Thursday, February 19, 2015

Eastern Woodlands: Wild Edible Collection- Winter Edition

It's -17 with 6" of fresh snow and I'm Hungry! The past two weeks the Facebook group "In The Bush" has been running a wild edibles contest and this week we were challenged to go identify and collect two wild edibles. I was able to collect these two in my immediate area: 1) Pine- A) Pine Needle Tea and B) Inner Bark "Bacon"; and 2) Cattail root "fried potatoes". I will go into some more details and recipes below:

White Pine as A Wild Edible

Formal Name: Pinus strobus 

Common Name: Eastern White Pine

Location: It occurs from Newfoundland west through the Great Lakes region to southeastern Manitoba and Minnesota, and south along the Mississippi Basin and Appalachian Mountains to northernmost Georgia and Mississippi.

Description: Like all members of the white pine group, the needles are in bundles of five with a sheath. They are flexible, bluish-green, finely serrated, and 2.0–5.1 in long, and persist for 18 months, i.e. from the spring of one season to the autumn of the next, when they are shed by abscission.

Eastern White Pine Uses: Eastern white pine needles contain five times the amount of Vitamin C (by weight) of lemons and make an excellent herbal tea. The inner bark is edible. Pine tar is produced by slowly burning pine roots, branches, or small trunks in a partially smothered flame. Pine tar mixed with beer can be used to remove tapeworms (flat worms) or nematodes (round worms). Pine tar mixed with sulfur is useful to treat dandruff, and marketed in present day products. Pine tar can also be processed to make turpentine. Dead pine is a great source of fat wood (excellent fire starter) and is a very hot burning wood.

1) Pine Inner Bark Bacon Recipe
-Remove the outer bark of the white pine tree
-Remove thin layers ("slices") of the second layer of pine bark
-Place in a preheated frying pan with olive oil and/or animal fat
-Fry to medium to well done

2) Recipe for Pine Needle Tea: See my full article about Pine Needle Tea Here (LINK)
-Collect a handful of pine needles
-Clean the pine needles
-Chop the Pine needles 
-Boil water
-Once water is at a boil add the chopped needles and remove from heat
-Allow to steep for 15+ minutes
-Use straining lid to pour your beverage into another container

3) Pine Needle Tea Benefits:
-400 mg of  Vitamin C per Cup (5X amount in a glass of OJ)
-High in fat soluble Vitamin A
-Cancer Prevention (strong antimutagenic, antioxidant and antiproliferative properties)
-Caffeine Alternative
-Promotes longevity
-Relieve Menopause Symptoms (Decreases fatigue and tiredness)
strong antimutagenic, antioxidant and antiproliferative propertie - See more at:
strong antimutagenic, antioxidant and antiproliferative propertie - See more at:
strong antimutagenic, antioxidant and antiproliferative propertie - See more at:
strong antimutagenic, antioxidant and antiproliferative propertie - See more at:

4) Medicinal Uses of Pine Needle Tea:
-Treats common cold and flu
-Cancer prevention and stage 1 cancer treatment
-Treatment of Scurvy
-Treatment of Sclerosis
-Treatment of upset stomach
-Treatment of Urinary Infections
-Has been used to treat the following as well:  fatigue, allergies, depression, kidney stone, varicose veins, ulcers and headaches

Cattail As A Wild Edible
Formal Name: Typha

Common Name: Cattail

Location: The genus has a largely Northern Hemisphere distribution, but is essentially cosmopolitan, being found in a variety of wetland habitats. Typha are often among the first wetland plants to colonize areas of newly exposed wet mud, with their abundant wind dispersed seeds. Buried seeds can survive in the soil for long periods of time.They germinate best with sunlight and fluctuating temperatures, which is typical of many wetland plants that regenerate on mud flats. The plants also spread by rhizomes, forming large, interconnected stands.

Description: Typha leaves are alternate and mostly basal on a simple, jointless stem that bears the flowering spikes. The plants are monoecious, with unisexual flowers that develop in dense racemes. The numerous male flowers form a narrow spike at the top of the vertical stem. Each male (staminate) flower is reduced to a pair of stamens and hairs, and withers once the pollen is shed. Large numbers of tiny female flowers form a dense, sausage-shaped spike on the stem below the male spike. In larger species this can be up to 12 in. long and 0.39 to 1.57 in thick. The seeds are minute, 0.0079 in. long, and attached to fine hairs. When ripe, the heads disintegrate into a cottony fluff from which the seeds disperse by wind.

Cattail Uses: 1) Food- The stems a few inches above the soil line in early summer are young and tender and can be peeled and eaten raw or boiled. The roots are great as well, simply pull the lower stalks until the roots break free, peel and eat raw or boil. The cattail will also develop flower heads that can be eaten by roasting as if you would an ear of corn. By mid to late summer, pollen will collect on the heads and it is easily shaken loose into any container to be used like flour to make breads, pancakes and can be used for thickeners in gravies and sauces. The roots in late fall and early winter can be mashed and soaked in water to release the starch. The starch will settle on the bottom and will resemble wet flour. Drain the water off and make bread, by adding a little pollen or add to clean water to make soup. Cattails are an ideal survival food because they are easily recognizable and grow practically anywhere there is water. 2) Cordage/Weaving- The green leaves can be cut and woven together into shingle like squares for covering a shelter roof  or making a basket or twisted into cordage. 3) Medicinal Uses- To treat burns, scrapes, insect bites and bruises split open a cattail root and make it into a poultice that can be secured over the injured area. The ash of burnt cattails can be used a antiseptic properties. 3) Fire Starting- The head of the cattail after it has turned dark brown will have fluff inside, which is excellent tinder. The head can also be covered in pine resin to make a torch. Cut off enough of the stalk for a long handle with the head attached. Roll the head in pine resin and light when needed.

Fried "Potato" Recipe
-Dig up around 1/2 dozen cattail roots
-Clean the grim off the outside of the root
-Slice the root into fried potato sized portions
-Fry as you would potatoes (Animal fat and olive oil help a great deal with taste)
-Serve with eggs and pine bacon for a classic bush breakfast!

Need Help Identifying Wild Edibles? Try some of these Field Guides:

Winter presents a whole host of survival issues and finding food is without a doubt one of the hardest issues to deal with. Aside from ice fishing, trapping or hunting food is without a doubt hard to find this time of year, especially when covered with 6"+ of snow. The old reliable edibles for me have always been cattail and pine with sugar maple tapping being an option next month. This underscores the need to take food with you into the woods and also the need to learn food preservation skills such as smoking meat and making pemmican.

Have something outdoor/bushcraft/trapping/preparedness/hiking/camping/fishing/hunting related you want me to make a post about? Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do! As always feel free to leave your questions and comment below! Also if you enjoy the blog please vote for us on the following websites to help us reach a wider audience:
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