Hello outdoors world! Thank you for stopping by a checking out my newest blog! Are you a fan of the “green movement” that has been all the craze lately? Do you only eat vegetables that have been organically grown, and meat that is free range only? If you answered yes, then you may still be missing the boat on the ultimate in organic and free range food, wild game and wild edibles. Everywhere you look in nature, there is something to eat. After all you do not think that animals survive on water alone did you? Well, humans are animals too.
I have been a professional restaurant chef for twenty years now, the past 10 years of it in fine dining restaurants across Wisconsin. Their is a lot I have learned about food when cooking this caliber of product. In modern society, people think food comes from the supermarket. Most have a total separation and disconnect from the food. It is as easy to get as going down to your local grocery and buying whatever it is you would like to eat. How do you think people in the frontier days survived? What about cave men? There wasn’t even the barter system back then yet! You ate what you found. There were no supermarkets back a couple centuries ago in this country. Well I guess that is not totally correct. In big cities you could go to your butcher for meat and other stores carried what ever it was you wanted to eat, within reason. But what did you do if you lived hundreds of miles away from the nearest town? You did not have a car, there are no roads, just maybe a wagon trail to get you to civilization if you really needed to. Otherwise you did what ever you needed to do to survive. That meant you hunted for your meat, grew your own veggies, and you made the best of everything Mother Nature had to offer. Native Americans did it for thousands of years and survived quite well. Until the evil white man came around that is, but that is a story for a different blog.
I have always been a proponent of eating wild game and wild edibles. There was even a time in my life, for about 8 years or so, that I survived on only food I could harvest myself. I never bought meat, poultry, or fish from a store and grew most of veggies myself. I also made the best of the seasonal wild fruits and veggies that grow naturally in the fine state of Wisconsin.
Living in Wisconsin, I am luckier than people that live in other areas of the country. We have a plethora of things in nature that can provide sustenance. In some arid areas of the country, there is not such a wide variety of wild things to eat, but if you look hard enough, and study up on your local ecology, there is always something, if you have the stomach to handle it of course. I have studied extensively on the local ecology of Wisconsin and realize that, if I so chose, I can live a almost completely subsistence lifestyle, to a point anyways. Of course, having a family, makes it much more difficult for me to do so. Therefore I do not live like that as much as I could. It is kind of hard to get kids to eat some of the wild abundance that nature has to offer. With the way our modern civilization has evolved, most people find it strange to make a dinner out of burdock, that annoying weed who’s seeds stick to every part of your clothes while you are walking through a field. Or nettle, which is almost as bad as poison ivy. What about some fresh grilled opossum? Snapping turtle stew? I know I could just die for a big steak of freshly killed venison back strap, served with sauteed fiddlehead ferns, and morel mushrooms in a venison demiglace, with a salad of dandelion greens, watercress, asparagus, with a wild raspberry vinaigrette. To get it in a restaurant I would be paying over $200 for a dish like that at least! But all I have to do is venture out through a nice leisurely walk through nature during the right time of year. like I said I am lucky enough to live in a place that I can have such wonderful abundance.
“But why should I live that outdated life style, when we have stores to get our food?”, you may ask. One major reason of course is cost of course. When springtime rolls around in Wisconsin, A bounty of wild edibles can be found, if you know where to look. Before the grasses and other plants start to pop up along what seems to be every country road, if you know what to look for, is wild asparagus. At the grocery store in peak season and its cheapest is $4.00 per pound, not really cheap as far as veggies are concerned. We like to take rides around in the country and pick our fill. I have come back with 20 pounds before! now if you take $4.00 per pound multiplied by 20 pounds, that is $80! All it cost me was a little gas, free if it is a bike ride, and I usually have a fun time doing it which makes it more worth it. Shortly after that I can go into the woods to collect certain mushrooms such as morels which can be upwards of $100 per pound, and baby ferns. But there is even better healthier reasons to eat wild.
If you are worried about GMO’s are the possible side effects about consuming products with GMO’s, the only genetic modifications here is natural evolution. I for one will be the first to say to hell with your “anti GMO” movement. If you were to outlaw GMO’s there is no possible way to feed our massive nation. We would have famine through out the world, and the world economy would tank almost instantly. and that is assuming the crops are not wiped out by pests or disease first. Unmodified crops will never produce the yield of the modified crops and they have little resistance to pests and disease, especially in the large amounts such as a farmer’s field. Pests and disease would run through fields like the plague. I, however, am not here to argue over such dribble, so I will stick to my topic. You can make conscious efforts to limit the amount of these products you consume.
Take a day out of the week to go fishing. Do you want to know the difference between farm raised salmon, walleye, or perch? All you have to do is put them side by side and do the old “Pepsi Challenge”. Some fish are treated with chemicals to “enhance color” or extend shelf life. Farm raised fish, like most live stock, are doped up antibiotics and vitamins, and feed processed foods. Wild animals and wild fish eat their natural diet and live a total and complete free range life, the way nature intended. The flavor of any animal is derived from their respective diets. Even the venison you can buy in a store is farm raised and not wild. The difference in diet will drastically effect the flavor and texture of the meat. I will take the meat from a deer that ate a wild diet consisting of mast crops such as acorns and chestnuts, and wild plants, to one that was fed corn and processed food pellets.
While in our current society, with the exception of places like Alaska, we will never truly live a subsistence lifestyle. We will never be able to break away from our prepackaged lives completely. Our extreme disconnect with the food we eat has thrown our evolution into a mighty tailspin. People these days are so quick to point out that hunting is a cruel and barbaric practice and are passionately against it. What they do not realize is that wild game animals have lived a far better life than any farm raised animal. Most cows are raised in pasture land. They get a lot of their food through grazing, but are also feed processed food loaded with antibiotics and chemicals. I know you have all heard the horror stories of slaughter houses. Those animals have not lived a free life and they died a disrespectful death. Sure you can get organic free range meats, but you will pay through the nose for it, and it will still not be as “organic” and wild venison.
I have always fancied myself a meat hunter. Do not get me wrong, I would love to shoot a huge 200″ trophy whitetail for my wall, but that would just be the icing on the cake. Those old big bucks do not taste good anyways. They are stringy and tough and only good for burger and slow cooker fodder anyway. And you can not eat the antlers. As I said back in my July blog, “Camaraderie of the Hunt”, it is the memories of the hunt that really matter anyway. While frowned upon by many, I love to shoot those deer that are one and a half years old and under. Well does anyways, but I do not get down on myself for the occasional button buck, because I know it will taste wonderful, and that is the main reason I hunt.
I would never hunt for anything that I would not eat. It is for this reason I never had any interest in going to the dark continent of Africa to hunt. Now I might be mistaken on this, but when you hunt Africa, the meat usually goes to the local people and all you take home is the trophy. I am not a fan of trophy hunting. I hunt for the food. The experience of being there to see some of the magnificent African animals would still be worth the trip.
On the flip side, I would not want everyone to take up a subsistence lifestyle. It already takes a lot to feed our population, and if everyone hunted and fished regularly, there would be no resource left to harvest. So I am a realist in that matter. So it is a good thing that most live the prepackaged life. But if you want to eat only the most organic of foods, look to Mother Nature to provide.
One of my favorite times I ever shared in this natural bounty is when I had the opportunity to visit the tundra of Alaska. There I discovered my all time favorite wild edible. The tundra blueberry. While the berry is much smaller, about half the size of your store bought or garden grown variety of blueberry, the flavor of it is far superior to anything I ever tried. My favorite part of wild foods is the flavor can never be compared to farm grown foods. I sat for hours on the side of a mountain picking and eating my fill of berries. It is one one of the staple food sources for the brown bear though, which kind of made me nervous while I was there. I took a container back to the cabin I was staying. The day before I went to the Denali area, I was in Seward. I managed to check off a bucket list experience by fishing for salmon. I had a humpy in the cooler so I filleted it and wrapped it in aluminum foil with my blueberry score and had a wonderful, completely organic and wild campfire dinner.
So if you are an anti hunter, but you are a proponent of the organic lifestyle, maybe you should open your mind to the foods that human beings have evolved to eat. Do not look down on those that hunt and trap their own food. Believe me when I say, they are living a far more green and organic lifestyle than you are, no matter how barbaric it may seem. When you look at our modern agricultural society, hunting, fishing, trapping, and the gathering of wild edibles is a far healthy practice, and it just feels better to know, that that animal lived a far better life than your Angus cow you had for dinner last night ever had the chance to. Our hunting heritage should always be held in high regard. Just remember, if it was not for hunters like you and me, human beings and our civilized world, would not be here today. Never apologize for keeping up with your hunter gatherer heritage of your ancient ancestors; it is in your blood and genetics. Be proud that you live the ultimate in organic life styles.
Thanks for stopping by and giving this a read. I hope I helped show you see the other side of organic living. If you want to see some of the recipes I have used over the years for wild game and wild edibles, stop on by and give my “The Camo Cook” Facebook page a like at and check out our YouTube videos. We are always coming out with new recipes and ideas for cooking up your latest catch. Until next time, keep on keeping things wild and enjoy the real organic life!
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