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Eating Wild Things

Spring has sprung here in the Smoky Mountains and life is sprouting from every spare patch of dirt.  In amongst the poison ivy and rag weeds are some tasty treats.  From Ramps and Polk Salad to mushrooms and berries, the mountains are filled with edible plants.  Over the next few months I’ll share a few of my favorites as they come into season.  Some of my fondest memories are of my three spinster Great-Aunts who lived in a small cinder-block house tucked away in one of the countless Appalachian hollows (pronounced “hollers”).  They cooked on a wood stove, planted their crops by the signs of the zodiac, adhered to age-old superstitions and supplemented their diet with wild things.  They lived to very ripe old ages and remained unmarried, having no need for the likes of men.  Looking back now, I wonder if they were not more progressive than I give them credit, but I’m going off topic.  The point is, as a youngster, they fed me wild things.  Ramps, Polk Salad and Mountain Watercress are the three that stand out in memory.

Whatever you do, do not eat plants based on anything I post.  I do not know what I’m doing and it’s a wonder I have not poisoned myself.  If you intend to eat wild things, get yourself a good field guide, like ‘Edible Wild Plants’ by Lee Allen Peterson.  Also consider finding an old person who has been eating wild things for several decades, has a few teeth left and does not look too jaundiced.  Chances are, they are not consuming poisonous plants and know what they are doing.  If nothing else, let a friend eat the plant first, then sit back and observe him for ill effects before trying it yourself.  I’ve spotted some tasty Polk Salad growing in the meadow in front of my house.  We’ll start with that in a few days.


  1. April 30, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Very interesting. I take your warning seriously. Many years ago I spent some time working with a guy who told me that while in college he and a friend took off on a cross country bike ride. They stopped to camp one night and cooked up some spaghetti for dinner. They noticed the squirrels were on the ground eating some small mushrooms. They figured that the mushrooms were obviously safe for consumption since the squirrels were eating them with no ill effects. So they gathered some of these mushrooms and put them in their spaghetti. To make a long story short, their organs began shutting down and their camping trip ended with a very long stay in the hospital. My friend ended up with an organ transplant (kidneys I think).

  2. The Velo Hobo
    April 30, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Yes, it can be dangerous. Even Polk Salad, eaten by lots of people in the south (me included) is toxic and can make you very ill if not done properly. Morels are in season in North Carolina. I’ve hunted, but never found this prized mushroom. I’m hoping to get some pointers this year from friends who know what they are doing.

  3. November 27, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Even if youu have b?en successful in dropping fat, ?ou probasbly discovered you correct again where y?u started ?ff ?t ??me position.
    From private experience, I would normally binge eat ?nd destroy m?
    diet plan ?n meals that I w?s forbidden fr?m eating.

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