Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mountains of chickweed after a bit of rain

In preparation for tonight's dinner, hosted at Harvard, I headed out to my favorite one-town-shopping foraging spot - J.P. It started pretty mildly with some not so great tasting linden leaves, but started to pick up speed the deeper I got.  I was able to gather a quick bag of nettles and some milkweed shoots, and then I headed over to the giant composting dirt mound area at Peter's Hill in the arboretum.  Mountains of chickweed, lamb's quarters, and pokeweed, three top notch spring veggies.

Of course, while I was upon a mountain of lamb's quarters, I get a call from my work. It was 9:30am. I was supposed to be at the 9:00 meeting.  Instead of "I'm on a mountain of great edible weeds!" which I was tempted to say, I went with "Oh...I'm not there", to which I got a reasonable "Duh" response.

I ate some of those weeds during the 12 o'clock meeting. But I'm really looking forward to getting into all that pokeweed!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is good for the goose?

First, a couple comparably mundane things. And then a strong kicker at the end.

Mundane 1) It's been a good year for shepard's purse. Here's one right outside my office. But the other day in the arboretum, Sarah B and I found some super plush ones which made great salad greens.

Mundane 2) I guerrilla planted 2 apricot trees and 1 aprium (apricot/plum hybrid) with Rachel the other night, somewhere in Cambridge.  They are still alive and looking pretty good. They get a couple of ball jars full of water each per week.  Hopefully Jay and the kids are watering the ones we planted in Hanover a bit more.

Kicker) I got a phone call the other day from a girl who does a lot of farmer organizing (farmhack.net is one of her many recent projects...she also runs the greenhorns) asking me if I'd like to come over with a bunch of her friends for roadkill dinner. It was kind of a garbled message, but I was pretty sure I heard roadkill.  So I took Sarah E to see what this was all about, stopping to grab some elm branches with young seeds and some redbud buds, in order to contribute something. They invited me because of my urban forager status after all, and I had to show up with something. No time to return home to my fridge which is already overflowing with wild edibles.  Anyhow, sure enough, on arrival, we were treated to a fine dinner including dried seaweed, black quinoa, and a roasted roadkill goose from the Charles river. Apparently Severin and her friend Dan were biking on the river, talking about how it'd be nice to try a river goose one day, and lo and behold, right up ahead moments later they came across a warm one, just bumped off. They plucked it, brined it, and cooked it. Hardcore, to say the least.  I had a bit, it was tough but tasty. God help me if I ever come across that situation.  I'll be torn.

No picture, but imagine a turkey with much darker meat.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stinging Nettles

Easter Sunday brought me out to the burbs to visit Jay and Jodi and the kids, and then down to the Cape to visit with my mom for a couple days. I took my usual walk around the block on arrival -- she lives on a little peninsula of land adjacent to Waquoit bay (which should be famous for its mussels), full of mushrooms in the fall and a good variety of weeds the rest of the year. Towards the end of the loop I spotted a nice nettles patch -- by eye and by smell -- so I went back to the house for my nettle gloves and another plastic bag. I decided to pay a parking ticket on the walk back to the patch, which was voice activated and kept getting interrupted by this barking dog named Bruin. It took far longer to pay the ticket with him yapping in the background then it would have if I'd just mailed the check in.

Anyhow, my mother likes to show me the latest from this pacific northwest blog called fat of the land, and there they had a recipe for nettle soup. Of course, the "fat" in fat of the land was apparent in their recipe, heavy on chicken broth and heavy cream. We made our own version of it which came out good enough for me to post the recipe.

Creamy vegan nettle soup

In a large soup pot, sauté an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and a chopped sweet potato in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. After 10 minutes or so, add a couple pints of either veggie broth or water or some combination. Bring to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and lightly boil for 10 minutes . Carefully dump in a plastic bag of fresh nettles. Then add one package of silken tofu. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, then blend the whole thing. We served ours topped with a basil leaf.

This is a spring or late fall recipe. In late spring and summer, nettles are too tall and tough for eating and should be gathered instead for drying for tea. The illustration below is a mid summer depiction of stinging nettle.