As a child I often accompanied my maternal grandmother on her foraging trips -
an activity also known as "scrounging". In the spring we gathered "poke" and
"dock"; in August sand plums and currants and after a hard freeze the persimmons would be bletted enough that they were no longer astringent. And of course pecans and black walnuts in the fall. On rare occasions we might find the "haws" - red ones and less often the black ones - very scarce even then. What stirred my memory about this is the recent discovery that the beans produced by the mesquite trees in my backyard can be ground into flour for breadmaking - both the seeds and hulls are used.
Here is an extensive reference on the many treasures we may still be able to
gather. Is anyone else able to "scrounge"?
Around here the most common wild foods gathered are chokecherry and pinon nut. There's also prickly pear and osha, a wild herb that's good for lung and throat. There's a native plum, colored like a sunset, but the frosts most years does it in. And I think you could do something with the acorns, they're not to astringent, but it's hard to find 'em... I think most years they don't produce much because of the dry.
Those mesquite beans are pretty hard! You're going to need an old mano and matate like the Indians used to use. I tried gnawing on one once, after I'd read about the flour and didn't get far. LOL But the pod is sweetish, as I recall. Let us know how your experiment goes...
There are lots of wild edibles around here. I need to get me a willing local to take me Scrounging. I call it huntin' and gatherin'. There are mushrooms, poke sallit, speckled britches, all kinds of berries, creek lettuce, chicory, black walnuts, hickory nuts, ramps, paw paws, sasafras, ginsing, yellow root and tons of other things I don't know the names of. With all the wild edibles and the abundance of wildlife, you could live off the land here if you needed to.
What are haws? To this day, I don't know. Grandmother's name for them. The fruits grew on medium-sized, attractive trees in undeveloped parts of the countryside (southern Oklahoma). Between a child's thumb and forefinger, each fruit looked like a small apple and tasted vaguely like it too. Two small bites and only the core was left. They weren't crab apples.
There weren't many trees even then - we found only one with the black-skinned fruit - a lovely tree in the center of a clearing. Grandmother was delighted when she saw it. She was born in Georgia and lived there until about age nine or ten and I assume she learned most of her plant lore early on. Like so much else missing forever, we can't find them now.
Did you find it "edible, though less than delicious"? LOL a taxonomic nightmare... geez, that's not even nice. How'd you like being called a taxonomic nightmare? What must this fellow think of apples, another plant of endless variation. LOL
I remember some rowdy crab apple fights in my youth...
Do you think it might be a mayhaw? Lots of rhem in La. Mom makes jelly with them. They look like miniature applwa. The peeling is red and the flesh is peach to orange. It doesn't have a lot of flesh. The core takes up most of the insides.
It tasted good enough, especially when there weren't a lot of other fruits
from which to choose. The core seemed proportionately small. It might have been a mayhaw, I just don't know. But I really admired Grandmother's uncanny skill in finding wild edibles. She taught me not to harvest all of the growth from one area but to leave enough for a colony of plants to continue producing.
Wise lady... my bets on the mayhaw... the hawthorn sounds more like survival food than something someone would be excited about. But black skinned... hmm, is there much color variation in the mayhaw, Cajun?
Mayhaws are also a form of hawthorn, and related to roses. More surfing found a wealth of references that indicate in the wild, native selections are of three main types. Some named varieties have been developed. The names hawthorn, haw and mayhaw are used interchangeably. Research has shown them to be very nutritious and extracts are available as supplements.
Yuska, I really like that original website you listed at the top. I am a willing scrounger. It's an economical way to eat. I was just thinking of preparing some poke salet and thought maybe someone in the homestead forum is talking about it. so here I am. It's the first spring at this property & I am finding all kinds of forage! Ran into a Mayhaw tree the other day putting out flowers.
So is anyone gonna fix up a nice bowl of poke salet? I hear it will keep you young(er)! Or some dandelion and stinging nettle tea?
I haven't located any poke salit near where I live but very likely there is some farther out in less urban areas. Although there are compounds in the plant thought to carry some toxicity for people, especially the berries, generations of people have eaten it and thrived. I remember instances when some of the neighborhood kids were rushed to the hospital for stomach pumping after being unable to resist the tantalizing ripe berries. The berries can be used as a dye. I read another article that said an ink made from fermented berry juice was used in the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
More and more we are discovering that many plants once thought to be totally off limits can be modified to be really helpful in certain applications. An example is digitalis, which was adapted quite some time ago treat angina, a heart condition. Poke is curently being studied as a treatment for certain forms of arthritis.
Here is an interesting account from a poke salit enthusiast -
Well, unfortunately artichoke is definitely not what is growing in my pasture...
I checked that site and will definitely give the stalks a try this summer. =0) They mentioned using the root, but there wasn't much info on that. Can anyone flesh that out more... how? Just for tea or for noshing?
The roots, stems, young leaves, flower buds and even the seeds can be eaten. The roots can be eaten raw or cooked into a table vegetable such as a tastey turnip substitute in prepared foods such as soups. The roots can be dried and ground into flour or used as a stew extender. As a sugar substitute, roast the roots in an oven at low heat and extract the sugary syrup. It has a slightly bitter taste and is caramelized in color. This syrup can be used as a sugar substitute. The roots can be peeled and boiled then pickled in brine or soaked in sweetened cinnamon sugar syrup for a tasty sweetmeat. This is a traditional and tasty side dish in Armenia. ~~~~~~~~
If I had any roots available I would experiment by cooking with potatoes and mashing them. I do this with daikon radishes and the result is delicious.