Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
When I was young my Grandma Mama would go on long walks looking for wild edible foods. She would take me with her and she would teach me what was edible and what was a poison look alike. Grandma Mama was born in late 1800s. Eating wild foods was very normal back then.
Grandma Mama and Grandpa Papa lived on a farm in a very rural area. I remember our nearest neighbor lived about a mile and a half from us. Grandma Mama lived through the difficulties of WW1, the great depression, and WW2 but still had plenty of food on the table every day. She learned about wild edible foods from her own mother and Grandmother. Grandma Mama used wild edible foods to supplement the foods she grew in her depression era garden and also her WW1 and WW2 victory gardens. Same garden, just different names for it depending on the years.
Before the age of mass production foods, people looked forward to early spring signs of wild foods. It was just natural to pick wild edibles to supplement everyday meals. Grandma Mama, like so many others, picked wild foods such as lamb’s quarters, wild fennel, dandelion, garlic mustard, white man’s foot (plantain), Indian cucumber, wild chives, polk greens, and a wonderfully mild leek called ramps. But not all wild food on our table was of the green variety. Many times on our walks we would find and pick mulberries, ground cherries, strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, grapes hanging from trees, and sometimes she picked sassafras for tea. We picked up walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, or acorns too.
Wild foods were a big part of the natural diets until after WW2 when industrialized farming started dominating our food supply. Many families depended on wild foods to help them survive during the depression and the rationing years of WW2.
I can remember a few times when Grandma Mama and Grandpa Papa would take us kids to visit relatives who lived a full day’s drive from our farm. Along the way we would stop beside a wooded area or some farmer’s fields for our noon meal. A few things Grandma Mama had brought with us was a big jug of water, some biscuits, a piece of cloth infused with dried bullion, a pot, and a cup for each of us. Grandpa Papa would start a fire in our travel stove and put some water into a pot to start boiling while Grandma Mama went for a walk.
When Grandma Mama came back a few minutes later she would have an apron full of wild foods to rinse off and drop into the pot. We would have soup and biscuits. Delicious! The biscuits were made before the trip started. Sometimes Grandma Mama fried chicken to take with us too. We at it cold and it was delicious too.
Grandma Mama sometimes found fruit for our desert depending on the time of year we traveled. I believe Grandma Mama and Grandpa Papa had made the same trip enough times over the years that they remembered the best stops for finding wild edibles. Ok, maybe they just knew many wild edibles grow near a creek and lots of trees.
Through the years there have been so many horror stories of poison look alike plants that people have become afraid to try any at all. Even I’m leary of picking and eating something I’m not quite sure of. I’ve forgotten many of the warning signs to look for in wild plants. I will only pick and eat what I’m absolutely certain is safe. When in doubt, leave it out.
I feel the presence of my Grandma Mama around me as I look at the signs of spring popping up everywhere. A couple of days ago I went to look at the blooms on my cherry tree and spotted the wild chives. I decided to harvest a few to save for later. Wild chives have a delicate onion taste. I wanted to dig up the bulbs too but I don’t have a shovel. I picked only the tops instead. I washed them several times in vinegar water to clean off any city dust. I cut them into small pieces and lay them out to dry.
Wild chives are very common in many areas. There is a poisonous look alike of wild chives but it doesn’t smell like onions. The poisonous look alike smells like grass. Wild chives stems are round and hollow. The look alike is more flat and is not hollow. Knowing how to find and prepare wild edibles is an essential part of any disaster preparedness. The more you know, the more prepared you will be for whatever the future brings you. It’s also a really good way to stretch a food budget.
Hmm…. sour cream and chives on baked potato sound good for dinner. I remember seeing an empty lot with tons of dandelion greens on the next block. A salad might be nice too.