Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Can One Eat Soapweed Without Frothing at the Mouth?

Published by Friday, June 10, 2011 Permalink 0
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by Esmaa Self

 

In a word: yes.

Narrow leaf yucca blossoms.

Soapweed is a common name for narrow leaf yucca, which is also known as yucca angustissima and moohu, the latter being the Hopi name for this useful plant. No matter what you choose to call it, you can find yucca growing wild all over the American west.

Our back yard, for instance.

The yucca plant is exceptionally beneficial: the leaves contain a strong fiber that can be used to weave cloth, the root can be used as soap, plus the long stem can be used as a vegetable, as can the flowers and the fruit.

As part of our plan to reduce our exposure to GE and GMO foods, and to further reduce our carbon footprint while optimizing our use of this fabulous property, eating free, readily available and nutritious wild food just makes sense.

So when the yucca plants began to bloom this week, I began to harvest.

 

Flower-filled stem of a narrow leaf yucca.

The buds have a mild asparagus flavor accompanied by nice crunch while the flowers are ever so slightly sweet and posses a more delicate texture. We haven’t yet tried the soap or cloth making aspects of this amazing plant, and all I can report about the stems is this: raw, OK; sautéed with skins on? Not so much.

I enjoyed greater success adding the flower buds and stems to everyday fare. Below are some easy recipes and wild food resources for you.

 

Breakfast burrito with yucca blossoms.

Breakfast Burrito with Yucca

Sauté yucca flower buds and diced onion in a little olive oil, set aside. Scramble eggs (seasoned with cumin, paprika and ground pepper); place in burrito wrapper; add yucca and onion; fold tortilla; cover with salsa. Cheese optional.

Scrambled Eggs with Yucca

Saute yucca flowers and diced onion in a little olive oil, set aside. Beat eggs in bowl, season with cumin and black pepper, cook over med-low heat. When eggs are mostly cooked, add sautéed vegetables, lower heat. Serve with whole wheat toast, better butter and your yummy homemade preserves.

 

Add yucca blossoms to tonight’s stir-fry!

Stir-fry with Yucca

One of the lovely aspects of the stir-fry is that it can contain myriad vegetables: whatever is handy. This one used onions, mixed greens, pickled red hot cherry peppers, carrots, snow peas, plus yucca buds and flowers all flash cooked in a wasabi peanut sauce then served atop leftover sushi rice. Fast food done right!

But wait, there’s more! This wild food lends itself to many food styles, so experiment. I also used the sautéed onion/yucca flower mixture as a burger topper and as an appetizer with crackers. Both were yummy.

Why so wild about feral foods? I’ll let the folks at Wild Food School USA answer that:

First and foremost… it’s fun!   If you’re a real foodie then foraging for America’s wild foods and edible weeds presents some really wonderful and exciting new tastes and textures for you to explore (though admittedly some plants don’t step up to the plate on that account). Once you become familiar with these plants then you will find it as simple to use them as you would the vegetable greens you get from the supermarket.

Foraging for wild foods also gets you outdoors – even if it is only to sneak out to your backyard. For many folks it’s a chance to re-connect with, and get closer to, nature – given that many of us live in urban environments.

Some edible weeds are also more nutritious than the veggie greens you get from your supermarket shelf.  Nettles more than match spinach as a source of vitamin C, and there’s one edible species with 2 to 3 times more pro-vitamin A than spinach. Source

Thinking about foraging your back yard? Here are a few handy resources:

CeltNet’s incredible wild food site

LivingFoods.com article on wild foods

The forager’s basics from Forager’s Press

Moscow, Idaho Food Co-op on wild food collection

Should you cruise yucca foraging pages, you’ll find a warning that yucca plants are a laxative. I don’t want to call that bunk, but last spring we ate yucca at least once a day for five days running without, yep, I’m gonna say it: running.  Ours is a high fiber diet -we consume lots of beans, greens and whole grains- so perhaps this reported laxative effect occurs in those who are not yet on a high fiber diet. If that’s you, get going!

Finally, check out my very favorite foraged foods resource: Langdon Cook’s Fat of the Land blog.

These yucca stems & blossoms were foraged in our back yard and incorporated into one delicious meal after another.


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