Forage Friday #9 Wild Grapes ( just the vine for now )

Last weekend we missed Forage Friday due to a weather event so this Friday we’re going to pick up where we left off.

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Wild Grapes and Snake Tongue “. The image was taken specifically for tonight’s post. All of the photos on my blog are available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

We’re all familiar with Grapes. The fruit of the vine permeates our culture world wide. Everything from fine wine to to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich uses the grape berries. I have recently learned that the leaf is a huge Mediterranean delicacy. A quick internet search revealed that other parts of the world use the leaves in a lot dishes. However, the leaf is not the focus of tonight’s post. It’s the tendrils that I’m interested in on this foraging excursion.

As a kid we called them snake tongues. And it was probably while doing a silly snake impersonation and using the forked tendrils for a prop that I discovered the flavor.

The tendrils of wild grape resembling the forked tongue of a snake.

The taste of local wild grape tendrils reminds me a little of sweet tarts candy. I normally only grab a few while walking around the mountains. The candy like flavor helps me with dry mouth and it’s a little pick-me-up. Although that later trait is probably due my association with childhood.

I have been curious to chop a few up and toss them into a salad but so far I’ve just used it as a trail nibble like most of the wild edible plants that I’m familiar with.

I believe that the particular variety of grape in the feature image are Porcelain Berry. The reason why I think that is because the property where I took the photos is thick with Porcelain Berry.

Porcelain Berry looks nothing like the grapes in the grocery store.

The Porcelain Berry is a really interesting grape visually. The cluster often contains a variety of blues and reds in multiple tones. They are edible raw or cooked but I’m told that the flavor of the fruit is somewhat disappointing so I have never bothered to try it.

One last thing about the actual leaf. Specifically on Porcelain Berry. Because I have just discovered that grape leaves are edible I did a little digging around the internet and Porcelain Berry leaves are said to only be edible when cooked. Porcelain Berry is not a true grape even though we commonly call them wild grapes. True grapes are in the genre vitis. True grapes leaves can be eaten raw while Porcelain Berry (genus Ampelopsis ) leaves cannot be. I also need to warn you of a toxic look-alike to any kind of wild grape is Canadian Moonseed which contains a substance similar to curare. For more information about Moonseed here’s an old video from my YouTube days.

As always please do independent research and keep in mind that Forage Friday is only intended to be used as a starting point and a conversation starter.

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Forage Friday #8 – Black Locust Flowers

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Black Locus Flowers 42819” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

The afternoon sun filters down through a canopy of new leaves as the mockingbird chirps his happy song from some hidden perch. As I round the curve in the trail near the hilltop I can see the clusters of white pea-like flowers hanging down from twisted gnarly branches. The flowers are guarded by formidable thorns that are capable of piercing even my thick leather boots. I have reached the stand of black locus at long last.

The only part of tree that’s generally considered safe for human consumption is the flowers. They’re used to make fritters. The cluster is dipped in batter and deep fried. Like most country kitchens everyone seems to put their own twist on the recipe. Most of them incorporate a generous amount sugar. The flowers themselves are mildly sweet with a vanilla undertone.

The season is short but a productive stand can produce a surprisingly large amount of bloom.

The leaves, bark and fruit are listed as toxic in all of my reference books.

Black Locus seed pods might look peas but they are poison.

Outside of the flowers no other parts of the tree are edible. However, foraging for food doesn’t always mean plants and that’s where the black locus can really help.

The Eastern Woodlands tribes of Native Americans valued the wood for making hunting bows. Black Locus wood is dense and challenging to work but it’s very springy. I have seen chainsaws struggle with the wood so I can imagine how time consuming it was to tiller out a bow with a chip of flint. But the results are a bow that shoots fast and is very resistant to rotting.

The rot resistance of black locus makes it prized for fence posts. When I was a kid almost every farm was surrounded by two strands of barbed wire held up by weathered locus posts. The posts eventually rotted at ground level but above and below ground the post was solid. Often times fixing the fence was as simple as loosening the wire and sharpening the post where it was solid again and driving it back into the ground. Locus posts were always cut a little longer than needed so this could be done.

The flowers are probably gone by the time I publish this post and I was just a little kid when I tried the fritters but from what I remember they were definitely worth trying.

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Forage Friday #7 – Wild Ginger

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my blog! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Wild Ginger 41619” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

When I was seventeen years old the words “Wild Ginger” would have brought to mind an image of a girl that I could have never introduced to my mother. However this wild ginger is not quite as spicy as that girl with the Led Zepplin tee shirt and skull earrings. This one is a sweet treat that was highly prized by backwoods mountaineers and puritans alike.

According to Peterson’s Field Guide the rhizomes were boiled down in sugar water until the root was tender and then eaten like candy or dried and ground into a powder for seasoning. The resulting broth could be used as a tea. As with a lot of wild edible plants there’s also recommend medicinal uses that may or may not be valid. From what I understand the spice value was more popular than the medicinal value.

Again I have a plant that I find fascinating but have been apprehensive about actually trying. And there’s a reason. The USDA warns that if you eat too much wild ginger that it can cause kidney damage. In fact it’s been found that some species produce aristolochic acid. A substance that is found in rat poison! I know that some foragers are more daring and will think that I’m too cautious but I tend not try plants that that have questionable reputations. One of the stories that I ran into while researching for tonight’s post is about a mass poisoning that happened in Belgium during the late 90s. There was even deaths. The tragic story said that the deaths were linked to diet pills that contained a Chinese member of this same genus of plant. ( Which is why I always caution readers to do independent research and keep in mind that Forage Friday is only intended to be an entertainment and give you an interesting story to read )

The big question is if the North American variety has the same problem. The USDA warning says yes it does but the history of the plant says no. And, since I’m not a biochemist I’m not really able look much deeper into the toxicology so I don’t risk it.

The plant’s growth patterns do make it a beautiful addition to the shady areas of my property. Once established it grows in thick lush colonies near the Mayapple. I have noticed that the soil in these spots tends to be alluvial.

The wild ginger flowers are reddish brown and very low to the ground. They also smell horrible! That’s because they are pollinated by flies. They actually smell like something that has been dead for a while.

An unopened flower bud of the wild ginger.

Timing has not allowed me to locate a fully open flower but as you can see here the buds look like they could be from an alien world. Once open they look similar to the Trilliums.

Another oddity is that the seed is spread by ants. The tip of the oily seed is cut off by the ant and taken into the colony and the actual seed is left outside to germinate.

In closing, wild ginger is a no go for me due to the risk of damage to diabetic kidneys. The online research says that maybe it’s okay in small amounts and the history shows that that’s how it was used. Not as a main course but as a flavoring. Even as a candy it would not have been consumed in large quantities. The lesson of wild ginger is moderation.

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Forage Friday #6 Wild Mustard.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my blog! Tonight’s feature image is untitled however all of the photos are my original work and are available as prints by following the instructions at the bottom of the article. The feature image was taken specially for this post. You’ll find my best work by exploring my blog and Frameable Greeting Cards in the links below.

When most people in the United States think about mustard the image of a spicy yellow or brown condiment comes to mind. Especially in the urban areas. However, in the rural areas wild mustard is either a salad or a cooked green.

A little research shows that there’s almost as many mustards as there are opinions in the world. For the purpose of Forage Friday we’re going to lump them all together under the umbrella of “wild mustard”. Even Peterson’s Field Guide uses the generic “Brassica Spp”.

The seeds can be used to make a spice just like the domestic varieties but as with any wild edible plant the flavor might not be what we’re used to.

The young seed pods can be pickled or tossed fresh into a salad.

The leaves can be a little bitter but can be eaten raw and that is my current experience since I have mostly focused on salad greens. I recently learned that the flower heads can be eaten like broccoli. That shouldn’t have surprised me because they are the family of plants. ( Which also includes cabbage BTW.)

The bright yellow flowers are always a welcomed sight in the spring when I spot them standing proudly near the roads. You might think that the mustard that you buy for your hot dogs is yellow because the mustard seed itself is yellow but it’s not so. Yellow mustard is yellow because it contains turmeric powder. Natural mustard seeds are grayish. It’s complicated process and it’s unlikely that you find them in a high enough quantity to make it worth the effort but a rich edible oil can be processed from the mustard seed. The process is said to leave behind a high protein powder which is also edible.

With all of the good things that comes from this humble little plant it makes me wonder why it’s classified as a weed? The only negative thing I can find online is that when dairy cows eat it the flavor of the milk is somewhat off making the milk unprofitable.

As I try write my closing line tonight I can’t help think about all the efforts that go into feeding the hungry people of the world. We pour money into government programs and charitable organizations that are intended to be resource for families who are struggling. And yet every day chemicals are sprayed to prevent the growth of food producing plants that thrive worldwide, like the mustard plant. It’s even been found growing near the earth’s magnetic pole. Could it be that the reason why people go hungry is because we’ve taken the wrong approach with food production? Perhaps instead of suppressing vigorous plants like mustard we should find ways to support them and turn our world back into a garden.

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Forage Friday 5… Dandelion

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Sun Seed” and the image at the bottom is titled “Make a wish and blow” both are available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

If you’re in the Eastern part of North America then I’m willing to bet that the first flower the you ever picked for your mom was either a daisy or a dandelion. While much maligned by those who want a yard that looks like a putting green the humble dandelion is a wild edible plant that just keeps giving.

Living in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia means that I grew up listening to my grandparents generation singing the praises of the dandelion. Every Spring the rural yards were dotted with happy yellow flowers. I remember hearing one of the other kids comment that it looked like pieces of sun fell off and took root.

Even though the local reputation for dandelion was a positive one we didn’t consume it in our house. It wasn’t until went on a wilderness survival camp in Civil Air Patrol that I tried it for the first time by nibbling on the leaves and flowers. The leaves are a little bitter. The flowers had a dry texture that didn’t really appeal to my tastes at that time. I was aware of dandelion as a wild edible plant but that first experience with the flower kept me focused on the leaves.

It wasn’t until I got really bad sick with pancreatitis and liver problems that I tried anything more than a few nibbles of the leaves or stem. I had read in a few manuals that dandelion was good for the liver. I began to keep dandelion tea on hand. I can’t credit it with curing me completely because I also took the medicine that my doctor prescribed. But do think it helped me and every so often I enjoy a cup or two for maintenance. ( I am not trained herbalist or medical professional of any kind. If you’re sick please seek a professional for advice. I’m only telling you about my own experiences with dandelion)

The roots of the dandelion are said to make an excellent coffee substitute when roasted. While it might look like coffee and even taste like coffee it has no caffeine. That makes it an unsuccessful substitute for coffee in my opinion. But it’s fine as its own thing.

Speaking of that tap root, it’s very long. A dandelion root can get as long as eighteen inches. And it’s great at breaking through compressed soil and pulling up nutrients that locked up deep underground. Left alone, the dandelion can help revitalize overworked land.

And as we all know it’s plentiful! It’s odd to me that in some parts of society humans spray poison in the yard to prevent the dandelion from growing for free but go to store and buy salad that’s shipped in from far away. The dandelion tea that I mentioned earlier had to purchased because it was the dead of winter and there was no wild ones to be found. For organic dandelion at a specialty store the price was $6.00 per box. Something to think about before spraying the lawn with Roundup.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Dandelion Festival in White Sulphur Springs next month. It’s a pretty big celebration in honor of the happy yellow flowers who pop up in Spring. The festival features one of Appalachia’s most unique products; dandelion wine. I’m not really a wine connoisseur so I can’t really judge the quality of the wine however it does have a great reputation as both a wine and a tonic. The festival itself consists of parades, music and handcrafted items of all kinds.

Last but not least, Dandelions are a source of wishes. Think real hard about your wish and blow on the seed head. The seeds will carry your wishes to heaven.

Make a wish and blow!

⚠️Please remember that my blog is about the photos and that Forage Friday is only intended to entertain you and not to make you an expert forager.⚠️

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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Forage Friday 3.. Redbud

Hello Friends!Tonight’s feature image is titled “Redbud 33019”. All of the photos are my original work and are available as prints by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

One of the true joys of an Appalachian Spring is the blooming of the redbud. In fact one of minor reasons why I chose the property that I live on now is the presence of reddish pink pops of happiness in late March to mid April. After a long gray winter the colorful redbud is a very welcome sight for sore eyes.

A closer look at the redbud flowers

Redbud is often planted as an ornamental shrub because of its early and colorful pea like flowers. And, it is a nitrogen fixing legume that is often used for reclaiming strip mines and helping to heal the soil.

Of course, this is Forage Friday and that means that redbud is also a wild edible. I have only used it as a “trail nibble” by picking a few raw flower buds here and there and popping a few in my mouth. However, I do think that it would be an interesting thing to add to a salad. I’ve been watching the bloom spread up the mountain and I think that I’ll try it as part of a salad soon. Being a legume I expect that redbud is rich in protein. I haven’t tried the pods yet either but Peterson’s Field Guide suggest a ten minute saute of the young tender pods which look somewhat like snow peas hanging below heart shaped leaves. (As always, make sure of positive ID. Before trying the first time. Trees like black locusts have similar pods and are considered toxic)

A word here on timing. The flower is only in its prime for a few weeks and once the pods reach a certain maturity they become leathery. I have also read that some people have canned the pods like green beans but it’s not something that I’m experienced with and as with this whole series I really recommend that you do further research before going out with a basket to try a new and exotic food from the forest.

Okay, don’t skip the disclaimer.

Forage Friday isn’t really intended to teach you everything you need to know about wild foraging. It was conceived as a way for me to showcase my photos while providing a few interesting tidbits of information to peak your interest and start a conversation in some of the forums that I share with on Facebook.

If you have eaten redbud flowers or pods of if you have a question about wild edible plants the comments are open to the public.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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Wood Violets Forage Friday 2

Hello Friends. Tonight’s feature image is titled “Yellow Wood Violet 41909” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Because we live in such a litigious society I’m obliged to remind you that Forage Friday is only intended to be a conversation starter and not a guide. Having a positive ID on a plant is essential for safety and some of the plants coveted in this series do have poisonous look-alikes that might fool a novice. Wild foraging is a great way to get out and explore but be safety minded and do further research. I also recommend that you keep a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants handy.

In my part of the Appalachian Mountains one of the most abundant wild edible plants is the wood violet. In fact it’s so prevalent on my land that I have decided to consider it a volunteer salad crop. On their own the leaves are a little bland but they’re also rich in vitamin C as well as vitamin A. The leaves are basically a great substitute for spinach. Not being a huge fan of cooked greens I tend only eat them raw but they can be useful as a pot herb. The leaves and flowers are the only recommend parts. As a type 2 diabetic I avoid sweets but the flowers are often rolled in powdered sugar and eaten as candles. I’ve also recently been told of violet preserves and violet syrups has peaked my imagination.

I know that some people are looking at the yellow flowers in feature image and thinking that it’s the wrong color to be a violet. I have been told that it must be a pansy. Well, actually, both pansies and violets are in the genus Viola and both come in a variety of colors. One of my favorite violets is known locally as the Confederate Violet because of the grayish color.

Confederate Violet

Aside from color the leaves tend to be a little more round. But the shape of a leaf and the shape of the petals can vary depending on the soil nutrients and growing conditions.

Of course I have plenty of the common Blue Violets as well.

The blue violets are so competitive here that in some parts of the yard there’s more flowers than grass. I figured that was God’s way of making sure that I have plenty to eat so I let them have what they want.

One last word on safety and foraging for food. Be aware that we live in a post industrial world and that means that contamination is always a hazard. Chemicals that are used to control weeds can be found even in the most seemingly pristine setting and that includes farmlands. What looks like a park today can be hiding a place where illegal dumping has occurred. So look around before collecting and if something looks off then you might want to forage elsewhere.

So, tell me your experience. Have you ever tried violets as part of a camping trip or maybe an expiriment with Victorian cuisine? The comments are open to the public .

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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