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Avoid High Grocery Bills and Enhance Health with Abundant Wild Foods

Thursday, August 19, 2010 by: Melissa Sokulski
Tags: wild foods, health, health news

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(NewsTarget) Organic greens like spinach and kale can be expensive at the grocery store or farmers market. Add a pint of fresh berries and an omega 3 supplement like flax or fish oil, and the grocery bill rises. Throw in fresh tropical fruit, organic nuts and wild mushrooms and it`s difficult to afford to eat healthy whole foods. Yet all of these foods grow wild and are available for free, even if you live in the city.

Wild foods are abundant in summer and fall. Wild greens like lambs quarters (Chenopodium alba) can be substituted for spinach in any recipe or salad, cooked or raw. This green has a mild flavor, never turning bitter like dandelion greens. It is high in protein and has more calcium than kale. A good field guide such as Edible Wild Plants by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman can help with positive identification.

Growing through the cracks of city sidewalks and popping up in empty planters is another green which is in abundance now: purslane (Portulaca oleracea). This succulent green contains omega 3 fatty acid, the same beneficial oil as in fish and flax oil supplements. Add wild purslane to a salad or smoothie daily to get your dose of omega threes.

In many places of the country blackberry brambles are considered an invasive weed. Right now their thorny branches are covered with large juicy berries. American paw paw trees contain tropical fruit native to this country and grow as far north as Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. This fruit looks like a mango yet its flesh tastes like banana custard. It is closely related to the cherimoya.

Black walnuts and hickory nuts are getting ready to fall from trees in great abundance. These can be gathered, hulled and dried to be cracked and eaten year round. Acorns are falling from oak trees yet few people realize that acorns are edible. Many of them are bitter from the high concentration of tannins, but these can be easily boiled away. Crack the shell to remove the nut then boil, changing the water until it no longer turns brown. Nuts can be dried in the oven and ground into flour or eaten whole.

While gathering acorns check the base of the oak tree for a wild mushroom called Hen of the Woods. This delicious edible mushroom is sold in specialty stores. Known also by its Japanese name Maitake, it is used to treat cancer and enhance health. Growing on the ground by oaks and other hardwoods are yellow chanterelle mushrooms, another expensive find at specialty stores. Before eating any wild mushroom identification should be verified in person rather than from a field guide. Check the North American Mycological Society for a mushroom group near you.

This is only a sample of delicious healthy wild food. Wild food is high in nutrition and cannot be priced out of reach or otherwise restricted. It is worthwhile to learn to identify these and other plants to take control of our budgets and health.


Elias, Thomas and Dykeman, Peter. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods. Sterling, 2009

Lincoff, Gary. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Knopf, 1981.

North American Mycological Association: http://www.namyco.org/


About the author

Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants.
Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.

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