Fridays at my school we teach a series of classes on whatever we and the students, just the K through 8, think is interesting, running them for a semester. My classes are Drawing from Nature, How to Not Starve (wild edibles), Photographing Nature, and Food Science. The most fun, and most work, has been How to Not Starve. I knew there was a lot to eat in the Pacific Northwest landscape and shoreline, even this time of year, and I’m learning even more. Because I’m so busy with my academic classes (high school) the rest of the week, I tend to throw plans together for Friday the day before, and sometimes as dusk is falling, so I have to go out with a headlamp to get samples.
The first day we brainstormed situations where a knowledge of wild edibles would be useful, talked about the basics of survival nutrition, and sampled wild salad greens–dandelion, shotweed, chickweed, clover, rye grass, and a few others. The second day the students did some online research, we talked about the nutritional benefits of tea, and we had mint, raspberry leaf and chamomile. I had happened on a freshly car0killed squirrel the day before, which I brought out to illustrate the idea of using wild animals for a protein source. I also gave them Korean dogwood fruit, there being several heavy-laden trees in the school landscape, rose hips, hawthorn haws, and Oregon grape. For variety I also made collards with onions and garlic, and applesauce from substandard apples. I found a cool YouTube site (link to Wild Edibles Season 1 here) that I played portions of while cooking.
This is the class of all those I teach that has the potential of being the most useful. It really could be that these twenty kids might need to find stuff to eat one day, the Big One having struck, and his and other supplies having run low. In the meantime, the students are pretty adventurous and enthusiastic, and I hear have been bringing weeds to their home cooks and requesting to go out to the fields to gather leaves for tea. Now they know that although some of those berries may not taste great on their own, if they mix them with a little apple or honey or rhubarb they can be very tasty, as well as highly nutritious. They know to chew a little more or boil up the tougher greens, and when all else fails, eat hawthorn leaves.
Last class I asked why they thought there were so little wild edibles allowed to grow around town. Then we discussed the meaning of “weed,” which I hope will narrow down for them, as they now have a greater value for those they know can be food.
This weekend I made dandelion coffee, which was delicious, and I’ll be doing that next, step by step, first digging with whatever we can find, then washing, then roasting, grinding, and pressing. We’ll have moved to our new rented building by then, and it’ll be interesting to scout out the much larger grounds to see what we can glean, and find out if the owners might allow us to cordon off a little area to allow to grow wild, and/or create a wild edibles demo garden.