More of Nature’s Bounty

We’ve been eating a lot more “wild” food lately. We’ve been particularly enjoying lambsquarters this summer, a plant that tastes like spinach. Whereas spinach is difficult to grow and can’t survive the midsummer heat, lambsquarters grow wild around the farm and thrive in the heat. It’s a delicious natural food overlooked by most folks around here.

Lambsquarters

Lambsquarters

And yesterday evening on our post-supper stroll we discovered a beautiful four-pound chicken-of-the-woods mushroom.

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It’s going to turn into some delicious meals for us.

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Foraging for wild food is probably the oldest human skill. But in a little more than a generation, we’ve almost entirely lost that skill in our culture.

These days few of usΒ recognize theΒ food and medicine that is growing naturally all around us. Instead, we depend upon drug stores and supermarkets.

We’d do well to begin recovering our ancient knowledge.

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56 comments on “More of Nature’s Bounty

  1. Sue says:

    Wow-I’ve never seen one of those chicken-of-the-woods before. Very interesting. And no, I would not know that was edible. It’s sad. Lucky we have fine folks like you that inform. Keep up the good work. And enjoy that huge mushroom!
    πŸ™‚

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  2. Never heard of lambsquarters. Wonder if I can get it in SA and what an incredible mushroom! I would be too scared to pic a wild mushroom – I don’t know what is edible.
    Have a super day Bill.
    πŸ™‚ Mandy xo

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    • Bill says:

      Lambsquarters goes by lots of different names around the world. Per Wiki it is in Africa (but I’m not sure about SA). It’s often called wild spinach.

      As for mushrooms, the chicken of the woods has a very distinctive look and there are no poisonous look-alikes. We only forage for easily identifiable (and delicious) mushrooms. The first time we found one we took it to a friend/chef for a positive identification. Once you know what it looks like, there’s no mistaking it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. BeeHappee says:

    Good stuff. We just got some wild bergamont (bee balm) and goldenrod for tea. And of course lots of wild blackberries, black raspberries and mulberries from the woods. Also we ate tons of Oregon grape berries this year and some service berries, tasted some black cherry and chokecherry. Cornelian cherries are just starting to ripen. Purslane, dandelion and nettle from the garden. As for mushrooms, I am not finding same species that grow in Lithuania, where we picked bucketfulls every fall, and dried them and canned them for winter. Reading Samuel Thayer’s The Foragers Harvest, common milkweed needs to be tried, shoots as asparagus, flowers as broccoli, and fresh pods as okra. I am too lazy to be digging up burdock roots or stripping the skins off thistles to prep them for eating.
    Sounds like you have large woods all around, so there should be plenty of goodness around there.
    That mushroom is humongous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Hi Bee, I know I must sound like a broken record, but all of those plants you mentioned are in the Plants For A Future database – “plant search” is just above the grey menu line and to the right – they all have SO many different uses, but most particularly Burdock/ Arctium lappa… which PFAF gives a 4/5 for ediblity and a full 5/5 for medicinal uses: ) http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Arctium+lappa
      Apparently it’s only the first year plants whose roots we use (and I’ve never done it yet, so please excuse my admitted ignorance) but how long could those little plants’ roots be? On the other hand, even contemplating digging up a mature, 2nd year plant just boggles the imagination. I’ve got one here this year that’s taller than my outstretched arm at 6’4″; )

      Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      You get it I see. πŸ™‚ We’ve enjoyed lots of wild food this year and many of the things you mention grow here too.

      We’ve been enjoying sumac tea lately, which tastes very much like lemonade. Cherie just got a book called The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook by Steve Brill and it has lots of interesting recipes. By the way, if you’re on Facebook you should “like” our farm. Cherie posted a picture of the meal she made tonight using lambsquarters and the mushroom. So good. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        Thanks, Bill!! I already Liked your farm on FaceBook, I just do not check it often enough to read all the stuff.
        I had been planning to try sumac in tea. Also you can make ‘lemonade’ from wood sorrel. That is popular in Armenia, Azerbaijan.

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      • Bill says:

        We enjoy wood sorrel as a snack, and in salads and soups. I haven’t thought of making lemonade out of it but am passing that info on to Cherie now. Makes sense given its citrusy flavor.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing ths Bill, when we move to our farm we want to try wild edible foods like these. I think its a great idea and with the cost of groceries going up all the time, everyone should educate themselves on what they can forage for free.

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  5. Laurie@hinterlands.me says:

    Holy smokes! That some mushroom.

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  6. shoreacres says:

    They may say you’re squirrely, but even the squirrels are smart enough to collect and dry fungus for the winter. We think of them gathering nuts and acorns, but they’re sophisticated enough to “put up” food so that it doesn’t rot. Surely, we’re as smart of a squirrel!

    What does that chicken of the woods taste like? (If you tell me it tastes like chicken…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I’ve said it reminds me of crabmeat or lobster, but Cherie says that’s probably based more on how it looks than how it tastes. I imagine the mild-but-meaty flavor is what caused people to call it “chicken of the woods.” Gourmet chefs love it and will pay well for one. As I mentioned above, they’re selling for $25-30/lb on the internet.

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  7. jubilare says:

    I have lambsquarters in my yard, actually, and I eat it, too. ^_^

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  8. My son found several chicken of the woods on a single tree at his place … we harvested many for a couple of weeks, they kept popping up … a wonderful mushroom … beautiful color …

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    • Bill says:

      Aren’t they amazing? We found a big one last year in nearly the same spot. We’re lucky we spotted this one when we did. It’s so dry and hot here now that it wouldn’t have lasted long.

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  9. That’s quite a mushroom! I would have been hesitant to eat it because I don’t know the poisonous from the non-poisonous. From here it looks a bit like a head of cauliflower. πŸ™‚

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    • Bill says:

      With the chicken of the woods, there is no poisonous look-alike. It is a distinctive mushroom and once you know what it looks like it’s unmistakable. We also have cauliflower mushrooms here. They look even more like a cauliflower (and are delicious to boot).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We are trying purslane salad tonight…http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/tomato_cucumber_purslane_salad/
    I’d love to find a mushroom like that, but how would I know if it’s the right kind. It looks wonderful all chopped up! Bon Appetit.

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    • Bill says:

      We have lots of purslane too. Good stuff. And very nutritious.
      The chicken of the woods is a very distinctive mushroom. Once you know what it looks like you can’t go wrong. To be extra safe we took the first one we found to a chef/friend who gave us a positive identification. There are no poisonous look-alikes to this mushroom so it’s a good one for conservative foragers like us.

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  11. bobraxton says:

    the ancient knowledge had to be brand new at many points along the line. Suppose, like re-installing the computer / device operating system, we had a “wipe clean” and “reset” – are current humans less evolved than our ancients?

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    • Bill says:

      I think we’ve progressed in many ways. This is a temporary setback in my opinion–easily remedied

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        I, for one, am dedicated to passing on my GrandMothers’ Knowledge (so truly hope you don’t mind; ) but we should all have the choice to eat what is right here, under our feet; n’est pas?

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Never seen a Chicken-of-the-Woods before; but a four pound mushroom? Nice!! So, are they as rare down in your neck of the woods as the Giant Puffball is around here?
    But Lamb’s Quarters, on the other hand, well that’s just too funny, Bill! I LOVE Lamb’s Quarters – been eating them(it?) for as long as I can remember – but, to me, it(they?) taste much better than spinach – and I’ve successfully swapped them in recipes many times – but the best was in my favourite food to take to a party: Spinach & Water Chestnut Dip in a Pumpernickel Bowl… Only I’d actually be using (free!; ) Lamb’s Quarters & Jerusalem Artichoke with no one ever being aware of the substitutions (until I told them, of course; )
    When I looked, I found a tonne of recipes for Pumpernickel Dip on the net, but I chose this one – partly because of all the other recipes linked to it – but more the fact that this lady is also involved in selling at the Farmer’s Market… http://www.wiveswithknives.net/2013/11/20/knorr-classic-spinach-dip/

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    • Bill says:

      I like it just as much as spinach, if not better. We had some with supper tonight and have been eating it a lot lately. It actually is more nutritious than spinach. We’ve been selling it at the farmers market with a nutritional side-by-side comparison to spinach. And how does the cost of organic spinach compare to growing-wild-year-round lambsquarters?

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  13. I agree. I know nothing! You should do a 1 week nature reminder course on your land! ❀
    Diana xo

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    • Bill says:

      We don’t feel qualified to lead a class on wild edibles but we are thinking of hosting a wild edibles class led by an expert. We’ve been to those and it is amazing how much great food is growing wild all around us–food that sustained humanity for thousands of years but now is considered nothing more than “weeds.”

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m going to keep my eye out for a chicken-in-the-woods mushroom. They look fantastic and I know I’ve seen them around here before, just haven’t gotten around to harvesting one yet.
    Good point about spinach being so hard to grow – I think I’ve finally decided to give up on it and grow something that is more suited to the climate. Why keep trying to force a square peg into a round hole?

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    • Bill says:

      Some years we have a good spinach crop, but it always challenging. Meanwhile, lambsquarters grows easily, with no effort from me other than harvesting it.

      The chicken of the woods likes to grow at the base of dead or dying oak trees (or so I’m told). We found this beauty at the base of a massive and seemingly healthy white oak. Not a good omen for that tree I suppose.

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  15. BeeHappee says:

    Bill, is this your revenge? Deer stole your food so now you are stealing theirs?

    My garden is full of lambs quarters, will have to try them. They say, when life gives you weeds, eat them.

    And have you tried the chickweed? It is driving me nuts in the garden.

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    • smcasson says:

      Somebody find a recipe for Johnson grass.

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      • BeeHappee says:

        ha ha, a mower.
        Although they say at times toxic, but still, get a goat, it will clear it out.
        Just one plant can produce 80,000 seeds, over 200 feet of rhizomes, and seed remains viable for 25 years….

        They say you can use it for deer control. Leave a wall of johnson grass around your garden and it gets so tall, the deer wont enter.. πŸ™‚

        Another one I am finding in my garden is glasswort, looks like a good one for snacking.

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    • Bill says:

      Chickweed is great! We’ve had it in salads and on pizzas. You should try it!

      As for deer and lambsquarters–they don’t seem to like it! Maybe that’s because they’re too busy eating our tomato plants.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. daphnegould says:

    We are having massive road construction on a near by main road. They redid the sidewalks and put in new dirt in the hell strips. They won’t landscape them until either this fall or in the spring. So the weeds have been sprouting. I saw a couple picking some huge purslane plants out of them. They didn’t take the lambsquarters though. Personally I’ve never tried either of them. Though I’ve picked the wild grape leaves in our neighborhood for making pickles.

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    • Bill says:

      Both are excellent foods. I have an organic farmer/friend who started selling wild purslane at the farmers market and it quickly became his #1 selling item. It has a citrus taste and is nutrient dense, so juicers love it. Lambsquarters are also great. Really tasty and nutrient-dense.

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  17. Joanna says:

    We have really got to know quite a few wild foods since coming to Latvia. I only had a passing knowledge previously, now they are essential eating, especially in the spring when they are well ahead of everything else to come through

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks to one of your posts I know that “fat hen” and lambsquarters are the same thing. πŸ™‚ We continue to learn, but we’re amazed at how much wonderfully delicious and nutritious food is growing wild all around us.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. EllaDee says:

    The thought of eating foraged foods intrigues and excites me! As does that huge mushroom, and once you knew what you were looking at I imagine it would be hard to mistake anything else for it. We get wild field mushrooms after rain, and as I picked them with my grandfather when a little kid I’m confident I can tell them by smell and regular habitat in paddocks and gardens but until I learn more I stick to that.

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    • Bill says:

      The chicken of the woods mushroom is unmistakable. We learned the edible mushrooms that are dangerously similar to poisonous mushrooms aren’t very good to eat, so why bother with them? We only forage the highest quality mushrooms, which fortunately have no poisonous look-alikes.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Holy moly on that ‘shroom! We had what appeared to be morels earlier this year growing in the holes of our cinderblock raised beds, but when there’s one “false morel” out there that’ll do gnarly things to you, we just end up pointing and staring and going to the farmer’s market for a bag of them sold by the local mushroom dude πŸ™‚

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  20. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Not sure if it’s still in print, but my dad had a great book on foraging called “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell Gibbons.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. avwalters says:

    I went to visit my mum in the far north last weekend. There the season is so short, that things overlap in the most outrageous ways. Within 150 feet of her front door, I found the following wild things: bilberries; blue berries; thimbleberries; service berries; raspberries; and choke cherries. Added to the wild, was the last of her planted strawberries and cherries. I was in heaven. We made thimbleberry jam and bilberry/blueberry cobbler. Not bad for a 24 hour visit.

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    • Bill says:

      Not bad at all. πŸ™‚ Sounds amazingly delicious.

      Nature must feel rushed in that climate. Short growing season but very long days. Here our long growing season suits me well, leaving me plenty of time to try again when I (inevitably) screw up.

      Liked by 1 person

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