Roses can do more than grace our landscapes and floral designs. Like its cousins the apple, pear, peach and cherry, roses produce a fruit. Rose Hips are a valuable source of vitamin C, containing as much as 20 times more vitamin C than oranges. They are also an excellent antioxidant. Rose Hips can be found in dried form in most health food stores, but why not gather your own? You’ll save money and you’ll know where they came from and the conditions in which they grew. Furthermore, you’ll be adding to your own self-sufficiency by locating and gathering a nutrient-dense food source to nourish yourself and your family. In many parts of the country, large hedges grow in great abundance producing attractive and fragrant pink and red flowers.
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You probably won’t find the Purslane at your local grocery store, but given its wide distribution, you MIGHT find it growing in lots and parks near your grocer. In fact, it’s found in nearly every temperate climate zone in the world north of the Equator. In North America, if can be found as far south as Mexico right up to the Arctic Circle, though some contend the plant is an invasive species in the New World. Regardless of its origins, this “lowly weed” is a hardy and versatile, if somewhat under-appreciated, source of nutrition. And yet, most people couldn’t distinguish the plant from a line up of common plants in their region. If you can learn to identify the Purslane, you’ll be well ahead of your contemporaries and able to enjoy a free, tasty treat with little competition.
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Whether at home or in the backcountry, there’s one weed everyone can recognize at 100 yards: the dandelion. Lawn and golf course caretakers across the country try to stem this little yellow monster that spreads like wildfire. However, with its deep taproot and remarkable regenerative properties, the dandelion will probably destined to outlast manicured lawns and fancy gardens. The weed’s tenacity and omnispresence can be turned to your advantage, however… as a tasty veggie burger!
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When a visitor to your garden compliments you on your chenopodium as well as your tomatoes, you know he’s a hardcore forager. Where you see a blaze of summer beauty in a stand of day lilies, the hardcore forager sees fritters and cooked buds and a salad made with the tubers. A lake fringed with cattails is liable to bring paroxysms of joy in the hardcore forager. There are flour, vegetables, and even something for the pickle crock there, not to mention a meat course of fish or frog legs. Experienced foragers see food, medicine, and other useful things in every forest and field.
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One of the most exciting concepts of backwoods living is collecting and preserving food from the wild. Wild foods are high in both vitamin content and flavor, but unlike their domestic cousins from the garden, wild greensand fruits are available during a shorter season of harvest. Why? Because man has not tampered with them genetically to alter size, flavor, quality, or for that matter, made them so tough they can withstand being packed and shipped across the country without bruising. Just the opposite wild foods are fragile and must be handled gently and prepared quickly to retain their natural goodness. It is beyond the scope of this article to include all wild foods, so seek additional information on native fruits and herbs available in your area and learn more about them. Also, I do not intend to touch on wild mushrooms or morels since a wrong selection can prove fatal.