What a joy it is to teach children about wild food. I like to think of it as spreading the Wild Fire! This past week, I had the privilege of introducing 30 eager learners ages 5 – 30 something (it was a mother daughter week at camp) to their wild heritage in God’s stores.
I shared a favorite Bible verse, Psalms 104:24, “Oh Lord, how many and varied are your works, in wisdom you have made them all. The whole earth is full of your riches.”
Well, they are all around us. Free for the pickin’. A bit of knowledge and a dash of wisdom will help us reclaim what has been given to us by our Creator.
I had brought with me a sample of each of the wild preserved gifts from my own pantry: dried herbs for teas and for reconstituting into food, infused oils for cooking, salves and lotions, cosmetics, herbal vinegars, wild foods pickled, fermented, jammed and jellied, cosmetics made from nature’s bounty, house hold cleansers made from plants, herbal honeys for sweeteners and cough syrups. Currently, hanging from the attic rafters or frozen in the freezer or canned on my shelves I have thousands of dollars worth of free food and necessities.
That got their attention! I also brought with me the main groceries for our Wild Foods Feast that we would be sharing together later. I told them the stories related to gathering them and passed around each item for them to smell and nibble on. Bags of Milkweed flower buds and seed pods, another bag of Lambs Quarter young leaves so much tastier than spinach and far higher in nutritional value, buckets of scarlet red Bee Balm flowers and pungent Peppermint to give as gifts to each child, dried Crabgrass for Crabgrass muffins, dried Nettle for Nettle soup, a jar of sweet and sour Burdock root, and the most exotic of all the groceries, the long awaited for green Cattail heads and some of the male pollen.
With the renewed paradigm that ‘weeds are food’ children can become glib about popping any ole leaf in their mouth and that is dangerous. So I taught them the foraging rules for safety and repeated the warning to not nibble on a plant unless they are 100% SURE OF IT’S ID!”
After lunch we went on a plant walk around the conference center. As I would introduce a plant, explain its identifying characteristics and teach how and when to eat it, everyone sampled them and talked about the taste and how each plant felt in their mouth. Edible leaves and flowers were collected by each girl to make their own personal Wild ID bag. Plants we needed for dinner were gathered in abundance.
Back at the dining hall we dumped out our baskets and sorted them by plant: Dandelion, Violet, Red Clover, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Strawberry Leaf, Daisy, Queen Anne’s Lace, Sassafras, Juniper…
As we did this I taught them how to ‘garble’ the plants to keep only the healthiest ones and compost the rest. Tender leaves were removed from the more fibrous stems for better eating.
The Wild ID Bags were a huge hit. The girls loved making them and they are not only beautiful but educational. The perfect teaching craft!
Our dinner menu needed some wild cooks so each girl choose which recipe they wanted to prepare and set to making dinner in teams.
Here is the menu:
Wild Foods Feast
Bee Balm Tea, Peach Tea, Peppermint Tea
Lambs Quarter Spread w/ Carrot Sticks
Wild Salad w/ Edible Flowers & Wild Dressing
Nettle Soup w/ Burdock Root and Milkweed Shoots
Crabgrass Muffins & Autumn Olive Berry Jam
Dandelion and Wild Greens Egg Casserole
Milkweed Au Gratin (buds and pods)
Pickled Cattail Shoots
Going from team to team giving instruction on how to prepare the wild ingredients, I was blessed by the sheer enthusiasm in the air!
Before we served the meal each cook explained what wild ingredient was in their dish and related it’s nutritional value. The mothers were amazed that their picky eaters were eating Cattail and Milkweed and GRASS muffins! FUN! Several commented on the increased energy after eating wild and that is because most wild foods are far higher in nutritional value than cultivated crops AND we had just picked them so they were enzyme rich and alive.
The favorite recipe was the Crabgrass muffins. I have to admit it is the first time that I had tried these. They were quite green and unappetizing looking but fantastically delicious. Linda Runyon claims that most grasses are edible. I am challenged to pursue this weedy horizon with such a delectable success and grasses are indeed abundant.
Cattail Cobs taste exactly like artichoke hearts smothered with raw organic butter and seasoned with spices. It was fun watching everyone eat them as they would a corn on the cob.
The Dandelion and Wild Green Egg casserole was a combination of all of the wild plants we had collected on our plant walk. Sassafras leaves, Dandelion, Daisy leaves, Red Clover leaves and Blossoms, Violet leaves, Yellowdock, Strawberry leaves… The key to eating wild greens is to cut them small, using a knife or herb scissors, especially when eating them in a raw salad. No one would enjoy eating a whole Dandelion leaf! It is bitter. Bitter is good and necessary for our digestive juices to get flowing, but eat it thoughtfully.
My personal favorite recipe was the Milkweed Au Gratin. I had harvested the last of the flower buds as most had flowered and were beginning the seed pod stage. The flower bud stage tastes like broccoli and the seed pod early stage (less than an inch in length) tastes like the best potato ever! The girls parboiled them both and mixed them into a casserole with raw milk and butter and lots of really good cheddar cheese to melt into the wild goodness. YUM!
Check out the recipes by clicking on the hyper links and try your hand at some wild cooking!
After dinner we sat on the back deck overlooking the Tennessee mountains and sang songs that the girls had composed during the afternoon. I taught them my song, From the Rising of the Sun, and it deeply blessed me to hear their many voices singing praises to God with my simple song. Earlier in the day, I had given them several Bible verses to put to music and sing for the group after dinner. The songs they taught me have been looping in my head ever since.
“From the rising of the sun, to the setting of the sun, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”
“Great are the works of the Lord, they are studied by those who delight in them.” Psalms 111:2
“Oh Lord, how many and varied are Your works, in wisdom You have made them all, the whole earth is full of Your riches.” Psalms 104:24
It was a magical day. A very very busy one but wildly blessed. Here is the poster sized thank you card that the girls made for me and below that a group shot. 🙂