It is cold. The weather keeps getting worse instead of better. 38 degrees today. Down to 34 tonight with a chance of snow.
Today’s new plant is the Bigleaf Aster. Also called the Large-leaved Aster, Big-leaved Aster or many more. You get the idea. An Aster with big leaves. My favorite name? The Big-Assed Leafster.
This plant grows in big blankets around the forest floor.
It is not a delicious plant in my opinion. But also not terrible. More of a good survival plant than a daily vegetable. It is very easy to gather. Easy to gather means less calories expended which could mean life or death in a survival situation.
It can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. The flowers that come out later are also edible. The plant is said to be very nutritious.
The roots are not necessarily edible but have been used by the Iroquois and Ojibwa for medicinal uses.
The top of the leaves are smooth while the bottom and stems are fuzzy. At this time of the year they can be confused with Bitter Dock, which is also edible. Later they look much different. Seeing them side by side shows they are quite different. The video displays the features a little better.
I mentioned Trout Lilies earlier. Today I went back down to Oil Creek to collect some bulbs. Trout Lily bulbs are crunchy and delicious but they are tiny and difficult to gather. You need to not only dig the plant, you need to dig the area. The bulbs could be up to a foot away from the plant they are attached to.
Note in the picture the long stringy roots. The bulbs are at the end. The roots themselves taste a lot like the bulbs. These bulbs are very tiny. I have found them up to marble size. Shooters.
The video is a tour along beautiful Oil Creek several miles from my cabin.
Today it is very rainy. I gathered my food in the rain. Then when I thought there was a break in the rain I shot my video. But the rain didn’t hold off.
Today I ate the tree my daughter planted in third grade. She is 29 now and the tree is over 40 feet tall.
It is a Linden tree. Also called a Basswood. The leave are one of the best salad leaves you will find in the wild.
These are very young leaves. If I would have been a few days earlier I could have eaten the buds. They are good too. Linden leaves have no strong flavor. Much like iceberg lettuce isn’t strong it takes various dressing very well.
The next item is Ground Ivy or Gill-,Over-The-Ground. This grows in many yards.
It is very aromatic. In fact it is used as an essential oil. Essential oils do not mean they are essential for life like essential amino acids or essential vitamins. It simply means it is the essence of the plant. Extracted as oil usually by steam extraction. They are often used for aroma therapy. Because of this Ground Ivy does have a strong flavor. It is all edible but probably best as an additive to soups or salads or other recipes rather than eaten by itself.
Finally, I have also collected a plant I have already talked about. Garlic Mustard.
But this time I am not using the low, fresh leaves for flavoring. After my last comments about the plant I was informed that the stems are also quite good.
They can be boiled, steamed or fried much like green beans or asparagus.
I was not aware of this. I thought they were too tough and stringy. But then so are many domestic vegetables until they are cooked properly. I also look forward to trying these pickled.
Second day of 30. And I’m hungry. Still looking for that hamburger tree. Just kidding.
Today I will start on two items that will become a staple of my 30 days.
First is Cattail.
Yes. That is a cattail. They aren’t very big at this stage and don’t have the familiar “cattail” flowering top.
But that is not the part I am eating now. Spring is the time for cattail shoots.
They are easily pulled out with a squeak. The white part on the end is what you eat. When you get to the green it starts to get tough. Also when they get over a foot or so tall they are too stringy and somewhat pithy.
I will be eating other parts of the cattail during this 30 days.
The next plant is one of my favorites.
Those are Daylily shoots. You may not recognize them now but if you are from around here I guarantee you have seen them growing along the roads. (Not a good idea to eat the ones along highways. The state sprays there.)
Every part of these are edible. Later, the flowers are delicious. Today I am eating the shoots and the tubers.
The shoots are similar to the Cattails above. But they are much tastier. They can be eaten raw, stir fried or boiled.
The tubers are like tiny potatoes. They too can be eaten raw but the flavor is a bit strong to eat too many this way. Cooking tames them a bit. The flavor is good though. And the crunchy texture is great. The can be cooked any way you would potatoes. Or as a garnish for other dishes.
The video contains a couple other plants but I will wait for another day to make them part of my meal.
By the way. When preparing wild foods I recommend two main seasonings. Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Salt and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.
I will also start showing the prepared meals in a couple days when I get used to the video camera.
Today I started the 30 More Days Living Off The Land.
These daily posts will contain only the basics of the days activities. A complete version will be written at the end of the 30 days, along with extra videos.
I made a morning introduction video.
<video to be placed here after editing>
I then proceeded to gather foods from around my land.
Today were some very basic and common plants.
Violets are easily recognized by many people. But many people are not aware of the food source in their yard. The official name is Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia). It is not only edible it is also high in vitamin A and C. It is native to the Eastern US has been used medicinally for various illnesses such as colds, coughs and sore throats.
It is not bitter, like so many wild plants are. It can be eaten raw or added to other prepared foods. Both the flowers and leaves are edible.
I gathered them today and plan on eating them uncooked, mixed in a simple salad.
I am 6′ 2″ and just over 200 lbs. The amount of violets in the picture will not fill me up. This just for display. I will be picking much more for my meals today.
The next item on the menu is even more common and recognizable than the violet.
The dandelion is the bane of purist groundskeepers.
The common name is a corruption of the French dent de lion, meaning lion’s tooth. This refers the sharp toothed leaves.
I am gathering several parts. In fact I just collect the entire plant. The only unusable part is the extremely bitter flower stem. Even this could be eaten but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The most obvious and easily gathered part is the flower.
Once again, be sure to remove the entire stem.
Next, the leaves are collected. The younger the leaves, the less bitter they are. Note I said less bitter. To me, at least the leaves are always somewhat bitter. As a child my father used to make a simple gravy with vinegar, flour, milk and sometimes bacon. This gravy did a good job of making the leaves palatable. I believe my father got the recipe from his childhood Amish neighbors.
now on to my favorite part of the Dandelion. Called the crown. This is at the base of the leaves and stem. It the part between the leaves and the root. I like it because it can be stirred fried or sautéed and is somewhat crunchy and very little bitterness.
Finally the last part that I never use. The root.
I am told the roots can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute. I don’t care for regular coffee so I am not looking for a substitute. Coffee smells like the northbound end of a southbound skunk to me. But that may just be my senses. Feel free to try it.
On to a plant that is never a main course for me. I usually use Garlic Mustard as a condiment or flavor enhancer.
As it’s name implies Garlic Mustard has a garlic flavor. And it is one of the many members of the mustard family. I add it to soups or salads.
It is best to use the first year leaves. They grow low to the ground and have better flavor. The second year they grow tall and go to seed.
And finally, one of my least favorite, but always available spring plants. Wintercress is often the first plant you will see in the spring. And as it’s name implies it is often found shooting up through the snow in late winter. Which is probably why it has the common name Yellow Rocket.
I find Wintercress to bitter with no flavor I like. But I eat it when available. It reminds me of arugula. Another domestic vegetable I don’t care for.
The tops before the yellow flowers come out are somewhat like broccoli. Not in flavor, just in looks.
So here is a plate with all of today’s plants.
Again, this is not the actual meals. Just the ingredients. I will prepare them to make them more enjoyable. During this 30 days I will cover some of the recipes for these plants. I will be eating them regularly while adding many more for variety.
I will soon begin an updated version of 30 Days Living off the Land. I first did this in 2010. At that time I was still living in the house in town. Now I will be actually staying in the woods. In addition I will be filming parts of it. For those who never heard of the original, here is a quick summary. For 30 days I will live only on what I gather from the woods around me. Wild plants. Fish. Animals.
Originally I went from April 15th to May 15th. Since winter seems to be holding on longer than it did 11 years, and to include some late bloomers, I am starting a week or so later than I did in 2010. And based on snow in the forecast May 1st, Beltane, might be a good official starting point.
However, I will be gathering some early items and posting “an early start” here.
Today my mother passed away. She was ready to go be with her husband. But once again I was not ready for her to go. I should have been prepared but I know I will miss her forever. If ever there was a person who deserved the title “Saint” it was her. Her entire life was helping people. She and my father were a perfect match.
My old generator isn’t running good and it is under-powered. So I got a new one with electric start and dual fuel, gas and propane. I have setup a protective box with insulation and venting to reduce noise. It is working well and the remote start is nice. I can now have a pump regulator for indoor plumbing.