Thursday, April 12, 2012

Foraging Ahead

Hey, we didn't forget about this blog. Really. I've been out of town for work and the kids have been on spring break, so things have been a little hectic. I won't go into too much detail yet, but did you know that Norwegian, or Roof, rats are significantly larger than the normal black rats found in many urban areas?

Anyway, Annie gives me a lot of crap for my nature-boy mentality. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm always learning new things to prepare for the eventual collapse of modern society. No big deal. This time of year, I'll often turn up with a bag full of weird plants that I've found growing somewhere. Sometimes I have a great deal of success with them, such as with wild garlic, morel mushrooms and nettles. Sometimes however, I ruin everything, as with my recent adventure with curly dock.

This is curly dock. I found a ton of it springing up on a hill near the river next to the hospital at which I work.

It's a common plant in the midwest, considered an invasive weed by many. It's high in oxalic acid, which gives a sour, lemony taste. It's totally edible, kind of like a kale or a chard, but if you eat too much the oxalic acid is no good for you.

As a leaf vegetable, eaten raw, it's pretty good. It'll add a nice sourness to a salad. However, if you cook it, it is a terrible, terrible disaster.

Apparently, dock has mucilaginous qualities when cooked, similar to okra. When cooked too long, these bright leafy greens degrade into a greyish slime. When I served up to the family, there wasn't a lot of excitement around the table. The kids pushed it around stoically, but Annie whined and cried about it. Annie is many great things, but stoic ain't one of them.

Not that I can blame her at all. My pride required that I eat all of mine, heavily doused in vinegar. Later on, though, I was more than happy to agree that dock would never be seen on our tables again.

We had just returned fromI did slip a little into a green soup I made out of this garlic mustard, dandelions and violet blossoms foraged from our yard. It's a great soup thickener. Annie calls my variation of her Green Goddess soup Hulk Soup, but she won't touch it.

Garlic mustard grows everywhere right now. We have tons of it along our fence row. It smells just like garlic and has a slightly bitter, peppery flavor not unlike arugula.

The real prize of springtime foraging are nettles. They can be hard to find, I've found, so when I do find them I try to gather them up as soon as I can. They have a brief growing season and have been popping up early due to our freakishly warm early spring.

The little bastards are covered in tiny stinging hairs that will leave a itchy rash if they prick you, so I try to keep some gloves or a plastic bag handy on my little hikes.

Nettles have really earthy flavor, somewhat like spinach. You have to cook them to get rid of the little hairs, but once you do they are delicious. I made (another) green soup out of nettles, carmelized onions and potatoes that I've been sucking down all week. Nettles contain about 25% protein by weight and high amounts of vitamins A and C as well as tons of minerals.

Ok, so I know I'm crazy, but my grandparents taught me about all kinds of wild edibles. They were depression era farm folk from a holler in Tennessee. People have no compunction about chomping on some wild blueberries or apples, but start harvesting weeds and you get funny looks.

That's fine, more for me.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard good things about nettles but never knew what the little buggers were. Interesting.