Tuesday, May 08, 2012

high altitude foraging and Black Locust flowers

We spent th' weekend up near eleven thousand feet elevation in th' rockies, and as far as seasons go, it was like stepping back in time a couple of months. Where as down below we've already got our early summer plants growing, milkweed, black locust, amaranth and th' like, up high, we were just beginning to spot some young spring growth, so nothing much more than some nibbles, and th' promise of food to come.

early morning mountain sunshine

One of the exciting things for me was seeing kinnikinnick flowers. I've seen them before, but this time i really saw them, and we ate them too. There flavor is somewhat like a rose at first, immediately followed by th' characteristic kinnikinnick astringency. We ate loads of them, walked around in them, and lay amongst them enjoying th' carpet they can make of a forest floor.

carpet of kinnikinnick

kinnikinnick and aspen
Uva Ursi (kinnikinnick) is good for your liver, kidneys, gall bladder, urinary tract and skin. All the organs that remove toxins from your body. With the amount of pollution in our world today, a bit of preventitive medicine can go a long way. So can th' walk in th' fresh mountain air to collect it.

It was nice to be on a short outing like this, because we really had leisure time to do nothing. At home there's always stuff to do, on longer survival style trips, you're taking care of your self, this time we just enjoyed having nothing in particular to do. Some of th' promises of food to come that we found included our all time favorite, th' wild strawberry.

wild strawberry flower.

Another one of my particular favorites, th' Cow Parsnip. I wrote about this in a previous post, but here's some shots to help identify this really fabulous vegetable, as well as some shots of young Angelica. Due to it's growing environment being similar to that of water hemlock, pay very close attention to detail, and don't overlook one identifying characteristic in your eagerness to find this plant, which is a bad habit i have. Though i've not seen any hemlock this high up, with th' changes going on in our world these days i'd not be too surprised to find anything anywhere.

cow parsnip, last years umbel

cow parsnip young leaves

 Base of plant.
Note th' hairs, hollow stem (not shown) and maple like leaves of this plant, which can become larger than your hand. This was an important vegetable for the indians traveling through this region, where th' vegetation good for food is low compared to other parts of th' country. Not gonna find any vegans or vegetarians living up here before modern transportation allowed us to ship in vegetables, which by th' way, means roads and petroleum and plastic and ocean liners and industrialization, which kills many more animals than a meat eater is ever likely to eat. So if you're a vegan because you care about animals, that's something to think about. But i'm not trying to persuade anyone, it's just something that i've thought much about.

But on to th' next plant we found, Angelica Archangelica. Th' mere sight of this plant in all it's flowering glory is enough to arouse feelings of awe. It reaches up to six feet high, with a globe of small yellow flowers, often towering above th' surround vegetation. It only grows near water, so if you're thirsty and you see one of these, you're in luck. It slightly resembles cow parsnip, and they are often companions. It lacks th' hairs of cow parsnip, and does have a bit more purple coloring. It's leaves are saw-toothed, growing from a basal rosette, and sending up a flower stalk it's second year, making it a biennial. It too was an important food for native americans, and is still widely used in Saami regions today. Th' Saami make flutes from it's stems, and use it to flavor reindeer milk. Th' Saami are the indeginous peoples of arctic scandinavia. Th' stems can be eaten like celery, and have a very pleasant, though strong flavor, with just a bit of a numbing sensation left on th' tongue.

young angelica

angelica leaves
I don't have a picture of this full grown with me, so here's one borrowed from wikipedia, just so you can see what it will look like in a month or two.

mature angelica.
Here's some shots of us wandering around in th' mountains, Fynn had to have his whale with him, so we strapped it to his back, there's one happy camper.

Here he is examining a stick. Being in nature is really good for him, he's much calmer and at peace with himself than when he's at home too much. He found a tree stump covered in ants and just sat there watching them crawl around for a long time. It's hard to get him to stay in one spot at home, unless he's watching a show. 

We also took some time to shoot arrows straight up into the air. This is really fun, and we actually managed to find all our arrows.

Then we sat around, sang songs, colored on wood with charcoal, cooked over a fire, and washed dishes in th' creek.

Cooking over a campfire is a good skill to have, notice th' burning log under th' saucepan, and there are only coals under th' tea kettle. With correct rock placement, you have many options on how to cook just about anything. 

Washing dishes in th' wild is another good skill to have. Here i'm using a running brook with dry and green grass to scour. In the absence of water, i use dirt, rubbed around with moss or grass. Yes, dirt cleans, and well too. Simply clean your dish right after use, and save your precious water for drinking. 

washing a bowl in th' creek

wooden bowls and spoons drying
When we got back down, almost into town is an abandoned cabin, sitting in a field of lambs quarters and black locust trees, so we stopped for a salad. Black locust flowers are one of, if not the, best things i've ever put in my mouth. Th' season for them is short, so if you have any where you live, and most people do, as they've been planted all over north america as ornamentals, be on th' look out. Later in th' season, you can also harvest th' green beans and cook them up to eat them.

Black Locust flowers and lambs quarters.
While picking flowers, me and this guy startled each other, he hissed at me for a while, then crawled into a cavity in one of th' locust trees.

great plains rat snake

Til next time, happy hunting.



  1. i sit and watch the Beez who come to our birdbaths...As a child Nature always waz the best place to be..still iZ!)

    i'm learning about desert forage = Mesquite pod pith & such.
    Thanks for showing us Mountain goodies!
    Blessings & Buzz'z

  2. friends, don't forget that angelica and poison hemlock have a lot of similarities, so please be sure you can identify one from the other before harvesting! -beth

  3. Lambs-quarter I've had. Didn't know about locust flowers, though.

    1. they're good Gorges, they're so deliciously good...

  4. 11,000 feet, that's my neck of the woods! I love boiled young cow parsnip leaves with chopped onion & soy sauce, and I love love love candied wild angelica stems & leaves. I haven't seen any angelica yet myself this season so you have me really excited about it. I was out around the same elevation today and saw some marsh marigold, roseroot/rosecrown, bluebell leaves & fireweed shoots just begging to be foraged. Thanks for the nice entry. Cheers!

    1. erica- we're planning a wild foods potluck this summer, if you'd like to be involved, send us an email and we'll send you th' details when th' time is a bit riper... rico and beth at g mail - adios