and the introduction of non-native species. » Continue Reading.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ed Kanze: A Brush With Nightshade

ed_kanze_nightshadeDone anything stupid lately? As much as it pains me to admit it, I have. I’ve eaten wild foods all my life and never made a mistake identifying them. Until now.

Listen and hear the cautionary tale of a naturalist biting the wrong fruit and nearly biting the dust in the process on this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dan Crane: The Edible Adirondacks

Adirondack wooded gardenSpending time in the Adirondack backcountry requires an entire menagerie of skills, including navigation, endurance and tolerance for being the object of affection for hordes of bloodthirsty flies. Often overlooked are those skills necessary to survive in the wilderness for an extended period without all the convenient gear and compact foods typically carried by most backcountry enthusiasts.

These skills include, but are certainly not limited to, building a shelter, starting a fire and finding something to eat. Although these skills are useful when impressing members of the opposite sex far from civilization, these skills just might mean the difference between life and death when forced to spend a few unexpected days in the remote backcountry.

One important survival skill is locating edible wild foods in the backcountry. Whether lost and in dire need of sustenance or just curious about sampling the local cuisine, knowing what to eat, when and how is crucial to avoid a mouthful of something disgusting, or worse. Although the dense Adirondack forest may appear devoid of anything remotely resembling nourishment, the backcountry is full of nourishing, if not delicious foods, with only the knowledge of where to look for them lacking.
» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Burdocks and Cockleburs: Have Hooks, Will Travel

bursHang off, thou cat, thou burr! vile thing, let loose,
Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent!

-William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The aroma of wood smoke lingers as you take your evening stroll. The sun has slipped behind the hills as the moon takes its watch at the other end of the valley. It’s the moment of twilight when solid figures are no longer discernible from shadows, and so you fail to notice the tiny hitchhiker lurking beside the path.

Upon your return, you reach down to untie your shoes and feel a painful pinch. After a blood-curdling “YOWCH!” you reach the light switch. Once your eyes adjust, you see the culprit – a spine-covered bur.

It’s no easy task getting to the roots of a burdock plant (anyone who’s ever tried to pull one out of the soil will know this pun is intended). Both burdocks (in the genus Arctium), and their look-alike cousins the cockleburs (in the genus Xanthium), belong to the aster family, a huge group that includes sunflowers and goldenrods. They are also both characterized by a tendency to prick fingers and ride through the laundry cycle on socks. » Continue Reading.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wildlife Food: More On Mast

nutsHard mast, the term used to refer to the nuts wild trees produce, is humbling this way. We know that, generally speaking, trees require a lot of energy to produce nuts, and so a tree won’t produce them every year. The books say every two or three years for beech nuts and three to seven years for oaks, but take it all with a grain of salt.

There are advantages, from a tree’s perspective, to being unpredictable. Abundant years followed by lean years keep seed predators in check. (Biologists call this predator satiation.) In a good year, the woods are flooded with nuts – more than any squirrel or mouse can eat. The next fall, when rodent populations are high thanks to all the easy living, the trees take the year off and the surplus rodents starve.
» Continue Reading.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beechnuts, Acorns and Whitetail

MAst and whitetailIt’s a good year for beechnuts and acorns. Beechnuts – the fruit of the American beech tree – are a small three-sided edible nut. Since they are high in protein and fat, they’re favored by Adirondack wildlife along with acorns, or oak nuts, the nut of the oak tree. Both are in the beech family (fagaceae) and play an important role in Adirondack forests. These natural nut crops, known as mast, are very plentiful this year.

Early this summer, while harvesting trees in Warren County, I could tell it was going to be a good year for beechnuts and acorns, as the canopies were full. As the beechnuts matured I often found myself enjoying their bounty – they make a nice snack in the middle of the woods. These crops are not always there for the deer, squirrels, bear and turkey, so I am sure they appreciate the extra snack as well. » Continue Reading.

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