Spring is really here in Western Mass and our salads are enhanced by all the wild edibles popping up. I wonder how many people actually know their neighborhoods, know what grows when and where and know how to harvest and use what they find. A good investment for your preparedness library is the best field guide to wild edibles you can find. If you go on Amazon, you can find reviews of publications and decide which one is best for your locale.

I have enough wild edibles that I don ‘t have to go far afield to find anything I want except fox grapes, ramps, oyster mushrooms and apples. We transplanted a few things like Jerusalem Artichokes and grapes. The artichokes are doing well. No sign of the grapes. I planted roots in pots that I kept in the greenhouse over the winter. If I see any growth I will transplant to a spot by the river.

A lot of folks are afraid to gather wild greens, something I find funny when they purchase spinach in spite of the ecoli problems. I know I grew up believing that sumac was poison. There is, in fact, a poison variety, related to, I believe, hemlock, but the red berries that are so prolific around here make a delicious, vitamin c rich drink. It took me a long while to get over my fear of consuming it. I plan to plant some on our riverbank.

I did get sick once from drinking rose hip tea. I got horrible stomach cramps and diarrhea for days within 20 minutes of drinking a few ounces. It happened twice so rose hips, at least from the location I gathered from are off my list.

I general though, there a few plants that are dependable sources of food. I love purslane, danylion greens, lambs quarters, and plantain. Bishops weed is not my favorite but I just got a new recipe from my friend Leni that I plan try. We have so much of the stuff, I really want to use it.

If you are a first time forager, getting an experienced friend to work with will make you more comfortable. Be sure that the area you are gathering from is not someone’s private stash. Most people won’t care if you grab a bag full of purslane (they will probably think you’re nuts for pulling up their weeds) but if you gather their morels, they might sick their dog on you. I would.

Last year, I found a wonderful tree just full of oyster mushrooms. Unfortunately, it was in the process of being cut down by our town crew. I stopped and asked if I could have the mushrooms before they cut up the tree and fed it to the chipper. They were happy to oblige but my poor kids were mortified. The ducked down in the back seat and refused to speak to me the rest of the way home. After eating the mushrooms sauteed in butter, wine and cream they changed their tune. Now they are excellent mushroom finders, keeping an eye out as I drive-safer for all of us than having mom trying to drive and scan for dinner at the same time.