Sunday, June 6, 2010

Foraging Report 06/06/2010

It was another good week for foraging, and we made plenty of observations about what is in season, blooming, coming soon, and what has passed us by for this year. We went back out and picked more wild strawberries, many more this week than last. I washed and hulled them, them crushed them with a bit of sugar to make a chunky sauce for a forager's breakfast this weekend. We ate cattail-pollen pancakes with wild strawberry sauce and had home fries sautéed with ramps bulbs.

Later that day, we headed to the HerbFest in Somers, CT to hear some music by Echo Uganda and attend a Wild Edible Walk given by Russ Cohen. We already owned his book "Wild Plants I have Known . . . And Eaten" which is published by the Essex County Greenbelt Association in Massachusetts. He is a good, clear speaker, sprinkling in his own personal anecdotes and experiences about the edibles we viewed. We did not learn any new plants, but did learn some new things about the plants we already knew. He went over the basics that we observed at the site, like autumn olive, nettles, grapes, mulberries, sumac, and curly dock.

Another berry just about ripe is the mulberry. We saw a few trees in Somers, CT with dark red fruit, but the white mulberries near our house are not ready at all. Robert says they are called "tree strawberries" in Hungary. Maybe in another week we can get them

The American lindens are blooming, but the European species we are watching are not ready yet. We will gather the flowers and the lighter colored bract attached to the leaf stem to dry for a fragrant tea. We noticed the elderberry flowers are starting to bloom at the roadsides, and will go out later this week to gather the umbels for wine, fritters, and some other recipes. We gathered a big bag of pineapple weed to dry for tea. While out one afternoon, we visited our favorite ramps patch and saw the maroon flower heads growing from the shady ground. The flowers are not open yet, but will open to small white umbels.

We saw that the common milkweed is also starting to flower, and collected the tightly clustered flower heads to eat. We boiled the broccoli look-a-likes once for 7 minutes, and they tasted wonderful, a bit like silky green beans. I then tried a recipe with the cooked flowers that was like a crustless quiche and it was very quickly eaten. It is too late to search for the shoots of the milkweed, and soon we will gather the immature seed pods.

Cattails are at the flower-spike stage, where the flower spikes are still enclosed by the reeds. We cut off the flower spike, both male and female parts, and bring them home to clean. Once peeled, you can see the lower, lighter green female part and the larger, darker green male part of the flower spike. I cut them apart and cooked them for 15 minutes for cattail-on-the-cob. There is not a lot on the female parts, but the male parts provide some mealy, corn-like starch. Gillian really enjoyed these! Later, the male part of the flower spike will be covered with pollen we can collect, while the female part of the flower spike will mature into the "hot dog" spike most people recognize. I am planning on cooking a chowder with the remaining male flower spikes we have.

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