Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Primitive Skills on TV

There are several programs I've been following this year, Dual Survival, Naked and Afraid, and Fat Guys in the Woods...they're mind candy. One particular guy that stands out is Matt Graham, from Dual Survival and Dude, You're Screwed.  He is touted as a long term primitive skills expert and it shows in some of the technics he exhibits.  He has been shown hunting wild boar and fishing with the dart & atlatl, spinning friction fires, foraging wild edible plants, and demonstrating ingenious building technics for shelters, beds, and rafts.  Matt is a very charismatic and knowledgeable survivalist...I really enjoy him.  A new show, on the Weather Channel is Fat Guys in the Woods, with Creek Stuart.  I was surprised to find that I had several books by him in my library, that I revisited, after watching him in action.  Basically, he takes several unskilled guys into the woods for a week with only the clothes on their backs and a few basic tools.  One common theme is that it always seems to be freezing temperatures and raining, so their shelter and fire making skills are vital.  Naked and Afraid really pushes it to the limit as a man and woman try to survive for 21 days, starting out naked and with only a couple tools.  They get to bring a survival item, which is usually a knife or machete, a fire starter, or maybe a pot.  In all these shows you see the importance of building a proper shelter, and making fire for heat, purifying water, cooking, and controlling insects.  The quest for water, and later food, and the various tools, traps, and containers are instructive.  My family has commented that I've been spending too much time in front of the tv lately...maybe they're right.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Purslane

I have been searching for this plant for awhile trying to identify it.  Purslane is more of a summer plant that carpets the ground.  It is described as a succulent-the stems and leaves are thicker and hold more water.  The whole plant is edible raw or cooked, except the single taproot, which the plant stems out from.  Walking my dog, I came across a healthy patch and sampled it on the spot.  Not a bad taste.  I will introduce this plant to the family by adding it to salads and steaming it with some traditional vegetables.  It has more vitamins than spinach, plus Omega 3.  I step out of my door and see plants for eating, cordage, medicine, and firemaking - lamb's quarters, plantain, wood sorrel, jerusalem artichoke, yucca, mullein, mint, dandelion, etc.  There are a number of patches of plants I do not recognize, so that should be my next goal - identifying them.  I agree with the 80/20 principle, Creek Stewart states in his book "The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide":  there are hundreds of wild edible plants, focus on learning/using the 20% you see 80% of the time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dandelion Roots

Every spring I make a resolution to work on my edible & medicinal plant identification and actually eat it or try it.  I had always read you could eat dandelion leaves.  A couple decades ago, while backpacking in Colorado, we ran low on food.  I decided to try eating dandelion leaves. I boiled them and found them too bitter to eat.  Today, locating some well established patches I took a digging stick and harvested some.  I read in a new book, "The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide", by Creek Stewart, about boiling & eating the roots.  In the past the only references I saw with the roots were as use as a coffee substitute.  I washed and scraped them, and tried one raw.  It was a little bitter, but not overly.  I tried a raw leaf also and it was not overly bitter...yet.  I'm sure that later in the season this would change.  I boiled the roots in a couple changes of water, till it no longer was green.  They were tender, still with a hint of green taste, but not bad. They reminded of some vegetable I've had before.  I could eat a quantity of it, if I had something else to eat with it.  A little salt or butter would probably be good. The roots were a little small but a large quantity could be harvested in a reasonable period of time.
One principle Mr. Stewart puts forth in his book I like is to concentrate on the 20 % of the plants that you see 80% of the time. There are hundreds of edible plants, but it is better to focus on the ones you see all the time - not the ones that require effort to locate or have poisonous look-alikes.