Wild Foods

From spring through fall there are lots of free foods just waiting to be harvested! Although what you find is determined by your geographical area everybody can find something. We live in the northeast and are not listing anything that either one or both of us haven't actually found and eaten ourselves. We suggest that if you are not familiar with the wild foods in your area that you find a person who is and learn from them.

Berries: We have picked raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, wild strawberries and wild blueberries. The wild versions of the raspberries etc. taste pretty much the same as the cultivated versions you buy in the supermarket but are a much better bargain since all you pay for them is your time (and a few pricklies in your fingers) as opposed to $3.99 or more for a tiny package at the store. Wild strawberries and blueberries, although smaller in size, have a far better flavor than the cultivated kind and are well worth the effort.

Purslane: This grows on peoples lawns and aggravates them because they consider it a weed. It grows close to the ground, has roundish, thick green leaves and pinkish stems. It can be eaten raw in salads or sauteed briefly in a little butter and seasoned with salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar...very tasty!

Asparagus: Grows in the woods in the spring. This is exactly the same as the kind you buy for $3.99/lb. in the supermarket. You can identify the place where it grows by looking for the big, feathery looking ferns it turns into later in the summer.

Fiddleheads: Fiddleheads grow up to be ferns too...the ordinary kind you see growing in the woods or near rivers. You pick them when they're just barely up and curled. They look like the top of a fiddle (hence the name) and are covered with a skin much like that of an onion. They can be boiled or steamed and eaten as you would spinach or other greens. They also make a tasty cream of fiddlehead soup. The price for fiddleheads in stores is anywhere from $3.99 to $7.99 per pound.

Mushrooms: If you decide you want to try wild mushrooms be sure to learn from someone who knows what he or she is doing. Some mushrooms can be very dangerous! That being said, there are quite a few easily identifiable edible varieties to be found. We have tried Slippery Jacks (good in stews as they provide a natural thickening agent), Hen of the Woods (huge cluster type mushrooms that can grow as big as 25 pounds!), Oyster Mushrooms and Morels (very hard to find but really delicious!).

Day Lily Buds: These are the unopened buds of the ubiquitous Day Lily plant that you may have seen growing along roadsides...tall plants with large orange flowers. The buds are used extensively in Chinese cooking.

Fish: This is obviously in a different category from the things you can just go out and pick but is still a bargain. All you need is a little fishing equipment and a license. Around here we mostly have trout but there are many other varieties of fresh water fish around the country. Even if you don't care to go fishing yourself you can frequently be the recipient of many fish just by letting your fisherman friends know you want some.

Game: Also a different category and a controversial one since many people are opposed to hunting. Since in our area woodland creatures tend to become a problem (it's not unusual for deer to wreak havoc in apple orchards or bears to attempt entry to people's homes through sliding glass patio doors) hunting is fairly popular here. One or the other of us have tried the following: bear, venison, rabbit, squirrel and wild turkey.

We received the following from Larayne in Washington state: Here in Washington state you don't find blackberries in the markets but they grow abundantly wild. If you dont can or freeze the berries , or make pies you can sell them roadside by the coffee can to those who don't have time to pick them. This is a good money maker for youngsters looking for something to do. We've also picked mushrooms. If you live in an area local to mushrooms you might find some business local that sells to restaurants or to overseas markets. My family and 4 other families went and picked in the woods for about 4 hours. It was great fun. We sold our mushrooms to a business, went home and cleaned up. We then went to a Chinese restaurant. The amount we made picking mushrooms paid for Chinese dinner for 22 people. We had a lot of fun out with the kids that day and all it cost us was gas to get to the woods. Also here's a tip for beef jerky...when I see a roast on sale for 4 dollars I ask the butcher to slice it thin for me . He slices it and rewraps it for free. Then it can go in the freezer until you are ready to make jerky. Marinate over night in terriaki sauce before dehydrating for a different twist on jerky.