Sunday, June 5, 2011

Foraging Report 06/05/2011

Black locust doughnuts
Black locust flowers and leaves
It was last week that we found ourselves gathering black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) every day. The blossoms were delayed by rain and cooler temperatures, but they suddenly exploded all at once as soon as the sun came out. The very fragrant, white flowers grow in clusters, sometimes so abundantly the whole tree appears white. The smell is unmistakable, and so wonderful. Eaten raw, the flowers are surprisingly crunchy and taste like super sweet peas. We enjoyed them raw, and experimented with many recipes this season, including a jelly, doughnut, custard, and syrup. The short period of availability was over in shorter than expected time, since they all bloomed at once, instead of over a full week.

The late, chill spring also stunted the milkweed (Asclepia syricas) shoots. When the sun finally appeared, the leaves unfurled and we missed our opportunity to gather the shoots. The stalks are growing fast, and you can already find small clusters of flowers. The flower clusters look like small heads of broccoli, and after a quick 5 minute boil, can be eaten in a salad or mixed into a quiche. We are looking forward to the larger flower buds to attempt making a "caper" from the closed flowers. We also love to eat the small, immature seed pods.

We did get in a bit of letterboxing, and attended an event in Salem, the 4th Annual Gotta Box event by Sally-O. The weather was not cooperating most of the day, so Gillian and I stuck around the pavilion to do exchanges and pass out cooties while Robert hiked. I brought some potluck biscuits--pine pollen biscuits with cream cheese and grape jam, and ramps green biscuits with garlic mustard-mustard and kielbasa. Yum!

Blanche Derby discussing dandelion
Acorn cupcake with wild grape-
cream cheese frosting
We were fortunate enough to attend another Wild Weeds Walk and Taste with Blanche Derby in Cummington, MA. It took place at a farm, and she discussed burdock (Arctium lappa), cattails (Typha latifolia), dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), orpine (Sedum purpureum), and shadbush (genus Amelanchier) among others. Gillian enjoyed interacting with the group of children on the tour, and she also loved the chickens and ducks on the farm. We contributed some acorn cupcakes with wild grape-cream cheese frosting to the tasting after the walk. Video clips coming soon!

We are keeping our eyes on the cattails to gather some shoots, and are in need of a new area to go gathering. One area Robert visited last year was home to some invisible biting insect that left him covered with red welts, and another potential site we gathered from has a new "No Trespassing State of Connecticut" sign posted. One site we visit has narrow leaf cattails (Typha augustafolia), which produce a lower yield on pollen and flower stalks so it is not ideal.

Beach pea flowers
While spending a lazy afternoon at the seashore, we noticed the roses (Rosa rugosa) blooming, and will be back for the aromatic petals for syrups and wine. Robert also saw lots of beach pea flowers (Lathyrus japonica) for a potential harvest. We don't often catch the peas at a good stage, they can toughen up really fast. The peas can be eaten raw or cooked, and we'll keep an eye on these ones. The bayberries (Myrica pensylvanica) have bloomed and are producing their waxy berries. We gather the leaves to use like commercial bay leaves, they add great flavor to soups.

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