Monday, October 3, 2011

Wild edibles of New England

Today I visited the Oak Knoll Wildlife Refuge in Attleboro, Massachusetts for a combination talk plus walk about edible wild foods.  Finding food in the wild, or 'foraging,' is an activity many Americans do, though it is easily overlooked.  If it sounds strange, consider that hunting and fishing are really just foraging for animals - and that all of our farmed foods were once exclusively wild.  (And we once exclusively foraged.)

Russ Cohen sharing wild food knowledge
Russ Cohen, author of Wild Foods I Have Known... and Eaten guided our three hour adventure.  He brought along with him some fruit "leather," an all-natural snack he makes by simply mashing the berries of the autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and drying the pulp in thin (1/4") sheets in the oven.  No other ingredients needed! And you can feel good about eating them to extinction - they are an invasive species!

Sheep sorrell (Rumex acetosella), a lemony salad green!
Russ introduced us to many other wild edibles that day, including boletes, chanterelles, and sulfur shelf mushrooms, sheep sorrell (excellent tangy salad greens), black walnuts, hickory nuts, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes...  It was hard for me not to start tasting everything at random!  There are plenty of wild plants that do not make good foods so I would suggest getting a guide to foraging in your area, like Russ' book, before cooking up some lethal mushrooms.  Although the talk cost me $18, it all went towards wildlife conservation and I had a great time!

Some beautiful but INEDIBLE wild mushrooms

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