Remember to only eat dark purple/black popolo berries (Solanum americanum). Also known as American Nightshade, Glossy Nightshade, and “really good food“.
Bitters brewing away since last December…pulled out of the pantry…to feed the digestive fires. This batch came to be when I stumbled upon a beautiful patch of sow thistle plants (Sonchus oleraceus) while skipping along a country trail. Lovingly harvested…their healing leaves combined with nutmeg, cardamom, dried starfruit, chilis, cloves, wild fennel seeds, ginger root, peppercorns, vanilla beans, cacao nibs, coffee beans, orange and lemon rind and some Maui 155 proof rum.
Getting familiar with the importance of bitters? Click here
I recently came across this video from 5 years ago that I never uploaded and shared. Surprise! So glad I found Part 2 of a hike with Mashuri Waite, which highlights wild food plants and Hawaiian native plants found on the Manoa Cliff Trail, Oahu. This trail is getting regular love from a group of dedicated volunteers at the Manoa Cliff Native Forest Restoration Project.
Get a glimpse at Hawaii’s natives: koa (Acacia koa), kupukupu fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), olona (Touchardia latifolia), and ohia ha (Syzygium sandwicensis). And these non-native edibles: oriental hawksbeard (Youngia japonica) and shin san cho (Erechtites valerianifolia).
The plants on our property are boosting with all this growing sunlight. Photosynthesis is at work. We continue to pack our baskets with beautiful greens, and today with the treat of some strong healthy greens and a peeled stem of this shin san cho (Erechtites valerianifolia)
Here’s a look into some of today’s greens. They were eaten with some of our tomatoes and chayote squash from the garden: honohono grass tips (Commelina diffusa), kale, molokai sweet potato green tips and stems, gotu kola greens (Centella asiatica), common violet greens (Viola sororia), purslane (Portulaca oleraceae), sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) leaves/buds/flowers, pink wood sorrel greens (Oxalis debilis var. corymbosa), some of Maui’s prolific tender young spiny amaranth greens (Amaranthus spinosus), and in the photo below are some wild Bidens pilosa’s tender young greens.
Interested in learning more about wild edible plants in Hawaii’s gorgeous subtropics? There is a wonderful diversity of ecosystems on Maui, making it a foragers delight. Not since the legend himself wrote Euell Gibbons’ Beachcomber’s Handbook, which was published in 1967, have we seen much come from Hawaii’s food scene regarding the plethora of wild plants available on the islands. We’re looking for enthusiastic foragers who would like to be part of the opening of publicly available information on wild edible plants in paradise.
We’re opening our home to host the right person, someone with a bit of pre-existing wild food knowledge and experience, but who is hungry for more. Interns would expect to learn about the identification of plants growing in Hawaii, ethical wildcrafting, processing of wild foods, experimenting with preparation and recipe creation, and research via phone and internet. Foraging can be an intense experience with rain, trekking up mountains, getting bit by mosquitos, and otherwise being exposed to the elements….therefore, finding someone who is flexible and who has a positive attitude is an absolute must.
We are offering an intensive 30-hour per week experience. This is an unpaid opportunity. We provide a semi-private sleeping area, within an intimate family environment. We will be harvesting food, but you would need money to cover additional food costs, travel, and entertainment. 2-week minimum stay. If interested, please email sunnysavage(at)gmail.com with a one-page outline about yourself, your relationship/interest/experience with wild foods, intended dates and length of stay, your favorite plant and why, and anything else you feel describes why you would be a good fit for this opportunity.
Our family is gearing up to buy another vehicle and I see more wild food field trips in my future. It has been a fabulous 10 months being back on land, and our trusty little truck has taken us far. Living frugally has been easy, as hitchhiking in Hawaii is easy, but the family has expanded and there are wild food adventures to be had. The lack of a vehicle has given me the chance to intimately know the weeds in my own backyard, and I wanted to share a few of them before I move onto larger pastures so to speak. Within roughly 300′ of my home I can eat an incredible diversity of greens. In the photo above you get a glimpse of Bidens pilosa‘s tender young greens, carrot tops, green onion tops, rosemary, sage, molokai sweet potato greens, and malabar spinach. The photo below showcases wild false ava leaves (Piper auritum), wild purslane (Portulaca oleracea), wild amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus), okinawa spinach, curry leaves, tropical oregano, moringa, chocolate mint, gotu kola, kale, garlic chives, thyme, parsley, and the red fruits are ohia’ai (Syzygium malaccense) and soursop.
And, although there are many more that deserve to be recognized, this basket highlights edible hibiscus, katuk, moringa, sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), gotu kola (Centella asiatica), violets, okinawan spinach, peppermint, chocolate mint, oriental hawksbeard (Youngia japonica). I am a lover of the green things, and eating a diversity of plants provides me great joy.
A serene evening, with no wind and a clear sky, was sandwiched between heavy rains and wind. It was on that evening that the old dance between mother, baby, and the great mystery was midwifed again. And with blood it began. Concerned with the blood, a call to the midwives was made and by 7pm I had been checked. No dilation, no contractions, no major concerns. Watch the bleeding and call if anything changes. She went home.
Two hours later at 9pm the contractions came strong and steady. I knew we were on the road of no return and sunk into a breathing pattern that worked wonders. Long inhale in three parts; 1) breathing up and down the spine to extend it, 2) breathing into the lower belly and lower back to fill them, and 3) filling up the sides of the rib cage, followed by long deep exhales. When I would get to the lower belly/back breathing, something would pop and the pain would dissipate. After a 42 labor with my first child I was poised for the long haul, but my husband recognized that things were moving along quickly and called the midwives saying he wanted them there asap. He graciously, and with speed, prepared. Two midwives and a friend showed up at 10pm, where I labored for about 30 minutes and enjoyed being cradled by everyone’s company. The waxing moon shone brightly as it hung in a huge crescent over my left shoulder, illuminating the story unfolding. The sound of surf pounding our rugged coastline a mile below, guided my mind to let the incoming swell move through me. The sweet smell of night-blooming jasmine was thick in the air, riding on a whisper of wind, and scarried a heady remembrance that all would be ok. I only listened to one song during labor, and this was it:
The tub was filled with hot water and lavender essential oil, but I only lasted about 15 minutes before needing to get out. One of the midwives checked me and I was dilated to 8cm. I got back in the tub and then the body started the great clearing out from every orifice. The tub was drained, they hosed me off, and we were going to refill it, but baby decided to come. I was locked into position on all fours and just focused on trying not to push, as it was coming so fast. The sailor with pirate ancestry came out with plenty of swearing, screaming, and panting as I tried not to push. Then, my midwife said, “Sunny, what’s baby’s song?” and I began to sing. A beautiful song that was of the moment, and continued to sing as he came through the canal and slipped into this world surrounded by love at 12:12am on April 6th. Three hours of labor and 10 minutes of delivery. Amen! No tearing. No time to reach delirium. No fear.
I am so grateful for a healthy baby, for the loving support of my husband and midwives and friend Jen, and to live in a time where having a drug and hospital-free homebirth isn’t ostracized. It was so natural and required nothing but trust in the process. I’ve already had messages asking what I did to have such a healthy pregnancy, and I’m proud to say that I ate something wild every day and didn’t go out to eat or eat GMO’s and did yoga regularly, but the fact is that I had more health issues with this pregnancy than the last. The true difference was my state of mind, as I am happy and worked to not let negative thinking reign. I feel that balanced state of mind more profoundly affected my growing of a healthy baby and smooth labor and delivery experience than anything else. I’m also eternally grateful to the plant ally’s along the way, especially rose, for filling in the gaps where pain and fear reside. I can’t help but think that all the wild plants, herbal medicines, and aromatic distillations activated in my son a knowing of the natural world. His wild DNA has been activated, and I will continue to nourish him with a diversity of wild things his whole life long. I want to shout it out to the heavens, but I already did. He came in with a song, and the music shall continue for all of us.
One of my favorite wild greens while traveling in Central America during the past couple of years was the West Indian Wood Nettle (Laportea aestuans). It was fitting that I was able to continue my love affair with nettles. This plant has a smattering of names it is known by, including Urtica aestuans and Fleurya aestuans. I found it to be a common, abundant plant in much of Panama. It has a weedy nature and was recently discovered and red flagged in Hawaii with a New Pest Advisory.
I first learned of this plant through the book ‘Edible Leaves of the Tropics‘, one of the few tropical resources for my beloved wild greens. I found its leaves to have a more condensed and fuzzy texture than the Woodnettle (Laportea canadensis) and Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) I am familiar with in North America. Upon cooking, it was more easily mashed into a paste than its North American cousins.
A friend suffering from osteoporosis was thrilled when I advised he include large amounts of this plant in his daily diet, especially in bone broths. This particular study (click here) found the plant to have 638 mg/100g of calcium per serving…that’s significant! Although I recommended he stop smoking and drinking carbonated beverages for greater impact, it was nice to again share in the gifts the wild plants offer. This exchange with hundreds, if not thousands, of people during my sailing adventure through the Caribbean was deeply nourishing.
These beauties are carpeting the jungle floor here in Panama right now. Genipa americana has become a new favorite. I have not yet tasted its wild fruits, or been able to make a blue-black dye from its immature fruits, but I have begun a relationship with this tree…and that is a beautiful place to start.
For those who love cookbooks, the recent release of One Big Table by Molly O’Neill will dazzle you with a huge supply of foods found throughout America. If you look deep within its 880 pages, you will find 3 of those highlighting myself and several wild greens found throughout America.
Molly O’Neill is the author of three cookbooks, including the best-selling New York Cookbook, A Well-Seasoned Appetite, and The Pleasure of Your Company. She hosted the PBS series Great Food and was, for ten years, a reporter with The New York Times and the food columnist for its Sunday magazine.