News / USA

    Foragers Sample Nature's Bounty

    Wilderness students separate the delicious from the deadly

    Susan Logue

    Today, most Americans get their food from the supermarket, but some are even going beyond farmers’ markets or backyard gardens for fresh produce. They're learning how to forage for wild edibles.

    Earth Connection, about 85 kilometers south west of Washington, DC, helps foragers learn to identify what is safe to eat and what is not.

    Into the wilderness

    On a chilly autumn day, founder Tim MacWelch brushes aside some fallen leaves and exposes a small green plant with heart-shaped leaves and tiny pods.

    He plucks a pod, pops it in his mouth, and gives his approval. “They’re juicy, they’re sour. They’re really good.”

    The tasty plant is called wood sorrel. MacWelch doesn’t recommend plucking weeds from your yard and eating them until you’ve done some research. “There are plenty of bad plants out there that stay on my radar.”

    According to Tim MacWelch, many parts of the pine tree are edible, but the pine nuts, protected inside the pinecone, are too small on this particular tree to harvest. The needles, when steeped in hot water make a tea that is high in vitamin C.
    According to Tim MacWelch, many parts of the pine tree are edible, but the pine nuts, protected inside the pinecone, are too small on this particular tree to harvest. The needles, when steeped in hot water make a tea that is high in vitamin C.

    MacWelch, 40, has been a student of outdoor survival skills since he was a teenager and took up backpacking. “I thought if I could find everything I needed out in the woods, then I wouldn’t have to bring it with me.”

    Becoming more self-sufficient

    He founded Earth Connection in 1997 and runs workshops to share his expertise.

    MacWelch has had as many as two dozen students in classes. Today, he has two, Tamae and Bob Heilen.

    Tamae says her husband has been interested in taking classes for a long time.

    He says he wanted to be more self-sufficent. “I’d like to be able to know that if there were an emergency and I couldn’t get food in the store that I would be able to find food on my own.”

    The yellow fruit of the horse nettle looks like small tomatoes, but is highly poisonous. Even animals stay away from this plant.
    The yellow fruit of the horse nettle looks like small tomatoes, but is highly poisonous. Even animals stay away from this plant.

    She got interested more recently. “I started cooking wild plants like dandelions in our yard. And it tasted really good, and I decided, I want to study.”

    On Earth Connection’s four-hectare property, the Heilens learn about dandelions and other edible plants, like yarrow, which looks a little like a fern, but smells and tastes like a culinary herb. It also has medicinal properties, says MacWelch. “It is a styptic, which stops blood flow. It is also anti-bacterial.”

    Wild carrots are also on the tasting menu for the day, but MacWelch cautions his students, they can be tricky to identify. Carrot roots should smell and look like smaller, white versions of the carrots found in stores.

    And they should have tiny hairs on the stems. “If there are no hairs, and it smells bad," he warns, "you are looking at a poison hemlock or a fool’s parsley, both of which are deadly.”

    Wild edibles

    MacWelch offers his class on wild edibles every season, but says autumn is the best time to forage. “The salad greens that are out there are very mild and tender and sweet,” he says. “Tree nuts are abundant. There are still some berries and even some fruits in the end of the season.”

    Rose hips are sweet and high in vitamin C.
    Rose hips are sweet and high in vitamin C.

    Even with fruits and berries, he cautions, you have to be careful. “About half of the red berries are edible to a human,” he notes.

    The tiny red rosehips he plucks from a bush are an excellent source of vitamin C and, as Tamae discovers, sweet. “Those are really good. I’ve seen it so many times, but I’ve never really thought that it was edible.”

    MacWelch says some students take his class on wild edibles because they are searching for new flavors. “There is stuff out here that is rare, that is not easily transported, stuff that is just off the radar of normal food consumption in America.”

    And stuff that may very well be growing in many Americans’ own back yards. It just requires a bit of searching. “You’re on this mission to find this thing and you’re not sure where it is,” MacWelch says, “but you know it is out there and you know it is going to be good if you get it.”  

    Tim MacWelch offers a variety of wilderness survival classes throughout the year at Earth Connection. He also blogs about survival skills for Outdoor Life.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora