Author: Adam

Wild foodist

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

adamheadshot3

signinformwildfoodism

Advertisements

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

adamheadshot3

signinformwildfoodism

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

adamheadshot3

signinformwildfoodism

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

adamheadshot3

You And Your Land: A Reunion

cookforestwinter2wildfoodismPennsylvania was once covered in land that looked like this, as recent as only a few centuries ago.

How could it last, though?  Surely, this land was much better suited for development.  For progress!  Lots of roads and cities, houses and apartments, high-rises and strip malls… lots and lots of strip malls – replete with a Big Lots and LA Nails in every single one.

Much of this is gone.  Are you sad?  Why lament, though?  We have stadiums and office buildings, sidewalks, movie theaters, pipelines, and Thai food on every corner.  And don’t forget, we do have suburban and city parks, sprinkled with soccer fields, ice rinks, and tennis courts.

That stuff is… well, it’s okay… but it’s not real.

In those rare moments when you’re not being sold deodorant in a magazine, sold reality in a newspaper, sold financial planning on a billboard…. do you ever stop and think “There’s got to be more to life than this…”?  Ever get the feeling that something is missing?  That something was taken away from you? Hm… you want it back, don’t you?

Well, it’s here.  Yep, it never left.  That thing you crave… it’s in these pockets of undisturbed reality, where the towering hemlocks, pines, beeches, and birches live.  And you know what, you had it not too long ago, and you can experience it once again.

The therapist, politician, and 5 o’clock news reporter will never tell you that your heart longs for the reunion between you and land that looks like this.  Because well, that’s not good for the economy.

You won’t be able to buy anything in land that looks like this.  There’s no shopping to be done.  What could an old growth hemlock $ell you anyway?  Oxygen?  Beauty?  Love?

Well, I must tell you that, should you reacquaint yourself with land that looks like this, you may end up leaving with an empty bag.  Pockets full of pine cones and no cash.  No plastic to unwrap and throw away.  A blank receipt all along…

Kinda like how you came into this world.  And kinda like how you’ll exit:  nothing to own, not even your self.

But I’ll tell ya this.  You’ll leave with a heart full of meaning… of ultimate fulfillment.  You’ll get that feeling of reuniting with the childhood friend you’d sip root beer with on your parents’ porch decades ago as 5 year old initiates to this life… no news to discuss except whether or not the salamander will come out from under his rock today… that kinda feeling. 😉

Allow this to become your reality as much as you possibly can, and see if it doesn’t become the best life you’ve ever lived…


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

adamheadshot3

signinformwildfoodism

The Health Benefits Of Drinking Maple Tree Sap

maplesapwildfoodismIf you’ve ever tapped a maple tree, surely you’ve tasted the fresh sap – unprocessed and unboiled – straight from the tree.

If you have never tapped a maple tree, perhaps you’ve got one of those nice neighbors who generously shares his or her bounty of maple sap.  Or perhaps you’ve even purchased and consumed any of the various “maple waters” on the market today.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about (…tree sap? What the heck is that?), allow me to put this into context.

In late winter/early spring, sap rises in certain trees (i.e. maples and walnuts) due to temperature fluctuations – notably, the freeze/thaw cycle.  In other species (i.e. birches), sap flow is governed by root pressure that forms once soil temperatures reach approximately 50° Fahrenheit.  This sap contains water and dissolved nutrients (i.e. sugars) that travel up towards the branches, feeding the developing leaves.

If you’re interested in learning which trees produce sap during this season, check out this recent video I filmed.  In it, I discuss key identifying characteristics regarding 4 tappable trees, including 2 maples and 2 birches.

Let’s continue the story. 

Whenever these trees are wounded during this particular season, sap will flow from inside the trees (sapwood) out through their wounds.  Such is the case whenever we tap a tree by placing a hole into its bark.  This sap, after collection and prolonged exposure to heat, can be eventually reduced into syrup.

But wait!  Before we boil down our precious sap, transforming it into one of nature’s finest sweeteners, we can appreciate this subtly-sweet liquid for all that it is.

In other words, we can drink it.  Call me old school, but I like to drink sap unprocessed, consuming whatever I can at the source and storing the rest in containers.

Now, I am familiar with the warning that one ought to boil the sap first, as there’s a possibility that it may harbor pathogenic organisms.  If we’re managing a clean operation, however, I believe this fear isn’t always warranted.  Still, use your best judgement.

Maple sap, depending on the species, contains varying levels of sugars – notably sucrose.  Sap from the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), for example, is approximately 2% sugar.

sucrosewildfoodism

For the wild food chemists:  Sucrose, commonly known as “table sugar” — the predominating sugar in maple sap.

For this reason, maple sap imparts a delicate, sweet taste to the palate, one that becomes extremely concentrated during the sap’s conversion into syrup.  While I certainly enjoy maple sap for its delectable late-winter sweetness, I also appreciate its content of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, polyphenols, and other health-promoting compounds.

You see, many people are aware that maple syrup confers numerous health benefits, typically dependent to some degree on color.  In this article, I’d like to explore the health benefits associated with its often overlooked forebear, a mystifying substance that surely deserves more attention.

Introducing…

The benefits of maple sap

But first, a little history…

While maple syrup is certainly beloved by its largest producer, North America, perhaps no other country utilizes and appreciates maple sap more so than South Korea.  It is here where villagers climb the hills every year to collect sap from a maple tree known as “Gorosoe” (Acer mono).  This tradition spans almost an entire millennium.  Traditionally, villagers would create V-shaped incisions into the trees and channel the sap away with bamboo leaves.  Today, the operation is much more modernized, incorporating plastic spouts, tubing, and large holding tanks.  Unlike in North America where most sap is turned into maple syrup, Koreans drink the sap with no further processing, or instead use it as cooking water.

Okay, now onto the benefits…

Maple sap improves osteoporosis-like symptoms

“Gorosoe” translates to “the tree that is good for the bones.”  Sure, the name sounds promising, but is there any truth to it?

For starters, sap from Acer mono has been shown to contain an impressive mineral analysis, including 16 times the potassium, 37 times the calcium, and 3.9 times the magnesium contents of spring water.  All 3 of these minerals are essential for optimal bone health.

To test the bone-supporting effects of maple sap on biological systems, researchers carried out experiments where they put mice on low-calcium diets and supplemented them with various concentrations of A. mono sap (1).  Mice who were supplemented with both 50% and 100% maple sap concentrations retained normal serum calcium levels, compared to the lower serum calcium levels of mice fed spring water only and 25% maple sap.

Additionally, in the spring water-fed and 25% maple sap-fed groups, thigh bone density and length were significantly reduced, compared to the mice fed higher concentrations of maple sap.  The researchers concluded that 50% sap solution could mitigate osteoporosis-like symptoms induced by a low-calcium diet, and they attributed its mechanism to calcium ion absorption.

Maple sap prevents gastric ulcer formation

Injury to the mucosal lining of the stomach can lead to stomach ulcers.  Common causes include infection by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and excessive consumption of alcohol.  If stomach ulcers are left untreated, they can eventually lead to gastric cancer.

Can something as simple (and tasty) as maple sap prevent these conditions from occurring?  Researchers think so.

To test their hypothesis, researchers subjected mice to a procedure intended to cause stress-induced gastric lesions (2).  Before the researchers carried out their experiments, however, the mice were pretreated with various supplements:

  • One group received L-arginine, an amino acid known to prevent stress-induced gastric mucosal lesions.
  • A second group received omeprazole, a prescription drug used to treat stomach ulcers.
  • A third group received a freeze-dried powder of Acer mono sap.
  • A fourth group (the placebo group) received a single saline administration.

Results were … well … quite impressive!

After being subjected to the stress experiments for 6 hours, the mice in the placebo group displayed abundant lesions, on average 1-2 mm in size.  The mice who received L-arginine and omeprazole developed very few lesions.  Remarkably, the mice who received maple sap prior to the stress experiments did not present any small or large sized corrosions.

(!!!)

In other words, not only was maple sap effective, it was more effective than L-arginine and omeprazole in protecting against gastric mucosal lesions.  The mechanism behind maple sap’s protective effects seems to be related to its ability to significantly lower the mRNA expression of iNOS and nNOS, two enzymes that have been shown to play key roles in the formation of gastric lesions.

Researchers concluded that A. mono sap can be used as an ulcer remedy or for other preventive and nutraceutical purposes.

Maple sap lowers blood pressure

Like Acer mono, Acer okamotoanum is another species of maple found in Korea.  Sap concentrations of calcium, potassium, and magnesium are 37, 20, and 3.9 times higher than the levels found in spring water.  Just as calcium and potassium are two minerals that function in supporting optimal bone health, they also play a role in regulating blood pressure.

Acerokamotoanumwildfoodism

Acer okamotoanum, a species of maple native to Korea. Source: http://www.asianflora.com

To test the blood pressure-lowering effects of A. okamotoanum sap, researchers fed hypertensive rats spring water supplemented with 25%, 50%, or 100% maple sap (3).  Compared to the rats fed only commercial spring water, the rats supplemented with all concentrations of maple sap experienced reductions in blood pressure.

Researchers attributed the blood pressure-lowering effect of A. okamotoanum sap to its concentration of potassium ions.  As an added benefit, body weight also decreased in the rats fed 50% and 100% maple sap concentrations.

Maple sap prevents hangovers

Originally, the title of this section was “Maple sap facilitates alcohol metabolism,” which is probably the more accurate phrasing of what I’m about to describe.  But hey, sometimes you just gotta use sensationalism to capture your audience’s attention!  Anyway…

As previously stated, A. okamotoanum sap contains various electrolytes (the dissolved mineral ions of calcium, magnesium, and potassium).  Because alcohol consumption has a physiological effect on the absorption, elimination, and serum concentrations of electrolytes and minerals, researchers wanted to see what effect, if any, A. okamotoanum sap had on alcohol metabolism in rats.

Researchers administered concentrations of 25%, 50%, and 100% maple sap to rats, 30 minutes prior to receiving alcohol (4).  Compared with the rats fed alcohol without any maple sap, the rats who were pretreated with maple sap demonstrated significant reductions 5 hours later in the blood concentrations of both alcohol and acetaldehyde – a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism.

Additionally, mRNA expression of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), two liver enzymes necessary for alcohol metabolism, was significantly increased in the rats pretreated with maple sap (increased is a good thing in this case).  The results suggest that, at least in rats, consuming maple sap prior to ingesting alcohol can increase the rate at which alcohol is metabolized in the body.  The researchers also concluded that maple sap may reduce oxidative stress associated with alcohol consumption.

hangoverwildfoodism

Should’ve consumed maple sap first!

Maple sap supports a healthy immune response

Whenever our bodies are exposed to pathogenic microbes, our immune systems heed the call to action.  In particular, white blood cells known as neutrophils congregate at the site of infection and engulf (think swallow) the offending microbes.  Once the pathogens are engulfed, enzymes within our bodies generate substances known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) that, through oxidation, eliminate the bad guys.

This latter process – of generating reactive oxygen species –  is necessary in order to remove pathogens, but it can also inflict damage inside our bodies.  Oxidation is an on-going process, but too much of it can be a bad thing.  Regulation, therefore, is necessary in order to balance this delicate dance between eliminating pathogens while minimally damaging host tissue.  Maple sap (A. okamotoanum) may indeed help.

To test this hypothesis, researchers treated mice, rats, and canines with a compound known to impair the immune system, then administered increasing concentrations of A. okamotoanum sap (5).  Results showed that treatment with maple sap stimulated the activity of neutrophils (immune cells) in mice, rat and canines.  Additionally, the sap enhanced the last step in this process – the elimination of microbes using ROS.

While this study was performed on animals, the researchers concluded that A. okamotoanum sap may have potential antimicrobial effects for patients with infection.

Maple sap contains antioxidants

As mentioned previously, oxidation is a natural process in the human body that, if left unchecked, can result in conditions such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease (just to name a few).  Antioxidants combat the process of oxidation, and can be produced internally as well as provided externally through the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods – for example, the sugar maple.

The sugar maple (Acer saccharum), a species native to North America, yields the highest volume and concentration of sap, making it a superior candidate for tapping.  Its sugar content is approximately 2.0%.

Acersaccharumwildfoodism

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum).  Credit: Albert Herring

Antioxidants within the sap of A. saccharum have the ability to scavenge the superoxide radical (6) – a potentially destructive molecule that has been implicated in numerous diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease (7, 8).

Out of 10 compounds analyzed in sugar maple sap for their antioxidant effects, only 3 of these are found in maple syrup from the sugar maple.  What this means is that several antioxidant compounds are seemingly lost in the transformation from sap into syrup.  Perhaps this is one of many benefits to consuming maple sap in its fresh form.

Summary of health benefits:  Sap from various maple trees has been shown to provide support for osteoporosis, prevent gastric ulcer formation, lower blood pressure, mitigate alcoholic hangovers, support a healthy immune system, and offer dietary antioxidants.

Now, I understand that most of the research cited in this article involved animals as test subjects.  We – Homo sapiens –  are animals, sure, though clearly not of the mouse, rat, nor dog type.  Therefore, the academic in me will say that “though certainly promising, we cannot entirely extrapolate these findings to humans.”  Very dry, I know.  But really, researchers will claim that just because maple sap lowers blood pressure in rats doesn’t mean that it’ll do the same to you and me.

Also, I understand that most of the research on maple sap pertains to species of maple that aren’t native to the continent that produces the most maple syrup.  Out of the 6 primary research articles I reviewed, only one used the species of maple nearest and dearest to most American tapping enthusiasts – the sugar maple, Acer saccharum.  Therefore, we cannot definitively say that the sap from all species of maple will produce the exact same effects on biological systems.

However, the benefits outlined in this article should not be dismissed solely because animals were the test subjects, or because geographically-irrelevant tree species were used.  That’s nonsense.  There is no doubt that all maple sap, regardless of species, possesses an array of physiologically-active compounds including vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and antioxidants that all confer important health benefits.

For example, sap from both the sugar and red maple (A. rubrum) has been shown to contain compounds that demonstrate anti-cancer effects (9).  Sap from the sugar maple has also been shown to inhibit nitric oxide formation, a process implicated in numerous diseases (10).

If you ask me, I’d say that all maple sap possesses therapeutic potential, and I certainly wouldn’t limit the benefits to only a handful of species.

Additionally, I feel that not only can one acquire substantial benefits by consuming pure maple sap – straight from the tree, no further processing necessary – but I feel there’s another level of therapy to be gained through the actual process of harvesting the sap oneself.  No middle man or woman… just you and the maple tree, joined together in communion by the elixir that imbues life to both it and you.

What do you think?  Maple sap for the win?  If you’ve never imbibed, I highly encourage you to try it.  One sip could change your whole life (sorry, no research to back that up). 🙂


Let’s stay in touch!  To receive information from Adam Haritan on wild plant and mushroom identification, please enter your name and email address below.  Thank you!

LearnYourLandnewsletter

Additionally, don’t forget to check out the Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more about wild food nutrition and identification!

Adam Haritan

AdamReishi2017


 

 

Wild Food News And Links: Edition 3

frankforticiclesWelcome to the third edition of Wild Food News And Links!  The first two editions seemed to be appreciated by the readers, so here’s another one for all your learning pleasures.  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.

News

It’s no secret that wild American ginseng populations have been declining.  One plant scientist, with the help of landowners, is working diligently to reverse this trend.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has traditionally been used to treat liver disease and poisoning.  Exciting new research reveals that milk thistle may also be effective in treating brain tumors associated with Cushing’s syndrome.

When it comes to food, health, medicine, and economics, several communities in the Balkans turn to wild plants.

Prehistoric psychedelics:  New research shows that dinosaurs had access to ergot, a fungus that contains precursors for LSD.

If you’ve been following the mystery saga regarding the death of Chris McCandless (Into The Wild fame), you’ll know that it never ends.  Jon Krakauer, the author the book, has reached yet another conclusion regarding the potentially toxic fraction of Hedysarum alpinum – the plant associated with McCandless’ death.

Handy Resource

Native plants and birds go hand in hand.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has provided a great list of 5 berry-producing shrubs/trees to plant in order to attract our winged friends.  Note:  select your region on the left side of the screen.

Blogs

I was happy to contribute to this month’s edition of the Wild Edible Notebook, a highly informative monthly publication put out by my friend, Erica… aka Wild Food GirlIn it, I discuss 5 wild species that offer protection against the flu.  Also included is an article explaining how to create delicious wild food pies.  There’s even a thought-provoking commentary regarding wild ginseng and chaga sustainability written by Erica, and lots more!

Sure, there’s a lot of snow on the ground right now, and it’s mighty cold outside.  Just as day always follows night, spring will surely follow winter, which means grape leaves will be sprouting from their vines in no time.  Check out this great article over at Botanical Arts Press (aka Foraging & Feasting), which offers numerous tips on when to harvest, how to harvest, and how to stuff grape leaves.

It might be winter here in Pennsylvania, though it’s summer in Australia.  The Forager’s Year, an Australian wild food blog, has a great recipe for Purslane Saag using a variety of spices and wild greens.

For Fun

Check out these breathtaking photographs of frozen lakes, oceans, and ponds.  The title states that they look like art, though I would suggest that they are art.

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

adamheadshot3

signinformwildfoodism

What Agaricus silvaticus, The Blushing Wood Mushroom, Does For Cancer Patients

Agaricussilvaticuswildfoodism

Credit: Holger Krisp, Ulm, Germany

I’d like to begin this article with 2 very important statistics:

The chance of an American man developing cancer in his lifetime is 1 in 2.

The chance of an American woman developing cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 3.

Pause and think about that for a moment…

…no really.  Think about it.

How did we get here?  Is it bad luck that plagues our species?  (Interestingly enough, a recent study suggested that the majority of cancer cases are due to bad luck, 1)

To me, that seems just a bit nutty, though I’ll leave it at that for now.

Browsing the scientific literature, it’s apparent that numerous variables are involved in cancer development, including pesticides, asbestos, synthetic chemicals in our food, genetics, cell phone exposure, and weight.  The list goes on (2).

Needless to say, many Americans will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime.  And many will take action by seeking conventional medical treatment.  Fair enough.

This is not a website telling people what they should or should not do regarding their health.  I write articles that provide information based on evidence.  What people do with this information is up to them.

Having said that, there’s a mushroom that individuals with cancerous conditions may find interesting.  This particular fungus is known as the blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus) – a species that can be harvested from the wild in North America and Europe.  It’s a popular edible mushroom (reported to be quite tasty, though I’ve never partaken), and many people know it only as such.

There’s more to the blushing wood mushroom than just a tasty meal, however.

Agaricus silvaticus helps individuals cope with cancerWe’re not talking about rats, nor cellular cultures in petri dishes.  We’re talking about real human beings – people with cancer who have directly improved their outcomes by consuming this mushroom.

Sounds too good to be true,  huh?

I hear ya.  Before we write this off as alternative medicine quackery, however, let’s take a few minutes to explore this a little further, shall we?

The therapeutic effects of the blushing wood mushroom

Many mushrooms have exhibited anti-cancer effects in numerous studies.  Reishi, cordyceps, and Antrodia salmonea are just a few examples.  The blushing wood mushroom is unique, however, in that most of its research involves its effects on the treatment of individuals with cancer.

For example, a study spanning two years involving breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy found that the patients who ingested Agaricus silvaticus tablets improved their nutritional parameters and experienced less side effects from drugs, including bowel dysfunction, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fever compared to the placebo group (those who did not receive the mushroom).

Some of the specific results are quite astounding (3):

  • In patients with 3 chemotherapy cycles, 30% of patients in the placebo group reported a reduction in appetite, compared to 0% of patients consuming A. silvaticus after 3 months of treatment.
  • In patients with 6 chemotherapy cycles, 80% of patients in the placebo group reported poor appetite, while reports of poor appetite reduced with time in the A. silvaticus group after 6 months of treatment.
  • After 6 months of treatment, 70% of patients in the placebo group experienced fever, compared to 0% of patients consuming A. silvaticus.

This randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial demonstrated not only the effectiveness of A. silvaticus in patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the safety of its ingestion as well.

In addition to breast cancer, additional studies have analyzed the effects of A. silvaticus on the treatment of colorectal cancer.  The lifetime risk of acquiring colorectal cancer is 1 in 20, and of the cancers that affect both men and women, it is is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related-death in the United States (4).

Enter the blushing wood mushroom …

A series of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials demonstrated the therapeutic effects of A. silvaticus on patients undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer in Brazil.

  • One study found that colorectal cancer patients who consumed A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) while recovering from surgery experienced a significant reduction in fasting blood glucose levels that remained in the healthy range.  Blood glucose levels in the placebo group increased, however, nearing prediabetic levels (5).
  • A second study in this series found that patients consuming A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) while recovering from surgery experienced a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, and blood pressure levels, compared to patients in the placebo group.  Overall, the researchers concluded that supplementation with A. silvaticus provided metabolic benefits to biochemical, enzymatic, and blood pressure parameters of post-surgical colorectal cancer patients (6).
  • A third study found that supplementation with A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) produced significant benefits in hematological (blood and bone marrow) and immunological parameters of colorectal cancer patients in the post-surgical phase.  Patients in the placebo group experienced no significant changes (7).
  • And yet another study in this series discovered that supplementation with A. silvaticus (30 mg/kg/day) improved overall quality of life in post-surgical colorectal cancer patients, compared to the placebo group.  Such improvements included better mood and appetite with reduced complaints regarding restless sleep, gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and nausea.  These improvements were not seen in the placebo group (8).

What makes Agaricus silvaticus so beneficial?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how the blushing wood mushroom imparts its beneficial effects on cancer patients.  If we look at the nutrient and chemical composition of A. silvaticus, however, we may discover pertinent clues.

The blushing wood mushroom comprises approximately 36% carbohydrates, 7% lipids (fats), and 41% protein – the rest being water, ash and fiber.  For a mushroom – and in fact for any edible food – this is an extremely high proportion of protein.

You see, protein is an essential macronutrient, not just for maintaining balanced health, but particularly for recovery from trauma, i.e. surgery (9).  In the instance of surgery, extra protein is required for tissue maintenance and wound repair.  Surgical outcomes can be improved with a higher protein diet, and perhaps the supplementation of a high protein fungus – in this case, A. silvaticus – helps to achieve this goal.

What’s more, the blushing wood mushroom is a complete protein source with high biological value (easily used by the human body).  Of course, elevated protein needs cannot be met with A. silvaticus consumption alone, though as shown in the aforementioned studies, it may help.

Looking deeper into the nutritional profile, the blushing wood mushroom contains a very high concentration of iron, zinc, copper, and potassium, with adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium, among other minerals.  It is also a good source of vitamin C (10).

In addition to its nutritional value, the blushing wood mushroom may aid the body by imparting antioxidant effects.  In a study evaluating the antioxidant potential of 5 Agaricus mushroom species, A. silvaticus demonstrated the highest “antioxidant power” of all species tested (11).  In corroboration with this discovery, the antioxidant-rich blushing wood mushroom has previously been used to reduce oxidative stress in children with HIV (12), and to prevent the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits (13).

Research has repeatedly shown the benefits of consuming an antioxidant-rich diet, especially for its role in protecting against cancerous conditions (14).  Perhaps it is this large “antioxidant power” of the blushing wood mushroom that, in addition to reducing oxidative stress and preventing atherosclerosis, also helps individuals cope with cancer.

Locating and identifying the blushing wood mushroom

By now you may be asking, “Where do I find such a mushroom?”  As it turns out, I have yet to find any A. silvaticus supplements, or any retail supermarkets selling this mushroom (if your experiences differ, please let me know!).

It’s a good thing we discuss the foraging lifestyle here at Wild Foodism, else we’d be shrugging our shoulders, calling it a day.

The blushing wood mushroom grows in the coniferous woods of North America and Europe, generally from summer through autumn.  Aptly named, its cap and stem quickly turn red when bruised, and its gills – initially pink – become darker with age.  A. silvaticus produces a brown spore print.  For a detailed description of this mushroom, check out the entry created by Rogers Mushrooms.

Let’s bring it all together

In summary, the blushing wood mushroom (Agaricus silvaticus) is an edible fungus whose utility extends beyond the arena of food into the realm of cancer treatment.  Studies have shown that ingesting A. silvaticus supplements can improve the nutritional parameters, biochemical markers, and overall quality of life in individuals with breast and colorectal cancers.  Its high protein and mineral content, in addition to its antioxidant power, may contribute to its physiological benefits.  Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?

Mushrooms for the win, yet again!

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

adamheadshot3

signinformwildfoodism