Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wild Foods

Who knew that the orange-blossomed daylilies blooming in my front yard were edible? Or that you could make tea out of sassafras roots? That milkweed is a tasty boiled vegetable, and that you can make coffee from roasted dandelion roots?

I didn’t. But my 12-year-old daughter recently read me all these facts about edible wild plants in the 1962 book Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons. In fact, Larissa has become quite fascinated with the edibility of wild plants in our very own yard.

I’m not even sure quite how this sudden interest came about. Perhaps it was my husband musing about doing something practical with his youth group, like taking a hike and finding out what you can do with various plants. Or maybe she developed this interest when reading books such as the My Side of the Mountain Trilogy, which describe surviving in the wild. Possibly it’s related to her interest in flowers and plants in general, and her enthusiasm for gardening. But no matter where the interest came from, it’s very practical information. Who knows when it could come in handy? If the price of food gets so exorbitant that we’ll supplement from the wild? Or if we get lost in the wilderness? Certainly Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father, never expected her middle class family to have to scavenge for wild foods after the Khmer Rouge chased them out of Phnom Penh in the 1970s. You just never know.

“Do you have a book about edible wild plants?” Larissa asked. As a booklover, I certainly did. I didn’t realize just how engrossed Larissa would become in this book.

So for dinner a couple of nights ago, Larissa picked some daylily buds from our front yard. We dipped them in egg batter and breadcrumbs, and fried them up like the book described. They were our vegetable, served alongside Chinese Twice Cooked Pork. Oh, we got the skeptical looks from Jacob, of course, but he went for seconds. And even thirds.

I will never again look at a daylily the same way. Why, they are quite delicious!

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)