Monday, May 13, 2013

Wild, Local, Wonderful Food

We're wrapping up our last two days here at WoodSong Hollow Farm, and we begin our next (brief) work exchange Wednesday afternoon. One of my favorite parts about this work exchange has been the intimacy with food. From collecting wild plants for eating to being involved in the process of raising chickens for meat to preparing everything from scratch with organic ingredients to planting and harvesting things from the garden, food has been a big part of this experience. 

One of my growing interests is wild edible plants. I've been reading parts of Stalking the Wild Asparagus here, which is a great book about wild edibles, and, as a bonus, the author did much of his living and foraging here in PA, so many of the plants he talks about are literally growing in our backyard. 

These are nettles, which you have to collect with a rubber glove because they will "sting" any exposed skin. We harvested the young, tenderest part from the top of the plant. Amazingly, when you put the nettles in something hot, the stinging quality goes away, and they are quite nutritious and very delicious. We added them at the very end of the cooking time for chili and just left them in long enough to wilt, as you would with spinach. They were so tasty! 

While we didn't cook with any violets here, I did recently learn that they are edible, medicinal, and growing everywhere! I'd love to make some violet jelly. Apparently a poultice made from them is also a good remedy for headaches. 

This is poke weed, which seems to generate a lot of discussion regarding its usability as a food. When it gets this purple color, beware! The plant is poisonous. However, apparently many people eat and love the young green shoots. 

Some mushrooms growing in the yard. Non-descript mushrooms like these are difficult to identify without making a spore print. 


We planted potatoes in the garden last weekend using the bucket method. You lay a piece of cardboard down (to control weeds), then put a bucket with the bottom cut out on the cardboard. Put about two small sections of potato with eyes in the bottom and fill with dirt. For these, we used really excellent compost from the local municipal compost center. When the potatoes are ready to be harvested, instead of digging around in the dirt to find them, all you have to do is lift up the bucket, and voila! There are your potatoes. No more loosing half your harvest in the potato hills. 

This is one of the brick walls we've worked on since we've been here. And look at how huge that comfrey plant in the herb bed is getting! 

P.S: If you found us from our banner on Oliver and Abraham's, welcome, and thanks for visiting! We're excited to have begun a month long sponsorship with Oliver and Abraham's, a blog that's definitely been an inspiration to me and which I always eagerly look forward to reading. :) 


  1. Hi,
    Great meeting you both! Wonderful info on the plants at WoodSong Hollow Farm!
    In Alabama they often eat poke salad and cook them as well like collards. I haven't eaten them, but my parents do.
    Hope our paths cross soon!

  2. Hey Tine!

    It was great meeting you, too. Thanks for the comment and for reading our blog! :) That's neat they eat poke in Alabama too. Jeff was saying he's made a poke quiche before, but apparently it can be quite poisonous. Guess you just have to be careful!

    Arianna and Dave

  3. If you accidentally get stung by nettles, crush some jewelweed leaves/stems and rub the juice on your sting. I used to do this all the time as a kid. I've read since that it works on poison ivy too. I wish I had know that!

    1. Thanks for the tip Kir! I had heard that jewelweed works for poison ivy, but I hadn't heard it works for nettles as well. Good to know!


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