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Wild Edibles

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  • Robert Monie
    Hello Judy and Eveyone Else Interested in the Wild, There is a Forager Newsletter published by the Wild Food Institute, P.O. Box 156, Port Wing, WI 54864
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26, 2002
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      Hello Judy and Eveyone Else Interested in the Wild,

      There is a Forager Newsletter published by the Wild Food Institute, P.O. Box 156, Port Wing, WI 54864 (715-774-3643). A web site pops up for them if you enter "Wild Food Institute" on the google.com search engine. There is also a wild-edibles yahoo group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wild-edibles/ .

      Recent scholarly literature on the food value of edible wild plants throughout the world is neatly summarized by nutrition scientist Louis Grivetti of U Cal Davis at http://teaching.ucdavis.edu/nut120a/0018.htm .

      Professor Grivetti notes that "the nutritional content of some wild species is superior in vitamin and mineral content to widely raised domesticated field crops," and [the] indiscriminate attempts to push back forest margins to bring vast regions under cultivation may result in the extinction of species [valuable in human nutrition]." In other words, the more we cultivate the less food value we get. Pretty much the same thing Fukuoka has been saying for decades!

      Another web site presents a little essay on Fukuoka's experience that "many garden vegetables can also be grown as wild plants." See http://csf.colorado.edu/perma/tilth/wild.html .

      Steve Brill, who was arrested in New York for foraging wild plants in an urban area has his own website, where, among other things, he advertises his two entertaining books: http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com .

      I agree with you that local tradition and practice are the key to finding wild edibles and knowing what to do with them once found. Photos in a book are a poor guide to properly identifying unfamiliar plants. But now and then, one sees gorgeous reproductions of vegetables that deserve commendation. Look for example at the rendering of the flowering Chinese chive or Vietnamese "bong he" at http://www.nre.vic.gov.au/trade/asiaveg/thes-30.htm . This site gives unforgettable coverage to many other asian veggies which though not exactly "wild" I would never want to do without. If fact, about half my garden is Asian.

      Although each region of Europe has its own folk tradition of wild vegetable use, perhaps the most celebrated and documented is that of Crete and Greece (extending also into Turkey and Lebanon). Dr. Artemis Simopoulous a couple of years ago, in her book "The Omega Diet" recounted how healthy and healthful the chickens in Greece are, because they instinctively feed on Greek wild greens that are high in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Purslane is one of these greens that comes in many varieities, including emerald, golden, and pink. (The pink is a true deep-shade plant that grows where little else will). Heart disease, high-blood pressure, and strokes are low in Greece at least partly because presence of wild vegetables in the diet.

      Myrsini Lambraki wrote a book in 1997 (published in Greece) called "EDIBLE GREENS." A capsule summary of her findings appears at http://www.gourmed.gr/mediterranean-diet/health/show.asp?hid=9 .

      In her study of the classic Cretan pie, she discovered that "the raw herbs or greens used in Cretan pies are rich in flavonoids with significant amounts are retained even after the pies are cooked. Herbs and greens rich in flavonoids are: the fennel, leek, poppy flower, sorrel and wild carrot." Her book "Herbs, Greens, Fruit: The Key to the Mediterranean Diet" is available (in English) from the "CRETA SHOP" at http://www.cretashop.gr/br/pagesbr/feedbackbr.htm .

      Ms. Labraki is a member of the "Slow Foods" movement in Europe, formed to go back to the use of traditional foods (including the wild ones that can be foraged) and away from the "fast food" world and all of its discontents.

      Much as I love the idea of foraging, edible fences, and forest farming, I will never give up my well-behaved, domesticated Asian veggies. Even in the wilderness, they have a place. I am especially fond of the Perilla, a Japanese mint that is heroic and Protean in its ablility to come back again and again. Many times through the years I have sworn at the plant, its leaves cut to peices by menacing lopers. I have said "Now I am going to pull you up." But, unlike most of my other mints, a couple of weeks later, the perilla has put out too many new leaves even for the caterpiller to keep up with. As I write, the perilla are the most handsome plants in my garden, standing tall, with virtually no holes in their leaves. Somehow, they have defeated even the caterpiller. Perhaps they have tapped the energies of their ancestors, returing to the wild.

      Robert Monie



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