Last week I went to the Cambridge department of public works for some free compost. They had a mountain of the stuff. The former City Arborist happened to be there, so I took the chance to let him know I was a forager and see if he had any cool trees that I should know about. He hooked me up big time. A couple female ginkos on Church St, some june berries in Inman Square, a Kousa dogwood over by the library. That info was worth more to me than the free compost, but I'm pretty excited about both.
Today, Brian and Sarah E and I hit the minuteman trail to harvest some knotweed. It was pretty fun to barrel through the old stalks, they crunch away pretty easily and create quite a ruckus. Brian and I are both pretty scraped up as a result but it was fun. We had to get a bunch of knotweed for the competition we are hosting here tomorrow. It looks like we'll have about 12 contestants or so, so it should be pretty fun, and funny.
The other night I ate a nice meal of nettles and knotweed that grabbed in the Fens. here it is. I've decided that when people say, Hmm, that's pretty good, all it really means is that I can cook pretty well. These vegetables, like all vegetables, are all about how they are prepared. There's very few magic vegetables that are just good no matter what you do with them. Sweet corn, garden tomatoes, they come to mind. For everything else, add some olive oil and garlic and salt and fry it up fast, and you probably have a hit.
I'm still hoping that Cambridge Tab covers me, they called me and chatted for a while yesterday about my knotweed cookoff, but I haven't seen anything yet. But I sent them some nice pics, and if they don't publish them there, well, at least they are going up here.
I finally convinced myself that all the marsh marigold I have been seeing is in fact marsh marigold. I cooked it up last night, 3 changes of water boiled for a total of 30 minutes to get rid of all the toxins. And sure enough, totally tasteless after that. And then Noah asked me a perfectly reasonable question: after all that boiling, is there any nutritional value left? Well, I guess what i should have answered is, imagine you were on an island with either 1) only water or 2) water an marsh marigolds. I'm sure you'd live a lot longer on island number 2. Still, I see his point. And to roughly quote Sam Thayer, "The problem with marsh marigold is, they inherently taste bad." Pretty funny coming from a great foraging book. So why include it in the book? Because it's an old standby for New England foragers and it's one of the first greens aplenty to come up in Spring. It really tastes like nothing though, and I doubt I'll grab much more of it.
I've probably blogged about this before, but I have to vent a little more. it drives me absolutely buts that no one asks me what the heck I'm doing out there when I am digging up and plucking wild plants. I mean, we were crashing through knotweed stands today and no one asked a single question. PEOPLE!!! Finally Sarah E got some people to ask me questions which made me infinitely happy. She later told me she prompted them discretely, but whatever, once they started talking they asked more questions and were excited to learn.
Since I knew I'd be around for a straight month or so with no trips, I decided to finally undertake sourdough; I started a couple weeks ago. 6 days to make the barm, aka the mother starter.
I've had a little success with the actually bread, but nothing to write home about (although, evidently enough to blog about...). Basically, it's a huge pain in the ass and I'm going to probably leave it for the San Franciscans. The picture here makes it look better than it actually came out. Well, truth be told, it has been some of the best bread I've ever made, but not 8 days of effort good. After spending 8 days, the stuff oughtta taste like bacon wrapped scallops. Plus, I ended up using some active yeast for the final rise since it wasn't moving with the wild yeast that should've been naturally in there. It tasted somewhat sour.
On Easter, my brother Jay and I took 3 of his 4 kids on a great walk through the woods of west Hanover. Here you seem them all happy and fun. What you don't see is 30 minutes from that shot, when they are all complaining: how far, when do we get home, I'm hungry, I'm tired. Meanwhile, Jay and I are having a blast because we stumble across the old West Hanover graveyard, home to all the dead bodies of the 1860s of West Hanover. And the kids were alright once we came out of the woods and got them candy at the liquor store. It was Easter afternoon, but apparently they hadn't had enough candy yet. I had potato chips. I can never have enough of them.