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"After all, what is life without a little WILD STUFF?"


Papa Stahl with his wife of 56 years,
Mary Lou Stahl

Hi! When I was a youngster I found it fun to go with other kids to the Mulberry tree, where we would stuff ourselves with berries (and bugs). On the way to the creek to fish, we'd pull Peppergrass seeds and sample their smartness. Later, we'd sit in Grandma's yard and nibble Sheep-sorrel, then go down to the hillside and eat wild onions until our insides burned.

Sometimes I could see a succulent-looking plant, and think, "Gee, I wonder if that would be good to eat." I kept wishing I knew what wild plants could be eaten.

Some years ago, our family started experimenting with wild edibles after reading an article on garden flowers that could be eaten. We obtained armed forces survival manuals and other bits of literature that were written on the subject. It's been great family fun over the years, and we have fed many "wild meals" to friends and various groups, with never a tummy-ache.

My personal interests in wild edibles are: (Besides the simple enjoyment of nature's good things) (1) An interest in extending knowledge of wild edibles that can be gathered or cultivated. This might be a partial answer to world food problems. (2) Information that may enable people to survive if they are ever put in an isolated position, and (3) A sharing of the spirit of adventure and experimentation that is in most of us. People respond with real interest to the adventure of trying something new.

After all, what is life without a little WILD STUFF?

Carmine Stahl, co-author of Trees of Texas, has led a colorful and varied life in turn a wartime meteorologist in the U.S. Army, a Methodist minister, a leader of nature camps for underprivileged youth, a college professor, and a naturalist at Jesse Jones Park & Nature Center for many years - working along Spring Creek. His passion for wild plants and their lore stemmed from his childhood in Arkansas, spent exploring the woods and collecting roots, shoots, and tubers with his father, a country homeopathic doctor.



How to Know the Wild Edibles

There is only one way to learn the edible from the inedible or poisonous plants; at least one safe way. That is to learn the individual species and their particular qualities. There's no "litmus paper test" that can be applied to a plant to determine its edibility or inedibility. Don't experiment by putting weeds in your mouth and chewing on them. Learn a plant and find a definite reference to its edibility before trying it. There are lots of wildings in North America that were eaten by the Indians, but are not now commonly used as food. There are others that are eaten where they grow in other parts of the world.

There are probably more plants in the world that are edible, or at least harmless, than those that are poisonous. However, there are some very common species that are deadly. Many things that are cultivated as garden flowers and shrubs are dangerous, although there are some that are quite good as food.

Don't go by what birds and other critters eat. They digest some things that would put you in the hospital, if you lived long enough to get there.

So what is the best way to approach this? Read all the literature you can find on the subject, and find a botanist or naturalist who can get outdoors with you and help you identify the species. Most universities have botanical field trips, and you can attach yourself to one of these.

This little book contains only a small number of the plants that can be eaten from the wild. But its a good place to start. All the plants listed here may be found over wide areas of North America.


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