Sunday, April 24, 2011

Foraging Report 4/24/2011 and Ramps Rant

Cleaned nettles
The 3 Foragers spent Friday, Earth Day 2011, driving around a few small towns here in southeast Connecticut looking for some of nature's bounty. We stopped in Columbia and picked 2, 5-gallon buckets of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) to dry for tea and cooked most of it to keep in the freezer for use later in the year. Robert also started a 5 gallon bucket of nettle beer.

Evening Primrose roots
Robert dug up a bunch of evening primrose roots (Oenothera biennis), and we scrubbed and boiled them. I don't think they taste great on their own, they have a slightly acrid aftertaste, but I am thinking they would cook up well in a soup, or sautéed like homefries. He grabbed young roots, so they were not too stringy or tough.

Garlic mustard flower stalks
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is sending it's flower stalks up at a fast rate. We snap off the stalks at about 5 inches and just boil them for a few minutes to wilt them, then toss them with some butter and salt for an awesome green side dish with dinner.

Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is also growing fast, and we have tried a cold soup that was surprisingly good, and I have a jelly recipe in the works.

Ramps leaves
We also went ramps (Allium tricoccum) picking at 2 large patches. While driving and hiking between Norwich and Glastonbury, we passed at least 15 patches that we had not noticed before. I read that New York Times article this week about ramps and their supposed decimation due to overpopularity and overharvest to feed foodies in NYC. I think it is a pile of alarmist rubbish, and I am personally insulted that someone would accuse the 3 of us of overharvesting ramps, and proceed to tell us how we should be doing it. Some guy digging up 20,000 pounds of plants with roots attached versus the 3 of us gathering the greens only in the spring is not even comparable. I thought I had stated several times that in the spring, we only pick the green leaves, and don't even come close to gathering 10% of a patch. You would be hard pressed to even see where we took some leaves, we gather so little. It is during the spring that the bulbs are using their energy to grow leaves and make new bulbs, so the onion bulbs are small, not worth digging. In the late autumn we dig the bulbs, and then only what the 3 of us will use and eat. We made more pesto, some onion-beer soup, potato salad, and ramps bagels with Friday's harvest.

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