I was recently having a nice dinner conversation with my husband and brother-in-law, when the topic of foraging came up. Both of them foraged as boys, my husband in Virginia, my Bro-in-law in AZ.
My husbands description,"We used to play cow, crawling around on all fours and eating the wild onions growing in the fields."
Is this a common experience? Do you think gender is a factor? Neither my sister nor I have foraged, although I did take a mycology and botany classes in college that had us in the field, eating as we went.
Don't know that I did quite what your husband did, but as a kid I liked the tender base of the youngest leaves in a tuft of grass. I used to pull them out and munch about two tiny bites of that nearly white and flavorful morsel. Tasted about as sweet as wheatgrass juice but not so "green".
I also enjoyed honeysuckle blossoms. We used to pick them and then pull the stamens through the base when we removed the petioles. It would produce a couple drops of a sweet floral nectar from each blossom.
We did this standing straight up. Maybe we lacked imagination.... Anyway, them were the pickin's in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
I'm making honeysuckle liqueur right now. I spent hours over the course of several days picking the just opening flowers in the early mornings and as soon as I had a pint jar packed full I rushed off to fill the jar with vodka and a touch of lemon to keep the flowers from turning brown. In a month or so I will filter it, add simple syrup and see if it is any good.
I keep planning on doing the same with Day Lilly's but haven't gotten around to it. Day Lilly's are great in salads. They have a sweet sort of letture and floral taste. You just have to make sure you use Day Lilly's and not regular Lilly's but it is easy enough to tell them apart since they are completely different.
Well, I'm a guy but I know quite a few amateur and "professional" foragers since it is one of my hobbies. Most are women from whom I've learned a good proportion of my knowledge and skills.
My mother, who is English, taught me basic foraging starting with wild onions, berries, and such. Then in jr. high school I saw a book in the library and taught myself from then on. It got to the point that in college I would go out every sunday and collect a "wild" dinner and prepare it and invite a few friends over to eat. During and after college I spent about 100 days a year for ten years living/working out in the wilderness, and foraging was a major part of my life. It was one of the best ways to get fresh food in my diet, as well as a waay to teach my students more about nature.
I definitely foraged as a kid... wild onions (my parents HATED when I ate wild onions, because you can't believe how pungent your breath gets!), beach plums, serviceberries, stolen tomatoes (okay, so that's not REALLY foraging, it's theft, but...), blueberries. I once waded out into a pond in the Pine Barrens and gathered a bunch of cranberries to cook for Thanksgiving.
In Iowa I used to forage for wild grapes until I nearly got attacked by a poisonous snake who wanted the grapevines more than I wanted the grapes.
Here in California, I forage for wild fennel, herbs, and wild figs.
Maybe it was growing up in New Jersey (the oil-refinery part, not the Pine Barrens part), but I'm kinda scared of eating anything that's just growing up out of the ground.
How do you know if it's safe? I understand you can get a book to identify edible food from poisonous ones, but what about contamination in the ground? Reclaimed water? Am I sounding too paranoid?!@!? :-P
re: Covert Ops
I grew up in Woodbridge, which is definitely the oil-refinery part, and I foraged there. How do you know the raspberries you buy at the store are safe? How do you know that there wasn't one toadstool in that batch of canned mushrooms?
We used to grow lots of produce in our garden in New Jersey and we were never once sick, despite all the furore about "the radon is going to get into your tomatoes!" in the 70's and 80's.
If it made me sick, I didn't eat it again.
In SW Washington, some of the things we would go for were blackberries, hazelnuts, dandelion greens, mustard greens, and nettles.