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Eating Wild

"It's all just a weed until they sell it at the grocery store" ~Ricky

This section of the blog is dedicated to the food that grows wild around us. I will update it as I learn more. I expect that a lot of this knowledge will come from a fellow Burge employee named Ricky. I've already asked him to take me mushroom hunting. He said that will probably not be until July. Till then....

Bull Thistle. You can Eat This!

Bull Thistle

While touring the orchard last week our resident country knowledge expert Ricky (carefully) pulled up a Bull Thistle. He quietly cut the flower, branches and leaves off the main stalk and proceeded to peel  the fuzzy skin away. What was left was a smooth, light green, slightly slimy looking hollow tube. He cut this in 4 pieces, ate one, and gave the others to us 3 apprentices. It was crisp, cool and a little bit sweet. Delicious. Ricky seems to know that the knowledge he carries is important and is eager to share it with us. I plan on making the most of this and have already asked him to take me mushroom hunting after we get some rains.
Bull Thistle Stalk Peeled. This is what you eat. 
Poke Salad
Our last Friday lunch was led by Ricky, our resident carpenter/handyman/cabin builder/wilderness expert/Cherokee/keeper of the secrets of the land man. He met us at 8am and took us foraging for our lunch of Poke Salad. Phytolacca Americana is a semi-succulent herbaceous perennial plant. It grows up to 10 feet tall but you want to eat it before it gets that big. Once the leaves are longer than 6" it becomes toxic to humans and animals. However, this plant has been enjoyed as a spring time delicacy in the South East for years. The trick it that you have to harvest it young and boil it a few times, changing the water in between. We harvested the youngest leaves and green shoots. The leaves Ricky cooked down (boiling a few times) and combined with eggs. He calls them poor man's spinach. The shoots he peeled and sauteed with garlic and olive oil. They feel and taste a lot like asparagus. 

Ricky Shows Us How to Harvest Poke
Poke Salad or Phytolacca Americana
Poke Salad Leaves with Egg

Tulip Poplar
Tulip Poplar
This flower is from the Tulip Poplar tree. The Tulip Poplar is a member of the magnolia family and is the Tennessee state tree.  The flowers are edible but hard to reach growing the high canopy. The petals are stiff and a bit spicy. Ricky says you can make the stamen into a nice pie.
Daniel scurried up the tree to get the flowers for our group.
Cedar Berries
Cedar Berries grow on the trees that line the main road through Burge Plantation. They can be used to flavor foods or infused in water to make a tea. They are not ripe yet but Ricky gave me one to try and it tasted like a cedar cabin. There are thousands within reach and I can't wait to try them once they are ripe. Supposedly they have lots of health benefits and cleansing powers. 


Greenbriar vine with thorns and tendrils

An edible vine identified by it's hear shaped leaves with parallel veins. It's also the only vine with both thorns AND Tendrils (those curly, wispy bits that grab onto things). The vine and leaves are edible but watch those thorns! In early spring you can find the tender shoots at the end of the vine and prepare them like asparagus. The leaves can be treated like spinach. If it's tender enough it's good raw.

Greenbriar Vine Tip (like Asparagus)

Ricky fed us some Greenbriar on Saturday. It was raw and he just broke it up and mixed it with olive oil, garlic and sea salt. It was tasty but he says it's even better if you let it marinate and eat it cold. 

The root is also edible with some processing. You can remove the starch and use it to make a gelatin or thickening agent. It's also used in a root beer called Sarsparilla. (or Vegan Jello Shots!)

Greenbriar Root

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