Monday, May 16, 2011


It's milkweed and pokeweed season. Pokeweed in my opinion is the far better of the two, but alas, on the way to work today, taking the railroad track route to hopefully find some pokeweed, all I found was lots of milkweed. This is about the sketchiest of all habitats that I "urban forage" (most of my urban foraging is done in nicer places, along rivers, in parks, etc. Railroad tracks through industrial Cambridge I consider more quintessential urban foraging).

But, already ate them for lunch, along with a big wollop of tansy just to try that out. Let's say they went down, but I won't be recording the recipe for the ages.

Some pics here
of the foraging tour from Saturday. We had a good time, exploring somerville, medford, and arlington, and feasted on our findings at the end, which included oysters mushrooms, nettles, a lot of pokeweed, and a large mixed green salad of linden leaves, dandelions, chickweed, redbud, and sorrel, and a stir fry of knotweed, burdock, cattails, and the mushrooms (including a young Dryad's Saddle!).

I am super impressed when people are completely shameless about their dumpster diving. Go Zaac, who led us into the Arlington TJs dumpster in broad day light, no feeling like he needed to explain anything to anyone or justify it, at all. Just another part of life. All the stuff that would have ended up there - which looked like a ton - we spotted tucked off in some red push cartons, so, not technically garbage yet, so we passed it up. If it were only a bit closer to Cambridge...

Here is the Japanese Knotweed Hot Pickle recipe that lots of folks have been asking me about. This is the first season I can get people to consistently say "wow, these are great!" and they are talking about knotweed pickles, not say, lobster rolls. Given the years of japanese knotweed stir fry attempts, this is big progress. Next year, I should approach and get them hooked for running a few batches. And I should get some mugwort, tansy, etc for gruit for some local old school beer making, and then talk Cambridge brewing into doing that.

OK, on to the recipe:

1 part vinegar
1 part water
Bring this to a boil and add some pickling spices and salt. I like whole black peppercorns and red pepper flakes.

Add enough tender knotweed (first couple weeks of growth, whole stalk, after that, just the top section that easily breaks off) so that it is just covered. Remove from the flame. It does not need to cook at all, just being plunged in the boiling water vinegar solution is fine.

Put into sterilized mason jars. Ready for consumption as soon as they cool off! Great in salads.

In the works: hawthorn flower infused brandy. And once elderflowers are out, I will go for the homemade St. Germain. Alcohol infusions ("schnapps") I can handle but making beer and massive quantities of japanese knotweed pickles, that I must outsource.

The Gallery fundraising foraging dinner cooked by Didi Emmons was a smashing success. Many people gawked over the nettle burdock risotto, but I was most pleased with being able to find enough wild greens for a full salad for all 47 attendees. Here I am in the vineyard watercress patch, a place of real beauty.