Summertime southern foraging offers plenty of wild edibles if you know where and what to look for. Come take a walk through the Texas backcountry.
Here are some wild edibles that you can gather in the sweltering heat of midsummer in Texas. This is southern foraging when it’s 104 degrees in the shade.
What’s to be found in the Texas backcountry? Quite a lot actually. I am well versed in northern foraging, but knowing what wild edibles to look for in the deep south is unfamiliar territory for me. This video by Bob Hansler looks like a decent primer on what’s available, at least in Texas.
Hansler starts off with what he calls “the most important fruit bearing tree we have this time of year, and that’s our Texas persimmon”. With smooth, light colored bark and sugar laden black fruits, this is a relatively easy tree to identify.
The desert hackberry has small orange fruit on a bush with small elliptical leaves. They often grow in close proximity to persimmon trees.
It should be noted that this is just a cursory walkabout through the Texas wilderness. This video alone is probably not enough to allow you to identify Texas wild edibles with certainty. You should use this in conjunction with more detailed field guides and even a mentor who is familiar with foraging in Texas.
Mesquite is our next stop. Mesquite produces long bean pods on its branches, but apparently the beans themselves are not the real target. Rather, you want the pulp in between the beans, which is sugary and full of calories.
The chili pequin pepper is used more as a spice or flavoring agent, and is good to know for that reason. Unless you have a high tolerance for hot peppers, you probably wouldn’t want to live on this one.
Sunflowers are familiar to almost everyone. The entire plant is edible.
Next is the anacua or sandpaper tree. This tree produces yellow/orange fruit in cycles. According to Hansler the fruit tastes kind of like an apple.
Turks cap or forest rose has a distinct cyclone-like flower pattern. The flower, leaves and small round red fruit are all edible.
Mulberries grow just about everywhere. You can eat more than the berry, including the leaves and inner bark (in a desperate situation).
The same goes for wild onions, which grow in many environments.
Now the plants I’m listing here, from Hansler’s video, are for you to reference when doing more research to familiarize yourself with these wild edibles.
He makes a point of using river areas with some caution, as they are “hubs of life”, with both edibles and non-edibles. This is only to reinforce that knowing exactly what you’re looking at is extremely important when it comes to wild edibles.
Riveroats or woodoats are a plant that produces a very small seed which can be eaten. They are a high labor for return edible.
Prickly pear cactus is a plant that has a wide geographic range, appearing even in Wisconsin. But the fruit does require some caution when harvesting to avoid the small hairy though thorny glochids, as well as the larger spines in the body of the plant.
Finally, Hansler finishes his presentation with the yucca plant. The yucca is an extremely useful plant, which can be used as a wild edible as well as in other utilitarian uses.
So, there’s a smattering of wild edibles found in southern Texas. There are more, but this is a good primer on southern foraging with some plants that are fairly easy to identify (still, I cannot emphasize enough the need to know with certitude what you are foraging). Get some books on regional foraging and find a mentor.
And stay hydrated. When it’s 104 degrees out, water is your most important life giving material.
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.