why, WHY eat wild edibles?

Because it’s fun, that’s why!

My son Ethan and I are both very interested in wild food.  The two of us have been checking out books from the library for about a year now.  You might say we are “foraging” for information about foraging.

We don’t have plans to make entire meals out of wild edibles.  For now, our goal is to simply taste things to see if we think they are worth eating more of.

I recently found an interesting book at the library.  Stalking the Wild Asparagus was written in 1962, by the late Euell Gibbons.  295 pages are devoted to Mr. Gibbon’s charming and fascinating identifications and observations on “natural health foods that grow all around us.”  He describes how to gather and prepare each food.  For someone who is interested in the subject, it is impossible not to be inspired by his encouragement to get out and try some of this food. 

From the back of the book:  “Euell Gibbons once reached through the fence that surrounds the White House and harvested four edible weeds from the President’s garden.  Gibbons has found light but satisfying snacks in concrete flower tubs in the mall at Rockefeller Center, and he once bagged fifteen wild foods in a vacant lot in Chicago.  Foraging in Central Park, he collected materials for a three-course dinner, which he prepared and ate in a friend’s apartment on East Eighty-second Street.”  John McPhee

Fascinating, don’t you think?  (By the way, his MOTHER taught him to forage.  He dedicated his book to her.)

So that’s a little background information about why Ethan, Jacob, and I ate wild Day Lily tubers last week. 

First, we dug up a single day lily, which was a four inch tall baby shoot.  As you can see, the clump of roots underneath was large and contained a mass of little tubers:


After Ethan washed them off in the stream, they looked like this:


We took them into the house and scrubbed them until they were nice and clean.  After we trimmed them, we had handful of little tubers.


The three of us each ate one raw.  They were crunchy and similar to a potato.

Then, we boiled the tubers, changing the water one time, until they were soft.


The cooked tubers “were most disgusting” said Jacob and Ethan.  I personally could only eat one.  They had a strange, gas-like aftertaste.  Now, I admit I cannot base my opinion on just one experience.  So, I plan on trying day lily tubers again.  Perhaps we harvested them too early.  Or perhaps there had been a gas spill on the clump we harvested.  I also noted that I did not salt the boiling water, like the book told me to.  Maybe that would help their flavor next time. 

Day lily buds and blossoms can also be eaten, so we plan on trying those this summer.

Other things we plan on trying:  acorns, dandelion, burdocks, elderberries, cattails, wild grapes (if we can reach them), milkweed, hickory nuts, and frog legs.  (Just kidding on the frog legs, we do have an abundance of big frogs in our ponds but I’m not sure I could kill them…..……or eat their legs).  If we can identify any other wild plants, we’ll try those too but these are the ones I know we have on our property.



0 thoughts on “why, WHY eat wild edibles?

  1. I love this!! What a neat thing to do with Ethan. These are the memories and experiences that are going to instill in him a life-long love, and curiosity for the world around him. Great job Shanda!

  2. Elderberry pie is a fave in our family. It is a different taste, but good!When I was a kid, my dad and a friend of his would “harvest” frogs for yummy frog legs!They taste like chicken!:P

  3. Very cool! We only eat dandelions around here. I’m fascinated that the man in the book said he found all that stuff in a city. Very interesting. I would expect it where you live but it seems it would be harder to find where I live. : )

  4. My mom was an avid forager. Some things, like the violet leaves and blossoms in a salad, were good. The dandelion leaves? VILE. Even she couldn’t eat them! My sister and I were always kind of grossed out by it as kids, but now I’m glad to have had that experience – and happy for any chance to share the same with my children!(Oh, and we were NOT grossed out by the wild grape jelly we used to make; and elderberry jelly, even though it smells disgusting while boiling the berries, is the best jelly in the world. YUM.)

  5. Oh I am soo going to have to check out that book! We are growing all kinds of flowers here just for the flower tops and the roots! And don’t forget to try lambs quarter if you can find some! Tastes just like spinach!

  6. Very cool, Shan! I really like the title of the book- nice play on words. I was served fried dandelion flowers once as a child. They were crunchy and salty. Not too bad, actually.

  7. How Fun!My parents have asparagus growing all along their road.  Every year my grandparents go over, and they all pick “Spodigy” (sp?).   (This is one of the Italian ways of saying asparagus!)My dad and grandma will put dandelions in their salads…They’re adventurous that way! ;)It is very interesting how many plants growing out in the wild are edible.  I didn’t know you could eat day lily roots!They look like alot like Fingerlings.Enjoy your day. =)

  8. Never heard of lily tubers. They actually look like they could have tased good. 🙂 I can’t believe how many and how big the tubers were on such a small sprouting lily. What a neat thing to do with your boys. Memory maker indeed!I just found this info. I hope you know how to tell the good from the bad onesThere are a number of edible flowers, weeds and tubers that can be foraged in the wild, especially if you are stranded and in desperate need of sustenance. Identifying edible day lilies is not as easy as it sounds, as some lilies contain alkaloids and are dangerous if consumed. Learning to distinguish between edible day lilies and inedible day lilies could be the difference between life and death, and in a situation where foraging is your only means for survival, you don’t want to take any chances.Read more: How to Identify Edible Day Lilies | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_5783388_identify-edible-day-lilies.html#ixzz1HXgcqbOR <LI class=step itxtHarvested=”1″ itxtNodeId=”8″>Analyze the leaves and stalks of the plant, which should both be hairless.<LI class=step itxtHarvested=”1″ itxtNodeId=”7″> Make sure the petals of the flowers are orange, unspotted and face upward. There are varieties of day lily that have spotted petals, and these are not to be consumed.<LI class=step itxtHarvested=”1″ itxtNodeId=”6″>Check the throat of the flower base, which will be yellow with a red band circling it.<LI class=step itxtHarvested=”1″ itxtNodeId=”5″>Pull the day lily out of the ground and inspect the root tubers, which are also edible. Edible day lily tubers are the fleshy, yellow growths connected to the roots of the plant. Root tubers are where the plant stores nutrients that help it survive during the winter months and regenerate in the spring. Because tubers are nutrient rich, they are an essential edible for foragers in the wild.<LI class=step itxtHarvested=”1″ itxtNodeId=”4″>Determine the time of year in relation to the climate where you are foraging. In southern climates, day lilies flower from April through June, while in northern climates, they flower from June through August.Read more: How to Identify Edible Day Lilies | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_5783388_identify-edible-day-lilies.html#ixzz1HXh7eBr2 Tips & Warnings<LI class=tip>Shoots, petals, leaves, flower buds, seed pods and root tubers are all edible, both cooked and raw.<LI class=warning>Do not overdo it when eating day lilies, as they are a natural laxative. You may experience stomach cramping, diarrhea and dehydration, all components that do not go well when in the wilderness.<LI class=warning>Avoid eating day lilies other than the original, orange variety. While many cultivated species of day lily are edible, you don’t want to take any chances.<LI class=warning>Some people may experience allergic reactions from consuming day lilies.Read more: How to Identify Edible Day Lilies | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_5783388_identify-edible-day-lilies.html#ixzz1HXhel3ZZ

  9. I think it’s fascinating. You never know when that skill might come in handy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51VhG8MKxJYMy husband has talked about how wild asparagus use to grow in the irrigation ditches in El Paso. Free asparagus for the picking…and he won’t even eat ‘store’ asparagus because it doesn’t even compare to what he had as a child.

  10. too cool! This post falls right in line with something I just read by agrarian essayist Scott Russell Sanders in his book, “Writing from the Center.” He describes offering some wild berries to a neighbor boy and getting shut down by the boy’s parent because they ‘never ever eat anything from the wild.” Scott’s response was cool… ” If you hold by that rule, you will not get sick by eating poison berries. But neither will you be nourished from eating sweet ones.” ( page 20). He then goes on to talk about how neat it is to teach children to learn how to spot these edible creations, encouraging parents to realize that if kids can pick spot a “nike basketball shoe from 50 feet away” or identify the latest top 40 song after hearing only 3 notes, they can most certainly learn to spot God’s edible creations or name that tune of the local bluejay. He’s a very cool author- I think you’d like him. very into nature, community, family, and God! blessings and have a great weekend. Happy Foraging!

  11. Foraging for wild edibles is an extremely interesting topic to me! You’ve inspired me to study more on the subject. My latest fascination is with herbs, and they can also be found easily in the wild and are healthy to eat. Every night I’ve been reading about herbs and practicing making herbal tea!Thanks for sharing!

  12. You inspire me. I’ve been interested for a long time, but not enough so to really get out there and learn much. My wild food foraging has been limited to morel mushrooms, wild raspberries, dandelion and lambs quarters and perslane greens. I think I’ll have to branch out.

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