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
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
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
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 it’s a good place to start. All the plants listed here may
be found over wide areas of North America.
Email Papa Stahl!