Friday, May 22, 2009
Who has time to blog with all this foraging to be had?
Last weekend I joined Brian for a 4-borough bike tour of NYC. Towards the end of our loop, back in Inwood, we re-visited the black locust trees I pointed out to Paul and crew last fall, and sure enough, they were in the perfect stage for eating the flowers. This was the first time I ate them, and I completely understand why Sam Thayer devoted a whole chapter in his book to them, they are great. I brought a bunch home and showed them to Romanian Corina, who flipped out, like usual "WE HAVE THOSE IN ROMANIA!!". She says this about every plant I point out to her...dandelions, grass,... Well, in this case her Romanian upbringing came threw big, she taught me how they make fritters with them and we did a vegan version that was excellent. Next time I'll try with whole wheat flour I think, for more substance.
And next time might be soon, because the next day after we ate them, and after I complained to her that beantown doesn't have enough of them, I came across a boatload of them near Ringe Ave in Cambridge. I was up there because she dragged me to an "opera" which turned out to be a mess in several ways. First, it was the CSO, not exactly the most in tune orchestra I've ever heard. Second, it was in the vineyard church, one of those new touchy feely christian congregations that make my skin crawl. but, I found black locust so totally worth it.
Came across a great book at Rodney's in central. despite their total lack of decent fiction, they do pretty well stocking nature books. Sure, there are occasionally titles like "Weed Survey of Michigan, 1968", but there are lots of gems too. Bought Ghosts of Evolution, a book about fruits and seed pods that no longer have natural dispersal agents (animals who eat them and crap out the seeds far from the tree). Like, avocados, mangoes, papayas, honey locusts (everywhere in cambridge - a tree adored by urban arborists for its deep roots that don't crack the sidewalk, and its ability to grow in all sorts of soil qualities). Anyhow, where are those dispersal agents? They are extinct! 13,000 years or so they vanished, but the plants have hung on and now we cultivate them. Kentucky Coffee Tree is on the list, and so I gathered a bag of last years seed pods and will roast them soon to try the coffee substitute enjoyed by colonists in Kentucky. Since there are no dispersal agents for this tree left, sure enough, under on of those trees, or the honey locust, you find an abundance of fallen pods. So this is great, we're not stealing from the squirrels!
Lots of pokeweed over the last couple weeks, some in suspect places, see photo, but I'm still kicking, so all good.
It's too bad you have to cook it to death before eating it since it's so juicy and pretty when you pick it.
A trip out to upstate NY a few weeks ago to visit and forage with my friend Sarah from the yearly Rhode Island Rhythm and Roots music festival proved extremely fruitful. My personal highlight was finding the roadsides abounding with wild parsnips. This was the classic exciting 'first find': I'd seen the pictures of the notable leaf pattern so many times in books I recognized it right away, and it was really yummy (it's the same as cultivated parsnip). Apparently it's classified as an invasive, which just means it's strong and successful, and so, to celebrate its strength, I named my newest computer at work after it - pastinaca. Some other items of note on that foraging trip where trout lily, wild mint, nettles, and some yellow violets. Here's the feast.
Lady's thumb is out now and it's a good potherb. Despite this blog entry, I think there's a slight lull in great edibles right about now, so I go after things like lady's thumb and lamb's quarters. Here's lady's thumb, easy to spot to the the centered dark splotch on each leaf.
Lastly, another word on knotweed: that stuff will grow anywhere. Saw it in a stream the other day, a lone, skinny one. Cut to ten years from now and the stream has a knotweed damn. At least any beavers left won't have to work so hard.
OK, one more last thing. As I type these final sentences, my mouth is full of watercress from J.P. Watercress is a sneaky little one, but somehow the seeds adrift always find the places that make you say, "yep, that's just where watercress ought to be."