Month: March 2015

New Video – Maple Sugaring At Raccoon Creek State Park With Patrick Adams

maplespileswildfoodism23Foraging… how did you learn the craft?

Books, videos, friends, walks, workshops?

For me, it all began with a single wild edible walk in my neighborhood.  Two local experts led 12 of us through a park, pointing out all the wild species that could be used for food and medicine.

Wow!  I was hooked.

Shortly after, I immersed myself in all the foraging literature I could acquire.  I purchased the books, I read the online blogs, and I joined the foraging message boards.

All of these methods were instrumental in advancing my foraging skills.

Still, I have found few better ways to truly learn this craft… to really understand it inside and out… than by studying with the experts.  In person.  Face to face.  (Well maybe not that close, but you get the point.)

I feel there is no substitution for the classic mentor/student relationship, and because of this, I seek out mentors every chance I get.

Take Patrick Adams, for example.  Patrick is an environmental educator at Raccoon Creek State Park, a 7,572-acre state park located in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

I’ve learned many skills from Patrick:  primitive fire craft, acorn processing, and maple sugaring, just to name a few.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick one day prior to the annual maple sugaring workshop he runs at the park, and today I am happy to be sharing this interview with you.

In this video, we talk all things maple sugaring, including Patrick’s early experiences with this craft, red vs. sugar maples, indigenous practices, and more.

If you haven’t tapped any trees yet, I bet you’ll be inspired to do so!

Check out the video… I’d love to know what you think!

Back to the original question:  How did you learn the craft of foraging?  Books, videos, mentors like Patrick?  Feel free to comment below and let me know… I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading and watching!


Like what you’ve seen and/or read?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/wildfoodism) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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Maple Sap Gelatin Treats

maplesapgelatinwildfoodismTime to take a break from the research and share a recipe with you.

This one’s got “wild” written all over it.  Well, most of it.  Well, maybe 50% of it.

Anyway…

Many years ago, while researching human nutrition, I came across the concept of eating “nose-to-tail.”  You know, eating all the edible parts of an animal.  Not just the muscle meat, which is what many Westerners consume, but every edible ounce.

No, I didn’t learn this in the classroom, even though dozens of credits were devoted to nutrition.  I learned this on my own.

Which reminds me…

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain

Well said, Mark.

Organs, glands, hearts, bone marrow… if you want to talk about a natural diet for human beings (whatever that may be), it would be quite inaccurate to offer a description without at least mentioning these often discarded, yet immensely valuable animal parts.

Whenever we eat nose-to-tail, specifically an animal’s skin, bones (decocted in hot water), and connective tissue, chances are good that we are consuming gelatin — a broken down form of collagen.

Gelatin is as much a part of the natural human diet as, say, plants.  Most Americans, however, eat a diet that is quite different from the diet our species was designed to eat.  Usually I’ll bring up the topic of wild foods when comparing diets, as most Americans do not consume any wild foods.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’ll spare you the diatribe.

I will, however, mention this point:  if we’re not consuming dietary gelatin, whether in whole-food form or through supplementation, our health may suffer.  Yes, I suppose that’s a bold statement, but through my research, personal experiences, and interactions with others, I have come to believe that dietary gelatin (or collagen) is essential for optimal health.

Of course, I recommend ingesting gelatin and collagen in whole-food form whenever possible.  Already eating nose-to-tail?  You’ve probably got it covered.

For the times when we don’t have access to quality animal cuts, supplemental gelatin can be a good alternative.  And this is exactly what we are going to use for this recipe.

Remember the gelatin most of us consumed as kids?  Yeah, this won’t be that.

We’re using maple sap, freshly harvested from the tree.  Why maple sap?  Well, in addition to tasting great, and in addition to being a wild drink that has been ingested for centuries, maple sap is actually quite nutritious and medicinal.

How so, you may be asking?  Ah, well let’s see.  Research has shown that maple sap may…

  • Provide support for osteoporosis
  • Prevent gastric ulcer formation
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Mitigate alcoholic hangovers
  • Support a healthy immune system
  • Offer dietary antioxidants

The only catch?  We gotta consume it!

And what better way to do that than by making maple sap gelatin treats.

This is a simple recipe that takes only 10 minutes or less to make.  Of course, the final product must chill for at least 2 hours before it sets completely, though you can use that time to read some of the past articles I’ve written here at Wild Foodism.  😀

Maple Sap Gelatin Treats

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 C maple sap (if you do not have access to maple sap, maple water can be purchased)
  • 3 Tbsp gelatin, powdered
  • 6 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 C of juice)

Directions: 

  1. Divide maple sap evenly into 2 vessels — one for heating, and one kept at room temperature or cooler.
  2. Heat 3/4 C of maple sap on stove, bringing it to a simmer.
  3. While this is heating, add the remaining 3/4 C of room temperature (or cold, either is fine) maple sap into a bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the room temperature maple sap, allowing it to “bloom” for a few minutes.  Stir the mixture completely once bloomed. *Blooming is an important step when preparing gelatin in which the gelatin absorbs water, thus ensuring a smooth texture in the final product.
  5. Upon simmering, take the first batch of maple sap off the stove and add it to the bowl of maple sap and gelatin.
  6. Stir until the gelatin dissolves.
  7. Add this mixture to a container (I use an 8x6x2 glass dish).
  8. Stir in maple syrup and lemon juice.
  9. Place in refrigerator (or outside, if the temperature is cool enough), and let it sit for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  10. Cut into squares and enjoy with someone special!

That’s it!  Very simple, yet tasty and nourishing.  Of course, you can alter the recipe a bit to your liking — adding more maple syrup, or subtracting some; using more lemon juice, or just a bit less.  It’s really quite malleable.

You see, maple sap isn’t just for drinking, nor is it just for making syrup and sugar.  It’s 2016, and that means maple sap is also great for making gelatin treats.

If you decide to make a batch, let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading (and potentially making this recipe)!


Like what you’ve read?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/wildfoodism) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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Before You Buy Another Superfood, Check Your Backyard First

juneberryripe2wildfoodismI know what you’re thinking.  “Oh no, not another article on superfoods…”

Or maybe you weren’t thinking that at all, but now you are because I brought it up.

Or maybe I’m just looking into things a little too much.  Anyway…

I’m not here to proclaim that I have discovered a new miracle food – an ancient plant that sheds unwanted pounds, curbs your appetite, supercharges your immune system, and contains so many antioxidants that the concept of infinity seems miniscule in comparison.

Foods like that probably exist, but I’ll let someone else sell you on them.

Rather, my intention in writing this article is a bit different.

If you’ve felt confused over all the superfood hype – not sure which Amazonian berry should go into your morning smoothie; considering if it’s really worth spending $29.99 on 3 ounces of powdered fruit that contains more vitamin C than 12,000 oranges – I’m here to say, “It’s okay.”

Really, it is.  Your health can flourish with or without these products.

Phew, take a breath.  I just saved you some serious cash!

However,  I’m not going to let you off the hook that easily.  If I did, my writing would be done for the day, but I would also be doing everyone a big disfavor.

You see, while it may be easy to reject the whole concept of superfoods and much of what the movement stands for, there is some truth behind all the hype – enough that it may not be worth dismissing completely.  Unfortunately, though, this truth tends to become slightly twisted, causing mass confusion and ultimately… poor decision-making.

Did I just confuse you some more?  Let me explain…

Yes, superfoods are necessary

It’s true, which is why I have to pause and think whenever I hear someone declare that superfoods are bogus.

Critics will claim that our bodies can function quite well so long as they are fed by apples, bananas, oranges, cruciferous vegetables, and other items found in the grocery store’s produce department.  No need for superfoods, they say, as the true superfoods consist of our common fruits and veggies.

But therein lies the problem: “quite well” does not equate to “optimal” when defining health performance, and relying on a diet of heavily domesticated foods has never been shown to generate exceptional health, especially when analyzing health across multiple generations.

Let’s take a step back…

You see, many millennia ago, as the agricultural revolution commenced and subsequently accelerated, humans became very proficient at breeding many of the medicinal compounds out of the wild plants that once sustained our species.  What we lost in medicine we gained in taste and size.

Let’s look at an example…

The powerful medicines found in a wild plant – for instance, in wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea)protect the species from predation and consumption in the wild.  Through the process of breeding, these protective compounds are usually weakened and reduced in order to produce a tastier crop (think cauliflower).  Without the original bitter compounds, the cultivated organisms cannot defend themselves quite as well as their wild counterparts can, and as a result, they generally require the services humans provide, such as adequate sun exposure, water, food, fencing, etc.

Question:  Have you ever seen cauliflower growing in the wild?

No?  Why not?

Cauliflower is not strong enough to survive on its own.  Through years of domesticating the Brassicaceae genus, most of the protective bitter compounds have been removed.  Today we have “cauliflower,” or a subspecies of Brassica oleracea, and it absolutely requires the support of humans for its reproduction and survival.

Cauliflower tastes great and has a healthy nutrient profile.  It just doesn’t possess the same medicinal composition that a wild cabbage may contain.  Whenever we eliminate wild foods (like the wild mustards) from our diets, and instead consume only highly-domesticated species, our bodies do not receive the full spectrum of nutrition and medicine we require for optimal health.  As a result, we suffer.

Generalizing this example to our apples, oranges, bananas, and most other cultivated foods found in the produce department of our grocery stores, one can begin to see why these foods may not provide all that we need for optimal health, for they themselves are lacking in their full expression of all that they could be.

This is where the hype surrounding superfoods contains some merit.  Many of us understand the importance of a diversified diet built around high quality foods, and we look to species that generally contain not only vitamins and minerals, but potent medicines and phytonutrients as well.  Superfoods in the marketplace help us recognize that, yes indeed… an elevated class of food does exist!

However, before ending this piece and calling it a day, there is some information regarding location that I’d like to discuss.

And we’ll start by pondering this question:  Must we scour the jungles and mountains from lands far, far away to receive our superfood fix?

Superfoods – not as exotic as you’d think

To answer that question, I’d have to say “no, probably not.”

And here is where consumers tend to really get swept away by the hype.

Most species glorified as superfoods hail from far away lands – the rainforests of the Amazon, the hills of China, the mountains of Peru.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  Isn’t it interesting that very few superfoods are species that naturally grow within our immediate ecosystems?

I mean, it’s as if a plant must grow at least 3,000 miles from our hometown in order to qualify.  Were the Shawnee natives deficient in beta-carotene because they didn’t have access to goji berries?  Are the Hadza hunter-gatherers lacking chlorophyll because they’re not drinking wheatgrass?

Listen, I know that most of the “superfoods” on the market are legit.  I enjoy goji berries as much as the next health-nut.  I’ve had great success introducing quality Theobroma cacao into my diet.  And wheatgrass… well, if you really enjoy the taste, more power to you.  There are more than 8,000 species of grass (Poaceae spp.) on this planet though, and why wheatgrass is the Chosen One is anyone’s guess.

But really, most of the currently marketed items are indeed quality products – if not in their plastic containers, then at least in their native habitats.  Many of the products’ claims are supported by adequate research, and most species have been consumed, in one form or another, by traditional cultures for centuries.

Surely, many people – past and present – have witnessed improvements in their lives through the consumption of these foods.  I’ve seen it happen with numerous individuals, and I’ve experienced it myself.

So it’s not as if we’re being sold bags of lies and containers full of deceit.  No, these products are fine.

It’s just that the inner-consumer inside of us can often be persuaded and tempted to purchase a novel product from a distant land – a must-have food that promises Health! Vitality! Longevity! – without pausing for a moment, taking a deep breath, and checking our backyard first.

And that is what I encourage you to do.  Check your backyard first.  Then check the nearby parks, fields, woodlands, forests, mountains, bogs, and so on.  No, not for bottles of açaí juice.  Not even for fields of green coffee beans.  We’re talkin’ ’bout the wild species that naturally inhabit these areas!

northparkfieldwildfoodism

The backyard – a treasure trove of “superfoods” (and spiders)

Remember, “superfoods” are found in all inhabitable ecosystems – not just ones characterized by 4 walls, automatic sliding doors, fluorescent light bulbs, beepin’ cash registers, and lots of manicured species on display.  As I alluded to before, true superfoods comprise the wild foods that inhabit the landscapes within which we live.

Examples, Adam, examples! 

Okay.  Here are a few.

In the past decade or so, health professionals have been geeking out over flax and chia seeds – two good sources of α-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) – shifting purslane, a wild green that thrives in disturbed areas, into obscurity.  It’s unfortunate, as purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is an excellent source of α-linolenic acid, containing between 300-400 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh material.  Purslane also contains impressive levels of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, while additionally providing gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and α-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E).

And then there are the mushrooms.  Yes, shiitake is an excellent food and medicine, and indeed it can be cultivated here in Pennsylvania.  The wild maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), however, is truly a superfood in every sense of the word.  Research suggests that, in addition to providing the body ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), maitake can protect the body against various cancers.  Maitake has also been shown to support the immune system, regulate healthy blood sugar levels, and provide numerous dietary antioxidants.

In addition to these 2 species, the list goes on.

Morels?  Yes, they count.  Nettles?  Certainly.

So, we really do need superfoods, huh?

Yes, we do require superfoods for optimal health.  We need species that are strong, robust, wild, and very fit for their environments – species that contain their full spectrum of nutrients and medicines.

But no, we don’t necessarily need the ones that we’re tempted to purchase.  They may look flashy on the grocery store shelves, but that doesn’t mean our options are limited only to what a company can harvest, package, and sell.  It’s like getting all your information from the local TV news channel and believing that there’s nothing more to reality than what it broadcasts.  But if you turn off the TV and step outside, you’ll soon realize that there’s so much more to life than we’re being told.  (sold?)

The same goes for superfoods…

Step outside… they’re all around you! 

Well, not in a creepy kind of way.  But in a “Won’t you take me home?… I’d be happy to give ya some of those missing medicines” kind of way.

Anyway…

To summarize, while apples, oranges, bananas, cabbages, and collards are great foods to include in our diets (hey, you know I love and eat them too), they’ll never be enough. (*Note:  I believe animal products are necessary for optimal health as well, though because they’re not generally marketed as “superfoods,” I did not reference them in this article.)

We must supply our bodies with foods that not only provide macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, but also with the medicines which, once upon a fruitful time, granted our species exceptional health.

Final thoughts

Yes, superfoods are necessary.  But let’s clarify…

The packaged ones on display?  Maybe.

Well, how about the ones in our ecosystem?  Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  Yes, those wild and plentiful species are the true superfoods that our bodies desire and require.

Oh, and did I mention they’re free?  Because, well… they are!

Thanks for reading, and as always… happy foraging!


Like what you’ve read?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/wildfoodism) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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Wild Food News And Links: Edition 4

cookforest3wildfoodismWelcome to the 4th edition of Wild Food News And Links!  It’s my intention to share recent, relevant, and riveting news from around the web pertaining to the wild food lifestyle.  If you discover news that may benefit the readers of Wild Foodism, please let me know so that it can be considered for a future edition.

New Resource

Do you live in Western Pennsylvania?  Do you have a Facebook account?  If so, I’d love to invite you to join a new group I created, cleverly titled Western PA Foragers.  And if you know some friends who would be interested in joining, feel free to invite them!  Click to join.

News

This seems to be the consensus across the Northeastern United States:  maple sugaring season is delayed due to cold temperatures.

Life was certainly different for our hominid ancestors, though there is very little we know for sure.  One researcher from Georgia State University is providing insight into the foraging patterns that were utilized from 6 to 1.6 million years ago.  Now that’s a start!

Speaking of wild humans, here’s an interesting finding:  Energy expenditure is nearly indistinguishable between Hadza hunter-gatherers in East Africa and modernized Westerners of Europe and the United States.  Simply put, the amount of energy a person uses in the form of calories is approximately the same between highly active hunter-gatherers and sedentary domesticated humans.  How could that be?

It’s ubiquitous, it’s easy to gather, and it’s free.  Yes, we’re talking about snow.  While some people may despise it, others are eating it.  But could we also be eating trace amounts of sand, soot, formaldehyde, and mercury with every bite?  Check out this article to learn the best times and places to harvest quality snow.  (Sounds like a joke, but I assure you it’s not.)

Numerous organisms exhibit a trait known as bioluminescence.  In other words, they glow in the dark.  Researchers in Brazil are using LED-lit mushrooms to mimic this natural process, seeking to discover the true reasons behind this showy phenomenon. Check out this short and beautiful video to see it in action.

Blogs

A notable mycologist developed and patented a pesticide, derived from fungi, that offers a safe and effective solution for deterring over 200,000 species of insects.  And that notable mycologist just so happens to be Paul Stamets.  Check out Exopermaculture to learn more.

Arthur Haines, a distinguished botanist who runs the Delta Institute of Natural History in Maine, offers his perspective on what he calls the “core issue” – the problematic idea that humans view themselves as separate from all other life forms.  The solution?  You guessed it… foraging (among others).  Check out his blog to learn more.

Trichinosis from eating wild game… should we be worried?  Well, it depends.  Leave it to Hank Shaw to explain (and alleviate somewhat) the concerns regarding the Trichinella parasite in our wild meats, over at his blog – Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

Winter foraging need not be all about the food.  Ted Manzer, a nature writer and teacher of agriculture in North Carolina, explains how he and his daughter experimented with making dyes using numerous winter plant species.  Very interesting read!

That’s it for this edition!  Thanks for reading!


Like what you’ve read?  Sign up below to receive notifications for new posts, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook (facebook.com/wildfoodism) and Twitter (twitter.com/wildfoodism) pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan

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