Wild Edibles: A Walk in the Swedish Woods with Dan Uhrbom

Some of us buy expensive organic greens in the supermarket while some, like Dan Uhrbom (who is sort of a Swedish version of “Wildman” Steve Brill), simply go out in the forest to gather all they need. In nature’s pantry everything is free and often much more nutritious than their farmed cousins. It can be a bit scary to go out there on your own, but after a walk in the woods with Uhrbom, I feel pretty ready to give it a go.

Stinging nettles can be eaten raw, if you know the trick.

Stinging nettles can be eaten raw, if you know the trick.

Dan Uhrbom.

Dan Uhrbom.

Dan Uhrbom has found much of his inspiration and passion for foraging in Victoria Boutenko‘s book Green For Life, where she talks about how we should eat like chimpanzees, since our DNA has only changed 0.3% since caveman times and we still resemble our ape-cestors more than we think. So how do the chimpanzees eat? Well, lots of green leaves and wild-growing fruits. On our walk we tasted everything from elm leaves, rose petals and rosehips to thistel leaves, St. Johns Whort and stinging nettles. You can even eat the latter raw without burning yourself by picking them from the bottom (pulling along the stem, under the leaf) and rolling them in your hand to remove the stuff that burns. It almost worked. I didn’t burn my mouth, but felt a bit of stinging in my hands afterward. But, you know, I’d rather have stinging palms than a burnt tongue!

Care to try a thistle leaf?

Care to try a thistle leaf?

Looking for wild edibles next to train tracks.

Looking for wild edibles next to train tracks.

Try eating a gooseberry with one of its leaves.

Try eating a gooseberry with one of its leaves.

Uhrbom recommends picking leaves from berry bushes and apple trees to eat together with the berries and fruits, “like a little sandwich.” It tasted surprisingly good, especially the black currants and currant leaves. He doesn’t think you should wash what you pick in the woods, since it’s better for the intestinal flora to ingest some beneficial bacteria and microbes. “We’re too cleanly,” says Uhrbom about today’s society. He has a Champion Juicer hooked up to the DC power outlet in his car, so he can enjoy the fruits (and green leaves) of his labor on the spot.

Uhrbom cutting a wild-growing apple into slices.

Uhrbom cutting a wild-growing apple into slices.

Apple + leaf "sandwich."

Apple + leaf “sandwich.”

Black currants + currant leaf "sandwich."

Black currants + currant leaf “sandwich.”

To reap the benefits of his forages right away, Uhrbom has a Champion Jucier hooked up to the DC outlet of his car.

To reap the benefits of his forages right away, Uhrbom has a Champion Jucier hooked up to the DC outlet of his car.

Examples of other edible wild plants are (please note that some of these may not grow outside Sweden) goutweed, yarrow, dandelions, clover (the flowers too), lady’s mantle, comfrey, chamomille, milk thistle, field penny-cress, amphibious bistort, aspen leaf, rowanberry, and wood sorrel. Fat-hen can be cooked like spinach, but could also be (research is currently being done) a Swedish counterpart to quinoa!

Fat-hen, a possible Swedish sibling of quinoa.

Fat-hen, a possible Swedish sibling of quinoa.

15-year-old dried apple slice.

15-year-old dried apple slice.

To save wild edibles for the winter, Uhrbom has built a drying cabinet, where he dries everything from nettles to apples. We got to taste apple slices that he had dried 15 years ago(!) and they still tasted good.

Wild yellow raspberries.

Wild yellow raspberries.

The highlight of the day: some bushes with incredibly tasty yellow raspberries that we found growing along the train tracks!

Slightly inspired by this experience, I went foraging in my parents yard a few days after, gathering berries and green leaves for a “wild” morning smoothie. I got dandelion greens (fewer than I though since my dad had mowed the lawn — such a bummer!), lady’s mantle, black currants, currant leaves, raspberries, and cheated a bit by picking parsley from my mom’s pots (not wild, but at least from the garden). I also mixed in a small a small pear for a bit of sweetness. Although it looks less than appetizing because of the dark color this was a great smoothie to start the day with.

Inspired by this walk, I went foraging in my parents' yard for morning-smoothie ingredients.

Inspired by this walk, I went foraging in my parents’ yard for morning-smoothie ingredients.

My "wild" smoothie. Despite appearances, it was really tasty (and super-nutritious).

My “wild” smoothie. Despite appearances, it was really tasty (and super-nutritious).

We shouldn’t be scared to eat things from the wild, but it’s best to take a walking tour with someone who really knows about wild edibles before attempting to go foraging on your own. I intend to go on a wild edibles tour of the Los Padres mountains here in my new home very soon, find one near you and start enjoying food from nature’s pantry.

A variation of this story was originally posted on my raw food/healthy living blog, Råfrisk.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. hi Johanna~
    Wild food foraging is so fun…and even completely abundant in NYC Central Park. In the Caribbean, I was so surprised to discover fruits that looked like nothing I had ever seen.
    Truly, an eye opening experience once you see that food is literally everywhere*!

  2. What an incredibly interesting and informative story.

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