Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Foraging –A Walk on the Wild Side
I am passionate about identifying, finding, preparing and eating edible wild foods and medicinal plants. I have always been interested in natural remedies and enjoy an organic lifestyle; however it is more meaningful to me after researching my Native American ancestry and the character of “Nellie” or Nanatasis in my forthcoming historical novel, Etched in Granite.
Nellie – of Abenaki descent – shares her knowledge of the healing powers of wild plants, nuts, seeds and roots. I broadened my practice of foraging following my research and find it to be especially significant during these uncertain times. To be able to harvest indigenous plants from the early thawing spring, to lush summer, into the abundance of fall and then hibernate in the deep freeze of winter –is a forager’s dream. The offerings of woods, hills, fields, streams and lakes of New Hampshire are plentiful, often missed and ripe for plucking.
A few days ago, I came across Evening Primrose in the early phase. It is never too early for Evening Primrose, even if they are poking out of the snow; they are good.
First of all, they are a biennial; I was seeking the first year’s taproot. The young leaves – long, slender with a trace of red on the ends – are flat on the ground extending outwards from the center. The optimum time to harvest is before the leaves are upright. It is a short season; once the weather gets warm they grow quickly and become bitter to taste.
Most folks are accustomed to acknowledging them later and in their second year when they have tiny yellow blossoms – these are not the roots to look for; the nutrition has gone into flowering.
I freed the roots – creamy white with a dark pink band at the base – with my hand trowel and filled my basket. Sitting comfortably on the porch steps, I shook away the loose dirt and discarded pieces of debris such as pine needles and dead leaves. I went into the kitchen and rinsed them thoroughly under cool water. Next, I cut the greens from the top and set them aside in a colander. I scrubbed the roots with a copper pot scrubber, which I believe is easier than using a knife or peeler since they are generally about three to four inches long, although some can be the size of a medium carrot.
The greens can be added to a salad or boiled for approximately five minutes and then served with butter, salt and pepper.
The taste is unique – sweet and mild, similar to a spicy turnip.
The roots should be boiled for a minimum of ten and not more than fifteen minutes. Keep it simple with butter, salt and pepper or jazz up the roots by adding grated Parmesan cheese, vinegar or anything that inspires you. To tone down their sharp bite without snuffing them out, serve with potatoes and sour cream.
Going for a walk on the wild side is exhilarating. Exploring what each season brings in abundance with joyfulness and delight cannot be rivaled. Fill your basket, fill your plate, fill your belly, and fill your soul.
(Journal - Babies Breath)