Sunday, May 22, 2011

Foraging Report 05/22/2011

It has been a rough week and a half for us here in southern New England with all the rain. When we finally got a dry afternoon to head to the seacoast, we were involved in an auto accident that ended our day at the local ER. We are fine, just a bit shaken up.

Last Saturday we took a walk with local forager Blanche Derby in Westhampton, MA on private land. She talked about dandelions, fiddleheads, stinging nettles, mayapples, and other edible and medicinal plants. She then presented snacks made with foraged plants, like knotweed muffins, edible flowers salad, and violet jam. It was a great experience to meet another forager and learn more.

We made some items with the lilac (genus Syringa) blossoms that bloomed in the area. Lilac jelly and candied lilacs look so pretty. The recipe for the jelly is here. Robert picked and boiled up some mulberry (Morus nigra) leaves for the first time. He picked the very young leaves just now unfurling. The taste was very nice, a bit like green beans.

dehydrated nettle powder
We manged to get out to the nettle (Urtica dioica) patch and gather 2 more buckets of the tops. Those we put in the dehydrator overnight, and then pulverized the dry leaves in a coffee grinder to get a fine powder. We used some powder in a bagel recipe with fantastic results, making bright green bagels with a deep nettle flavor. We could use the powder in pasta, dumplings, or bread in the future.

While in the nettle patch we came across 2 different types of thistles (genus Cirsium ) and peeled the flower stalks of their prickers to eat raw. The taste is like celery, and Gillian demanded a lot of peeled thistle. We can gather the flower stalks until the flower blooms, when the stalk will become too stringy.

wild strawberry blossoms
Gillian and I walked around the nettle patch while Robert cut more nettles, and she and I saw lots of future edibles blooming, along with wildflowers. There were wild blueberries (genus Vaccinium), wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), autumn olives (Elaeagnus umbellata), wild black cherries (Prunus serotina) and lots of native red and yellow columbines and burgundy trilliums.

glasswort shoots
We finally did make it to the beaches near Westerly, RI. We were in search of glasswort (genus Salicornia), also known as beach asparagus, samphire, or sea beans. We did find some in two salt ponds, as it is a salt-tolerant succulent herb. The shoots were tiny, only about an inch high, so it appears we were too early in the year. We snapped up a handful of shoots, and enjoyed their briny, saltiness raw. We are planning on braving the seashore crowds later this summer to gather some more!

unknown pine,
making pollen
A surprise we came across while exploring the salt ponds of Weekapaug were some pine trees making vast quantities of pollen. Just a gentle tap of the branches let loose a cascade of yellow dust, and we decided to gather some. The male parts of the pine produce the pollen that fertilizes the female parts and make the pinecone. I can't seem to precisely identify what species this pine tree is, it appears to be a Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris). We then looked up pine pollen, and were astounded of the medicinal and nutritional claims made. We added some to cream-of-wheat, and froze some for future pancake making. There is a tiny pine scent in the pollen, not much.


The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

The nettle powder reminds me of the green tea powder that Asian inspired pastry chefs were using in desserts for a while, especially the “Pacific Rim” restaurants.

I would mix your powder with mayonnaise and sour cream as a dip for cold potatoes.

The 3 Foragers said...

Good idea for a dip! It makes me wish I had a good dehydrator to save more of the things we forage in season. Right now, we just have the round kind, with no ability to adjust the temperature. Thanks for reading!