The Taste of Nature

This week I went to a wild edibles class. We learned about all of the edible plants that grow around town, which turns out to be a lot. In fact, the instructor said that you could go around like a little lawnmower and probably not run into a poisonous plant for several miles (here in Utah). We grazed on Oregon grapes, crabapples, daylillies, rose hips, yew berries, Indian ricegrass, acorns, basil, Malia neglectus, juniper berries, hawthorn berries, pyracantha berries, pine needles, rose petals, sumac, elderberries, and purcelain. And one plant that made my tongue burn for a few hours. I didn’t like that one. But several were quite good. For example:

Oregon grape. A little bitter when you chew it, but a nice sour flavor at first. A lot of people plant it in their gardens for show.

Crabapples. I never knew they were edible before. Crisp, sour, and makes you pucker. I want to try making them into a pie sometime.

Daylillies. These are very popular in the flower garden. The flowers and buds are delightfully crisp and have a flavor similar to raw peas.

Rose hips. Before I took this class I had heard rose hips were edible, but when I tried one I put the whole thing in my mouth and got a bunch of furry seeds. What you need to do is to find the moist and slightly wrinkly ones, open them up and dig out the seeds, and then eat them. It tastes like tangy fruit leather.

Elderberries. Mmm. Not quite blackberries, but juicy and pretty good.

Sumac. Surprisingly sour. I didn’t know that anything besides a lemon could naturally be so sour. You don’t want to eat the seeds, just suck on them or make a drink with them.

I was less impressed with some of the other edibles. Yew berries (don’t eat the seed!) are a pretty red but don’t really have a flavor. We had some previously prepared acorn flour bread and cookies, and I don’t really like the flavor of acorn. Its okay, but I prefer wheat. Hawthorn berries gave me the shivers. Juniper berries are too powerful. They’re better as a seasoning.

Now that I know what is edible, I can’t help but notice food growing all around me. Nice to know that there are snacks sprouting out of the ground!



Yogurt and veggies and fruit (oh my)

Let’s face it. Being healthy is for the oldy-moldies. At least, that’s what I thought until I started getting a little older myself (from teenager to young adult), and started needing those health benefits in my life. The truth is, being healthy doesn’t have to alienate you from friends, make you suffer, or to taste like lima beans (if you don’t like them). Being healthy can be fun.

I heard yogurt is really good for the digestive system, and that meant I was in luck because I like yogurt. Now, you’re probably thinking, “When is she going to mention price again?” So glad you asked. Milk is generally less expensive than yogurt at the supermarket, plus it has less additives and sugar. So why not DIY?

I used a recipe I found online to make my own batch of yogurt for breakfast. It has only three ingredients: milk, powdered milk, and yogurt with live cultures. I was a little clumsy the first time with sterilizing the canning jars, but it turned out yummy. I was very proud as I ate my own yogurt for breakfast, with a little honey drizzled in. I tried again today and the preparations went much smoother (I’m also hoping the yogurt will be smoother this time too.)

I’ve been trying harder to figure out how I can solve some of the health problems that I’ve been having, and it turns out that eating more fruits and vegetables solves like a billion problems. And, eating them is not really that bad. It sounds bad. Ohh, it sounds terrible. You’d think those little green things were torture, the way some people avoid them. But I’ve found that as I eat more fresh foods, I am enjoying all of the food that I eat more and feeling fewer cravings for sugar. The trick for me in avoiding Vegetable Dread has been finding out what I like.

I don’t like frozen peas, carrots, or broccoli. They give me the shivers. But, I have found that fresh, young peas are a wonderful, sweet treat. Woody, slimy, and bitter baby carrots have been the bane of my lunchbox. But once in a while baby carrots can be so crunchy and sweet that I devour them. Big hunks of chewy broccoli stem are hard for me to palate, but small broccoli sprigs can add the perfect texture to a stir-fry. What I’ve found is that if you take the time to make healthy food desirable, it will be worth eating. Who has the willpower or desire to eat gross food today just to make sure things will go well thirty years down the line?

Just as I’ve found that I can eat healthy, I’ve found that I can do a lot of things I’ve assumed that I can’t. I used to think I didn’t like cooking. The yogurt taught me that you have to practice a recipe for it to go well. The next time I make yogurt, it will go even better. I used to think I was no good at anything medical, but I’ve found that if I give myself the space to lie down when blood or cadavers start to make me feel faint, I am actually quite interested in the human body and good at anatomy. I used to think I could never whistle or do a pull-up, but I can. Sometimes we feel we can’t do things. I think that usually the truth is we can do it if we believe we can, and if we allow ourselves to do it in our own way.

The yogurt is done. Still a little lumpy, but tastes even better than the last batch!