I have been much amused, by way of variety, at the attitude of a few skeptics who seem to doubt that the writer knows what he is talking about. One of my correspondents even wrote to inquire whether I "had any personal experience in eating any of these plants!" I suppose he inferred from my citations of authorities here and there that the whole thing was cribbed. It is not fashionable nowadays, I know, for writers who seek popularity to quote directly from others, or even to acknowledge indebtedness for ideas that they appropriate through paraphrasis. However, I am old-fashioned enough to give credit where credit is due, whenever I can identify the one from whom I first got a fact or idea that to me was new. In the following catalogue my citation of an authority does not mean, then, that I have not tried the thing for myself, although in some cases that is so. During the years that I have lived in the woods I have tested a great variety of wild "roots and yarbs"—tried them in my own stomach; otherwise I would not have written a line on the subject. Here is a rather odd example, taken from my notebook under date of May 10, 1910, at which time I was boarding with a native family on upper Deep Creek, Swain County, North Carolina:
Mrs. Barnett to-day cooked us a mess of greerrs of her own picking. It was an olla podrida consisting of (1) lamb's quarters, (2) poke shoots, (3) sheep sorrel, (4) dock, (5) plantain, (6) young tops of "volunteer" potatoes, (7) wild mustard, (8) cow pepper. All of these ingredients were boiled together in the same pot, with a slice of pork, and the resulting "wild salat," as she called it, was good. This is the first time I ever heard of anyone eating potato tops; but a hearty trial of them has proved that the tops of young Irish potatoes, like the young shoots of poke, are wholesome and of good flavor, whereas it is well known that the mature tops of both plants are poisonous.
I am told that the young leaves of sweet potato vines "make an excellent spinach".
To give a detailed account of all the edible wild plants of the United States and Canada, with descriptions and illustrations sufficing to identify them, would require by itself a book as large as this. I have only space to give the names and edible properties of those that I know of which are native to, or, as wild plants, have become naturalized in the region north of the southern boundary of Virginia and east of the Rocky Mountains. Besides those mentioned below, there are others which grow only in the southern or western states, among the more important being the palmetto, palm, yam, cacti, Spanish bayonet, mesquite, wild sago or coon-tie, tule plant, western camass, kouse root, bread root, screw bean, pimple mallow, manzaflita, pinons, jumper nuts, many pine seeds, squaw berry, lycium berry—but the list is long enough. Those who wish further details should examine the publications of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and especially those of one of its officers, Mr. F. V. Coville, who has made special studies in this subject.
I have given the botanical name of every plant cited herein, because without it there would be no guarantee of identification. The nomenclature adopted is that of Britton and Brown in their Illustrated Flora of the Northern States and Canada (Scribner's Sons, New York), which, as it con« tains an illustration of every plant, is of the first assistance to an amateur in identifying. Wherever Gray's nomenclature differs, it is added in parentheses.
The months named under each plant are those in which it flowers, the earlier month in each case being the flowering month in the plant's southernmost range, and the later one that of the northernmost. In the case of wild fruits, the months are those in which the fruit ripens.
It is necessary to remember that most of the edible plants become tough and bitter when they have reached full bloom.