Longing to Get Out Soon — and Studying Wild Yams

We’ve finally recovered from being sick and are antsy to get out camping again.  We’ve had decent temperatures, but the rain has been pretty constant.  We didn’t want to head out camping only to have to spend all of our time inside the Casita.

wild yam leaves

Wild yam leaves found about 1/3 mile from our house a couple of years ago

Now it’s turning cooler again, so it will probably be a few more weeks before camping weather returns.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying books, videos and internet articles on high calorie wild edible foods that would really help supplement our diet in times of runaway inflation or food scarcity.

I found two kinds of wild yam when I was digging groundnuts a couple of years ago.  I was pretty upset because wild yams are invasive and I was afraid they would wipe the groundnuts out in the area.

Tiny new first year wild yam tubers — this is the photo that was stolen and cropped

I posted these photos (sometime back in 2010), but am reposting them since I have a renewed interest in them.  By the way, in researching on the net, I discovered some fly-by-night outfit in New Zealand had stolen one of my photos, cropped it, and was using it to advertise his wild yam products.  I’m pretty used to that happening, though, based on when I had a web graphics business.

But I’ve found more information on wild yams and one  of them, the Winged Yam (Dioscorea alata),  is a good edible.  It’s the same kind of yam that is sold in stores, only it has reverted to its wild state.  The roots are around 10 pounds each (think the calories of a 10 pound bag of potatoes) and easy to dig up, unlike the wild sweet potato which is horribly labor intensive to dig.

A different type of wild yam

A different type of wild yam

I think that the kinds of wild yam that grow near here are ones that would be considered famine food only as they contain a compound called  Diosgenin that is an effective birth control agent and not something you would want to eat a lot of.  I plan to submit my photos to an expert for positive identification so I’ll know for sure.

 

[on edit — I found out that my yam is a great edible!  More next post!]

Here’s a video on wild yams if you are interested.

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I’ve Found Heaven

I think I know what heaven will be like.  If it’s like a bright, balmy, early autumn day, on the lake, with a brisk warm breeze, and the overwhelming sense that everything is as absolutely perfect as it can be, then heaven is like today.

Puffball

And then, to make the day off-the-scale wonderful, when we took Sheba and Sunny for a walk this evening, we found a field of puffballs!  This was the first time I had found larger puffballs.  Up to today, the only ones I had found were small ones like the gem-studded puffball.

A very satisfactory harvest of puffballs!

We had some of them for dinner this evening and they were superb!

I truly can’t remember ever being happier in my life than I was today…. all day…. from the time I got up this morning.

What a priceless gift!

I’ll leave you with a few other snapshots I took around the campground.  Hope you feel the beauty!  🙂

Soft, velvety mullein

Butterfly

Okay, this one isn’t beautiful, but it’s cool. It’s an old reishi mushroom. 🙂

A New Bolete

Bolete with heavily reticulated white stalk

Bolete with heavily indented white stalk (not true reticulation)

The first picture is a little fuzzy due to condensation on the lens.  Coming from an air conditioned house into 90+ degree muggy temperatures will do that.  🙂

The lemon yellow pore surface and the creamy white heavily indented stalk stumped me.  I went through all my books and spent a couple of days on the net looking at mushroom photos, and I couldn’t find a match.

The velvety cap is 2-1/2″ wide.

Reddish, velvety cap

Reddish, velvety cap which turned true brown after I brought it inside.

The pore surface is bright lemon yellow.  It has a white reticulated stalk (although I am not certain that those indentations qualify as reticulation.)  I found it under pine trees.  The spore print is olive brown.  The white cap flesh darkened over several hours to tan.  There was no hint of bluing anywhere.  The reddish color disappeared from the cap after a while indoors, becoming a true brown.

And, finally, a drop of ammonia on the cap flashed a vivid blue green.

What I’ve been able to deduce so far is that it is definitely not poisonous because it is a bolete, it does not have red or orange pores, and there is no trace of blue bruising.  The cap flesh has a mild taste, so it is not bitter as some boletes are.  So it is safe to eat.

[NOTE:  Some orange capped Leccinum are poisonous.  (A Leccinum is also a bolete.)  If you cannot confidently identify a Leccinum, then you should also avoid all orange capped boletes.]

bright yellow pore surface

Bright yellow pore surface

It is in the mid nineties this week with little chance of rain, so I may not see any more mushrooms for a while.

We have been having the most beautiful summer sunsets lately.  It’s a real treat for us because we are so surrounded by trees that we seldom see the actual sunset.  But sometimes, as in this case, we get the gorgeous colors reflected in the clouds over us.

 

no blue staining

Not a hint of blue bruising anywhere

buttons

Young button caps

spore print

Olive brown spore print

sunset clouds

Pink sunset clouds

Country Road & Beaver Dam

Down my rural lane

My country road

Late yesterday afternoon Ron and I took a walk to check out the beaver pond about 3/4 mile from our house.

Wild carrots grow all along the road.  They fascinate me.  Such intricate clustered white flowers — each one with one tiny purple flower in the very center.  I used to enjoy dipping the flowers in batter and frying them for an unusual treat.  But since I’m trying to eat wiser, I just admired the flowers this time.

wild carrot flower

Wild carrot flower

But even more interesting than the flowers is the birds-nest form the flowers take on as they go to seed.  At first, it looks just like a cupped birds nest, but they progress into a completely closed cage-like formation.

Funny…. when I was younger I thought studying plants was the most boring thing on earth.  Now I find it endlessly fascinating.

The wild daylilies blooming season is past.  I found one single flower remaining.  The rest of them look like straggly bunches of grass now.  I used to thoroughly enjoy fully exploiting the edible parts… corms, shoots and flowers.  But it has been so hot this year, I haven’t had much desire to go digging in the dusty clay or bushwhacking through tall weeds to get to them.

wild carrot flower birds nest

Wild carrot birdsnest fully closed

I think, too, once you have learned a plant and its uses, that simply taking photographs can be as rewarding as eating them.

When we got to the beaver pond, we were disappointed and saddened.  The water is WAY down.  And it looks like someone sabotaged the dam.  There were large rocks on top of it that someone must have put there.  And the dam had fallen into disrepair.  I am afraid that something happened to the beavers.

beaver dam

Due to the low water level, grasses and weeds are growing, and the dam appears to be abandoned and in disrepair.

We did get a good bit of rain last night, so the water level might be up a little.  I’ll check the dam again soon and see if it has been repaired.

On our way down to the pond, one of the neighbors’ aggressive dogs ran out and accosted us.   I am not usually afraid of dogs, but this time I was really frightened.  One of the owners’ kids came out, gathered up the dogs, and assured me, “They won’t bite you.”  Yeah, right.

They are supposed to be fenced or chained, but no one enforces the laws out here.  On our way back, again the dogs came out at us, but the kids rounded them up again.

daylily flower

The one remaining daylily bloom

I used to enjoy taking long walks, but I am feeling less and less safe.  The only place I really enjoy walking anymore are the trails when we go camping.  It’s so sad, because I do live in a beautiful area with so much to take in on long, leisurely walks.

Whew!  This post is getting long!  I’ll quit talking now and just share some of the photos I took.

[Note 8/8/2010:  The beaver dam is in complete disrepair.  Apparently someone killed the beavers.]

erosion and tree roots

This eroded tree root by the side of the road looks like something out of "The Hobbit"

groundnuts

Groundnuts plant

wild quinine

Wild quinine

wild carrots by beaver pond

Wild carrots by the beaver pond

red clover

Red clover looking a little heat stressed

buttonbush

Not a great picture, but I included it because it is the first time I have seen buttonbush flowers growing here.

Wild Edible Foods in My Yard

Wild strawberries in my yard

Delicious, sweet wild strawberries

Our land is completely surrounded by forest.  We keep the area as natural as possible, which leaves a transition area between the forest and the yard where all kinds of wild plants thrive.

Since we were out camping, the yard went a couple of weeks without mowing.   This also allowed all kinds of cool edible plants to do their thing.

Late this afternoon I took the camera out to see what had sprouted up in our yard in our absence.  I was amazed at the variety I found.

best kind of wild lettuce

This is the best variety of wild lettuce. Tender, and not a hint of bitterness.

There were all kinds of greens at their prime.  I also noticed that the blackberry bushes were covered in little green blackberries, and the blueberry bushes had tiny little green blueberries.

There were many wild strawberries fruiting.  The ones that are reddish orange are not quite ripe.  The ones that are a deep red are beyond description.  Sweeter than any domesticated strawberry with a burst of intense, fruity pleasure.

I have noticed something odd about the poke salad.  It used to have a scrumptious flavor that was a cross between asparagus and green beans.  But this year it is very bland.

I noticed that when I was in Florida, too.  I had picked poke shoots to cook for my sister to show her how good wild edibles could be.  They were so bland I threw them out, rather than introduce her to something that wouldn’t impress her.

I know that Steve Brill says poke salad in New York has a very pungent flavor.  So the taste must vary from location to location.  Maybe all the rain we have had has affected the taste.

The blog editor is  not letting me insert photos where I want them, so they will be out of logical sequence.  For some reason, it is inserting the last photos here instead of at the end.  Hope it’s not too distracting.

wild salad greens

Wild salad greens. I threw the plantain leaves out as they were too tough to serve raw.

Another variety of wild lettuce... slightly bitter

Another variety of wild lettuce. This one is slightly bitter, and is best mixed with other greens.

sheep sorrel with wood sorrel in background

Tangy sheep sorrel with lemony wood sorrel in background

unripe blackberries

Little green blackberries, soon to be fat, juicy, purple blackberries!

unripe highbush blueberries

Little green blueberries

passionflower vine

Passionflower vine promises maypops in a few months

poke salad

Poke salad

common plantain

Common plantain. A decent cooked vegetable. Also edible raw when very young, although I don’t care for it raw.

poke salad shoots ready to cook

Poke salad shoots ready to cook