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A taste of Marion County

Staff writer

Marilyn Jones’s grandmother taught her a lot about the land and what it could grow.

Her own land just outside Peabody provides a bevy of wildflowers and edible plants. Staff members from the Land Institute in Salina have identified 65 edible plants along her driveway. They include:

  • Cat tails
  • Ceanothus New Jersey tea
  • Choke cherry
  • Currents
  • Devil’s claw
  • Dock
  • Leadplant
  • Elderberry
  • Evening primrose
  • Gay feather
  • Goldenrod
  • Grapes
  • Monarda
  • Morel mushrooms
  • Morning glory roots
  • Mulberry
  • Mullein
  • Oak acorns
  • Pecans
  • Persimmons
  • Pigweed
  • Plaintain
  • Pokeberry
  • Pony mallow roots
  • Stinging nettle
  • Sunflowers
  • Thistle
  • Various native grasses
  • Violets
  • Watercress
  • White prairie clover
  • Wild onion
  • Yucca blossoms and roots

“The edible plants — just over the years — it’s something that’s always interested me,” Jones said.

She opened her land to a recent tour organized by Flint Hills Counterpoint, a nonprofit group that seeks to honor tallgrass prairie through conservation and arts.

Jones, who operated a greenhouse for 55 years, has learned about edible plants through trial and error — and also through reading.

“Some of it is absolutely delicious, and some of it is not so tasty,” she said. “It’s just kind of a hobby.”

Land Institute recommends these books for people who are interested in trying edible plants:

  • “The Wild Flavor: Delectable Wild Foods to be Found in Field and Forest and Cooked in Country Kitchen” by Marilyn Kluger
  • “Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide” by Kelly Kindscher
  • “Edible Flowers: Desserts and Drinks” by Cathy Wilkinson Barash
  • “Edible Flowers: from Garden to Palate” by Barash

Aubrey Streit Krug, director of ecosphere studies at the institute, also recommended “Wild Seasons: Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains” by Kay Young.

When foraging for edible plants, make sure the plants haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals such as weed killers or fertilizers. Try small samples. Even if something is technically edible, your stomach might not like it.

Jones particularly likes stinging nettle and sandhill plums. She despises horehound.

“I like anything you can do with the stinging nettle,” she said. “I like to dry stinging nettle because they’re nice to throw in potato soup.”

Jones shared these recipes on the recent tour and served both.

Stinging Nettle Cake

1½ cups butter

1½ cup sugar

6 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup lemon juice

Zest of 2 lemons

2 cups stinging nettle puree

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat together and then add eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest and stinging nettle puree. Add baking powder and salt. Bake in two-layer cake pans or large sheet cake pan until it springs back when lightly touched for 20 to 25 minutes. Time depends on size of pan.

Stinging nettle soup

2 cups dried stinging nettle or 4 cups fresh stinging nettle

2 cups chicken broth (or bouillon cubes for 2 cups)

2 cloves garlic

¼ to ½ cup chopped onion

Salt and pepper to taste

If using fresh stinging nettle, wash thoroughly and wear gloves.

Simmer all ingredients together for about 10 minutes. Chopped potatoes may be added. That will increase cooking time. Optional: Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Last modified Sept. 15, 2022

 

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