Monday, August 10, 2015

Southington Public Library Presentation

Here are links to some of Ben's articles at Northern Woodlands.
black locust blossom in bloom

Newspaper article about this event from the Record Journal.

Key Questions to Ask About Edible Wild Plants
1.       Location—Where will I find the plant and when will it be in season?
2.       Identification—How can I recognize it? Are there plants that look similar?
3.       Harvest—What parts do I gather?  How do I know if they’re ripe? How do I gather safely and sustainably?
4.       Processing—What do I do to turn the plant into food?
5.       Preparation—How do I prepare it so that it tastes good?

Great Sources for Information on Wild Edible Plants
Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.
Foster, Steven and Roger Caras. Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants. Houghton Mifflin. 1994.
Thayer, Samuel. The Forager’s Harvest. Forager’s Harvest. 2006.
Thayer, Samuel. Nature’s Garden. Forager’s Harvest. 2010.
Peterson, Lee. Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Mifflin. 1977.
Kallas, John. Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. Gibbs Smith. 2010.
Elpel, Thomas. Botany in a Day. HOPS Press. 2001.
Haines, Arthur. Ancestral Plants. Anaskimin. 2010

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Galinsoga, Guasacas, and an Ajiaco Recipe

Our herb garden is full of a common weed called Galinsoga (Galinsoga sp.).  As it turns out Galinsoga itself is an herb--commonly called guasaca in South America.  Galinsoga can be eaten as one would cooked greens.  It is also the principal flavoring in ajiaco, a Colombian soup.

We first heard about ajiaco from our friend Arena.  Neither Thag nor I have had ajiaco before, so we do not know what the dish tastes like.  I spent a lot of time online looking for ajiaco recipes.  All Colombian ajiaco recipes use potatoes, corn and chicken.  In all the recipes adapted for use by non-Colombian restaurants and by famous American cooks, I found no galinsoga included.  However, in every recipe for ajiaco written by someone from Colombia, galinsoga was used.  Many cooks said it could not be called ajiaco without galinsoga.  Galinsoga/guasaca is almost impossible to buy in the US, but it grows wild throughout the Americas and is probably in your yard right now.

The recipe below is my version of ajiaco, based on several ajiaco recipes I found online written by Colombians.  It is more a stew than a soup, and it is fantastic.  The galinsoga has its own unique flavor I cannot describe, but if you chew a bit of raw galinsoga you will have an inkling of its flavor.  When I make the soup again, I plan to increase the galinsoga to 3/4 cup.

2 chicken breasts
garlic and onion, chopped fine
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and separated, 2 pounds cut into quarters, 2 pounds sliced thin
2 ears of corn, but into 4 pieces each
1 bunch scallions
1/2 cup guasacas/galinsoga leaves, rinsed and chopped fine
1/2 and 1/2, cream, or sour cream

The day before, press onion, garlic, and salt onto chicken breasts.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cook chicken in stock pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. When chicken is cooked, remove from soup.  Separate meat from bones.  Put bones back into pot. 

Add quartered potatoes to stock.  Cook until mushy.  Remove bones.  Puree soup in blender or with immersion blender.

While soup is cooking, remove skin from chicken and slice chicken into bite sized pieces.

Add sliced potatoes, corn, scallions (whole), galinsoga leaves.  Salt to taste.  Cook until potatoes are tender.

Remove scallions.  Add chicken.  Serve with cream, capers, and avocado in bowls.

Yum!  I'm not sure how you are supposed to eat the corn.  Every picture I found of ajiaco had the corn on the cob floating in the bowl.  When we ate the leftovers, we cut the corn from the cob before heating it up.  Anyone out there know why they might serve it on the cob or how one is supposed to eat the corn?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wood Sorrel Pesto

After our week long trip to Connecticut, Thag got out the lawn mower. Yub Yub pleaded, "Papa, please don't cut the grass!  It is so long, like a meadow.  I have dreamed of it being like this for three whole summers!"

Well, we own 25 acres, so he had plenty to mow and still leave the front yard long.  Yub Yub sat in the foot long grasses, making "soup" with weeds, mud, and water.  She brought in a few cups of wood sorrel she had gathered and asked if we could make real soup.  We've never cooked with wood sorrel before, only eaten it as a trailside nibble or in salads so the idea was intriguing.  Still, it was 93 degrees outside, so soup was out of the question.  Instead we turned it into pesto, and it was delightful.  The light lemony flavor of wood sorrel rang through.  This weed is very common, easy to gather, and tastes good well into the season.  Try this recipe the next time it is too hot to cook!

2 cups fresh wood sorrel
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp walnuts (almonds or pine nuts will work fine)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pour wood sorrel, garlic, walnuts, and salt into a food processor.  Blend until fine.  Add oil.  Blend until smooth.  Add cheese.  Pulse breifly until incorporated.  All amounts in this recipe can be adjusted according to taste.  Enjoy!