A Guide to Copper River Eating

As soon as winter ended, I heard talk of people beginning to head for the trails to pick fiddleheads.  Fiddleheads are curious-looking ferns, but it was fun to go out and look for them.  One of my friends made a fiddlehead pesto that sounded delicious.  I’m not as experimental a cook, but here’s my recipe for a tasty lunch/snack.

Fiddlehead Taco:

  • One quart size Ziploc bag of fiddleheads
  • Clean and remove brown husks from fiddleheads.  Submerging them in boiling water for 10 – 15 seconds reduces bitterness and makes cleaning a lot easier.
  • Heat some oil in a saucepan
  • Toss fiddleheads into saucepan with salt and pepper to taste until crunchy
  • Heat tortillas. Add crunchy fiddleheads with salsa of your choice and feta cheese.

Nutritional value of fiddleheads: rich in potassium, omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fibre

Now that spring has come and gone however, there are new plants growing.  Some pretty delicious, such as the salmonberries, and others not so tasty.  At the last family meeting, Erin Cooper and Elizabeth Camarata of the Wildlife Crew presented a guide of what not to eat in the Copper River.  Here’s what was included:

Cow Parsnip Heracleum lanatum: The peeled raw stems and the cooked roots are edible and eaten by Native people, but watch out for the sap from the leaves.  Getting it on your skin can cause irritation and photosensitivity that, when exposed, causes blisters.

Baneberry Actea rubra: Although berries are my favorite fruit to eat, eating as few as 6 of the berries from the baneberry can cause death in a small child.

False Hellebore Veratrum viride: The newly grown shoots of this plant can be mistaken for wild celery, but it’s a deadly mistake because eating this plant may cause vomiting, paralysis and death.

Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa: All parts of this plant are poisonous, with the exception of the flower and berry pulp, but the poison can be broken down  by boiling the plant.  I don’t know how long one has to boil it for it to become edible…

Edible plants and berry picking wasn’t a very common hobby in Los Angeles, although I’m sure there are edible plants growing in the mountains or near the river.  However, living in a community that sometimes relies on subsistence eating is a neat experience because I get to learn so much more about how people interact with their natural surroundings.  I’m not as confident in my plant identification abilities though, so I’ll just stick to the salmonberries for now, as long as the bears are happy to share the pickings.

Jimena
cuencaj9@gmail.com
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