Fruit is red for a reason. I first spied the Ivy Gourd when its candy-red fruit caught my eye as I drove over a railroad crossing. It was growing on a chain link fence by the tracks. That fall I dug up the root and the plant has been with me since. In fact I recently moved and like that cats, it went with me. Perhaps I should give it a name. Once in season it is fairly easy to spot because the cucumber-like fruit turns red as it ripens. You can eat it at any stage and it tastes like a slightly tart cucumber with a tougher skin. I don’t peel them, I just crunch away. Young leaves and growing tips are also edible.
The Ivy Gourd is not on this state’s invasive plant list but makes the cut in Hawaii where it escaped cultivation. The vine was introduced to that state as a backyard food crop and is sometimes called “Thai Spinach.” The two plants I have found over the course of several years are about a mile apart. Male and female plants are needed so there has to be guy somewhere around here. That it produces excellent fruit and is virtually maintenance and disease free does not exonerate it with some. I like that it’s a prolific producer of chunky cukes and takes total care of itself as “weeds” tend to do. It also likes to grow up rather than out thus saving space on my garden floor. This is definitely a permaculture species. To read more about the Ivy Gourd, also called Tindora, go here.
In case you missed receiving the newsletter last week that’s because there wasn’t one. EatTheWeeds.com is — for reasons unknown — under regular attacks by hackers, as if there is something secretive or seditious about edible wild plants. Last week’s disruption lasted for a little over week. It was an unintended vacation from the newsletter. Efforts are underway to reduce the frequency and scope of the hacks.
While teaching in West Palm Beach this past weekend a rather odd occurrence was observed: Honey Mushrooms in May, the thirty-first to be exact. “Honeys” are among Florida’s more easy to identify edible mushrooms (when well-cooked.) One usually spies them in the winter months starting around November and perhaps as late as February. This particular clump and several others were growing on a Banyan tree root. There are Honey mushrooms nearby on other Banyans in the winter but this is the first time seeing some this time of year. The report is not isolated. On two of my Facebook mushroom pages there have been a couple of other reports about seeing “Honey’s” out of season. To be accurate they are known to fruit anytime of year but it is rare to see them popping up outside of winter. On Facebook I moderate the Florida Mushrooms Identification Forum, Southeastern US Mushroom Identification, and Edible Mushrooms: Florida. To read more about Honey Mushrooms go here.
One can make a good argument that the two most difficult places to learn how to forage for wild food in the 50 united states are Florida and Hawaii. It’s all that tropical weather. However, it just got easier in the Aloha State with the publication of Wild Food Plants of Hawaii by my friend Sunny Savage. It’s 150 pages of personal experience and observation covering several dozen edible species. Many of them are familiar to all foragers as some weeds are truly global. Others are found where there’s really never a winter. Between the festive covers you will find photographs, recipes and wisdom. Wild Food Plants of Hawaii is the first book about wild edibles in that state for nearly 50 years, the last being Euell Gibbon’s Beachcomer’s Handbook published in 1967.
Sunny and her husband Ryan spent much time with my friend Kelly Fagan and I when they were preparing for their Caribbean sail-about (which was really a three-year honeymoon.) I even got to climb aboard the sailboat she, Ryan and son Saelyn called home for some 6,000 miles. And when they finally came ashore the land sickness Sunny felt was actually morning and a second son, Zeb, came along like a sprout in the spring. For a young mother Sunny has packed in a lot of living from a year in a research station in Antarctica to picking up a degree in Dietetics to speaking on a recent T.E.D. talk.
Sunny and I share several foraging themes. On page one she challenges us with her Wild Food Manifesto which is to eat one wild food a day. When I am asked how much wild food I eat I say I try to eat something wild every day. There are many reasons why one would want to ranging from the practical to the profound. The problem with modern food is that most of it is not real food. It’s manufactured food stuff with a list of contents one can’t pronounce. We are what our ancestors ate and modern food is not in synch with that. We have a genetic imperative that demands we eat a particular way for the best of health. The nutritional industrial complex has ignore that and the result is we are among the sickest populations on earth. Returning to wild food, even just a little, is reclaiming our heritage. Besides appealing to our genes and the significant influences of epigenetics wild foods also have textures, flavors, and better nutrition than their cultivated relatives. They are also only genetically modified by Mother Nature rather than the chemist in the kitchen.
Sunny’s book is warm, personal much like her (you’d never guess she’s shy and quiet.) You can get your own copy here.
Upcoming foraging classes:
Sunday, June 7th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, 23000 Bayshore Rd., Port Charlotte, FL 33980. 9 a.m.
Saturday, June 13th, Mead Garden: 1500 S. Denning Dr., Winter Park, FL 32789, 9. a.m.
Sunday, June 14th, Red Bug Slough Preserve, 5200 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL, 34233, 9 a.m.
Sunday, June 21st, John Chestnut County Park: 2200 East Lake Road, Palm Harbor, FL 34685 9 a.m.
Saturday, June 27th, Boulware Springs Park, 3420 SE 15th St., Gainesville, FL 32641 9 a.m.
Sunday, June 28th, Jervey Gantt Recreation Complex, 2390 SE 36th Ave., Ocala, FL, 34471, 9 a.m.
For more information or to sign up for a class go here.
Need to identify a plant? Looking for a foraging reference? Maybe you have a UFO, an Unidentified Flowering Object, you want identified. On the Green Deane Forum we — including Green Deane — chat about foraging all year. And it’s not just about warm-weather plants or just North American flora. Many nations share common weeds so there’s a lot to talk about. There’s also more than weeds. The reference section has information for foraging around the world. There are articles on food preservation, and forgotten skills from making bows to fermenting food. Recent topics include: I Believe This Is a Tulip Tree, Virginia Creeper Again. Edible but too small, Here’s One I saw near the office, Transplanted Tree Root Structure, cultivated Apios Americana: Groundnut, My First Pokeweed, Yaupon Holly? Plantain? Sand Toads? Will My Tomatoes Make Me Pregnant? White BUgs on Smilax Tips, Poison Hemlock and Eating Birds, Study and Respect Plants, Firebow Elderberry, Not Yellow Pimpernel, Small Purple Flowers, Firebow Baccharis, Milkweed? Elderflower Fritters, and Fuzzy Tree. You can join the forum by clicking on the button on the upper right hand side of this page.
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