Forage for Food Merit Badge

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 4,882 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—6,641 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/Forage for Food Merit Badge, I started paying attention to my feet. That’s right, my need-a-pedi-stat feet, in my new Spring sandals. Why, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Because up until now, I have been committing plant-icide. And not just on weeds, no, no! I’ve been guilty as charged for the heinous murders of FOOD.

Yes, food. Now, color me innocent (a violet or pale pink, I believe) but I really had no idea how many plants can be nibbled, munched, cooked, and snacked upon. In fact – get this – it’s easier and smarter to learn which plants cannot be eaten, and go from there. When I started out earning this badge, I had my handy-dandy sticky note/memo pad at the ready. I thought that would be appropriate and perfect for my short list of a handful of edible plants. Wrong. Turns out I needed page after page of full size paper to keep a running tally.

I love it when I’m wrong!

Now, to pare it down a little from Tolstoy length, I stuck to ones that grew in my native area and that I could pronounce and spell and that I had a good chance of finding. I was like a plant detective. And I couldn’t believe how tasty and filling these were. I mean, sure, I was expecting a few herbs, maybe a pretty flower to toss onto a salad, but I am not kidding you: you could have a whole dinner party for lumberjacks with these amazing things.

Okay, maybe vegetarian lumberjacks, but still.

Or you could B.R.Y.O.W.G. (Bring Your Own Wild Game).

Want to take a peek at my list thus far?

Stinging Nettle

Brown’s Peony (Note to self: who was Brown anyway?)




Wild Garlic (come to mama, sweet thing, come to mama)

Lodgepole Pine

Cattail Sprout

Yellow Bell

Spring Beauty (incidentally, my high school nickname)

Snowbank Mushrooms


Arrow Leaved Balsamroot



Mountain Sorrel




I gathered what I could, rinsed them lovingly, and began my feast. I stir-fried my Stinging Nettle, tubers, Cattail Sprouts, and mushrooms, with my wild ginger and garlic. Hallelujah, let the hymns of deliciousness waft through the air with the scent of my kitchen right about now!

I combined the greens into the loveliest salad you ever did see, and topped it with fresh sunflower seeds and a sprinkling of violets for color (and taste).

I sipped on fresh tea made from several of my herbs from my windowsill garden, and mint. Slurp!

Add how did I top off my evening of foraged yumminess? I’m so glad you asked …

Homemade Dandelion Wine

Pick one gallon of flawless, still wet with dew, dandelion blossoms. Cover with boiling water and a cheesecloth and allow to steep for three days. Squeeze out all the juice from the flowers, and discard.

Pour the liquid into a big pot and add:

3 lbs sugar (Raw and organic is nice, but you could try honey. Whatever floats your sweet boat.)

4 lemons and 4 oranges, all chopped up (we’re talking seeds, peels, everything).

Boil. Then add 2 tablespoons of yeast. Cover with cheesecloth and let sit for about 2-3 weeks (or until the lumberjacks arrive). Filter through cheesecloth and pour into pretty bottles.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    OK then, I’m back now from checking the garden. No sooner did I start to read your suggestions & off I went into the garden to see what is available:-) Not that I need much encouragement or coaxing to go out & play in what could very well be, my favorite place & space:-) But I do see now why they say, the power of suggestion is so strong:-)

    Your garden salad sounds yummy. And I remember reading about your Dandelion Wine from one of your books; it intrigued me so that I made a copy of the recipe before I returned the book to the library…along with about 12 other must have copies of other experiences & ideas/true gifts you shared with your readers. Thanks again, to our lovely Spring Beauty, MaryJane Butters.

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What an impressive list of native plants to consume! I must admit I am quite leery about doing such a thing for some reason. My only foraging experience was with my Girl Scout Troop when my Mom taught us how to find Sassafras plants and take the roots, clean them and boil into Sassafras tea. We were all impressed and did that skill for our primitive camping badge, I think. Your Dandelion wine sounds interesting too. I have heard it used to be quite common on farms during the early 1900s. I wonder if there is an easier method by skipping the yeast part and just adding Vodka and allow to sit for a few weeks?? It could be dubbed “The Sister’s Recipe!””

  3. Terry Steinmetz says:

    I love to forage as well. Right now the snow is covering everything–we just got another 10″-so I won’t be foraging for another month or so. But then the leeks will be ready and so will the violets!

  4. Karlyne says:

    So funny to see the dandelion wine recipe right after I told the kids that you could make wine from them! These are the same kids that brought me in a bowlful of dandelion flowers the other day and we roasted them with the baby kale. Not too shabby!

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