on wild food foraging…
|January 5, 2010||Posted by ameliaps under any season, books, foraging, herbs, pesto, plants, sauces, vegetarian|
Yesterday I went to the library (I go once a week) to treat myself to some lost and forgotten books. I love digging for treasures, even in the food section.
As I was seraching for edible plants, I found “The Wild, Wild Cookbook: A Guide for Young Wild-Food Foragers“, a 1919 book by Jean Craighead George: what a delectable find! I like this book because it is divided by season, rather than other books that classify by type of plant. See below for an index by season from the book (*). Also, here is an online resources for further reading on edible wild plants.
I have always been fascinated by wild food forgaing. It is something I remember doing when I was growing up in Italy. Effectively we still have in us the genes from our primitive gathering and foraging days.
I remember one summer – I must have been 4 years old or close – in which my mother found me sucking on these tender juicy floor-gathered fruits: it was the dates of a tropical palm tree in our garden!!! She took a sigh of relief the next day when I did not die poisoned…and as a matter of fact we all still eat off those dates when the season comes and they are amazing!!! I was really adventurous as a child and I also remember sucking the shoots of clovers (trifolium), a green lime-herb tasting nectar!
The spring would be for fiddleheads (pteridium aquilinum), the crunchy curly buds of the bracken fern. These might be eaten as is or sauteed as a wonderful side. Spring was also the time to collect little violets (violaceae) which would be candied with egg white and sugar to decorate cakes (my grandmother loves these). If you are lucky enough you can also find wild ramps (allium tricoccum) for frittatas and soups.
In the summer wild plants would grow on the walls along my path to the sea: purslane (porcellana in Italian, portulaca oleracea in Latin) and chicory (cichorium intybus) which make delicious crispy and refreshing salads – just add fresh juicy tomatoes and a drizzle of oil and salt. We’d also find stinging nettle (urtica dioica), which makes great soups or risotto – just be careful and use gloves whne picking it because yes, it does sting before it’s blanched! Then, on our trips at sea to the islands in Sicily we would find delicious prickly pears (opuntia fulgide). It was so amazing to see such juicy-ness come out of a desert spiny thing… I remember one more thing we would do in the summer: wild flower fritters with a delicate flour and sparkling water batter: we would use wisteria (wisteria floribunda) bunches – oh so beautiful – and dandelions (taraxacum officinale).Then there was the discovery of heaven…tiny little uber-fragrant wild strawbeeries. Wow: a burst of flowers in your mouth. We would season them with a few drops of old barrel aged balsamic vinegar and sugar.
I would head to the woods in autum with my father to find black walnuts (juglans nigra): once you peel off the dark soft skin the flesh is white and the sweetest nut meal you have ever tasted. We’d make fresh pesto or just eat them as is. My mother would preserve the husks and make a strong digestiv with them (nocino), with the addition of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. We would also find some pinyon pines (pinus edulis) right in our garden (we’d roast therm on coals to crack them and shell them. Their aroma vaguely resembles pine-nut, but it sooo much more fragrant.
I’ve never been good at distinguishing mushrooms, but my brother in law, who has a house in the Abruzzi National Forest, is excellent at it and brings back some wonderful porcini (boletus edulis) and other exquisite finds.
And while I live in the city and it is hard to forage for foods, I do keep an herb and vegetable garden in my backyard, with raised beds that my husban built, rotating by season:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin Olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts or pinyon nuts (lightly toasted)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Place basil leaves in small batches in mortar and pestle (or food processor) and work until well chopped (do about 3/4 cup at a time). Add about 1/3 the nuts and garlic, blend again.
Add about 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese; blend while slowly adding about 1/3 of the olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides of container.
Process basil pesto until it forms a thick smooth paste. Repeat until all ingredients are used, mix all batches together well. Serve over pasta. Basil pesto keeps in refrigerator one week, or freezer for a few months.
I have transcribed below the index by season (with the Latin name) from the “The Wild, Wild Cookbook: A Guide for Young Wild-Food Foragers”:
Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum)
Cholla (Opuntia fulgide)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)
Plantain (Plantago major and P. lanceolata)
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin)
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica and C. lanceolata)
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Day Lily (Hemerocallis)
Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum tribolum)
Elderberry (Sambucus callicarpa, S. canadensis, S. melanacarpa, and S. mexicana)
Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaecacantha and O. humifus)
Raspberries and Blackberries (Rubus)
Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)
Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
Currants and Goosberries (Ribes)
Grass seeds (e.g. Sporobolus cryptandrus, Panicum ontusum, Panicum capillars)
Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus)
Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis, P. monophylla, and P. cembroides)
Squawberry or Staghorn Sumac (Rhus tribolata and R. typhina)
Sunflower seeds (Helianthus annus)
Wild Rose (Rosa arizonica, R. palustris, and R. acicularis)
ALL YEAR ‘ROUND
Sabal Palmetto (Sabal palmetto)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Wishakapucka or Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum)