Whether crops fail or sources are usually scarce can often depend on wild foods for livelihood. Deforested “weeds” and other wild greens are often more nutritious than their cultivated cousins and can be preserved by making them powdery to eat for long periods of time all winter.
Read on to find out how you can make a Homemade Greens Plus type of powder from plants that are likely to grow in your yard already.
Survival Food Tips from Elder Relatives
The last few years have seen a huge resurgence in self-sufficiency from people around the world. This has prompted countless people to take traditional skills that were at real risk of being lost over time.
I was fortunate enough to learn a fair bit from some of my elderly relatives, especially in terms of food harvesting and preservation. These elders survived incredibly harsh conditions in northern and eastern Europe and put ancient skills to use in times of scarcity.
One of my elders (we’ll call him “K”) grew up in rural Jutland, the band where southern Denmark meets Germany. The growing season is short: usually in just five months.
As a result, before grocery stores and commercial greenhouses became a thing, people took full advantage of everything growing around them.
He told me how people would harvest wild greens baskets several times a week. It began when the leaves were as tall as the adult index finger. As long as they are of this length, they are really worth lifting and preserving.
The key was to ensure that these wild greens were thoroughly dried so that they could be powdered. This was the best way to preserve them through the cold months. By doing this, people had a rich source of important nutrients to help ward off the disease during the long winter.
Wild greens to harvest for powder
People harvested all kinds of edible greens throughout the season. Of course, they preferred to take too much at once, but we’ll meet later.
The main issue is that they were able to supplement their diets with these wild greens and were given enough powder to keep them healthy from November to May.
The wild plants listed below belong to only a few species that they harvested.
- Dandelions (Tarkassum spp.)
- Lamb quarterChenopodium album)
- Sheep Sorel (Rumex acetosella)
- Curly dock (Rumex Crisps)
- stinging nettles (Euratica Dioica)
- Minor Lettuce (Claytonia)
- PurslanePortulaca olerasia) Interestingly, this stuff is called “SúpugullIn Icelandic. It translates into “soup gold”, undoubtedly its flavor and nutrients are mentioned in the soup pot.
Many of these greens also grow in Quebec around my house, but you may have very different species. If you are not already familiar with wild edibles, check out some local field guides or foraging groups.
You may find that you have a few hundred delicious greens growing in and around the yard!
For example, in addition to some of the ones mentioned above, you can also have Medo onions (Allium canadens), Violet (Viola spp.), Chikori (Cichorium intybus), And many more.
Just a note: When foraging, remember to never take the first plant you find, as it may be the last of its species in that area. Wait until you’ve got several, and then collect no more than 1/3 of them.
Leave enough that they can mature and go to seed so that they can self-propagate. Wild animals often depend on these species for food as well, so let’s make sure to share generously with each other.
How to dry wild greens
Once you cut your plants, you can dry them in many ways.
Standard hanging bundles
With the hanging method, tie the plants in bunches a few inches above the end of their stem. Use kitchen twine or strong cotton thread, and tie it as tightly as you feel.
The stems will shrink as soon as they dry. Then, hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry area, which receives a good chunk of wind speed.
Hanging dry basket
One of the easiest ways to dry wild greens for powdering is to dry baskets or bags. These are multi-layered mesh bags that you can spread out the herbs. If you go this route, be sure to get bags that have zippered bins. This will keep insects and mice out of your crop.
Spread your herbs and greens in separate compartments, then hang the bag to dry somewhere. It should be out of direct sunlight, but in a warm, dry place, which receives decent ventilation. A warm room with a nice cross-air in it is luxurious, as is a covered gazebo.
It will take a week or two to dry them completely. In fact, you may want to finish them in a dehydrator or oven to ensure that they dry completely.
I love my dehydrator, and I use it for different things as often as possible. If you aim to dry your wild greens in your machine, then I say go for it. This is a really effective way to dry them completely while maintaining their nutrients as well as their vibrant color.
To dry wild greens, set your dehydrator somewhere between 95 ° F and 125 ° F. Spread out the plants on the screen with enough space around the air to circulate sufficiently. I have the best result with 115 ° F for about four hours, but you know your machine best.
If you are working with very dense, leafy plants, then prune them a little before dehydrating them. Otherwise, you will end up with mostly dry plants, but some wet bits here and there. Aim for dryness through the entire, even all plant parts.
You will know that greens are sufficiently dehydrated when they crumble easily in your hands when rubbed. If they still bend instead of breaking into powder, leave them in dehydration for an hour or two.
Standard oven technology is similar to a dehydration. Instead of spreading the herbs on a dehydrator rack, you will place them on a clean baking sheet. If you wish, you can place the parchment paper first, or place them on the sheet yourself.
Preheat the oven to about 160 ° F and spread the oven rack evenly. After heating, place those sheets in the oven for two hours.
After that time has passed, remove the vials at once and turn the herbs over with tongs. Since they are on flat, solid surfaces instead of mesh, they have to be twisted to dry evenly on all sides.
Depending on the plants, they should be dried after about four hours. Test them to collapse at this point. If they still look bended or damp in any way, leave them in an hour or two. It is better to be careful when it comes to preparing live food.
Turning them into powder
Have all your plants dried up until they crunch satisfactorily between your fingers? Excellent. Now the time has come to bridge them.
You can do this either with a coffee grinder or slowly with a mortar and pestle. It really comes down to whether you want to do it quickly, or if you are willing to recreate ancient techniques.
Personally, I think my ancestors would roll into their graves if they saw me crushing herbs with mortar for hours, when I could just use a grinder because they loved machines that way. but I digress…
However, you choose to process them until they are almost 80% dusty. If there are still chunky bits here and there, that’s fine.
K told me that people of his generation (and those who came before) would store their powdered greens in an unbaked pot.
These contained a few layers of cloth, stretched over them and tied in place, topped by a layer of cleansed skin. This helped in regulating humidity and kept the powder away from clumping.
Pottery was kept in the shelf so that no water gets to them. As an added benefit, mice and other potential food thieves will also not be able to find them in these utensils.
I keep my powdered wild greens in mason jars, which are also fantastic for keeping out mice and other critters. These jars are pre-sterilized and kept warm in a hot oven before I fill them with plant powder.
Additionally, I would recommend storing some jars in a few different places. That way, on the off chance that a shelf breaks, or there is a strange flood or other house issue, you will not lose all your stores.
Here at home, I keep some in the cold cellar, some in the kitchen pantry, and some extra in the herbal medicine Hutch.
How to use dried greens
To use your powdered wild greens, add it to whatever liquid medium you want to swallow. It is quite dry, so give it a few minutes to rehydrate it before drinking it.
If I am adding them to a smoothie, I will use half a teaspoon per second. It gets mixed with a little warm water and then added to the blender with banana, spinach, almond milk … and whatever I’m throwing in there.
That said, I like to use powder in soup. In this case, I would add a whole heaping tablespoon (or more) to the pot as it boils. The greens incorporate flavor and nutrients into anything you prepare and are a great addition to a self-sufficient home pantry.
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