Foraging

Our son told us that last week a friend of his went foraging  in the rural ditches around Brookings, SD,  and came home with 75 pounds of asparagus. My mother loved asparagus, and said they used to find it in the ditches and along the fence lines in Pipestone County when she was a girl. She was saddened when spraying and mowing of ditches eliminated it. I bet she would be really happy to know that, with reduced used of herbicides and ditch mowing, the asparagus is back. She was reduced to buying canned asparagus when I was a child, fresh asparagus an unheard of commodity in the Luverne grocery store.  She lived to be 92.  All her aunts and uncles lived into their 90’s, too. She said it was because of all the dark, homemade bread they ate. I bet they ate asparagus from the Pipestone County ditches, since that is where they lived.

My paternal grandmother was a very picky eater who would only eat pork and sweets. She hated vegetables. She wouldn’t eat asparagus if her life depended on it.  She lived to be 91. My dad didn’t like vegetables, but he loved strong coffee and really spicy food.  He lived to be 93. I guess spice and sweets and pork and asparagus are aids to longevity.

Our Italian landlords in Winnipeg were avid mushroom hunters and found loads of mushrooms to eat in the middle of Winnipeg. We attended a mushroom dinner at the Dante Alighieri Cultural Society to which they belonged, and the food was incredible.  All the mushrooms were foraged from Winnipeg and surrounding environs. One of the members had married a non-Italian University of Manitoba biologist who vetted all the mushrooms for safety. Imagine every pasta and Italian meat dish you can think of filled with mushrooms.

I spent last weekend at our grandson’s baptism with a bunch of our son’s in-laws who are  picky eaters, people who wouldn’t touch asparagus or mushrooms or anything spicy.  They love fast food.  It makes me sad.

How would you define your eating habits?  Do you forage? Know any picky eaters?

48 thoughts on “Foraging”

  1. I am a mushroom picker, I pick berries,I love asparagus but have never found it wild (never thought to look)
    I’ve turned into a picky eater all of a sudden
    Cutting out gluten and dairy from my vegetarian leaves only mushrooms , berries and asparagus as the remaining options.

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  2. I knew a woman who suffered a bitter divorce that plunged her into debt. Some of her utilities were cut off. One of her coping measures in that grim period was foraging for wild berries in Minnehaha Park.

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  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I forage wild grapes for jelly and wild plums to can for an old pioneer family recipe I have written about here before. I have also foraged wild raspberries, choke cherries, and blueberries. My great aunts used to forage morel mushrooms in Story County Iowa where my grandparents lived. I would give my eye teeth now to know where exactly that was (side of the road in the shade—somewhere around Hickory Grove) since I just did not pay attention. Of course, I thought I would NEVER do that since I would never be that old and appreciate such things.

    I am a fairly generous eater, trying many things. I like sweets far too much. I have found that Indian food and curries do not suit me. I do not like the taste of curry—it leaves a metallic aftertaste that I can not shed and that is so unpleasant.

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    1. Curry is not really a spice, but a way of cooking. Curry powder is a mix of spices. Usually it includes coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and chili peppers. It may be the fenugreek you don’t like. But there isn’t a single taste of curry, just as there isn’t a single taste of stir-fry. It’s what you put in it.

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  4. I don’t like to label myself as a picky eater but I probably should. First there’s the vegetarian issue. I’m pretty strict about that. I will ask what kind of broth was used in a soup, I’ll ask if it was marshmallow cream or actual marshmallows, and I actually wrote to the Food Network last month because they showed a vegetarian dish being made and then used Worcestershire sauce in it. Then of course there’s the how it feels in my mouth issue. So that’s where eggplant and mushrooms get off the train. And sometimes cooked squash.

    And I’m a born-and-bred city girl, so really not much foraging unless you count the berries that I eat while I’m picking them.

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  5. I will eat nearly anything and enjoy trying different (non-spicy) foods. I have not done foraging as I don’t know where to look or even what to look for. Although my oldest sister is a wild foods expert, which I find fascinating.

    Picky eaters would not have survived in my family growing up. My dear mother was a BAD cook and as a good Catholic, insisted we clean our plates or receive the guilty lecture about the starving kids in China or Bangladesh or wherever. I’m afraid I don’t have patience for picky eaters. Choosing vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc., is NOT being picky in my opinion. That’s healthy eating in this day and age. My husband and my boys just tolerate my forays into new foods and healthy recipes.

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  6. I’d never thought to look for wild asparagus in ditches, like tim, but a friend here showed me some when I was helping her pack up to move from the country into town last summer. Unfortunately that’s probably the day a tick found me.

    I’ve been known to forage for morel mushrooms, watercress in streams, and the usual berries. I do have The Weed Cookbook (publ 1972, by Adrienne Crowhurst), which has illustrations for every plant mentioned, and is in three parts – Edible Plants A – Z, telling which parts are usable; Poisonous Plants, and a short section on Wild Plants for Dyeing. I’m realizing as I write this that I should use this more often!

    I am not usually a picky eater when I go out. At home I try to stay away from certain foods for perceived health and weight reasons.

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  7. I think parents create ugly dinnertime scenes with their kids about being picky eaters. Family together time should be fun. Parents will often say, “I only make him eat a little bit of things he doesn’t think he likes.” But have any of you heard of cases where a kid is forced to eat something and decides it is yummy? Forcing kids to eat foods seems like introducing conflict where there is no need.

    I believe science has shown that the sense of taste develops over time. It makes little sense to rag on kids when some of the foods we enjoy simply don’t taste the same to them.

    What I keep hearing is that young folks err by being too picky and limited in their food choices. So what? I think most kids start as picky eaters as young adults, then spend years discovering how much they had missed. I suspect that is the natural way for things to go. I’m an example. I now enjoy all kinds of things now that I thought I “hated” as a kid. To the extent my parents influenced that, it took me longer to experiment with foods they once tried to force on me.

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    1. I remember trying to correctly navigate that one. Joel would seem to go in spurts – for a while being extremely picky, to the point I wondered if he was running on air… I rejoiced the first time he wanted to try something besides rice at a Chinese restaurant.

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    2. Yes, that is a tough one to navigate. I remember trying to get my boys to eat a variety of healthy foods, but not make it into a fight or a force of wills. It seems Ben at 23 is more fussy than he was as a child, but Lucas (nearly 21 with autism) is including more foods now as he was a distinctly picky eater as a child. Texture was and is still an issue for him.

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    3. I was one of those children forced to clean their plate even when there were things on the plate that I detested.
      So I was absolutely determined not to do this to Child. I did however use psychology on her. If she would look at something funny on the plate I would say “oh you liked it last week when we had it”. That always worked. Every single time. I should feel guilty but I don’t.

      The other issue was getting her to eat enough at some meals. She was distracted or wasn’t in the mood but I knew that if she didn’t eat enough then she get crabby and obnoxious. So we had Mouse Bites at our house. If she would be ready to be done and I didn’t think she really had enough in her to last her to the next snack or meal I would say well you need to eat three more Mouse Bites or five more Mouse Bites. Which meant little teeny tiny bites and it was kind of a game so she would always eat the three or four extra tiny little bites. And occasionally more.

      She turned out to have a diverse palate although I am sad to report that she doesn’t like coconut.

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      1. Hans and I had a long conversation just a couple of days ago about being forced to eat something you didn’t like as a kid. As he tells it, and I’m fairly certain that’s how it was, every Friday at his house they were served fried herring. He hated it, so every single Friday, dinner turned into a traumatic experience for him, with his father shouting and he not being allowed to leave the table until his plate was clean. He has generalized his dislike of fried herring to disliking fish in general. There are some fish that I’m certain he’d like if he tasted them, but he can’t or won’t even trying them.

        My sister and I were also required to eat what was on our plate, but I don’t recall either of us having one particular thing we would not eat, so I don’t associate one particular food with unpleasant dinners. The interesting thing is that my sister eats to live, and is not a very good cook. Food just doesn’t mean that much to her. I, on the other hand, live to eat, and have over the years developed some pretty solid cooking skills out of interest and necessity. If you can’t afford eating out a lot, you learn how to cook. And I have been lucky to know some extraordinary cooks and learned by watching them in action.

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        1. i’m sorry renee
          it’s impossible not to like watermelon
          not to like coconut is hard to comprehend
          not to like watermelon is akin to not liking air and is unthinkable

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    4. I heard someone on public radio recently and wish I could remember who she was. She said when she had her first child the pediatrician told her that out of every three meals, the child would eat one, reject one, and ignore one. The doctor considered that normal, and told her the child was not going to starve if he skipped meals. She regarded it as a relief to not have to feel obligated to continually force food into the child.

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      1. every time i hear that kind of stuff i remember the statistic that every third child born is chinese

        my sister carolyn is the chinese one in our family
        third born you know

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  8. Wow, 75 lbs. of wild asparagus, that’s a lot. What a haul! What do they do with them all, I wonder?

    I’m not a fussy eater at all. I’ll eat almost anything. I love spices of all kinds, and I don’t shy away from heat in food. Ethnic cuisines that we enjoy range from old fashioned Danish dishes, to all kinds of curries, to Middle Eastern, African, Asian, and Mediterranean foods. I much prefer savory dishes to sweet ones. The one thing I rarely cook is fish, Hans won’t eat it (except for canned tuna!), so my fish eating is pretty much limited to when we eat out. He’s also not crazy about liver, so I cook that for myself when he embarks on one of his solo road trips.

    Foraging for wild food is fun, and it is something that I grew up doing. All kinds of wild berries and nuts were to be found in the park across the street from our house, and spring through fall there was sure to be something to munch on. All of us kids knew which plants we could eat from wood sorrel, violets and daisies in early spring, to wild berries and nuts later on. Tiny, but oh so sweet, strawberries that we’d string on long straws of grass, were a special treat. Most of what we found was devoured on the spot, although we also made special excursions from time to time, to gather foods that needed to be cooked. Mushrooms, elderberries, rose hips, and stinging nettles fell in that category.

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    1. I feel lucky to have become an adult when it was more common to cook from other cultures, rather than having TV dinners and convenience foods be the highlight of the age, as in the 50s.. I don’t think my mom had ever heard of, say, Thai cuisine, much less tried to cook it!

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      1. I sometimes think of how limited my culinary experienced were due to lack of exposure to other cultures as a kid and also due to lack of certain ingredients required to cook certain things. I remember vividly the first time i saw an avocado, and the first time I tasted cilantro, not to mention all the wonderful greens and vegetables that began appearing at the farmers’ market once the Hmong farmers showed up.

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      2. In central Iowa in the 1950s they sometimes used the phrase “foreign food.” By that they meant Italian or Cantonese cuisine! A lot of US soldiers got fond of Italian food in quieter moments of WW2. Chinese food was a west coast thing that spread eastward. Chinese workers were brought in to build railroads. Then they became unpopular and people tried to send them back, but some stayed, and some of them opened restaurants.

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  9. I haven’t foraged for a long time – except for the wild blackberries by the Greenway – but in the past, I’ve foraged quite a few wild berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, thimbleberries.

    I’m kind of a picky eater: I only eat apples that are really crisp, despise liver and things like storebought canned vegetables and have an immediate physical reaction to bleu cheese and gorgonzola (I feel like puking). Also, I cut back on eating sweets a few months ago and now I’m sensitive to things that are overly sweet – it just doesn’t taste very good to me and it can give me a headache; I like my desserts to have flavor besides just sweetness. And things like lemon curd or key lime pie or rhubarb pie should be a little tart IMO.

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  10. The only foraging I do is to pick wild blueberries when visiting my friend at her cabin on Lake Vermilion – that is, if I visit when they are ripe.

    I was a real picky eater as a kid. One thing I detested was mashed potatoes and I never liked gravy. But pretty much every Sunday dinner I had to take the potatoes, put butter on them, and then eat everything else on the plate. By then the potatoes were cold and lumpy – no way could I choke them down. I have memories of sitting at the table in tears while Mom was waiting for me to finish my plate all the while working on washing the dishes. To this day I never fix mashed potatoes but will eat a little bit (still no gravy) to be polite. My palate for vegetables has thankfully expanded greatly as an adult. What I won’t eat is “scary” food – could be scary looking, scary smelling, scary texture (no mushrooms ever!), and nearly anything that comes out of sea or fresh water – salmon being the one big exception. I don’t do hot (spicy) foods – my trip to India was a real food challenge and most genuine Mexican food doesn’t appeal. The best international food I have eaten has been in Peru, Brazil, Thailand, and, of course, Italy.

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    1. I’m with you on mushrooms, but I don’t understand the aversion to mashed potatoes. I have always loved mashed potatoes. Or any kind of potatoes, really.

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      1. The mashed potato thing may have been related to lumps. Mom used the now old fashioned masher so there were always some lumps. And I can’t abide lumpy food to this day.

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      2. There’s a book from the 60s called No Dessert till You’ve Finished Your Mashed Potatoes… “A wonderful collection of humorous cartoons poking fun at the crazy things parents say to kids… Examples are ‘Why can’t ‘you behave like your Cousin Margery’, ‘Who wants to run upstairs and fetch Granma’s glasses?’ and ‘Now see what you’ve done!’ ”
        I certainly wish I’d kept the book when I see Amazon’s $54 price tag…

        https://www.amazon.com/Dessert-Until-Finished-Mashed-Potatoes/dp/B000NZ8PTA

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      3. Funny, K-two, but to my mind lumpy mashed potatoes means they were made from real potatoes as opposed to those flakes you buy in a box.

        When my parents were on their one and only visit here during their month-long stay prior to Hans’ and my wedding, I served whatever the evening meal was with mashed potatoes. Dad objected strenuously to their lumpy texture; in fact, he made a scene of it. In general he was not on his best behavior during that entire month. But when a little later during their stay I again served mashed potatoes, I knew better than to serve lumpy mashed potatoes. Just to be sure they were smooth as can be, I put them in the food processor! Anyone who has ever done that knows that wasn’t a very good idea. The result was essentially wallpaper paste. I didn’t cure him of his obnoxious behavior, but they never came back for another visit. To this day, I can’t envision a how a month-long visit from my parents could have been worse. It was a nightmare.

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  11. I foraged for asparagus at Trader Joe’s today and brought
    home a bunch, maybe a pound or so, for 1.99. I don’t consider that an unreasonable price to pay to have somebody else find it and pick it and stock the store shelves with it. I will have half tonight and half tomorrow. Love asparagus.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I remember the wild strawberries that grew in the ditches in St. Croix Cove when I was little. It was hard to get a whole bowl full of them, but they were much more delicious than the supermarket ones you get today. Also much better than the ones I grow in the garden. They were tiny and packed with flavor.

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    1. Admittedly, most of my foraging these days is done at the farmers’ market. I do, however, have a very nice patch of stinging nettles in my back yard. I also have a burdock plant that is extremely healthy, but I have never viewed burdock as anything but a weed, so have no clue what to do with it except rip it out.

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  13. I never had asparagus until a few years ago when kelly made it.

    She used to pick it wild in the ditches near Fairmont MN where she grew up. I didn’t know that was a thing either. But I have taken to looking for it now.
    I remember as a kid, trying to choke down a dry piece of steak and having to spit it out.
    These days I’ve learned to either add more ketchup or keep chewing.

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