Being a natural born foodie, that includes a love for wild edibles. I have a thing for any new and unique kind of food really (as well as the staples and good-ole standbys). My mom has always said I was a fantastic eater. As soon as I could eat solid food there was nearly nothing I wouldn’t eat. That and a good sleeper; both still true to this day. Unfortunately, I haven’t always had the time I’d like to collect and experiment with the wild foods. Since starting the gardening apprenticeship, I get to consider all my cooking adventures as homework. It’s become even more fun to walk in the woods, collect and create dishes, knowing I will have the opportunity to share them with students. I’ve collected some beautiful wild food cookbooks from diverse style authors that have really sparked my imagination in ways to incorporate wild edibles. Here are my favorites: The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman, Cooking Wild by John Ash and The Wild Table by Connie Green. They have similarities certainly, the inclusion of mushrooms, a few meats and the greens, but the perspectives and dishes are quite different. It is worth having a few to reference.
My favorite by far is the first one; The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. While I have only distant relations to the Chocktaw peoples, this style of cooking and food feels like home to me. He offers dense, rich and meaty recipes that use foods from the garden and homestead like corn, beans, squash, apples and eggs combined with dandelion, ramps, mushrooms and more. He sees the need for this deep connection to foods that were eaten before the Spaniards or French or English invaded this beautiful land. And now, foods that help us to be even slightly independent of this mechanized culture. In all of these books there are recipes that even the neighborhood dweller can create to add a bit of wildness to your diet and more diverse nutrition.
I am so excited about the incorporation of wild foods to my regular dishes because this brings all my favorite worlds together; cooking, eating, gardening, herbal medicine and wilderness skills. Food is medicine after all and many of the plants that we harvest in the wild to eat are also what we use to make medicine; pine, Elderberries, elderflowers, dandelion, nettles, yellow dock, plantain, chickweed, clover, yarrow flowers, calendula, burdock echinacea, coltsfoot, borage and so many more. I also love working with wild meats; groundhog, squirrel, deer, rabbit. I have come across these animals in various ways; hunted, trapped, roadkill. The art of skinning and preserving these animals is humbling and one of my favorite things to do. Once skinned, you see the beauty of their structure, how they are entirely identical to us in muscles, bones, organs. There is no separation. We truly are all one. After my first experience with skinning and eating a deer Jeff had hunted, I felt profoundly the need to honor this animal by doing more to live in right relationship with others and the earth. The heightened awareness that we are truly made of what we eat; deerness, cornness, rampness; that there is an energy all it’s own inherent in each living thing that we ingest and that we get to decide what that is, is powerful medicine. I think it empowers us literally and energetically to live healthier lives for ourselves and the planet whether we make that conscious choice or not.
I include these foods in our meals during the apprenticeship and I love sharing my love for these plants and animals with others. Be sure to make your wild greens pesto this spring to kick start the new season!
With love, Suzanne