Wild Food Foraging: Fish, Rabbit, Plants and More

Wild food foraging can make every season productive, including winter. Learn how to ice fish, trap rabbit, harvest coffee substitutes, and forage for edible plants such as wampee, bur reed and locust beans.

| January/February 1972

Winter is here again and, on our homestead, we welcome it with open arms. This is the time of the year when we can breathe easy and catch up on some of the writing and reading that we've put off for far too long. It's also one of the best seasons to be outside. There's nothing as restfully beautiful, to my mind, as fresh snow on evergreen trees. And, contrary to what many folks believe, winter can be a most productive time of the year thanks to wild food foraging.

Fishing, in particular, takes on a new dimension when an angler can stride quickly out onto a frozen lake instead of putting in a boat and paddling to that "secret spot." Once over his choice "fishin' hole," the winter angler can then erect a simple shelter, cut a hole in the ice and fish for hours in perfect comfort . . . especially if the shelter is equipped with a little twig-burning stove.

It's also great fun to track rabbits in the snow during the cold months and cottontails usually furnish us with many good meals every winter.

Zero weather doesn't necessarily limit our gathering of wild plants either. Down in a huge marsh that I know about, there are still plenty of wampee plants sticking through the snow. Wind-blasted and snow-crusted, they nevertheless would furnish gallons of grain for coffee and biscuits if we gathered them all. Bur reed, another marsh plant that yields grain which looks almost exactly like kernels of corn, grows near the wampee.

Tasty beans, concealed in what look like flat leather pods, still cling to the black locust trees. They can be used like any other bean but, since the locust variety is uncultivated, they're much more satisfying to eat.

Of course we forage a number of other wild foods during the winter but if you only know where to find and how to harvest the few I've just mentioned, you'll put many a satisfying January meal under your belt.

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