Sunday, April 9, 2017

Common Evening Primrose 

Its April in Wisconsin, prime spring foraging time! I came across at least a half dozen plants that were ready to harvest and they were the mainstays of my evening dinner. One of the most beautiful plants and easy to spot is Common Evening Primrose. The basal rosette with a white stripe up the middle is the first step in identification. If you dig up the root (the edible part) you will see that it is a tap root with a faint spicy scent reminiscent of a radish. There will be a pinkish part at the top of the root as it goes into the plant. 

Collect a bunch of roots and bring back home again.  You can eat the roots raw but I like to eat them boiled and mashed and add a bit of coconut oil added for added flavor. You can mix in some small potatoes to create a better consistency as the primrose doesn't have as much starch and they don't mash as well as a potato. 

This plant is found around grassy, wastelands, alongside roads or bike trails, meadows and on beaches. It is a full sun type of plant. Its a biennial plant so the above photo represents a first year growth or early second year growth. The second year it grows a tall stalk. 

This plant is great medicine and food. It contains protein, carbs, beta carotene, calcium, potassium and vitamin B3. Native americans made a poultice of this plant to help with bruises and the cherokee used the root in a tea to loose weight. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Winter Survival Food

It’s January and the temperatures have dipped considerably and all the green edibles, roots and nuts that you have learned about are gone or too much work to harvest. No problem! Odds are that you are not far from an outstanding food source that early settlers relied on when food became too scarce. That food source is the mighty pine tree! Maybe you’ve heard that the pine needles are edible (which is somewhat true….more on that later) but the source of food I’m talking about is the cambium layer. In between the outer bark and the inner bark is this wonderfully nutritious area that is white and can be peeled away from the hard, yellow inner bark in strips and eaten immediately, cooked over a fire (a little oil and salt makes it actually a descent snack), laid out to dry to eat later or pounded into a flour. Now that you are super excited to try it out and go eat a tree, let’s talk about identifying the pine tree first. In Wisconsin where I am, I have only tried the White Pine and the Red Pine. The White Pine is by far more palatable. Both Pines have needles in bundles prior to being attached to the tree limb. The White Pine has 5 needles per bundle (the same number of letters in the word white!) and the Red Pine has two much longer needles in a bundle and the bark is easily identified as “reddish”.
A word on being a good environmental stewardship…..only a small section of the tree needs to be harvested. Do not girdle the tree to harvest your bark. In other words, don’t cut a section that goes all the way around the tree. A square or rectangle area perhaps 10 inches by 6 inches is all you would really need.

Now back to that pine needle edibility. You can (and should) eat the pine bark but the same is not true of the needles. We are just not meant to eat the needles themselves but rather pull the nutritious part of the needle from it through a tea or saliva. The vitamin C that is packed into the needles is water soluble. That means if you put it in water, the vitamin will be transferred to the water. If you heat up the water, the transfer happens more rapidly. The same is true with saliva. If you chew on the needles, you will extract the vitamin C. But spit out the needle afterwards! That part is just too fibrous for our bodies to assimilate.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter Weather Survival Tips

Chip Brewster's Real Milwaukee Now Clip with Resiliency Training

On a rainy Friday in January, Chip Brewster of Fox 6 news joined me for some quick tips on staying warm as the months get colder. We covered how to create a shelter with just a small piece of cord, find dry firewood and what plant can be eaten for nutrients in the winter.

Resiliency Training will be doing four summer overnight outdoor survival classes. Participants will talk about wild edibles, medical plants, create cordage from foraged grasses, make a shelter so much more! To find out more about these classes, click here.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Healing Salve Time


Knowing how to create a natural healing salve made with foraged medicinal plants can be deeply gratifying. This is a centuries old tradition that combines multiple activities that I love: nature, foraging and cooking. The first step is getting outside your door and hunting down the nearly always present Plantago Major.....also known as common plantain. It is a weed that is sure to be within a few hundred feet of wherever you are in Wisconsin. This weed has a history of medical use that goes as far back as Greek and Roman times. It is used to heal wounds, protect wounds from infection, ease pain, draw out toxins and is an all around anti-inflammatory. It is the first plant I seek out when making my healing salve and the easiest to find. It is notable for its protruding parallel veins on the back of the leaf that run into the ground. The plant itself grows from one central point in a tap root and leaves flop out when conditions are right and surround the tap root. When harvesting leaves, I look for deep green with no signs of bugs having been there. I brush off the dirt and they are ready to go. I don't wash them as that would wash away some of the medicine that I'm after. My yard is completely chemical free so I know its a great location to harvest.

I lay my plants out to dry in a warm indoor location out of the sun usually on a window screen or bundle them and hang them in a closet. After a few days, the water in the plant has completely evaporated and the remaining plant is crispy. I will then put all of the plants into a blender with olive oil and pulse until it is a more soup like mixture. This mixture gets put into a double boiler to speed the process of the medicine going from the plant to the olive oil much like plant material does when you put it in hot water for tea. The double boiler prevents it from getting too hot which would destroy the medicine. You never want the oil to boil.

After a couple hours, I will turn off the heat and let the plant material continue to infuse into the oil. When it cools, I will be ready to use to a sieve to remove the plant material so that only the infused oil remains. This I again put into the double boiler and combine with bees wax. Beeswax is what holds the whole thing together and also has great medicinal properties in itself. It is also antibacterial and aids in healing wounds. The correct ratio of olive oil to beeswax is 1 to 1. One cup of olive oil to one ounce of beeswax.

Once the beeswax has melted in the oil, turn off the heat and get your tins ready to pour the mixture. When the mixture starts to cool, it will have the salve like consistency. You can use your salve for any insect bite, cuts, abrasions, chapped lips, inflamed/irritated skin....etc. Your tin should last at least a year!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Outdoor Survival Class

On Saturday, June 27th 2015, 8 ladies met for the first time in the parking lot at the Scuppernong Trail Head. It was a beautiful day.....sun shine and in the 70's....perfect weather to do a 2.5 mile hike to our camp site. Along the way we discussed wild edibles which were the trailhead we munched on mulberries while I pointed out a half dozen more edibles or medicinal plants. From plantain, the wilderness band aid, to mullein, a powerful decongestant, the participants paused and jotted notes as we moved from plant to plant.

In between stops, the ladies paired up and exchanged brief life histories beginning the bonding that would be sealed up later at the camp site. Everyone was in great spirits and was enthusiastic for the material.

Three hours later, we exited the trail and ate lunch at a park in Pine Woods Campground. After refreshments and a five minute siesta, the ladies got down to business again. We brought out grass we'd gathered on the trail and I taught them how to make cordage as we discussed the importance of mental fortitude in a survival situation. Then I handed over each participant a piece of paracord that they later weaved into a bracelet. We headed into the woods again to make a survival shelter from the materials we found around us. Everyone was busy and got down to the task at hand and in just a half hour we had put together a shelter that would be a comfy little home for someone faced with an overnight in the woods. Pleased with the work, the ladies gathered around their little hut for a photo shoot and off we went to camp. The tents were already set up and they gathered their gear and transformed the tents into a home away from home.

Supper arrived in about an hour....a wild edible course served up around a fire. Soup featuring bee balm, garlic mustard, dandelion, nettle, wild spinach, turkey and quinoa...gluten free and delicious! Followed up with a mulberry cobbler and rhubarb tea.

Free time followed dinner and later we headed to our tents listening to the coyotes call around us. The stars popped out and the temp dropped for perfect sleeping weather.

The morning brought another beautiful day. We focused on matchless fire making skills and got some hot water going for coffee and tea. Breakfast was eggs and wild edibles to spice it up along with a gluten free bannock bread made over the fire. Delicious!! We wrapped up the event with a healing salve workshop where we talked about infusing a medicinal plant into an oil and combined it with beeswax to preserve the medicine for year long use. Everyone went home with a tin.

We gathered up for one more group photo and packed up as clouds were closing in. Everyone was safely back to their cars before the first drops fell!!!

Next Outdoor Survival Class planned for October 17th, 2015. Mark the date!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Quick Way to Make Acorn Flour

Acorns provide protein, fat, vitamin B3 and B6, folate and pantothenic acid, plus the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese! Plus its a easy to collect food source!

I started my morning today with acorn pancakes with acorns collected from this past summer. I have learned a quick and easy way to leech acorns. Follow these easy steps and you'll be cooking with your acorn flour within a few minutes:

1.) Collect the acorns. Don't pay any attention to holes or the quality of the acorn. Go for large quantities.
2.) Toss them in a bucket of water. Toss the ones that float.
3.) Dry the ones that fall to the bottom of the bucket. They are the good ones that haven't been invaded with insects. To dry them, simply lay them single layer somewhere warm with moisture free. Allow to dry at least a week to make shelling them easier.
4.) Shell the acorn. Crack with a nut cracker and peel the thin outer layer off. You can freeze any nuts that you don't use immediately.
5.) Take a cup of the acorn and put in a blender. Fill half blender with water. Put it on high for up to two minutes or until the acorns are cut finely.
6.) Pour mixture into a thick nylon sock (a nylon dress sock works quite nicely).
7.) Tie a knot at the bottom of the sock where the majority of the nut milk is. You will notice that the water that is coming out of the sock is whitish brown. That is the tannin in the acorn that must be leeched out before you can eat the flour.
8.) Put the sock under running water and squish the acorn nut meat between your fingers until the water runs clear and no longer whitish brown.

Taste the nut meat. Do you taste a bitterness? If yes, continue to run under water until the nut meat tastes very bland. When that happens it is ready to use!