Wild foods, foraging, edible landscapes….today’s interview takes us to Earth Connection, a wilderness survival school.
Tim MacWelch is the founder and head instructor and provides education to those of us who want to be safe and self sufficient in the wild. His school covers a variety of skills from fire making, tracking, basket making, tool making, to name a few and my favorite, wild edibles. He runs classes for Law Enforcement and the Military.
I met Tim recently when he offered a class in home brewing. I remember elders in the family who made dandelion wine. Other herb folks I have met along the way made birch bark brew, sassafras, maple tonics from the sap of these trees.
We spent the day in the woods at Tim’s school site learning how to make beer, mead (honey based wine) and since they are in season, blackberry wine.
I have to admit. The draw for me was Tim’s experience with wild edibles. I particularly enjoyed his detailed explanation of look a likes. For example, he suggested we harvest some yarrow leaves for the mead. We lumbered up to a nearby meadow area and he
showed us yarrow and a look a like, Queen Anne’s’ Lace.
Yarrow, Achilles millefolium, on the right, has a more compact flower head than its look a like. The leaves are quite lacy and finely dissected though tiny as if a thousand mini leaves are contained in one lacy leaf. It is aromatic and useful in colds, fevers. It has styptic qualities which means one can use it to staunch the flow of blood when cut. The whole plant in flower can be dried for tea. I cut fresh flowering plants and soak in extra virgin olive oil for a salve I make.
Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, on the left has more airy flower head with a tiny purple flower typically present in the center. Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy stem which distinguishes it from more poisonous plants.
It is the root of this plant that can be eaten and smells like carrot and so given its common name, wild carrot. In fact the carrot and Queen Anne’s Lace are related. It’s the hairs on the stem or stalk of this plant that help us to distinguish it from water hemlock a very poisonous plant.
I enjoyed these tips. Reviewing and going out in the wild in unfamiliar locations challenges me. Some plants I know very well I appreciated his elaboration on the distinguishing characteristics that hopefully have us remembering more easily what to eat and what to leave alone. For those of you interested in learning more I highly recommend taking one of Tim’s wild edible classes.
At the end of the day we came home with our bottles of brew, a beer, mead, a wine and soda. So far only the soda is ready to drink. We harvested a small amount of sassafras root, added it to boiling water, put in a packet of yeast and bottled it. I have to say its delicious. The rest will be ready in one to three months.
A special thanks to Tim for an informative, interesting class on home brewing. Our small class engaged in several discussions usually centered on emergency preparedness. Tim offers classes on emergency survival and preparedness, for the homeowner as well. Storms and changing weather patterns have become a concern in many areas on our globe. My most important concern is where to find water first and foremost or what can I do to purify nearby river or stream water. Food would not be my first concern. I figure I can go out and find a few things to eat if needed. Wild carrot root can be boiled and eaten. Yarrow tea can be made by the campfire.
I hope these tips on plant ID are helpful. I can only encourage you to look at your family’s preparedness before any unforeseen weather hits.
Enjoy your day.