More “wild” proteins

I have a few more thoughts for my characters to get wild protein (from the U.S. Army Survival Manual): All trails lead to water. Trails may be marked with animal droppings and trampled terrain. Birds: Flocks of birds will circle over waterholes. Some birds fly to waterholes at dawn or sunset. Their flight at these times is generally fast and close to the ground. Bird tracks or chirping in the evening or early morning sometimes indicate that water is nearby. At dusk, watch for birds going to roost. Some songbirds use the same flyway each day. (Use a net to catch) or locate tree, fix the net between poles and scare birds from other side of tree so they fly into net and become entangled. Bird eggs — By carefully taking all but two or three eggs from the nest every few days, you will have a supply of fresh eggs for a week or two. Do not disturb the nest and do not remove all the eggs as the female will desert the nest. Do not kill the female during the nesting period if you want to keep your egg source. Mammals: Locate water hole or well-traveled trail and wait for game to come to you. Move upwind or across wind, never down wind. Move silently as possible in densely forested areas that limit your range of vision. Any noise (treading on dry twigs or leaves) will alert animals to your presence. Deadfalls can be used to capture many types of game. Snares could be used. An Ojibwe bird snare jerks a noose on a bird’s feet.   So, are you still hungry?  ...
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You can eat that?

The U.S. Army Survival Manual’s first chapter said, “With few exceptions, everything that grows from the soil or that walks, crawls, or swims is a potential food source.” WOW! Up to then, I’d only thought about plants. The book included useful tips on how to capture foods that moved. Steve Gessell (a gardener extraordinaire) lent me the book and urged me to go beyond wild plants. He wrote out this list: grubs—found in rotten logs beetles—under rocks and wood frogs and snails earthworms—found under leaves and moist rich soil eggs—watch where the birds exit a bush or meadow grass snakes, skinks and salamanders He also mentioned mice and crickets (but not grasshoppers). Yum?? Is the seventh grader in you reacting? This list has the greatest “ick factor” I could ever hope for! Won’t André and his canoe-mates be excited! (Where do you fall on this continuum?)  ...
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Is either wild plant edible?

Your quiz for today: Is either wild plant edible? Make a guess for each of the choices below. Your answer could be one or the other — or neither or both! Glad I researched this — I would have made big mistakes by eating some of these. 1. Cattail or Blue flag iris/lily 2. Fiddlehead ferns or Nettle 3. Marsh marigold or Milkweed 4. Rock tripe or Reindeer moss 5. Jack in the pulpit or Plantain 6. Waterlily or Thistle Did you guess for each choice? Or did you peek ahead? 1. Cattail or Blue flag iris/lily — Cattail is edible; blue flag iris/lily is NOT. Cattail (typha latifolia) is edible in many seasons. The rootstalk pulled up by hand can be eaten cooked; shoots could be eaten raw or sauteed, like any cooked vegetable; pollen blended into flour. I’ve tried unsuccessfully for three years to harvest cattail. The root was not easy to pull. And I always miss timing the green flowering spike—it ripens before I get there. Pollen I haven’t been as interested in. Blue flag (Iris versicolor) can cause diarrhea, vomiting and dermatitis. It is also mentioned as a poison flag. (I grew up calling this plant a lily, but that may have been a local name.)   SIDENOTE: Cattail may have been a food my grandfather ate. He traded with Chief Busticogan for Indian potatoes, which he planted. Chief Busticogan gave him 2 1/2 bags, which he called “peshaquabeks.” When he counted off the half-bag, he bent his finger to indicate the smaller quantity. In cooking, they never softened (maybe like water chestnuts). Or Chief Busticogan’s plant may have been Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), also growing in the marsh plant but with arrowhead-like leaves.   2. Fiddlehead ferns or Nettle — Both are edible. Fiddlehead ferns (Matteuccia and Pteretis spp.) — taste, but don’t feast; eat them raw, steamed, sautéed or deep-fried. You might know they are edible from my earlier post or watching the Facebook video of Bill tasting them.   With stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), look for young stems and leaves. The toxin that causes stings is neutralized by cooking. Dry the leaves for tea which offer vitamins A and C and iron. The trick is to harvest it without getting nettle-stung — use gloves.   3. Marsh marigold or Milkweed — Neither, unless you want to boil them several times, though not all...
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Morels, and fiddleheads and ramps, oh my!

Steve and Wendy Gessell lent me the “U.S. Army Survival Manual,” a wonderful read. It reminded me that people can live many days without food, if they have water. (Good — my fictional paddlers have plenty of fresh water at hand. But it won’t fill the paddlers’ bellies, so they’ll be getting thinner and grouchy.) On page 2, it listed major cautions. “Do not eat unknown plants that: Are mushroom-like; Resemble onion or garlic; Resemble parsley, parsnip, or dill; Have carrot-like leaves, roots, or tubers.” Oops. There goes a good share of what I was planning for André’s meals. I’d hoped they could use smell or similar growth to help find edibles. Just because Queen Anne’s Lace smells like carrot doesn’t make it edible. On to Plan B: What else could André and his crew eat? How will they know what is edible? They can’t take a chance on getting sick in the canoe. Friends suggested morel and pheasantback mushrooms, ramps and fiddlehead ferns, which are available about the right season for my voyageurs. Wendy took me on a morel mushroom hunt and we got a lot!! Morels are so distinctive that they couldn’t be mistaken. Fiddleheads, equally distinctive, grow in my back yard—and were reasonably tasty. We enjoyed them cooked and in salads. But we were too late to harvest ramps—they were no longer in season. That gives my voyageurs a few things to eat, even though it won’t fill them up like pea soup does. What else can they eat? Ready for the “quiz”? Next...
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Sumac “lemonade” and frozen cranberries

Sumac berries infused in water tastes like lemonade! Diane and Robert Davis told me about this last spring. I had to wait until late summer before I could harvest the seed heads. (Amazing discovery: Even cutting them made my fingers taste tart!) Tip #1: Harvest the seed heads before the rains rinse out all the tartness. Tip #2: Think about where you’re harvesting. Next to a busy or gravel road means your seed heads might also have car fumes or dust. Recipe (one serving): Place one spike of berries in a pot. Use a fork or large spoon to bruise the seed head as much as possible. Add a cup of cold water and swish around. You can let it soak or not. Pour over a fine sieve to filter out the berries. Drink. Add a spoonful of sugar if you like sugar on your grapefruit.   The Davises told me about cranberries, which sometimes freeze on the stem. Then they are even sweeter. While on a hike, they said, popping the frozen berries is an energizer. (Darn—I don’t have cranberry bogs around here.) And they mentioned hazelnuts, which I remember picking as a kid. While I can find a few seed pods, the squirrels will most likely get there before I can harvest any. Want to know which plants are edible? I’ll post a short “quiz,” which you can think of as research—or just...
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What edible wild foods could André eat?

(Spoiler alert) In “Treacherous Waters” Book 2 of The Chronicles of an Unlikely Voyageur, André and his canoe-mates run out of food and need to forage for spring edibles. In researching this, I learned lots of fun info and realize that, of course, other inquiring minds would also want to know. At first I fixated on wild plants that Andre and his canoe-mates could try. Some would be familiar, like mushrooms or onions or garlic or watercress. That might build their confidence in trying something they didn’t know. In my world, when new foods are available frequently, tasting something I’ve never heard of is interesting. But the French-Canadian world had few similar opportunities. Not until they were forced to leave the safety of their hamlets did they experiment. My research included knowledgeable people, taking a class and reading a bunch (see biblio below). However, sources don’t always agree, which is confusing. Some books include a wild plant as edible and others indicate that it’s toxic. Marsh marigold is one of those. Lily of the valley is toxic but looks like wild onions. One problem I wondered about: Some plants available now may not have spread widely in the early 1800s. Like dandelions. Did native tribes eat dandelions, or did they come from Anglo settlers who caused the flowers to take over? In upcoming posts, I’ll talk more about specifics I found, both vegetable and animal. Bibliography: These are the print resources I used most often to determine which foods André and his crew could find in late spring on the northern shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Basic Essentials: Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs, 3rd Edition by Jim Meuninck (Falcon Guide: Guilford Connecticut and Helena, Montana, 1998) Harvest Without Planting: Eating and Nibbling Off the Land by Erika E Gaertner (Donald F. Runge Limited, Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, 1969) Pocket Naturalist Guide: Edible Wild Plants: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar North American Species, Waterford Press, www.waterfordpress.com Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Field Guide Edition by Euell Gibbons (David McKay Co, Inc. New York, 1971) U.S. Army Survival Manual (Dorset Press, New York, 1991) Wild Foods: A beginners guide to identifying, harvesting and cooking safe and tasty plants from the outdoors Text and photographs by Laurence Pringle, illustrations by Paul Breeden, (Four Winds Press, New York, 1978) Willow Bark and Rosehips by Fritz Springmeyer, illustrations by Michele Montez, (Falcon...
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