While you may not have thought about eating the landscape, I’m currently obsessed by the idea for two reasons.
Eating the Cultivated Landscape
First, I’ve been eating all my life, and I don’t just love food, I love the rituals around it, from planting peas when there’s still snow on the ground to blessing wine in the dark of the year, and always, always, gathering family and friends around the table to break bread, socialize, and nourish ourselves in body and soul.
I’ve been cultivating an edible landscape since Tim and I planted our first garden on the afternoon of the day we closed on our first house in 1985. I’m not sure I’d ever eaten a beet as I dropped seeds like miniature popped corn into the earth on that day in early May. The following day – and still two months before we’d move in – Patrick, a piglet, took up residence in an old cellar hole at the edge of our land. Before long, hens populated the barn, rhubarb took root by the garden fence, and we didn’t just have vegetables growing in the garden; we had crops.
I learned to pickle and can. By autumn, we’d filled the chest freezer that came with the house. All winter, we ate what we’d grown. And so it’s been ever since.
Eating the Wild Landscape
The second reason I’m currently obsessed with food is because I’m getting ready to go deer hunting again. After thirty-five years of cultivating what I eat, I want to eat what grows wild, too.
I grew up harvesting food from the sea: catching flounder, digging clams, collecting mussels – and feasting. More recently, I’ve foraged for ramps, black trumpet mushrooms and wild grapes. For years, I’ve considered the black walnuts that fall from our trees food for the squirrels; this year, I’m curious enough to gather some to find out if it’s a delicacy this human would like to eat.
I’ve become curious about wild food, from the dandelion I grew up thinking were weeds rather than salad greens to the organic venison that lives in the woods.
Writing a Book
Full disclosure: This curiously is feeding a book I’ve been researching and thinking about for years and have finally started to write. I’m engrossed. So much so, that after almost five years of posting essays here every Wednesday, I’m changing it up: I’ll post when I can.
Now I want to hear from you.
Who among my readers has eaten wild food? What kind? How did you procure it?
Road kill anyone?
What about insects? Fried grasshoppers or chocolate-covered ants. No see-ums you swallow by mistake don’t count.
Snake dried or fried? I once ate rattlesnake at the Buffalo Bistro in Glendale, Utah.
Anyone eaten possum? Raccoon? Rat? Mouse?
What about wild fruit for dessert?
I’d love to hear your stories about what wild food you’ve eaten, how it was procured and prepared, how it tasted and what you thought of the experience.
I look forward to reading your stories in the comments below.
Spelling and grammar are helpful but not necessary. Civility is.
Mareka Ohlson says
At a meal served by indigenous people in Ecuador my guide and I dared each other to eat a roasted grub. Green stuff oozed out as it was cut in half and I heroically ignored that as I scooped it into my mouth. I dared to bite into it too. It tasted like eating wood – no surprise as that’s what they eat. We also had fish wrapped in banana leaves, roasted over hot coals. Delicious. Our plates were also banana leaves.
In Bhutan I ate buckwheat pancakes. I had seen them thrashing it in the fields. The pancakes were thick and looked much like a slice of liverwurst – and, yes, has bits of sand etc. We ate them with honey – and they were good. Most meals in Bhutan were served with a very hot sauce, called “crow’s beak. ” It did help with meals that looked sort of iffy.
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Your story about eating the roasted grub affirms the adage, “We are what we eat.” Thanks for sharing it.
Jane Heal says
I love the topic of food, which is why I studied nutrition in college, your book sounds delicious to me!!
As a kid we would eat the greens of milkweed for dinner and my dad would march us outside to gather the elderberries each labor day weekend. I never liked the milkweed greens but now I would pan-fry them in olive oil and still to this day I have to find the elderberries but now they are ripe two weeks before labor day! As a kid we often had wild fruit for dessert, mostly berries and luckily as an adult I lived in Putney Vt where you can get wild fruit at the co-op. I also had a protein bar made of crickets, which I won’t try again because it was just like eating crickets (yuck). My daughter ate the eyes of the pig at a pig roast, she said they “popped” as she bit into them but they “weren’t bad. ”
I’m sure I will think of more foods I ate but I’ll just share that now. I love your blog, thanks for your insights!
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Thanks for your story about elderberries and milkweed greens – and climate change in our lifetime.
Another beautifully written and evocative post. Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote a few months ago about foraging. https://martinatyrrell.com/2019/05/15/freelancing-foraging-and-feminist-anthropology/
In addition, when I lived in an Inuit village in the Canadian Arctic, I went out hunting lots (I was researching the role of the marine environment in Inuit life) and got to eat some delicious ‘country food’ as Inuit call it – caribou, ringed seal, beluga whale, polar bear, arctic char, Canada goose, ptarmigan and well as cloudberries, crowberries and cranberries. Something that was unexpectedly delicious was seal intestine! Raw frozen caribou meat was one of my favourite foods. I never tried igunaq – fermented walrus meat – but when some Inuit friends tried some blue cheese I unexpectedly found in the store once and they said it tasted like igunaq.
Great to hear the book is finally coming together…can’t wait to read it.
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Thank you for your post. I hope others will read it too.
Laurel Copeland says
Some time ago we went to Mono Lake in California near the Nevada border. On a guided walk, the ranger described how the terminal lake (a lake with no outlet) supports very few creatures on account of the high levels of soda and salt that have built up, but one Mono resident is the alkali fly. It lives around the edge of the lake, and billions of pupae make up a 3-foot ring of insects floating in the warm salty, alkaline waters. The native people relied on the pupae of the alkali fly for protein. Our guide pulled out a small handful of these dried, half-inch creatures and offered them to us, chewing thoughtfully on a couple of them. “They are a lot like Bac-O-Bits”, she said. I was tempted but timid. Years passed, during which I kicked myself for missing this buggy opportunity. Then we went to Honduras in 2014, mostly sailing around but landing each day to explore the sights. We were walking through the jungle perhaps in Belize that day when the guide and I got a little ahead of the group. He paused to wait for the others. Looking at a tree, he picked off a bug and asked, would I like to eat a termite? This time I was ready: yes, I would! He ate one, and I ate one. It tasted of mint. Nice. Then a recent November, we went to New Orleans, one of our favorite haunts. We visited the Audubon Insectarium. I loved the butterflies and bugs, but when we got to the cafeteria, I was enchanted. An all-insect Thanksgiving supper — just imagine…. Yup, I ate it — mealworm stuffing (mm!), waxworm cranberry sauce, cricket pumpkin pie and all! Cute little video here: https://audubonnatureinstitute.org/hoppy-thanksgiving
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Wow! I’m impressed – and inspired! Thanks for your story!