EDIBLES - RECIPES - CAMP EQUIPAGE
WILD EDIBLES OF THE STONEY MOUNTAINS
Last issue we provided you with the cultivated edibles, this issue we'll explore the foraged foods. These were very important in early times as well as now. What would you do if in an unknown area without food? This could happen to our forefathers as well as to us even in this period of our modern life styles. Any kind of National disaster could put us in this situation, think about.
This is a very good article that will give you more information than you'll ever remember. As you'll find with most of the articles you will read in this magazine. There's lots to take in, we'll make it easy for you with providing an archive of old issues.
WILD EDIBLES OF THE
primitive man, collecting his meals around his cave, having to store and
care for his food, whether acorns, pine nuts, berries or wild grain, it
had to be done. There have been milled grains discovered that date before
3,000 B.C. as well as caches of dried foods.
you know that the "Great Room" as known today, in 1700 was the
kitchen, large homes had two: a "summer kitchen" and a
"great kitchen"? The areas were designed with large cooking and
work spaces, a pantry with built-in shelves and a table. Ovens were added
to the side of the fireplace. Iron, copper, brass and tin cooking utensils
simplified the chore of cooking. A large iron crane held kettles over the
fire and could be swung out from the flame for needed attention.
all the processes needed in preparing meals and daily baking of breads and
other bake goods, there was always the storage of grains, milled flours
and meals, dried herbs and spices, nuts and fruits. Contained in a variety
of bins, crocks and tinned objects, with vegetables and other wild edibles
all stored in a root cellar near the kitchen quarters.
wasnít until the next century that the first refrigerator was built in
1834, holding 100 lbs. of ice, and by 1881 there were more than 1000 stove
patents, ranging from iron to soapstone construction.
now your thinking, "What is this guy trying to tell usĒ????
primitive man, collected his meals from around his cave to the modern
kitchen of the mid 1800ís, weíve come along way and I am sure there
hundreds of experts on these varied subjects. What Iím getting too is
the collecting of foods, wild edibles to cultivated plants and grains.
our modern society and wonderful knowledge of medicine we seem to have
passed by the learned sources for relief from our ancestors. A good
example is the next trip you are planning into a bug infected area, try
using "garlic" in your cooking for several weeks before leaving
and while on that trek. Donít worry, while on the trek if all members do
this, you wonít offend anyone. If stopped being used a few days before
reaching home it will have worked out of your system and family and
friends can come closer.
will find you didnít use as much, if any insect spray and didnít
receive as many bites as previous trips. Many voyagers have told of the
qualities of garlic and its use for centuries. Even the "Corp of
Discovery" writes of the use of wild garlic and black licorice for
their health needs. The builders of the Great Pyramids in
are thousands of wild and cultivated plants, herbs and grains that are
valuable to todayís research for cures of who knows how many problems.
My point is we can look at some odd these, which will be correct for your
trek and benefit your well being a little too. The Native American always
had a medicine man with his bags of plants, berries and herbs. The early
settlers in the New England Colonies had theirs too, they called them
witches, burned at the stake, but their goods were kept and used. (Maybe
have a friend, an interested collector of wild edible plants; he teaches
and studies the vegetation of the
showing him an article written by "one of the in the know"
gentlemen, he told me that this person could not have done what was
claimed in the article, "milling cat-tail pollen" when dry, its
as fine as any flour in its milled state. This was one of several
statements that would not be correct and give the reader wrong field
that time I asked if he was willing to share his knowledge of "Wild
Edible Plants" in the Stony (Rocky) Mountains, correct for our needs,
when a foot on our next trek. Monsieur LaVelle is well known for
nature walks, college studies and continuous teachings of the variety of
edibles available to this area.
"Woods Walk" was planned with the AMM Baker Party, with 8-9
members showing up on Sat. May 13th, to meet Monsieur LaVelle and
our class started with his first statement.
about wild plants and flowers can be an enjoyable pastime, and with the
additional knowledge of which plants are edible and which are not, you can
not only increase your enjoyment of the out-of-doors, but also provide
his permission, I will shorten an essay given at this time, down to the
edibles we would be most interested in.
Monsieur LaVelle would say, "There is a tremendous satisfaction
in knowing that you can go into the mountains and gather wild food that is
not only nutritious, but also a pleasure to the palate".
found that some of his tastes vary from others in this "la companie"
of the Baker Party, but we have all heard and some have seen true French
cooking. I always pass on his "Snails & Tidbits" when on a
trek and he has returned with some of his goodies, he has managed to dig
up along the way.
given you just a few of the many and varied edibles, available in the
Pinus edulis Englem. (Pinyon Pine)
seeds of all the pines are edible but most of them are so small and
difficult to gather they arenít worth the effort. The exception is the
Pinyon Pine, whose nuts are relatively large, about 1/2 inch long, and
very good tasting. The pinyon tree is not cultivated like the hickory and
walnuts and so the pinyon nuts available are gathered from the wild.
August or September is the season to harvest them, when the seeds are ripe
but the cones havenít opened. The cones ripen the second season and
unfortunately the quantity of cones produced varies greatly from year to
year, but you can always find some in the extensive mixed pinyon juniper
forests at lower elevations in the southwest.
Urtica dioica L. (Stinging Nettle)
might wonder how a plant that requires gloves to gather can be used for
food, but the stinging quality is completely destroyed by cooking or
drying. Stinging nettle is a hollow stemmed perennial that grows from
creeping underground rhizomes and has opposite saw toothing leaves and
stinging hairs. Gather only young shoots as the older ones are gritty.
With all these drawbacks, stinging nettle makes a great tasty vegetable
when steamed for only a short time and served with just salt and pepper
and butter. A linen-like cloth can be made from the fibers of this plant
and Native Americans used it in bowstrings and basket making.
Quercus gamebelii Nutt. (Scrub Oak)
from all species of oak are edible but those from many species, including
our native species of Scrub Oak, contain "tannin", which makes
them bitter tasting. Fortunately, tannin is water soluble and can be
removed by leaching, after the acorn shell and inner peel have been
removed. The leaching process consists of boiling the shelled acorn meats
in many changes of water until the water no longer turns a reddish-brown
and the acorn meats are a rich brown color. This may take hours, depending
on the amount of tannin present, which varies with different species of
oak and even from tree to tree of the same species. The leached acorn
meats should then be dried. Roasting in a slow oven with the door slightly
ajar will remove the taste and give them a nutty flavor. For many groups
of Native Americans, acorns furnished a substantial part of their caloric
of these people leached the acorns by placing baskets of them in
slow-moving streams for several days. Over the centuries mankind has
consumed more tonnage of acorns than of cereal grain.
Opuntia sp. (Prickly Pear Cactus)
Pear Cactus is well known to everyone living in the West. A species of
Prickly Pear also grows along the East Coast. Wherever they are found they
must be treated with respect due to their formidable defenses. Prickly
Pear is protected by long spines and they also have many tiny barbs (giochids)
that can be extremely irritating is allowed in contact with the skin or
them with cooking tongs and a long knife seems the safer way, sticks with
a bark plate is more challenging. Whatever the method you use to de-arm
them, it is worth the effort. The purple fruits can be split, seeds
removed and the pulp layer under the skin can be eaten raw or cooked. The
flavor is reminiscent of watermelon, but more so. The pads (actually
swollen stem joints) are also edible. After the spines are removed they
can be peeled, cut into strips and boiled for a few minutes. They are
ready to be seasoned and eaten as vegetable but their okra-like
mucilaginous quality is not liked by most people. A better way to prepare
them after they are boiled is to roll them in cracker cumbs and fry them
like "Fried Green Tomatoes".
Note: At this time, we were given samples of the fruit, pulp and raw meat
to taste. We have a member from
Claytonia rosea Rydb. (Spring Beauty)
Beauty is, as its name implies, a beautiful wildflower of spring. The pale
pink "S" petaled flowers are small and are bourn on a leafless
stalk only 6 inches or so long. It has 2 or 3 narrow pastel leaves. Spring
Beauty has a starchy, edible tuber that can be used like a tiny potato.
This tuber is an inch or two below ground level. These little tubers are
only about an inch in diameter and irregularly shaped which makes them a
nuisance to peel. I just boil them with the skins on, then when theyíre
done, about 20 minutes later, the skins easily slip off and they can be
used anyway you might use a new potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper.
No species of Claytonia is poisonous, says the Monsieur.
Portulaca oleracea L. (Purslane)
is a common garden weed, it is also a delicious vegetable available to
anyone who cares to take the time to gather it. This low growing plant,
with itís succulent leaves and stems, commonly grows in gardens and
flower beds during the heat of summer, but donít let itís availability
prevent you from enjoying itís goodness, not all good things are rare.
needs to be washed well because the sandy soil of which it likes to grow
seems to cling to it, but it is not necessary to dig up the whole plant,
just break off the tips of the young stems, leaving the rest of the plant
to continue to grow. That way, you can harvest Purslane all season long.
Purslane can be eaten raw in salads or added to soups and stews where
itís freshly succulence ads thicken, similar to okra.
my favorite way of cooking it is to sautť it in a little bacon grease,
this enhances its slightly sour, acidic taste that I find very pleasant,
says Monsieur LaVelle.
Chenopodium sp. (Lambís Quarter, Goosefoot)
Quarter is sometimes called Goosefoot, or even Pigweed, but by whatever
name it is still a good edible and is in the same family as Spinach and
Beets. The leaves are pale green and meaty, or farinatious, on the
underside, but on cooking the meatiness is lost and they turn a bright
green. Only the young plants, less than a foot tall should be used or they
might be tough and strong tasting. They need to be cooked a long time and
they cook down quite a bit, so gather a good amount. In addition to being
used as a pot herb like Spinach, Lambís Quarter can be stir-fried with
soy sauce and has even been used in burritos, a favorite of Gov. Bent,
Amaranthus sp. (Pigweed)
have been called
Rumex Crispus L. (Curly Dock)
Dock is easy to identify due to its dark green, wavy edged, lancelet
leaves which are mostly basal and itís tall, rusty brown seed stalk. It
is a favorite of the wild-food foragers due to its ready availability and
many uses. The leaves are a little too coarse to be used in salads but can
be cooked and eaten in anyway you use Spinach, such as with bacon and
vinegar dressing or cream sauce, for those living in the settlements. Also
good in a period casseroles. Curly Dock leaves are higher in Vitamin C
than orange juice. They also are higher in Vitamin A and have 4 times as
much carotene as do carrots.
Malva neglecta Wallr. (Common Mallow)
Mallow is a low growing annual from
Chorispora tenella (Pallas) DC. (Blue Mustard)
of my research in books on edible wild plants lists the Blue Mustard as
being edible, but I have eaten it on several occasions, and I know of
several Oriental families living in the Rockies, who eat it every spring
as do I. It is one of the earliest blooming plants in our area. The
blue-purple, 4 pedaled, mustard- type flowers is seen along roads and
trails in March and April, long before other wild flowers have begun to
make their presence known. The upper and lower leaves are different, the
lower ones being similar to Dandelion. While the upper ones are shorter
and nearly entire. The young leaves are the part of the plant we want to
eat. They are prepared like Spinach and fortunately there is no smell
present after cooking the leaves. Before cooking, one will note the odor
of the Blue Mustard being disagreeable.
Nasturtium officinale R. Br. (Water Cress)
Cress is a succulent, perennial herb that grows either floating or
partially submerged in ditches and slow running streams. Its stems root at
the nodes. When gathering it, donít pull up the whole plant, just snip
off the upper leaves, which are the tenderest and leave the rest of the
plant to generate new growth. Watch the condition of the water it is
growing in and donít collect polluted water. Water Cress has the
deliciously tangy, peppery taste typical of the mustard family. It can
also be cooked and served like Spinach.
Ribes aureum Pursn (Golden Currant)
Currant is a low scrub that occurs in Forrest openings in
of Ribes are divided into two groups, the Currant and the Gooseberry. The
Currant has a smooth fruit and lacks the thorns, while the Gooseberries
have thorns and bristly fruit. All the species of Ribes are edible to
Fragaria ovalis (Lenm.) Rydb. (Wild Strawberry)
Strawberry looks like the cultivated variety only the fruits are much
smaller. The leaves are very rich in Vitamin C content and can be used to
make a mild flavored tea that has been used since ancient times, as a
curative for all sorts of ills. Thoroughly dry the leaves and store them
in an air-tight container. Donít use wilted leaves as they are
our opinion Wild Strawberries are the most delicious of the wild fruits, (Monsieur
LaVelle takes great delight in watching my reaction, when testing by
tasting some of his finds, makes one question our friendship at times !!).
this point we take a break from food tasting, taking notes, pictures and a
chance to reload the cameras and tape in the video gear. We wanted this
class for a learning tool, not just a walk in the woods, with a lot of
good information lost within weeks after the class ended. Hopefully we all
will be awakened again to what is available from Mother Nature. This is
the reason this article was written with Monsieur LaVelleís help.
We all have a little laziness to take the easy way of doing things,
correct or not, a human trait.
the fun is slipping away, right, try it a few times and youíll learn to
think of the two different worlds we experience: our love of an earlier
time and the world we work in today. Hell, we got it made; one can jump
back and forth just about when one wishes to. How easy we have it, when
compared to our forefathers.
says, "they can be used in jams, jellies and pies and Iíve found
they make an excellent fruit leather if the pulp is spread out on plastic
wrap and dried in a food denyorator. The unripe fruit can be stewed and
sweetened with sugar and so is one of the few fruits that can be eaten
green without upsetting the digestive system."
Prunus virginia L. (Chokecherry)
cherry is a shrub with a smooth bark that has the lateral lines
characteristic of the domestic Cherry tree. The dark green leaves have
finely serrated edges. The cream-colored flowers hang in racemes and
donít come on until the leaves are nearly full grown. The flowers mature
into a purple, pea-sized fruit with a pit. Found from the plains to about
8,000 feet in the mountains.
kernel of the fruits are said to contain some prussic acid and a toxin
related to cyanide, but these compounds are so unstable they are destroyed
in cooking or even just in drying. The danger from eating them canít be
very great, because they were used extensively by the pioneers and Native
Americans who included them in their pemmican.
Americans partially dried the ripe fruit then ground them up, seeds and
all, and formed them into patties which were then dried again. These
patties were stored for later use.
ripe berries can be used in pies, jellies and sauces and Chokecherries are
famous for making wine. (Of which the Monsieur takes a small drink
and corks it, didnít get to smell this one, cute!!).
is familiar with Wild Rose, but not everyone knows that roses are edible.
There are at least three species of Wild Rose in our area, but there is
very little difference between them and they are all treated with
whitish area at the base of the petal may be bitter and should be removed.
Then the petals can be used raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked in many
ways including jam and soup or mixed with other foods as a flavoring.
fruit of the rose is a red or orange, fleshy seed pod that remains on the
bush into winter and is easily recognized. The amount of pulp around the
seeds and its sweetness varies greatly from bush to bush. When you come
across a plant that has hips with a lot of sweet pulp, they can be eaten
right from the bush. Rose hips have been tested in the laboratory and have
been found to contain more Vitamin C per ounce than oranges.
Rubus idaeus L. (Wild Raspberry)
raspberry looks very much like the cosmetic species, except it doesnít
grow as tall and the berries arenít as large. Like Strawberries, Wild
Raspberries look and taste like domestic counterparts and can be used like
other types of berries. Native Americans dried them for future use. I
usually end up eating all of them as Iím gathering them, but if you
manage to get some home, the best way to preserve the berries is to freeze
them in syrup of sugar and water.
Vitis riparia Michx. (Wild Grape)
Grape is a woody vine with tendrils. The leaves are wide and slightly
lobed. The tiny greenish flowers occur in clusters. The fruit is a
purple-black grape about one half inch wide with powdery bloom. The grapes
grow in bunches and are the same as cultivated grapes but a little smaller
and not as sweet. In this area Wild Grapes occur mostly at lower
Americans used Wild Grape much as we do today and are believed to have
actually cultivated them as early as 1710. They also dried the grapes in
the sun for future use and used the vines for weaving baskets. One early
explorer reported that the Cherokees of the southern
Rhus glabra L. (Smooth Sumac)
Sumac is a native shrub with compound leaves and pyramid shaped fruit
heads about six inches long composed of orange to rusty-red, dry berries.
It forms dense thickets as part of the chaparral belt in the mountains of
the front range.
Sumac is used to make a refreshing drink similar to lemonade. The fruit
heads are gently washed, then steeped in water for an hour or so, after
which the fruits are discarded and the liquid is strained through
cheesecloth to remove the small hairs. Itís sweetened and chilled.
native species of sumac, Three-leaved Sumac, Rhus trilobata Nutt. Was
eaten by our Native Americans. They used the fruits either raw or cooked
as a stewed fruit and also dried for storage and winter usage. I tasted
them right from the bush and seemed fine, but I havenít tried preparing
them for the dinner table. If you do, let us know the results.
Asclepias speciosa Torr. (Showy Milkweed)
Milkweed is often said to be poisonous by uninformed people, and some
related species, such as Narrow-Leaved Milkweed, Asciepias subverticillata
(gray) Vail, is poisonous and should never be eaten. But Snowy Milkweed
has been used by pioneers and Native Americans alike and wild food
enthusiasts with no ill effects and is one of my favorite wild vegetables.
favorite Milkweed product is the unopened flower buds, when these are
cooked in several changes of boiling water and seasoned with butter, salt
and pepper, they taste to me very much like corn on the cob. The flowers
and the pods are also edible but the pods are tough and Iíve not had
much luck cooking them." concludes the Monsieur.
Cichorium intybus L. (Chicory)
color of Chicory flowers are blue with a slight purplish tinge, and in my
thinking, they are the prettiest blue of our entire local flora. When I
started learning about our wild flowers I didnít think Chicory occurred
here since I never encountered it, but finally realized I just wasnít
getting up early enough to see it, for Chicory is an early bloomer. The
flowering stems are green but have very few leaves, so without the flowers
there isnít much to see.
Chicory has long been used in the southern states as an addition to
coffee. Unfortunately my efforts in this regard have not been successful.
I roasted the roots then grounded them up, but the flavor they provided
was that of charred wood, not coffee!
Cirsium sp. (Thistle)
despite their spiny defense, thistles are edible. There are many species
of Thistle in our area and I find them very difficult to figure out in
field guides, but none of them are poisonous, so it is safe to experiment
with them as a food source.
the thistles have grown tall I have sometimes cut them off near the base,
then with a hunting knife, hacked off the leaves and outer green layer of
the stalk, leaving a whitish interior core that is palatable as a nibble,
it can be cooked as a vegetable.
are said to have saved the lives of some early explorers when that was all
they could find to eat.
cultivated Artichoke is related to the Thistle, the heart of the Artichoke
being the receptacle of the flower head. An interesting experiment might
be to try preparing the heads of the various species of Thistles to see
how they are similar to Artichokes.
Taraxacum officinale Wiggers (Dandelion)
knows Dandelions are edible, but not many people have actually tried them.
I have learned to pick only the first leaves that are produced in the
spring and even then there is some bitter aftertaste. They are then,
tender and with no bitterness at all. My favorite Dandelion produce is the
crown, which is one tuft of the leaf bases and immature flower buds at the
top of the root. To harvest these crowns dig the Dandelions in the spring
before the flowers are visible. Cut off the root leaving just enough of it
to hold the leaf bases together, and then trim off all but the white bases
of the leaves. You will be left with a crown of leaf bases and flower buds
that are similar to a tiny
Tragopogon sp. (Salsify, Goatís-beard)
Goatís-beard is a composite with narrow grass-like leaves and spherical
seed heads that look like a Dandelion. It is frequent in vacant lots and
roadsides throughout the front range.
are three species of Salsify in
plants are not easy to locate right off since the leaves look so much like
grass leaves. But with a little practice you can learn to distinguish
them. The leaves are edible but they are course and sometimes not very
young roots may be dug, washed and cooked either alone or in other dishes
like stews. They have a mild, pleasant taste and can be used as you would
use carrots or parsnips.
Typha latifolia L. (Cat-tail)
provide several edible products and since they often cover large areas of
marshy land they can furnish a good deal of food for the knowledgeable
forager. When young shoots about a foot tall are pulled from the mud the
bottom few inches are white and crisp and make a tasty snack eaten on the
the spikes of the immature green flowers can be boiled and nibbled from
the core like corn on the cob.
this point, "Pucker Butt" gets his feet wet trying to retrieve
Cat-tail roots, "canít take this kid any- where", moans one of
rhizomes furnish a nutritious flour and digging the rhizomes is easy,
because they are always in wet, muddy ground, but removing the flour is
the hardier job. This flour has been subjected to laboratory analysis and
found to be comparable to wheat flour in nutritional value.
brown fuzzy spikes of the dry fruit have in previous times been used for
insulation in clothing, similar to goose down.
Allium sp. (Wild Onion)
are at least three species of onions growing in the mountains of
onions may be used as you would use onions from the supermarket, but be
advised, they are strong flavored and a little goes a long way, and they
donít seem to more tender with cooking. But they are excellent as a
seasoning or as an addition to spuds and stews.
pink flowers in their nodding umber are also edible and may be the best
part of the plant, and are at least the easiest to collect. Once you have
learned to recognize the dried stems of the wild onion they can be found
even in winter and so is a valuable emergency food to the outdoorsman.
Asparagus officinalis L. (Asparagus)
is familiar with this garden vegetable but not everyone knows that it
grows wild in moist spots in the residential areas.
the tender young shoots of this plant that we want to collect, just like
the ones in the store. If these spears are allowed to continue to grow
they will produce a bushy, fern-like plant five feet or taller with
pretty, little red berries, that are apparently spread by the birds.
Asparagus spears are difficult to see growing in with grass and other
vegetation. The way to find them is to learn to recognize last yearís
dead plant, which often remains throughout the winter.
Calochortus gunnisonii Wats. (Mariposa Lily, Sego Lily)
Lilies are so pretty, and digging them up for food by a lot of people
could threaten their continued survival, so I seldom feel justified in
some years they seem especially plentiful, and thatís when I suppress my
conscience and have them for at least one meal. Mariposa Lily is the state
corm may be a couple of inches long in the ground, and the stem easily
breaks off which makes them difficult to collect. The corm may be eaten
raw and has a mild, pleasant taste with no wild or unusual flavor at all.
I like to pinch off little rootlets at the base of the corm, and then peel
off the outer leaves. This removes all the dirt, and I am left with a
clean little bulb about 1/2 inch across that may be enjoyed on the spot.
corm may also be cooked by roasting or boiling, and when used in this way
is similar to a potato. The Indians steamed them in cooking pits with
other foods, but thatís a lot of work. The petals of the flowers are
also edible, and can be eaten raw or used in a salad.
Yucca glauca Nutt. (Yucca)
June, Yucca sends up a flower stalk of large, pendant flowers with white
petals. The petals are edible raw and are thicker and more substantial
than most petals. They can be eaten alone or added to other dishes such as
species of Yucca produce a soft, fleshy edible fruit but the species in
our area, Yucca glauca, has a hard fruit. I have tried to eat the fruit
after having roasted them, but they were still bitter. The leaves contain
salicylid acid and should not be eaten.
roots contain so much saponin they will produce a soapy lather if
masticated in water and at one time were used as an ingredient in shampoo.
Native Americans used the root as a hair rinse and perhaps it has a
beneficial effect as I donít recall every seeing a bald-headed Indian.
this point Monsieur LaVelle shows the Baker Party a Yucca woven
sandal, nicely crafted, he produced it while sitting in a hotel room a
month earlier in
Monsieur LaVelle states, "This is just a sampling of what was and can
be found if need be when trekking, do your research for your area and try
your hand at finding your next meal, you may be pleasantly surprised.
LaVelle has tried
others suggestions as to other wild plants in our area, finding no
nutritious value or liking to his palate, as mentioned before, if he
doesnít care for it, you can place a wager you and your companie wonít
like them either.
aware of what is poisonous in your area, if need be take one of the many
pocket guides with you, better to be safe than sorry.
subject is a valuable tool for the trekker and seldom written about in
getting in the gathering of wild edible plants, one of the best books
around to start with is "Meet the Natives" by M. Walter Pesman,
now in its 9th edition. I being a beginning gather of these plants, follow
Monsieurís advice on this book.
"THE MUSHROOM MAN",
Monsieur LaVelle would say, "Do not follow where the path
may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail, for others
you in a few months
documented facts pertaining to periods & availability of foods.
© Copyright 2005-07 "North American Frontiersmen". All Rights Reserved.