"wild food" news and stories
There are several plants I am familiar with that are considered weeds. Dandelion comes to mind instantly. We'll wait till fall to talk more about our little yellow lawn devils. I was shopping in the Union Square Greenmarket recently during a lunchtime walk, and amongst the multi-colored organic carrots and varietal greens, was purslane. Purlsane is a slightly succulent sprawling weed, with thick reddish stems. It radiates out, flat to the ground from a central root. I had seen this plant in my garden and flower beds before learning from one of my books what it was. Purslane is raised as a crop in other parts of the world, where it is used raw as a salad green, or cooked like spinach. Here we relentlessly pull it from the garden, and just throw it away. I had told a neighbor of mine that seemed to be overrun with the stuff to save it for me a few years ago.
Brambles are in season! What are brambles? Raspberries, blackberries, dewberries, swampberries, boysenberries, cloudberries, black caps, and any other wonderful members of the rose family that produce an aggregate berry. A recent trip to Kingston Point Park in Kingston, NY, had us eating almost everything we could pick.
The berries that grew at the point were what the locals here commonly call black caps. These are wild black raspberries. They are usually found on upright, thorny, raspberry canes, and look like a slightly smaller version of the commercial variety. The taste is excellent.
Amy and Alec found a nice stand of wild red raspberries, looking much like commercial ones, and a few bushes of the odd, maple-leafed, purple-flowering-raspberry near Esopus, NY. These are also upright plants and easy to locate. You can spot them well in advance in the Spring with their small, white, flowers. The purple flowering raspberry has a very showy rose-like purple flower.
Blackberries, dewberries, and swampberries, grow along runners tangled in the weeds. These berries have larger aggregrate parts than the raspberry-like fruits, just like store-bought blackberries.
Back when I first wrote about cattails, I promised a return to the subject soon for something I described as cattails on the cob. Allow me to explain this delicacy to you. In the late spring, if you watch cattail plants, you will notice that the well known sausage-like fruits of the cattail plant start to mature inside of the central leaves. Look at the leaves for a swelling and pull them out of the plant. If you slowly peel the husks away, you will find the two parts of the cattail flower inside. The upper, or male part of the flower is what we're after. These green spikes will bloom and produce pollen once they emerge from the husk which makes the season very short. If you find too many already blooming, don't fret, because the pollen is another of the offerings of this amazing plant.
Amy, Alec, and I journeyed Saturday once again to The Great Vly Swamp, in West Camp, New York. While Amy and Alec sought after dragonflies and birds to photograph, I started checking the cattails. I had just caught the season at the tail end, as many of the flowers were covered with pollen, and some of the sausage-like seed heads had already started to form. Even this late in the season, I still managed to harvest enough of the flower spikes to make an interesting side dish. Before we left the swamp, I grabbed a clean bag and collected some pollen by carefully bending the stem of the pollen covered flower into the bag and hitting the stem a couple of times. I managed to get about half a cup, but could have collected a lot more.
A quick look around before leaving gave me some other reasons to return to the swamp at a later date. Pickerelweed which will produce a nutty snack food in the early fall, and arrowheads, which produce a good wild potato substitute.
- How to make tortillas and frittatas.
- Foods gone wild.
- The Plonk of the Month.
- The world of gastropubs.
- Who has the best hot dog in America?
- A review of Fast & Fit.
- Restaurants reviews: Village Grille and Cafe Italia.
- This week's recipes: Five Spice Lamb, Spicy Chicken with Orange-Mustard Sauce, Aromatic Couscous, and Lemon-Pepper Fettuccine with Asparagus and Shrimp.