J500 Media and the Environment

Feeding Frenzy by jkongs
March 11, 2008, 9:40 am
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , , ,

Maybe you’ve noticed that it’s getting warm enough to be tolerable outdoors again (knock on wood); the birds are chirping at the crack of dawn right outside your window, people are outside and smiling at the same time, girls are wearing oversized sweatshirts but forgetting their pants – hey, it’s too warm to remember the spandex these days! Just ask this chick:


Plants have started noticing spring’s arrival – especially since they set their clocks forward an hour over the weekend. Crocuses are popping up, trees have buds, even the chocolate mint in my garden is coming out to say hello. Wild edibles – meaning plants that you don’t have to plant or pay for – are getting ready for the warm weather, too.

stinging nettle

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), www.gardenorganic.org.uk

If you’ve ever accidentally grabbed a stinging nettle, you’d know it, my field guide cautions: “Handle only with gloves“. When still young, with shoots just a few inches tall, simmering the pale top leaves for about 15 minutes makes a great side dish when served with butter and a squeeze of lemon. (Don’t worry, the stingers are disarmed by the cooking process.) You can also boil the young shoots and leaves to make a tea high in Vitamins A and C, and I would recommend adding a sweetener. Stinging nettles also have medicinal qualities; if you’re feeling particularly arthritic – or masochistic – purposely stinging yourself can be a good thing.


Morel Mushrooms (Morchella esculenta); Pamela Kaminski

Wild mushroom hunting is an activity everyone should try at least once – it’s a great date idea: just the two of you, looking in the woods for a hidden meal, the ecstatic frenzy of the find…. you get the idea.

Morels are one of the easier mushrooms to gather without risking your life: false morels (the poisonous ones) look identical to the edible variety except only the ones you eat are hollow. They’re commonly found in moist areas, especially after a good warm rain, in shadier areas – think river banks, etc. There is even a local mushroom hunting group, but don’t be surprised if they don’t share their frequented hunting spots, it’s actually bad form to ask!

Luckily for us, there are two great field guides – Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie and Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie – written by Kelly Kindscher, a professor at KU and a researcher for the Kansas Biological Survey. So as the weather warms up, keep your eye out for these two plants and more. If you eat wild foods, there really can be such a thing as a free lunch!

AZ Bushwacking Guide to Edible Wild Plants

News Reporter goes looking for Mushrooms



6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Nice post, Jennifer. Kindscher’s books are amazing. And, of course, it’s good to see Univ. Press of Kansas books get some love. Speaking of which, do you have A Guide to Kansas Mushrooms or The Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas?

I’ve had dandelions in salads/tea before…not bad at all.


Comment by rarab

I’d love to hunt mushrooms. Do you know if I can get Matsutake (pine mushroom), which is tasty and expensive Japanese mushroom?


Comment by sachikom

Geez, when’s the field trip to your house? 🙂


Comment by Lauren Keith

Ranjit, I don’t have either of those books, are you offering a solution to my incomplete bookshelf??
Sachiko – I’m not sure about that particular mushroom, it was not in my field guide, but I’m sure you could ask the mycological society – those guys are genius!
Lauren, you are welcome to come eat at my house any Sunday, I cook dinner and my friends and I do our homework we put off during the weekend 🙂


Comment by jkongs

You have ushered spring onto our blog. Thank you!


Comment by j500

Man, that’s so inspiring that I think I’m going to write a short on it in Jayplay. Oh. Wait. That’s already in the works.

I’ve learend from my research thus far (from you and your roommate) that starting a minigarden in your back yard isn’t as easy as I hoped. I’m interested to look into community gardens though. It makes me wonder if I’ll be able to find one in whatever city I wind up in next year.

-Travis Brown

Comment by travisjbrown

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