Nourishment from nature

To find fresh food and ingredients, Wild Food Instructor Mike Krebill just has to take a stroll through nature.

At Briggs Woods Park, he spots ripe berries on trees and bushes, tall thistle with an edible stalk and dandelions which can be eaten. Krebill shared those snacks and his knowledge of wild Midwest foods with about a dozen participants who attended the first day of a workshop he hosted on Tuesday through Legacy Learning Boone River Valley.

Students from as nearby as Webster City and as far away as Wisconsin and Missouri came to learn about identifying, harvesting, preparing and eating natural foods.

Since Krebill was young, he’s enjoyed finding food in nature. He collected morel mushrooms, black walnuts and hickory nuts with his parents. He used to have competitions with his cousins on who could find the most wild foods with the prize of a malted milkshake going to the victor.

Through the years, Krebill grew more interested in wild foods. One of his major inspirations was the book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” by Euell Gibbons. He said it was a fascinating read which discussed the flavors of wild foods and the author’s attempts to cook with those items. Krebill’s hobby continued to grow as he majored in botany in college and continued to read on the subject. Now, he’s accumulated over 200 books on the subject. He’s received many honors for his work, including induction into the National Wild Foods Association Hall of Fame.

Krebill has educated many groups of people about wild foods. He said most people he teaches enjoy that new experience just as he does.

“People are fascinated by what you can eat, what you can survive on, what’s local and available and nutritious and hasn’t lost all its vitamins and minerals because it hasn’t been sitting on a store shelf,” Krebill said. “People are into it for a lot of different reasons, but I love it simply because it’s boldly going where I’ve never gone before.”

Participants in this week’s Legacy Learning Boone River Valley workshop had a chance to sample what’s fresh in early-summer and learn about what will be on Mother Nature’s menu in late-summer and fall. On Wednesday, they visited an organic farm to gather weeds for a quiche recipe. Krebill shared several other recipes, including white clover cookies, mulberry taffy and pineapple-weed flavored lemonade.

Krebill said those interested in learning more about wild foods should visit the Midwest Wild Edibles and Foragers Society on Facebook. On that page, Krebill answers questions and lends his experience to those seeking it as do many other members of the page. While he said the best way to learn about wild foods is through guides such as himself, he encourages those interested to read up on the subject themselves and get cooking with nature.