4-H program director and edible wild plants expert Pat Banker shows and identifies edible flowers to the Wild Foods, Walk, talk and taste event at the Heaven Hill Farm on July 29.
Look around, and find something to eat. Members of the Master Gardener Program of Lake Placid and visitors did just that in a the Edible Wild Foods Walk, Talk & Taste event on Sunday, July 29 at the Heaven Hill Farm.
The 14 members of the community, some skilled master gardeners and others fairly inexperienced, began the walk in early afternoon by looking at the brush growing wild next to the buildings on the Cornell Cooperative grounds.
Through the course of the two-hour class, 4-H program director and edible-wild-plants expert Pat Banker showed the guests how to identify tasty plants that are often refered to as weeds and overlooked. Banker also identified poisonous plants to steer clear of.
Marie Bowman, of Owls Head, said after taking the class she will be looking more closely at what she usually walks by.
“I’m going to look at the things around me differently,” Bowman said.
Banker started by bringing visitors to the flowers beds on the ground and pulling the petals from the day lilies and describing the sweet taste the petals can add to salads or other dishes.
During the program, Banker pointed out flowers and vegetation such as the Queen Anne’s lace and said it can be identified as the bushel of small white flowers with a single “crown” or a purple flowers in the center. As a flower seen frequently in North America, Banker said the flower and root can be eaten and prepared and used in many ways. With a carrot or parsley taste, Banker said the dandelion can be cooked, or dried out and used as a completely healthy salt substitute.
“You can dry the flowers out and save the brown leaves and sprinkle on your food just as you would salt,” Banker said. “Completely healthier than actual salt.”
Another weed mostly overlooked with the exception of when it’s caught on clothes or in someones hair is the burdocks, which Banker said can not only be used as a food source but the root’s taste resembles a maple syrup with an “earthy” tones.
“We wanted to do this because there are just so many different things in the wild that you can eat. I can’t even tell you how many,” said Don Grout, organizer for the event.
Banker also warned that though the wild has a plentiful array of food to offer, some can easily be mistaken for poisonous plants.
“Hemlock can be easily mistaken for Queen Anne’s lace,” Banker said. “What I tell those looking is normally if you can spot the Queen Anne’s lace and it has flowered and you come across hemlock it will be yellowed and brownish by the time the flowers appear on the Queen Anne’s lace.”
Banker warns that people should refer to several books, including Peterson’s field guide to edible plants and look to a friend.
“I always say talk to a friend who has been doing it a while, obviously if he’s still around he’s doing something right,” Banker said.
To gather the plants, Banker also suggests only picking from places that are less likely to have been contaminated with pesticides.
After going outside, Banker brought the group inside so they could taste for themselves the things that could be made from the identified plants. A feast of red clover, day lilly, mallow and daisy leaves salad, a burdock stem relish, lamb’s quarters and pigweed simmered over a skillet and fried Queen Anne’s lace made with a 60 percent red clover flour.
“The food was really good. I can’t wait to try it at home,” Bowman said. “I want to try to use the dandelion I have near my house and make the appetizers from the stamens of day lilies and add cream cheese and shrimp.”
Banker said the Cornell Cooperative Extension will be holding another event for children and their families on Aug. 25. For more information about the Truely Wild Kids and parents event, call 523-2585.