I am thinking about having the Pathfinders over to my house next month as part of our annual Honor’s Week so they can earn the Edible Wild Plants honor. Because I have been very careful to not turn my yard into a monoculture, I have a wide variety of edible wild plants available here. Many should be available for eating next month too.
One of my favorite edible wild plants is pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum). It does not grow on my property, though it is abundant in other places I frequent. So today I pulled one up near my office thinking I’d sow the seeds somewhere at my house and see what happens. When I pulled it up, the root came with it, so instead of scattering the seed, I just replanted it:
I don’t need this plant in order to teach the honor here, as there are plenty of other plants to choose from. But it is highly flavorful, so I’d like ot have it here.
For the honor, we need to prepare and consume:
- Three berries
- Three beverages
- Three salad plants
- Three potherbs (cooked greens)
- Two tubers
We need to prepare these items by boiling, frying, roasting, and baking. One of the plants has to be either milkweed or daylily, and since I have milkweed, but not daylily, milkweed gets the nod.
I plan to start with a short lecture covering the cardinal edibility rule (don’t eat anything unless you’ve positively identified it, and know what part of it is edible), and poisonous plants (with special attention given to poison ivy – which I do have here). The kids will be roaming around looking for plants, and I want them to know this stuff when they see it.
Then we will set out to do our field work, starting with a visit to the poison ivy patch. I think I will make up a couple of sheets with photos of the target plants and let the kids fan out to find them. They are also supposed to photograph the plants. Here’s what I plan to have them collect:
- Three wild berries: wintergreen, elderberry, and blackberry, and optionally, partridge berry, dewberry, and autumn olive.
- Three beverages: wintergreen, elderberry, sweetfern, and optionally aronia
- Three salad plants: wood sorrel, plantain, violets, and optionally pepperweed, sheep sorrel, and oxeye daisy. Actually, I haven’t seen any sheep sorrel or oxeye daisy here this year, so that depends on whether or not it shows up).
- Three greens: milkweed, dandelion, and white lettuce.
- Two Tubers: Carrot (Queen Anne’s lace), Indian cucumber root, and optionally evening primrose, and ground nut.
We will also collect hazelnuts (they are heavy this year, and they should be ripe by Honors Week). Then back inside to begin cooking stuff up.
We will roast the hazels, fry up some dandelion fritters (from the flower heads), boil the milkweed (in several changes of water), and bake a blackberry pie. That should cover the four cooking methods.
We also need to identify five edible trees and five edible shrubs. For this, I plan to use oak, cherry, beech, white pine, and maple trees, and wintergreen, blackberry, elderberry, hazel, and aronia shrubs.
All of this except the elderberry grows on my property, and the elderberry grows on my neighbor’s place. We’ll use that with permission, of course!
While the stuff is cooking (or while we are eating it), I will lecture a little more on some of the other requirements. That should wrap up the whole honor. I’m trying to decided if I want to do this during a weekday evening (when we will have three hours or so), or save it for Saturday afternoon (we don’t usually have an honor on Saturday during Honors Week).
While I was writing this, I was also finishing off the maple syrup I tapped last spring. I had previously boiled it down by about 15:1, and I needed to get that down to 30:1. I forgot that it was critical to keep a close eye on it in the last stages, and burned the whole batch. Actually, I guess I carmelized most of it. It tastes very much like Sugar Daddies (the candy), but the house smells more liked burned sugar. I added some water back into it to thin it up again, but unfortunately, I don’t think there is a way to unburn it. 😦