SHOPPING AT MOTHER NATURE’S MARKET:       TIPS FOR EDIBLE PLANT GATHERING IN LOUISIANA

by James A. Whelan

There are no aisles or cash registers in this store, just open space.  Shopping here allows us to enjoy the out of door, sharpen our observation skills, develop self-reliance, and to stay in close touch with our environment.
To get started you need to know:

1.  How to identify plants
2.  Which plants are edible, and
3.  Which plants can cause problems.

IF YOU ARE NOT POSITIVE ABOUT AN IDENTIFICATION, DON’T EAT IT.  Some plants are edible only if prepared properly.  Knowing how to fix it is as important as knowing what it is.

The books listed in the general section will help you identify plants.  These books do not have information on edibility, but explain how to observe a plant and how to make a positive identification.  With the help of these guides you can separate edible species from inedible species.

The edible plant guides vary in the amount of identification information they contain.  All need to be supplemented in this area.  These guides do contain an abundance of information on how to prepare plants, edible parts, and how to harvest.  You will soon find that no guide book gives you all of the information you want.  Start with a wildflower guide and an edible plants guide, then your interest will direct you to what additions to make to your library.

When gathering wild foods, remember, we are only one of the many species being sustained by that ecosystem.  OBSERVE!!!  Will your collection seriously deplete that species.  There is a special thrill to gathering and eating wild foods.  Make sure that you leave more than enough for others to enjoy this pleasure.  Avoid collecting roots or inner bark, which will kill the plant.

The most important lesson we can learn from wild food gathering is how to live as a part of our environment, not at the expense of our environment.  Gather wild foods in a way that will allow your grandchildren to do the same.

General Plant Guides

 Brown, Clair.  1965.  Louisiana Trees and Shrubs, Louisiana Forestry Comm. Bul.  No. 1  Claitor’s Pub.
Brown, Clair.  1965.  Wildflowers of Louisiana and Adjacent States.  LSU Press.
Duncan, Wilbur, & Leonard Foote.  1975.  Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States.  Un. of Georgia Press
Niering, William & Nancy Olmstead.  1979.  The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern.  Knopf.
Weber, Nancy Smith, & Alexander H. Smith.  1985.  A Field Guide to Southern Mushrooms.  Un. of Michigan Press.

Edible Plants

 Brown, Tom.  1985.  Tom Brown’s Guide to Wild Edible & Medicinal Plants.  Berkley Books.
Brown, Tom.  1983.  Tom Brown’s Guide to Wilderness Survival.  Berkley Books.
Gibbons, Euell.  1964.  Stalking the Blue Eyed Scallop.  McKay.
Gibbons, Euell.  1970.  Stalking the Healthful Herbs.  McKay.
Gibbons, Euell.  1970.  Stalking the Wild Asparagus.  McKay.
Gibbons, Euell & George Tucker.  1979.  Euell Gibbon’s Handbook of Edible Plants.  Donning Co.
McKenny Margaret.  1962.  The Savory Wild Mushrooms.  Un. of Washington Press.
Medsger, Oliver Perry.  1966.  Edible Wild Plants.  Collier Books.
Peterson, Lee A.  1977.  A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants.  Houghton Mifflin.
Saunders, Charles, F.  1976.  Edible and Useful Wild Plants.  Dover, Reprint