During a recent phone conversation, I mentioned to a stranger that I’d eaten dirt as a farm kid. To my surprise, she said she had too. I’d thought my brothers and I were the only kids that had ever eaten soil. I agreed with her that the best tasting dirt always came from a fresh gopher mound. It had the texture and moisture of cornbread, although the taste was more “earthy”.
As an adult, I wondered how I would’ve possibly thought eating dirt was tasty. Any reason I’d had as a child had long been forgotten. Of course, the reason my younger brothers had eaten it, was likely in following my example. My younger brother really developed a taste for gopher mounds, greater than any of the rest of us.
Grown and harvested on the farm, the grains for chicken feed were milled in town. The result was really quite tasty. When time came for feeding the chickens, I always had a snack too. If you think about it, chicken feed has carbs, protein, vitamins, fiber and even fat. It was sugar-free, and was far healthier than any McDonalds “happy meal” is today.
The wheat harvest was a very special time of year. Fresh grains could be chewed, similar to kneading bread dough. They formed a rough sort of chewing gum. In the kitchen, when we baked or cooked with flour, we typically made sure it was fully cooked so we didn’t taste the raw flour flavor. Nothing could be more raw than fresh kernels, but I thought the taste was great. I chewed a lot of wheat in my youth.
A common weed I used to snack on a lot was sorrel. We used to call it “sheep sheer” but I suspect it was either Sheep Sorrel or Wood Sorrel. It’s a low growing weed with shamrock shaped leaves. It has a tangy, sour, but refreshing taste. I Googled it, and it has some great health benefits.
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of a farmer chewing on a long stem of some sort of grass or grain. Everyone did it, just for the great taste. Some grass and grain stems are juicy and sweet. Anyone working outdoors had plenty of opportunity to break off a stem of a favored plant to enjoy the sweet sap that flowed up to the leaves.
During the season when peas, corn and other vegetables were producing, “grazing” in the garden was a real treat. I remember some of my favorites were English peas and corn. I would shell the peas out, right over my mouth, and munch on the sweet raw delights. Corn was easy. Just strip the outer husk off an ear and you had a small meal. One of my favorites was raw potatoes, especially the small red ones, dug up and washed off with a garden hose. To this day I still love to snack on them in the kitchen.
My brother and I once asked to pick persimmons from a tree in his neighbor’s yard. We’d noticed they’d ripened and were going to waste on the ground. When we spoke to the lady of the house, she said in disgust she, “Didn’t eat anything that grew out in the yard!” and she let us have them. Where did she think produce comes from anyway? I suppose that many people think it’s not fit to eat unless offered on a grocery store shelf. That’s just sad.