How to Eat Well Using Nature’s Bounty

How to Eat Well Using Nature’s Bounty By Gail Martin

Nature provides free food that most people don’t slow down enough to even see. There are wild food and unpicked crops going to waste. Having grown up in the 1930s, we hate to see food being wasted. Here are our methods for using these wholesome and free foods in meals.

ThingsYouNeed

  • basket to gather fruit in
  • fishing equipment and bait
  • bucket for berry picking
    • Free Mushrooms – Maybe your grandmother gathered edible mushrooms and green plants that spring rains made plentiful. Even here in town, I can make our meals colorful and different by picking Inky Cap Mushrooms to add to soups, scrambled eggs, and gravy. The come up in the same spot in our yard after a rain.
  • Wild Plants – I also pick Poke, Goose Weed, and Lamb’s Quarter and cook them like spinach. Don’t eat the beautiful poke berries as I understand the seed is poisonous. Just pick the leaves.

    Wild poke berries and leaves. Only the leaves are edible. (photo by Virginia Allain)

    Wild poke berries and leaves. Only the leaves are edible. (photo by Virginia Allain)

  • Free apples – When we drive around town or in the country, we watch for fruit trees that aren’t getting picked. Maybe the owner is elderly and can’t climb anymore or it might belong to a career person without the time or interest. I knock on the door or call the person and offer to pick their fruit for them on a fifty/fifty basis. Half for them and half for us, for our effort. Sometimes they say, just go ahead and take it all. Even fallen apples make great applesauce or get baked into pies. We return year after year with the same offer. Sometimes they even call us to say the tree is ready for picking.

    Look for apples going to waste. Offer to pick them. (photo by Virgina Allain)

    Look for apples going to waste. Offer to pick them. (photo by Virgina Allain)

  • Nuts – The same technique works for getting free nuts. People often don’t want to be bothered gathering them. We would collect bushels of black walnuts which are quite laborious to hull, crack and pick out the nutmeats. The results are worth it. Some of the nuts we made into candied nuts for Christmas gifts and even sold them packed in decorative tins.

    Black walnuts collected by Gail and Clyde Martin (photo by Gail)

    Black walnuts collected by Gail and Clyde Martin (photo by Gail)

  • Gooseberries – As a child, I went camping with my family near the river. We would gather mulberries and tart gooseberries. These made a good dessert when cooked together to go with the fish we caught and we never got tired of eating them. Lots of people use them for making pies.

     

  • Catfish – I still love eating fried catfish. Mother always coated the fish fillets with flour and fried them in lard in our biggest iron skillet. Sometimes at night we would catch bullfrogs and their hind legs were good eating too. We mostly lived off the land as we had no refrigeration when we were at camp in those days. When I look back at those wonderful carefree days I don’t envy the fancy campers or motor homes. I’ll bet they don’t experience half the thrills that I had with my parents in those long ago summers on the Cottonwood River.

    Clyde Martin with catfish caught at Sugar Valley Lake. (photo by Gail Martin)

    Clyde Martin with catfish caught at Sugar Valley Lake. (photo by Gail Martin)

  • Carp – In our retirement, my husband and I fished a lot using a boat and also from the shore. One fish that others don’t keep is carp because the many bones made it impossible to eat. We found that we could pressure cook it in canning jars (bones and all). Then we use it like salmon for fish cakes.

    Clyde was so excited about the 30 pound grass carp that he cut off Gail's head in this photo. (photo by Clyde Martin)

    Clyde was so excited about the 30-pound grass carp that he cut off Gail’s head in this photo. (photo by Clyde Martin)

Tips & Warnings

  • Always ask before gathering fruit or nuts from a tree in someone’s yard or farm.
  • Even tart fruits like gooseberries or sand plums make good jellies.
  • Don’t pick wild plants in areas that might be protected (like a park) or where chemicals are used (like near a golf course).
  • Get positive identification on mushrooms before eating any. Some edible ones look very similar to poisonous ones.

(article by Gail Lee Martin, first published on eHow in 2008)

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