Embracing our gatherer heritage we met together on Saturday the 15th in the basement of the Joseph Fielding Smith Building on BYU campus to be instructed by the BYU professor, Dr. Tom Smith. He shared some of his knowledge of edible plants, talked about books to look at like Stalking the Wild Asperagus, and then prepared some acorn flour muffins for us to eat later. As we wandered on campus we gathered acorns, both from White and Bur oaks. Native peoples lived off of acorns because, "they are just a package of fat!" Tom said, "You can't get that much energy from one food source!". We also gathered yew berries from yew bushes. While the leaves and stems are usually toxic, doctors have discovered a way they can be used to treat ovarian cancer. We also collected Oregon grapes (which taste like sour peas), the flowers, buds, and stems of the day lily (which taste like asparagus), and pine nuts from the local pinyon pine, a tree naturally abundant in Utah. Tom also taught us about how you can eat wild sunflower seeds. Although they are tiny, you can mash them up to eat them.
After traipsing all over BYU campus, finding all sorts of edible plants, we returned to the kitchen to whip up some wild concoctions. Our feast consisted of Oregon grape and smooth sumac juice (which is tart, like cranberry juice), acorn muffins, pine nut cookies, birch syrup, cacao beans (very bitter...), morrel mushrooms, bacon, and purslane (which is a succulent weed that grows in our gardens and tastes a lot like spinach when cooked.)
Nature is still full of food that we can use, the key is simply knowing how and where to find it. Not as many plants are actually toxic as we expected. Most of these plants are not exactly what we are used to eating but they are worth knowing. And hey, at least now we can freak people out by eating, what is to them a random flower, but is actually a sweet and spicy nasturtium.
Here are some pictures from the event. If you are ever interested in joining us for one of these Nature Experienceships, check our website for details on how to sign up!