Friday, April 29, 2011

Foraging Report 04/29/2011

Ramps leaves
April showers bring . . . May edibles. There has been lots of rain this past week, and not too many sunny days. The late winter and wet spring has produced some very hearty wild food this season so far. We noticed the many, many ramps (Allium tricoccum) patches that we visit have been growing especially thick this year, the stalks of the greens are thick and strong, and the leaves are wider than usual. The leaves are so substantial we have had to gather less leaves to chiffonade and freeze, and have considered stuffing the leaves like cabbage.

Nettle dumplings for soup
Nettles (Urtica dioica) are finally getting tall enough to pick in large quantities. We have several bricks of blanched and chopped nettles in the freezer to use throughout the year. The nettle beer is bubbling along happily, we hope to give it a try next week. We have nettles drying for tea in paper bags. I hope to get more nettles this weekend for soups, and I would like to try the bagel recipe with chopped nettles. We made some vibrant green soup dumplings, and are working on the recipe for sharing.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is another abundant mid-spring green. The flowers on the flower stalks have started blooming, so we won't gather any more of them as they are getting tough. Now it is the triangular leaves near the tops of the flower stalks we can pick in vast quantities and boil as a side dish. I have remarked on how some foragers do not like the triangular leaves or the flower stalks due to bitterness, and we still disagree. Robert and Gillian tend to like bitter things like dandelion and burdock root, but I really do not. I do, however, love the garlic mustard stalks and leaves. I have a hard time even tasting the garlicky properties of the plant, and enjoy the green flavor very much. I suspect that climate, geography, and growing conditions as well as personal taste prevents us all from agreeing on the edibility rating of some plants. Soon after the flowers bloom, in early June, the seed pods will elongate and we'll pick those to eat while they are still green and tender. We really are trying to do our part in preventing the spread of this invasive plant by eating it's reproductive parts.

Dandelion flowers
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) greens and flowers seem to enjoy the abundant rain. Robert picked greens for boiling and flowers for making jelly this week. Picking the flowers for wine or jam is really time consuming, as the yellow petals have to be removed from the flower head without any green bits, which impart bitterness. This task leaves us with aching shoulders and blackened fingertips as we hunch over bowls for hours to end up with enough flower petals for a recipe.

Violets (Viola species) are carpeting lawns and shaded grassy areas. The early leaves are edible, but not our favorite. It is the pretty flowers that get our attention. They can be tossed into any salad, used to garnish desserts or yogurt, and Gillian likes them because they are purple. We picked a large quantity to make some electric purple violet jelly.

Japanese Knotweed, proper size
for gathering and cooking
Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is just now getting too big and tough to gather. To use the plant in food, it has to be tender, but to make jelly I suppose a slightly larger and tougher plant is acceptable since the pulp is strained out of the juice. The jelly is surprisingly pink, not green as we expected. Robert loves it, I think it is OK, but I tend to not love most of the things we make with knotweed. The taste is hard to describe and compare to other things, it really is unique.

Now is a good time to take notice of fruit trees growing in wild places as they are blooming. We pass by accidental apple trees, landscaped plum trees at parks, and soon will notice the wild cherry trees in bloom.


Woods Hippie said...

I learned about knotweed from this post, then just happened to see some some young shoots on Sunday while trout fishing. I picked a handful and made knotweed rice pudding...came out OK but I couldn't really discern the knotweed flavor. I'll have to try the jelly. Keep these recipes coming!

The 3 Foragers said...

Heading into the woods to fish is a great way to spot other edibles. It's too bad Robert works nights, and a lot of overtime, he has not had time to fish in 2 years!