Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Still Foraging

Fear not! We have not abandoned our project. June has just been insanely busy. Our tenants moved out; we cleaned and painted the apartment for our new tenants. Thag finished school and attended the New England Primitive Skills Gathering. Our nephew was baptised; we were Godparents, so we spent the weekend in Connecticut. Then Baby Yub Yub and I spontaneously went to the Bahamas with my parents. I started teaching summer school. And Thag is about to leave for a multi day canoe trip with two college friends. Whew!

But, we are still eating and enjoying wild edibles, though we are a bit behind. We simply haven't had time to post. July is calmer and we will spend lots of time writing current entries as well as backlogged entries.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of cattail on the cob: a clear five. Baby Yub Yub loves them!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Black Locust--Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

We look forward to the blooming of the black locust trees every year. Their sweet blossoms are addictive. When I was in Massachusetts, I scarfed down a snack of locust blossoms at Six Flags during my school's field trip. Since they were blooming there, we figured it was only a matter of time before they came ready up our way. We waited a week . . . then two. No flowers. We inspected the trees more closely. No sign of flower buds. They bloomed to our south and to our north, but not in our town. What's going on? Do any botanists out there have a solution to the mystery of the disappearing edibles.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wild Strawberries

Beware! Watch your feet! The wild strawberries are ripening under them and you don't want to trample these tiny treasures.

We have been waiting for the strawberries. All spring, we scoped out fields and roadsides for strawberry patches. We watched our own cultivated strawberries ripen, and this Friday we picked the first red juicy berries from the garden. We knew the time had come to find the wild ones.

Wild strawberries are tricky. Their leaves are very similar in appearance and even size to cultivated ones. But their berries are tiny! And they hide beneath the leaves. In addition, the plants don't produce nearly as many berries as the berries you find in an orchard. Size and abundance are both things cultivated strawberries are bred for. But when you find wild strawberries, even a few of them, the taste is like sunshine.

We have only once before found a sizeable patch of fruiting strawberries, and even then, it took us an hour for the two of us to collect a scant cup. Today, where the road runs along our property, Thag spotted a glimpse of red. We searched and searched and found about 10 berries, 2 ripe enough to eat. We each savored one. No, we did not share with our daughter. She had already eaten ALL the ripe berries from our garden!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Half Way

This week we got to 50. We are right on track and feeling pretty good. Our housemate asked us, "Did you think at the beginning of this project you would actually get to 100?" We both paused, realizing that we hadn't really thought about it that way; we were just excited about the project. But now, we have to think about it. Will we? Probably. But it may be close. Summer will certainly be busy.

Looking at our master list, we realize there are some plants that are going to be hard to find, but over the last several months we've been taking note of plant communities in our area, noting where things are so we'll be ready to harvest them at the right time. We have a few field trips planned this fall to find some plants not in our immediate area (notably wild rice and cranberries). We are still extreme novices in the mushroom department, but I think we can make 100 without many more. Road kill, fish, and insects have not yet made their way onto our plates, but we have definetly thought about them.

Foraging is definetly chaning our lives in ways I hadn't expected. I find myself needing to buy very few vegetables. Last week, I nearly let some broccoli and asparagus go bad because we had so many wild veggies in our nightly meals. We spread out on the floor with towels and scissor to process plants while we watch movies. We never leave the house without a plastic bag in our pockets. Baby Yub Yub goes to the door with a basket in the morning, saying, "Mama, pick." And every time Thag identifies a new plant, I ask, "Can we eat it?"

Red Clover

Thag is not overly fond of red clover, but I love them. I find them mellow and mildly sweet. And they are in full bloom right now. Other reasons I love red clover are that they are easy to find, easy to identify, and easy to collect. This past week we collected from our yard and from the school yard and filled gallon zip lock bags within minutes.

I have lots of plans for clover, but this week I made clover vinegar and clover lemonade. We have not yet tried the vinegar, but the lemonade was fantastic. Thag loved it too; he likened it to sumac-ade. We used the recipe found at http://www.prodigalgardens.com/ and will definitely make up another batch this week. Although we prefer honey and maple syrup as sweeteners, I decided to use sugar this time around so as not to mask the clover flavor. And indeed, the lemonade had a lovely berry like flavor. I look forward to trying another sweetener to see if I can still taste the clover within.


Everyone has edible weeds growing in their yards. Some are blessed with dandelion, others clover or violets. Some have gardens teeming with chickweed and lambsquarters. Unfortunately for us, our most common edible weed is plantain. Edible, yes. Easy to identify, yes. Yummy, not really.

Plantain is a common first food for new foragers because it is easy to find and not easy to confuse. But its leaves are not super tasty (kind of like past prime, yellowing, spinach leaves) and rather tough.

Still, we have tons. So, I went around the yard while Thag mowed our field and picked the youngest, smallest, greenest leaves I could find. Then I put them through the food processor to pre-chew the tough leaves, until they were super fine and threw them in a stir fry. The result, not bad. In general, I give plantain a 2, but shredded and mixed with other veggies, it adds bulk and nutrition to a meal.

ox-eye daisy tabouli

I was first introduced to ox-eye daisy several years ago by my friend, Ben. Ben is a committed outdoorsman and naturalist, and he tore a small leaf from a plant in the lawn of park we were exploring. "Try this," he said. It was uncommonly sweet.

Since that first taste, I have found the flavor of the daisy to cover quite a range. Sometimes it is almost saccharine; sometimes it is bland and tasteless. This past week as we gathered daisy leaves, I noticed that the leaves that we pulled off the stem did not have same flavor as the basal leaves. The basal one seemed sweeter and more tender. I thought that was odd since, usually, the older basal leaves are tougher. One of the plants in questions was growing in a frequently mowed lawn. Maybe the frequent mowing led to new growth near the base and thus to younger, more tender, sweeter tasting leaves. We'll have to experiment more to test this idea. What a shame! : )

This week's daisy ended up in a tabouli. The recipe is from The Wild Food Gourmet by Anne Gardon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


All the edible plant guides talk about this leggy garden intruder, but they vary on their assessment of taste. Some state that it is not worth the effort of pulling off all the tiny leaves from the stringy stem, others say just eat the stem, still others say it is their favorite salad green.

So this weekend, when we found chickweed had fully infultrated Thag's mother's ivy patch, Thag and his brother helped her weed and collected a gallon ziplock bag full.

Looking at chickweed recipes found lots of variation and I decided to try the chickweed egg salad recipe I found on one of my favorite new websites: http://www.prodigalgardens.info/ . The egg salad was delicious, and the chickweed gave it a delightful herby flavor. I am excited to both try chickweed in new ways and to try more of the recipes found at the Prodigal Gardens site.

Ratings: Chickweed--4, Chickweed Egg Salad--5

We are often finding that an okay edible incorporated into the right recipe can leave us more satisfied than the edible alone, very much the way raw spinach on its own tastes alright but spanikopita is out of this world.