Grass, bark, leaves, wood, sap of plants and trees as a diet for survival. Extreme cuisine.

In my understanding, grass, bark, leaves, wood, juice of plants and trees is a diet for survival, something that you can pay attention to only when there is either land left, or to go to another world. Alas, many perceive the above in the same way.. 

Grass, bark, leaves, wood, sap of plants and trees as a diet for survival. Extreme cuisine.

The press often informs us of terrible droughts affecting one country or another; we are told how, for lack of other food, local residents have to go to the bark of trees, eat leaves and grass. In no way do I want to cash in on the tragedies of people, but their sad experience contains lessons for everyone else.

for the US Army ”, which tells how not to die of hunger in the wild. Say, if you fell into these conditions, surviving in a plane crash – it is written.

“There is no information on the existence of grasses poisonous to humans, and therefore the seeds of wild herbs should be considered as an important source of food. Seeds can be eaten raw, but roasting or boiling will increase their nutritional qualities. ”.

The seeds of some common herbs that grow near your home, such as the seeds of chicken millet and the old enemy of emerald lawns – African millet, can be ground and turned into nutritious bread. The latter plant was once considered a “grain” grass, as its seeds were ground into flour, ate in the form of flakes and used as an alternative to rice. In some parts of Africa, it is eaten today. In fact, before the accession of crops, the harvest of wild grass seeds was believed to have spilled over into the first experiments on growing cereals in West Africa, the Mediterranean, Sudan, Ethiopia, and possibly China.

As Carlton Coon pointed out in his book, The Hunting Man, the seed collection technique was simple: “They didn’t press the grass, but the women just walked around the site with a basket in one hand and a stick in the other, bent their arms to the edge of the basket and threshed.” Naturally, the green shoots of some herbs are also edible. And yet, no matter how enthusiastic the nutritionists convinced them of their usefulness, I would not risk recommending them all. Of the suitable, I will mention two of the most famous species – wheat grass and meadow barley. Before the reproductive cycle begins, as a result of which a seed or grain is formed, these herbs contain almost the same vitamins and minerals as dark green vegetables.

Their young shoots differ in chemical composition from adult plants. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where what is useful is simply impossible to swallow. Again mentally returning to the 60s, I recall how my then-wife raised wheat grass in pots on the window of our kitchen. With the help of a food processor, she made him something like juice, adding other products so that the mixture could be taken into her mouth. Nothing helped. The only result is green teeth and tongue. Probably for the same reason, meadow barley greens are sold in powder or capsule form and are rarely grown at home on the windowsill..

There are three more herbs found in Europe and North America that do not look very appetizing, but nevertheless have a long culinary history. The first species is moose grass, growing from California to Canada and sometimes referred to as bear or Native American grass. The Indians and the first settlers baked its large rhizomes at the stake. Another grass is the numerous varieties of wheatgrass, including creeping, chytin and dog. The name of the latter is due to the fact that dogs with upset stomach eat its multi-flowered spikelets and leaves.

Herbalists prepare tea from the leaves of wheat grass, which is recommended if there are problems with urination, and rhizomes can be grinded into flour or baked on a fire and, like chicory and root root, can be used as a substitute for coffee. In most of North America and Europe, wheat grass grows to 1.2 meters. Finally, the third grass I would like to mention. A very remarkable foxtail with its thin cylindrical apex, covered with long hairs and looking like a small fluffy tail.

The foxtail grows not only in Europe and North America, but also in open sunny places, along roads and on the edge of fields in West Asia and tropical Africa, where it is sometimes grown as a grain crop. The grains can be eaten raw, although they are hard and, like most grains, are bitter. It is also worth mentioning citric acid, or water rice, a perennial aquatic plant found in the wild in Asia – in brackish and fresh water bodies and in wetlands. The collection of citrices is usually done in spring and summer. Edible thickened lower part of its stem.

Tsitsaniya is included in the composition of various dishes as an absorber and odor neutralizer, since it has a soft, unobtrusive aroma. At the end of summer and autumn, you can collect rice ripened on it, cook it or fry it, then grind it and make cakes out of it, which are also fried in a pan or baked on charcoal. A relative of cyanosis is common in North America. The Indians appreciated this plant so much that one of the tribes even named after it – Menomins, which translates as “people of water rice.” Menomins and fed mainly on this grass growing near small lakes.

Michael Weiner writes in his book Natural Medicines, Natural Foods that Indians cooked their own food.

“Lightly toasting the grains in a bowl that was set on hot coals. So that the grains did not burn, they were constantly mixed. The cooled grains were threshed and screened, and then boiled in water and ate with blueberries or maple syrup or thrown into soup. Like cultivars of rice, water rice swells during cooking and sometimes in the process of cooking it grows three to four times in volume ”.

Finally, there is the common reed found in any open and humid area in the temperate zones of both hemispheres. This is a tall, up to 3.5 meters, tough grass with gray-green leaves and cirrus inflorescences fluttering in the wind, consisting of many brown flowers. All parts of the reed are edible, including raw. Young shoots can be boiled either in the spring, before flowering, grind into flour. The bark and wood of many trees is also edible, as the British Leadership rightly points out..

The manual considers wood and the bark of eleven woody plants as one of the food sources, and it is noted that the quality of the bark is “best in spring, with the beginning of sap flow”. In other words, it is better if your plane crashes between March and May..

“Choose a section of the cortex at the base of the trunk or on the exposed root,” the “Guide” advises, “remove the outer layer with a knife and expose the inner one.” This sweet layer can be eaten raw, or can be softened by long digestion, which will turn the phloem into a gelatinous mass. In addition, the inner bark can be baked on charcoal and then grinded and used as flour. ” Including adding it to soups and stews.

Now I’ll list those eleven plants whose bark is proposed by the “Guide” for eating: rusty elm, linden, birch, poplar, American larch, aspen, maple, spruce, willow, pine and tsuga. For representatives of many primitive peoples, bark and wood was and remains an everyday product. Native Americans ate birch bark raw, torn to pieces and cooked like noodles, they also ground it into flour, from which they baked bread. Women of the Zuni tribe prepared the inner bark of the pine: they first cooked it, then crushed it, made cakes from the resulting mass and baked them in an clay oven or in a pit.

The product turned out to be so solid that before use it had to be boiled in water, but these cakes could be stored for many months. The wood of larch growing in the subarctic regions of North America, Europe and Siberia was also used. Siberian peoples made a stew from this bark, and North American Indians made it like tea. A man did not pass his attention also to gum and tar of trees. When damaged, some trees secrete sap, which, solidifying, forms an influx on the bark. If the influx dissolves in water – then this is gum (gum), if not – resin.

Both have nutritious and medicinal properties, rich in sugars and mineral salts; both good ignition material. Many Native Americans loved to chew frozen juice. In essence, this is a kind of “blood” of plants that you can eat and drink, like the blood of most animals, and also cook in various ways. Maple sap is well known and highly regarded. A significant amount of it goes to the production of sugar and syrup, which in the United States is engaged in a whole food industry. It is also popular in the use of birch, Tsugi, mesquite and pine, although sugar in it is less than in maple. The juice of all these trees can be consumed raw, or boiled.

The leaves of some trees are edible, although the US Army Survival Guide recommends limiting ourselves to three: acacia, baobab, and sassafras. Meanwhile, there are many more such trees, among them, for example, spruce, willow, tsuga and pine. Needles of evergreen trees can be brewed as tea. Sassafras is a common tree in eastern North America where it grows along roads and along forest edges. Young branches and leaves of sassafras can be eaten fresh and dried, added to soups. Expose the underground part of its trunk, remove the bark from it and dry it, then brew it like tea. Young leaves, flowers and pods of acacia, growing in most tropical regions, can be eaten raw or as a culinary dish.

It is used for food and baobab, a tree with such a thick trunk (up to 10 meters in diameter!) That you can hollow out a real dwelling in it. Baobab grows in the African savannah (where its dried and crushed leaves are called labo and bake bread from them), in certain areas of Australia and Madagascar. Young leaves of this tree are added to soups and stews, and also cooked as vegetables. From the pulp of large pumpkin-shaped fruits, sometimes called monkey bread, a soft drink is prepared. Willows, to which deer are very partial, is the first source of vitamin C emerging from under the snow..

Young willow leaves can be eaten raw, preferably mixed with other herbs. They can also be boiled and steamed. Remember the general rule regarding foliage: only young leaflets should be used – they, like young individuals of animals, birds and other living creatures, are more tender and therefore easier to digest by the stomach. Finally, the wood of some trees is edible. As for the already mentioned sassafras, its wood and young twigs can be cleaned of bark and chewed or boiled to make tea. The same is true for juniper. It grows in the sun-rich areas of North America and Northern Europe, in Asia, right up to the Japanese islands, and in the mountains of North Africa and birch. Its wood and twigs should simply be dipped in boiling water, but not boiled, since a higher temperature kills the pleasant aroma of pear.

Another story is the trunks and wood of two palm trees. The most famous and important of them is the saga palm, whose homeland is the islands of Indonesia. Its wood goes to yellowish flour, the most important food product of the population of remote islands. In the Moluccas, the diet of locals is based on sago rather than rice. From this region, sago is exported to other Pacific islands and to Europe. The trunk of a tall storm palm tree growing along the shores of the Caribbean islands contains starch.

The core of the trunk can be eaten raw, only chopped into convenient chewing pieces. In addition, storm wood can be finely chopped, dried and ground. The flour is mixed with water and cakes are made from the resulting dough, which are fried in a pan or on the wire rack. The upper end of the trunk, hidden under a hat of wide fan-shaped leaves, can also be eaten in any form, most often it is boiled.

Based on the book Extreme Cuisine.
Jerry Hopkins.

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