Picture this: there we are in the Joshua tree desert, just walking along, when I notice a beautiful plant I know and love, and often buy from the grocery store: ground cherry! Well, I get excited and start eating a whole bunch, and Luke and his mom eat one cherry each. Lucas, in an attempt to bust my balls, goes: isn’t this a nightshade? Nightshades, a family of plants, have both very poisonous members, such as Bella Donna or bittersweet nightshade, but also very edible ones such as tomatoes and peppers. All of
A sudden I start to panic: am I sure of my identification? I’ve never seen this plant in the wild! We turn on the iPad Audubon app and lo and behold, Audubon calls this plant extremely poisonous. Fast forward ten minutes, and we are all on the side of the road with our fingers down our throats, forcing ourselves to puke up this supposedly toxic plant.
Well! Upon further research, Audubon was WRONG. Only the unripe fruit is poisonous, once yellow it is safe to eat. Thank god! But this was a good learning experience. Here are the things I discovered:
– I need to trust myself. I really do know my plants
– I need to slow the f down. I get excited about new things and don’t think through sometimes
– I need to be a thousand percent sure of my ID if I’m going to feed it to other people
– Audubon guides suck and give you misinformation
It was a whole roller coaster of an experience and I’m glad the outcome was what it was: the fruit out of our system, and it being edible in the first place. But nature is a powerful thing and though it provides, it can take away, too.
This was a really good lesson.
My sister had her birthday out in the country, and naturally, the nephews were there. Someone needed to watch them out in the front garden where they can play. I figured it would be a fun activity to try my hand at harvesting grasshoppers with them. In a few hours, we harvested a quarter of a ball jar of grasshoppers, most of which were fat from stealing kale from the garden. I brought them home and froze them to kill them, then removed the heads and legs. I fried them up in butter and chilli and shared them with my roommate ( seen below) because eating grasshoppers kind of freaked me out. But guess what? They were delicious, and honestly quite beautiful! Hooray!
My parents got married in the backyard of the house where I grew up and where they still live. We have always played in a park out back, and though many things have changed about this park, two giant trees with big red berries in the fall have remained. I remember my uncle Mark hopping out of that tree during a round of hide-and-go-seek, and I remember asking my mom if I could eat those bright red fruit, and she said “no”. Fast forward 10 years, knowing a little bit more about botany than I did then, and these red fruit, now identified as pommes, are in fact from a very much edible crab apple tree. So I went out with my mama ad harvested a whole bunch, despite my mom’s fear of bees. We then dehydrated them. My sister hates them, I love them, and they will make a sweet source of carbs for our summer adventure, plus a solid food source in urban spaces.
My buddy luke and I are preparing for a full paleo summer, where we will go out with only food and tools we’ve wild harvested. In prep for this, we’ve been doing a lot of wild harvesting. So I went out with my friend Steve to harvest walnuts that look like tennis balls. It’s hard to find them under the trees but mic easier to find them in squirrel middens!!! (Like stealing walnuts from a squirrel). I filled a couple of bags and went to work, husking them, and turning my hands black. They are now drying in my laundry room, and are soon ready to crack.
This year, my friend Margaret and I, under the pen name “Les Etudiantes Sauvages” (The Savage Students) created a project in an anthropology of the animal course where we attempted to hunt squirrels in order to eat a sustainable, local, and abundant meat source that came out of the city. We discovered a lot of cool things.
1. All over the world, people have different food taboos. In england, where invasive grey squirrels are decimating native red squirrel populations, it is considered a civic duty to eat, and hunt squirrels.
2. The only part you should avoid is the brain. This is where squirrels carry most of the diseases.
3. It is important to connect with nature in a more interactive manner. Learning to hunt squirrels doesn’t only get you squirrel meat. It also teaches you about squirrel ecology (where they live, what they eat, when they breed, etc), about squirrel predators, about trap building, and thus what woods make good traps, about other wild foods you can eat with the squirrel you catch, and about what lacks and larders would provide you with clues for good squirrel bait.
We didn’t manage to catch a squirrely thing for our project. But that doesn’t mean we’re done trying!