Category Archives: 30 Days Living Off The Land

Day 7 – Bigleaf, Large-leaved, BIG-LEAved Aster

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.

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.

Flowering Bigleaf Aster

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.

Day 6 – Trout Lily Bulbs

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.

Mottled Trout Lily leaf
Trout Lily bulbs and roots

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.

Day 3 – Linden and Ground Ivy in the Rain

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.

Day 2 – Cattails and Lilies and Dirt

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.

Day 1 – The Beginning

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

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.

Common Blue Violets

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.

DANDELION

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.

Lion’s tooth

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.

Dandelion leaves

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.

Dandelion crown with the leaves a root cut away
Dandelion crowns

Finally the last part that I never use. The root.

Dandelion roots

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.

GARLIC MUSTARD

On to a plant that is never a main course for me. I usually use Garlic Mustard as a condiment or flavor enhancer.

Garlic Mustard

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.

Small first year Garlic Mustard leaves at the top left. Large second year on the right

WINTERCRESS

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.

Wintercress or 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.

Main meal – Day 1

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.