I remember when a lot of wild food recipes were more about subsistence than enjoyment. They didn't do much to win over anyone but die-hard foragers. More and more these days we're getting to see the foodie side of wild food. I do love knowing my entire meal was growing wild only hours ago. There's something really visceral about the experience and it's good to know I can find food if I have to. But it's not always that practical. I also like the everyday accessibility of incorporating wild edibles in my domesticated meals. And I like it all to taste good.
My first experience with eating wisteria and redbud flowers was at a wild food potluck years ago. I had recently read you could eat both but hadn't tried. The mild sweet of wisteria, the acidic sour of redbud and the complementary beauty of both sounded perfect for a salad.
So I spent an afternoon foraging the flowers and a few greens around an old abandoned home site. My salad was a big hit with the kids...especially the little girls. They loved picking out the flowers one by one to eat them.
We've been wanting to make this for a while. Since we do our best not to eat factory-farmed meat, it's been a long time since we've eaten anything but tempeh in our Reubens. But I will say it's hard to beat a tempeh Reuben. We've also been trying to stay away from the nitrates in cured meat. One week they'll kill you. The next they're perfectly harmless. Who knows?
Bear grease is a wonderful thing. Anyone who knows me knows my enthusiasm for evangelizing this all natural, all free product. In Camp Cookery, Horace Kephart says, "All of the caul fat [of a bear] should be saved for rendering into bear's oil, which is much better and wholesomer than lard." Made right, it has almost no flavor.
Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is an evergreen shrub native to the southeastern U.S. Yaupon holly produces small white flowers in the spring followed by red berries on female plants that remain through fall. Its small dark green ovate to elliptical leaves are scalloped and occur alternately on the stem. Ilex vomitoria may reach heights of up to 25 or 30 feet. The leaves contain more caffeine by weight than both coffee beans and green tea and it has the highest caffeine content of any plant native to North America. Yaupon holly is also high in antioxidants and less bitter than green tea. It's a close cousin of the South American yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) and its tea is similar in flavor and quality.
Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), or sunchoke, is a wild sunflower native to the central United States. Sunchokes grow up to 12 feet tall. Leaves may be up to three inches wide and eight inches long, while the yellow flowers, occurring in August and September, are generally between one and a half and three inches in diameter. The tubers of jerusalem artichoke have been used as food by Native Americans since before the arrival of Europeans. They have been planted throughout much of the U.S. and Europe and are generally considered invasive.
Plantain, (genus Plantago), is a common weed that originated in Europe but has naturalized throughout the U.S. Common plantain (Plantago major) has rounded leaves, while English plantain, or Narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) has elongated lance-shaped leaves. Plantain has a vast history of medicinal use and has long been considered an important herb. Emerging in early spring, it may be harvested and used until freezing weather kills it.
I won't lie. You aren't gonna win any favor serving these at your stuffy cocktail party.This is something you share with your best friends - the ones who won't lie to your face and tell you that your dirt-like decoction is to die for. They're the ones who would as likely say, "Ew, this is gross... let's go get some beers." Don't get me wrong... it's not unpalatable. It's not even gross if you're accustomed to earthy herbal tea.