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Natural Foods List

Arrowhead:
Grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall at the edges of ponds. It has arrowhead shaped leaves. Not as common as cattail. You eat the starchy root.

Blackberry:
Found in fields and clearings throughout North America. Fruits are borne on thorny canes in mid summer. Main hazards involve chiggers and ticks! (and don't forget the thorns) Takes a lot of work to get enough for a pie, but well worth it. The seeds are a source of fiber.

Cattail:
One of the most versatile wild plants, cattails are found in pond shallows and marshy places all over. You can eat the green shoots in spring, the pollen in early summer, and the roots anytime, though they are plumpest in the fall. Make sure that you gather cattail from places that receive pure water. They can grow about anywhere, including beside highways. Runoff from roads or chemically treated lawns could make them unsafe to eat.

Dandelion:
Another winner, dandelions are high in minerals. You can gather the green shoots and leaves in spring (or anytime for that matter, they are just less bitter in the spring). The flowers make a tasty wine. The roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute or extender. While you are digging roots, keep the crown (the part between the roots and leaves) and use as a cooked vegetable. Dandelion is bitter and is best boiled in several changes of water (you lose some of the minerals and vitamin C though) or you can saut? it when young and use vinegar or other strong seasoning to take the bite out.

Daylily:
These are not really wild plants. They are "escaped" plants. You can find them anywhere an old homestead used to be around many parts of the country. You also see them along roadsides. They have orange blooms and foliage that comes straight up from the ground, no central stem. You can eat the flower buds before they open like a cooked vegetable. You can eat the flowers stuffed with anything you can think of, like tuna salad with chives sticking out to simulate stamens. Or you can put smoked sausage and cheese inside, tuck the petals over and put top down on an oiled baking dish. Bake with a little wine and they are heavenly. Leave a 1" piece of stem attached and you will even have a little handle. In the spring they are one of the first greens to pop up. The leaves are tender and good cooked. In the fall the tubers are plump and can be eaten like a potato. Plant some of these around for an emergency food source. Put them off in a corner and they will take care of themselves. The picture shows lilies probably past shoot eating stage (unless you just eat the tender white part like asparagus). There are wild onions in the foreground.

Elderberry:
Elderberry shrubs grow wild to about 10 feet and are easiest to locate in spring when they are in flower. The tiny white flowers are borne in masses on umbels (shaped like an umbrella). The umbels can be a foot across! That is what makes them easy to spot. You should pick a few of the flower umbels and mark the spot for later harvest of the berries. The flowers are great battered and fried (fritters) and also are great for the skin. You can make a tincture (soak them in vinegar for 2 weeks) or infuse some oil with them. The scent is like nothing else! The berries are traditionally used to make wine but I usually make jelly from them. It has a unique flavor that you have to taste because I can't really describe it. Slightly earthy but not a lot. Again, like nothing else! The second year branches can be hollowed out (push the pith out with a wire) and used to tap maple trees for syrup or for homemade flutes. A very versatile plant.

Garlic:
Wild garlic is much like tame garlic. You dig the cloves in the fall. You need to find them before the foliage dies down. This happens in late summer. Also, wild garlic makes bulb lets on top after flowering. You can gather these and use them without crushing or cooking if you are brave. Just rub off most of the papery skin. Try them when you're sick. Just add a handful to potato soup or something else that will support the flavor. Strong but good! Garlic has antibiotic and antioxidant properties.

Gooseberry:
These are common in deciduous woods here in northern Missouri. The best time to locate the bushes is in early spring. They leaf out before most other shrubs. The leaves are unique (see picture) and the later flowers are inconsequential and hang below the branches. The wood is a light gray color with fairly long thorns (up to 1/4 inch). These berries are very sour but make a great pie. The berries have lines running from top to bottom (like lines of longitude) and are dark green when immature. At harvest the berries will be a lighter green with perhaps a pink blush.

Honey Locust:
This is a fast growing tree that produces edible flowers in the spring before the tree leafs out. It grows around here (Northern Missouri) like a weed. It makes a pretty good shade tree but is a little bit brittle (breakage problems) and the limbs have little thorns. On the upside the leaves are so small that you don't need to rake at all. It also produces large amounts of very sweet flowers around Mother's Day. They scent the entire area! These can be nibbled on (watch out for bees) or cooked into pancake batter. I haven't tried them any other way so far. I think they may make an interesting jelly.

Mayapple:
Mayapples are beautiful and unique plants which grow just over a foot high in groves in the woods. They have one or two large leaves. The "apples" are produced on the two-leafed plants. A new patch may not produce any apples for several years. I almost never catch the apples when they are ripe. If you do get to eat them they taste a little like an earthy banana. Non fruit parts of the Mayapple are poisonous! Mayapples are special and if elves existed you would probably find them in a Mayapple grove.

Nuts:
Everybody knows about nuts. There are walnuts and hazelnuts, acorns and hickory nuts. You are probably familiar with all these. Acorns are rather bitter for eating, depending on the type. They make a good survival food though. You can soak the meats after cracking to remove the tannin (the compound that makes them bitter). They can then be ground into flour or whatever. Not great for casual eating though!

Pawpaw:
We have a lot of Pawpaws around here. The trees grow in the woods and are usually under 30 feet tall They have elongated, somewhat tropical looking leaves up to 9 inches long. The fruits ripen around the first of September around here and are much like a short fat banana but more acidic. They have smooth green skin (becoming yellowish at maturity) and 2 rows of quarter-sized black seeds the entire length of the fruit. We have them in pies (with vanilla pudding) and just eat them on the trail. Very refreshing on a long hike.

Pine:
Pine trees are great survival food. You can strip some of the inner bark and roast and grind it for flour. You can eat the pine nuts from the cones. You can also brew the needles for an aromatic "tea" that contains a good amount of vitamin C. White pine is actually still used in some cough syrups because of its expectorant properties. I always use it as a base when I make "sickie tea".

Plantain:
Also called "white man's foot" because it grows in disturbed soil. This little plant is edible but tough. I usually include some in my spring greens because it is there. Pick them early and they more tender. The flavor is mild. You can also use the seeds (borne on tall thin spikes) as a flour, for roasting. You can even take a spoonful or two for regularity in place of psyllium.

Poke:
Poke is a striking plant with large leaves and purple berries that grows 6-8 feet tall. It is ONLY eaten in the spring and only the young shoots. It is quite acidic and needs to be boiled in 3 changes of water. We then add other, milder greens (especially nettle) to make a more palatable dish (some people like the sharpness of the poke without the sissy greens added). Poke becomes poisonous as it grows, which is why you should only eat the young shoots. The berries are reputed to be poisonous also, but they make a great dye. Once you know what poke looks like you can recognize it anywhere, but it is easier to identify when mature. If you find a mature plant you can use it next year to locate the young shoots. They grow from the same spot year after year.

Purslane:
This is a low-growing plant with small succulent leaves. The whole plant looks waxy. Here I let it grow wherever it comes up in my garden. It spreads to about 2 feet. You can use it to thicken soups or other stuff much like okra. It is very mucilaginous.

Raspberry:
Like blackberries, these grow wild in many places. They may often be found in power line right of ways or just at the edges of woods. They like a little sun so will colonize clearings easily. They generally produce red berries in the wild state. Use them like blackberries. They have somewhat softer seeds and the flavor is different too. If you are lucky enough to have a patch try thinning out the old or second year canes after harvest (these are the cane that have just had berries). The new green canes will have berries the next year. You can also cultivate around and feed them. Your harvest will be far superior.

Stinging Nettle:
People often look strangely at me when I talk about eating these. In reality they are my favorite wild green. They are very mild with lots of vitamin C and great flavor. A source of boron and good for you in so many ways! The nettle toxins go away when the plants are cooked or dried. Just be sure to wear gloves when you pick, wash and cut them! Nettles are also great made into a hair rinse. Just boil them to make a tea and store it in the fridge.

Violet:
Violets are small woodland plants that produce little purple flowers in the spring. The flowers are edible and make a lovely addition to salads. Older leaves may have a laxative effect. We only use a few of these for obvious reasons. Just one of the older (stronger) leaves may be enough to produce the effect. Easy on the violets!

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