Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wild Plant Harvests on the Lake

A friend and I did some some exploring yesterday on Hiles Mill Lake. We were looking for a section of mountain maple trees located above a floating bog. We wanted to go out there to gather seeds for edibility tests. We paddled for about 1 1/2 miles, and then waded into the bog. What's neat about the floating bog is that it's bouncy. It reminded me of being on a moon bounce when I was a kid. What's a little scary/exciting is that it is difficult to see how far you will sink in until you step down. I fell into a deep spot a couple times when I wasn't being completely aware of where I was stepping. Once we made it through the bog, we climbed up a path of fallen trees into the mountain maple forest. It was a really beautiful day, and we collected a couple bags of seeds.

This whole area is surrounded by lakes. Almost every time we go out to gather wild edible plants, we explore a different lake. I'm enjoying the opportunities to get in a canoe. I'm getting better at canoeing, and I'm getting stronger. I really like being out in the sunlight, and on the water, with a view of all the colors of the fall trees.

The cranberries are also ripe right now, growing wild alongside the edges of the lakes. A few days ago we canoed onto a different lake, and explored a couple different islands that had cranberries growing along the shore. We took the kids with us, and they really brightened up the day, running around the islands, and making conversation while we gathered. We spent the whole day on the lake, stopping to crack nuts as a snack, and drink water. 

Our biggest wild food staple has been the wild rice. We were on the lake for a couple weeks this year, and, we gathered 600 pounds.

some of the rice we gathered, unhusked, drying on a tarp
 The Ojibwe are the native tribe of this area, and they call the wild rice manoomin. There's a long history of manoonmin being gathered by the Ojibwe, and lots of interesting stories.
"Traditionally, its harvest promoted social interaction in late summer each year. In August our people moved to their manoomin camps for harvest. Once manoomin ripened most energy was focused on harvesting. Manoomin was our main food source.
Manoomin is an aquatic grain, or a cereal. A truly healthy natural food, uncooked wild rice contains more than 12 percent protein and is richer in protein than white rice and most other grains.

Real Wild Rice vs. Paddy Wild Rice
Many consumers confuse paddy-grown wild rice with the true wild rice, hand-harvested from northern lakes and rivers. Frequently, the wild rice offered for sale in local grocery stores or at roadside markets is paddy-grown rice – a different product than the true wild rice taken from naturally growing stands of manoomin. Paddy grown rice has larger, darker (almost black) kernels, takes longer to cook and lacks the distinguishing nutty flavor and fragrance found in native wild rice. Paddy rice is farmed in large rice paddies and mechanically harvested. Commercially grown, paddy wild rice comes mostly from large paddy fields in Minnesota and California."

The above is from

Next week, we will start gathering black walnuts!

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