Sunday, June 12, 2011

Foraging Report 06/12/2011

Northern bay laurel
In typical New England fashion, the weather has been crazy hot one day, chilly and rainy the next. The growing season is already about 2 weeks behind due to the extended winter. This week we went to the seashore in search of blooming roses (Rosa rugosa) for the fragrant petals to use in a syrup and wine. Both the white and pink roses were blooming, and Robert gathered about 2 packed gallons. We also grabbed a few branches from the northern bay laurel (Myrica pensylvanica) to replenish our supplies. We add the leaves to soups and beans just like commercial bay leaves. They bay laurel is so plentiful in our area, it is easy to keep a fresh bunch of leaves around.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flowerbuds are plentiful right now. We gather one bud cluster from each plant in densely populated open fields. The flowerbuds are still tight, and resemble broccoli. The buds are good in recipes like a crustless quiche, or puréed soup. The flavor is similar to green beans. We are also attempting to make some brined and pickled "capers" from the unopened buds. We accidentally took home a teeny tiny Monarch caterpillar, and I noticed it when I was washing the buds for a recipe. I put it in a bug box,and have been feeding it fresh milkweed leaves and flower buds every day, and he it tripled in size in 3 days. Gillian loves to peek in on the caterpillar every morning and evening to see how much it has grown. We hope to keep it alive through butterfly stage and release it.

We are having a bit of trouble finding a suitable cattail (genus Typha) foraging area. We hope to gather some of the hearts for snacking and maybe pickling, we hope to gather some pollen, and we hope to gather the immature flower stalks to cook like corn on the cob. The narrow-leaf cattail (Typha augustafolia) is abundant in Preston, but the yield for pollen and flower stalks is so much lower compared to the common cattail (Typha latifolia). Most roadside ditches are unsuitable due to pollution, and many swamps are off limits because they are private property, or too deep to access on foot. Our gathering methods do not kill the plants, as the cattails spread through their rhizomes under the water or wet ground. We will keep our eyed opened!

Ramps pesto twists
We were happy to attend a potluck and tour at our organic and biodynamic CSA farm this past weekend. Woodbridge Farm is located in Salem, CT. We have picked up our first 2 weeks of food shares, and the greens are fantastic. The potluck was open to all CSA participants, but many might have been scared of the overcast and cool weather. Our small group gathered in the barn for potluck lunch, we brought some ramps pesto bread twists. The group then took a tour of the farm, and there were so many wild edibles! Organic farms are an ideal place to gather wild food since there is no spraying for weeds (herbicides) or for bugs (pesticides). The farmers know many of the "weeds" already, and we were able to talk about a few more and their edible properties. The kids enjoyed some red clovers (Trifolium pratense), honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and monkey tails--the tendrils of wild grapes (genus Vitis).

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