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Wild food

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POSTED September 4, 2011 10:35 p.m.

These days it seems that lots of folks are concentrating on eating healthier foods. It seems like everywhere you look there are ads for organic beef, milk and vegetables. Heck, I’m gonna start looking for organic bourbon. You can’t be too careful. Seriously, though, there are undoubtedly significant benefits to eating healthier foods. One source of healthy, organic food is wild food. Remember Ewell Gibbons? He was the author of a best seller entitled ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’ that encouraged folks to go out into the wild and take advantage of the abundance of wild plants that our land is blessed with.

Growing up in an outdoor-oriented family exposed me at an early age to some of the amazing wild foods that were there for the digging. I was fascinated that Brodea were not only beautiful wildflowers, but that you could dig up their bulbs and eat them too. What a great deal! I recall harvesting watercress and miner’s lettuce and Brodea to make a great salad. Cattail roots are also edible but are a little bland for my taste. We spent many pleasant hours picking wild mushrooms as a family, although I don’t do it any longer after Sam Sebastiani died of mushroom poisoning. It’s just too risky. We also had great times on family expeditions picking wild blackberries that grew among the nearby waterways. We’d take a couple of big planks and throw them out into the berry patch so that we could get at the berries unreachable from the edges. Darn, those berries were good.

After I became a Dad, I inflicted my outdoor addiction on our kids. It seemed as though we were always walking down to the woods along the river to pick berries or harvest rose hips. The kids and I would fill a 5-gallon bucket with rose hips and bring them back home to spread out on cookie sheets to dry in the sun in the backyard. We’d usually end up with a couple of quarts of dried rose hips for the winter. Rose hip tea is loaded with both vitamin C and vitamin A, is caffeine free, and is quite pleasant tasting. I recall accidentally discovering a patch of wild onions in the High Sierra simply by walking along a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. Probably one of the finest meals I’ve ever eaten is a patch of freshly caught brook trout sautéed over a campfire in butter and wild onions. Good Lord! I thought my taste buds had died and gone to Heaven.

Wild foods aren’t necessarily restricted to just salads and berries. If you are a hunter, then wild game can provide you with a great source of protein that is 100% organic and that has no hormones or other artificial additives. If you are able to bag a deer or bear in the fall you can have steaks, chops, roasts, and burgers almost all year long. At today’s prices for meat, putting both a deer and a bear in your freezer could save you in the neighborhood of $1,000 in meat costs! For you shotgun enthusiasts, there are pheasants, ducks, quail and doves to round out your diet with healthy natural food. Many is the time I’d take my son Donald out with a .22 for a rabbit stew. I’d begin to cook the potatoes, carrots and onions in a stew pot and send Donald out with his .22 to bring back a cottontail rabbit. I had an ironclad rule, we would never kill more than one rabbit, and we always ate what we killed.

I have heard numerous folks say that they don’t like the “gamey taste” of wild game. I suspect that has a lot to do with how carefully you handle the meat after the hunt. I take great pains to get the critters cleaned, skinned, and cooled as quickly as possible. If you take proper care of the meat, it should taste great and provide you with a large part of your annual protein. In addition, it’s 100% organic and has no additives. If you want to get some great exercise, improve your diet, and save money too, you might want to take a closer look at wild foods.

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