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is skunk edible

Wild Harvests

Wild food experiments and personal foraging accounts from the Pacific Northwest centering on Northwest Washington and Southern Vancouver Island

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wild Cabbage

A mature cabbage patch with leaves much too old to eat

A long Skunk Cabbage leaf stalk
Some leaf stalks are amazingly large!
Chopped and ready for boiling

While I am still too inexperienced with this plant to give it my full endorsement, I am posting this account with the hope that other people who have eaten our western Skunk Cabbage (which is different from the Easter Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus) will share their impressions with me. If you are curious about experimenting with this plant, BE SURE TO COOK IT, only use the leaf stalks, and try a very small serving to see how you react to it before mixing it with other foods.

Warning: In some parts of the continent, the deadly poisonous False Green Helebore (Veratrum viride) also goes by the common name Skunk Cabbage. All parts of this plant are poisonous both raw and cooked.

14 comments:

Great info! I was just noticing how the beautiful yellow skunk cabbage flowers were telling signs of the coming of spring, but always thought they were inedible.

I’m wondering about Skunk Cabbage Sauerkraut. It may be wild speculation but the prolonged pickling/fermentation might have a favorable effect on the raphide crystals. I would like to try it if I was in the PNW. Also some insights might be drawn from traditional processing of Taro roots. The invasive arum lily and skunk cabbage could maybe be subjected to the same process as poi. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is some regional and population variation in concentration of raphides too.

Thank you for blazing the trail on this one. The pictures look appetizing! You are saving us all unnecessary tingles.

curious of the comment of taro, are you speaking of the root or the leaves. I steam or roast the roots, then peel them. eaten as cubed or smashed in to paste i add agave to sweeten it and add liquid same time, for the leaves I use a knife to start it and peel the stems skin to the rib of the leafs, very easily done. If not done your mouth will get so itchy and burn. I prefer meat and fish wrapped with the stems and steam. mmmm I’m hungry now Pua’Lani

I steam it until the leaves melt and meat literally falls apart and fish nearly dissolves faint salting may be used no other seasoning, beef or game meat is already salty so no seasoning is needed.

Thanks for the taro tip Alex. After some cursory internet reading it looks like the many species of taro are commonly cooked, dried, or fermented to reduce concentrations of calcium oxalate crystals. Table three in this paper http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd22/4/hang22068.htm shows that cooking and fermenting approximately cut oxalate concentrations in half.

I don’t know if the leaf stems are starchy enough to blend into a poi like consistency. I have been dehydrating a few and I just might try blending and cooking them, but the poi experiment might be most appropriate for Skunk Cabbage roots.

I wish I had the chemistry tools to measure calcium oxalates and many other compounds! In the future I at least hope to have a budget for sending specimens away for lab work.

I guess I will have to try and cook some skunk cabbage! I’ve never been brave enough to give it a go –

Let me know how it goes. Thanks for passing along the link to your blog. I really enjoyed it and have posted it with my favorites for my readers.
-Abe

Just a cautionary note about eating skunk cabbage due to its calcium oxalate content. For anyone with kidney disease or those who form kidney stones easier than others, foods with significant calcium oxalate (or oxalic acid) content should not eat them. It can make their problem much worse. Most who have kidney problems are already aware of this but a note for any who may not know yet.

What about the flowers themselves? Any experience with eating those? I tried a teeny bit of one raw, and got the very unpleasant burning sensation. Any experience making a flower extract from them? How would you do it?

A YouTube video commented on eating dehydrated skunk cabbage on pizza. Dehydrating or baking dry the YOUNG leaves appears to neutralize the calcium oxalate CaC2O4. What has not been mentioned is the chemical formula hides the real atomic design. There are 2 Calcium atoms attached at the side of “TWO” Carbon dioxides (CO2)attached to each other. If heating and drying disrupt the chemical, and outgasses the CO2, then you could change the oxalate into Calcium Carbonate (coral, chalk, natural calcium), or into pure calcium (like thick leaves, sweet calcium rich collard greens).

It makes sense to use the non-green inner stalks (like leeks), versus young and old green leaves (where the oxalate is present with the chlorophyll).

For those with kidney stones, a acidic blood/body ph is causing the excess free calcium in the blood to make the stones. The solution, eating more calcium (alkaline rich ph) foods (dairy, milk, . ). reduces these formations.

As a young boy, I went to a Boy Scouts meeting, and they made skunk cabbage, and even stinging nettles, (and no I did not misunderstand their skunk cabbage for stinging nettles all these 50 years later)). I followed the same process, double boilings, fresh water changes, and I had big old leaves, and father ate the first batch, . and never forgave me as it burned his mouth and stomach (had to eat a raw egg to coat his stomach). So (as said) only the youngest and most tender of leaves, with the smallest of oxalate, . or dehydrate/bake until kale cabbage chip crispiness, and this can potentially neutralize the acid salts into carbonates and calcium.

Wild Harvests Wild food experiments and personal foraging accounts from the Pacific Northwest centering on Northwest Washington and Southern Vancouver Island Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Root Simple

low tech home tech

Skunks, are they edible?

Skunk issues in the garden this winter have led to murderous thoughts. Those thoughts, in turn, caused an intemperate Google search which turned up the following gem from the March 1959 issue of Boy’s Life:

Incidentally, skunks are edible. The Indians ate skunk and so has many a trapper. I tried it, rolling pieces of cleanly-skinned carcass in flour and browning and steaming them in a skillet. The meat is light in color and well flavored. It is better than raccoon or opossum, but a skunk is bony and not as well padded with meat as a rabbit.

Not that I’m considering this yet. Somehow the thought of a locally sourced Los Angeles skunk is particularly unappetizing. And a reader mentioned that they kept a skunk as a pet. But I am curious to hear if any of you have tried skunk, raccoon or possum. Will we see any of these locally harvested meats on the menus of hip local gastropubs?

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30 Comments

The first meat I ever allowed to pass through my lips was raccoon. Mama said I spit out meat, pushed it out, and learned to keep my lips tight when I was an infant. I was her only child who was anemic. So, she was frustrated.

My father and seven of his eleven brothers and sisters lived in Memphis, so we ate together often. One of my uncles had killed a raccoon and dressed it. When they barbequed it, I suppose I wanted to try it. That was my last walk on the wild side–when I was about four-years-old.

My father grew up during the Depression and knew no animal he would not eat. I refused to eat snake, turtle, squirrel, rabbit, frog legs, eel, crawdads. Well, those are the things I remember refusing to eat that he cooked. I heard they ate possum but do not remember a culinary encounter.

I dressed, cooked and ate a raccoon last year that someone else caught in a trap and killed with a pellet gun. It was very good. I made soup (like chicken soup, only with raccoon) and biscuits and gravy with some of the rendered stink fat.

A raccoon has a lot of fat on its back especially, and it has “stink” glands under its armpits that you have to remove. The fat, called “stink fat”, should be shaved off as best you can before cooking the raccoon because it’s just way too much fat and it tastes strong. I rendered this fat – it stays pretty liquid like chicken fat, so I put it in the fridge. A year later, I’m not sure if I would eat it, maybe I can make soap with it. But it was good when it was fresh, in a gravy. I’d say biscuits and ‘coon gravy is gamy but I like that. To cook the raccoon in all its fat would make it too greasy.

Now, I have a skunk living in my basement, if I can catch it, maybe I can eat it too.

Killing an animal for its meat is a mental hurdle, maybe farm kids get over it early in life but many people only see meat when it’s on a styrofoam package all cut up for them. I’ve killed mice before but nothing bigger so I expect this would pose a mental challenge for me. One guy I know uses live traps to catch raccoons and then drowns the varmints in a trash can full of water. That’s probably my only option since I live in a city, don’t have a pellet gun, and the noise from my using a bigger gun to shoot the thing would cause neighbors to call the police. (maybe I need a pellet gun)

I wish starlings were tasty but they allegedly taste horrible. We have altogether too many of the little buggers around here. I would like to try pigeon though.

Jesus Christs! Just because an animal is a nuisance doesn’t mean it’s right to torture it. Shooting a trapped animal with a pellet gun or drowning it etc is disturbed.

So you only eat meat from animals that died from natural causes?

In NC you must destroy any wild animal that is trapped. It’s the law due to rabbies. It is illegal to trap and relase. So you might think it’s disturbed to shoot one with a BB gun or drown one but it must be done to protect the other animals.

I wonder about other ‘black’ birds besides starlings. like red winged blackbirds etc. I remember Laura Ingalls Wilder writing about eating blackbirds that were destroying crops. She wrote that the whole family loved the meat.

What a great post! I am fairly snobbish about what I will eat – the conventional animals mainly,but I do eat the offal at least, which most Americans seem to find gross. I live in a fairly red neck area and I remember talking to my neighbor who mentioned he was trying to lose weight, and eating mostly fish. I said -so no raccoon huh?, and he said, oh no, it’s too fatty. Teehee!

Please note that it is illegal to kill most birds in the US. The exceptions are the non-natives (specific species include House Sparrow, European Starling, and Rock Dove – aka common pigeon) and game birds (hunting license required). Everything else is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

I did a post a few years ago on eating pests, including links to old-time recipes for house sparrows (and insect pests). Didn’t include skunks, though.

A “BB Gun” is not meant to kill an animal. It’s a weak airgun(toy really) used for target practice. It a slow, painful and completely wrong way to kill an animal.

Skunk issues in the garden this winter have led to murderous thoughts. Those thoughts, in turn, caused an intemperate Google search which turned up the following gem from the March 1959 issue of Boy's Life: Incidentally, skunks are edible. The Indians ate skunk and so has many a trapper.