In Oklahoma, there are 700,000 people who are hungry. A local woman says she has a solution. Instead of going to the grocery store, she recommends checking out your backyard or the cracks in your sidewalks. Fox 25's Kisha Henry introduces us to Wildcrafting.
"When I grew up, I thought everybody ate food out of the ditch," says Jenny Mansell, a family herbalist.
"Let's go! We're going to go pick lunch!," says Jackie Dill, a local Wildcrafter, as she takes us on a forage through the church yard. Jackie says she lives 70-percent of her life off of the land. "Wood sorrell!" she exclaims, bending over and grabbing a handful from the grass.
"It has a lemony flavor. You can use it as a spice in food, and it's a trail snack for children," explains Jenny.
"This is lamb's quarters," says Jackie, grabbing a handful of something else. "It's exactly like spinach," she says, explaining that it could be used in a salad, a quiche, or a frittata. Jackie says Oklahoma is a treasure chest of wild foods, ranking number two in the Nation for plant diversity. From the countryside to the city, you can find everything you need to survive in our red dirt, but there are a few rules- starting with Ethics. "You never forage more than 10-percent of what you find," says Jackie, explaining that it's up to us to leave something for future generations. The second, and very important rule? Safety. "Never eat anything in the wild without 110-percent identification," she says.
Out in the wild, you can find more than just food. The ladies use nature to make everything from window shades, to musical instruments, to medicine. "Lavender Bee-balm has antiviral properties, and it's more of a powerful-type herb," says Jenny. "Whereas, mulberry is a demulcent. It's gentle, it's soothing. So, those two pair together really well for something like a cough or a cold," she says.
Out in the wild, knowledge is power. Knowing that yarrow achillea millifolium stops bleeding could save your life. "In a pinch, take a leaf, chew it up and put it on the spot," says Jenny.
Soap berries, also known as China berries, can save you some money on detergent. "If you take the seed out, and put a handful of them in a thin bag and toss it in the washing machine, it will get your clothes clean. You can also wash your hair with it," says Jenny.
"Another herb, cascara sagrada, is a stronger herb. It's a very powerful laxative, so it's not something you just want to go- Oh, I'll just toss back a cup of this!" says Jenny, explaining the importance of knowing your plants.
Jackie only spends $50 a month at the store. The rest of her food, medicine and other items come from the outdoors. She says learning the craft could help families in need. "When they can extend what food they buy with wild food, it maybe helps them pay another bill," says Jackie.
Jackie also works with several local chefs. She says wild food is found in a lot of gourmet food, and several local chefs like to use local foods. "The nutritional value of wild foods far surpasses anything you can cultivate," says Jackie. She teaches classes to chefs and aspiring chefs. "It's teaching them something has been lost for generations," she says.
How does Jackie survive in the Winter? "It slows down a little bit, but if you're a good wildcrafter, you have enough put up that the Winter doesn't even phase you. And, there are different plants that grow in the Winter," she says. Last Winter, she built her own rocket stove to save money on heating. "All of my heat was free last winter. I paid nothing to heat my house," she says proudly.To learn more of Jackie's craft, click here.