Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Late Summer Foraging Workshop - Part 2

Continuing on with our recent foraging workshop. Doug took us to an area that had acres of wild sunflowers. Not as large as what we're used to seeing but still a good food source. I didn't find them ideal for the restaurant setting except maybe grinding them into a praliné or possibly the old pickled mustard seed trick.

You can see they're very small but full of flavor and oils. Harvesting time is early September through early October. Simply pull the heads and set them to dry in the sun until you can crush the seeds out with your hands.

Here's one that might be new to you - bullrush.

Found in marshy areas and they look like lemongrass stalks with Johnsongrass heads. Pull the stalks straight out and eat raw. I found the flavors underwhelming but filling.

Next Doug covered cattails. We had seen these in our previous workshop but this time Doug pulled one for us to enjoy the corm and root. So he waded in...

...and rinsed his harvest in the river...

...trimmed it up a bit for us by removing the small hairlike roots...

...and cleaned it a bit more by trimming any rot, rough root, dirt...

...and finally cutting about 2" above the root system. There are a few components of this section of the cattail. First is the corm - the tubar section, next is the roots which are the smaller hairlike threads, and finally are the starter shoots. The tubar is best enjoyed raw and is almost cucumber in taste, and in fact, is how I use it - to simulate or replace a cucumber component. They make great martini twizzlers. The long tubar roots are where you get cattail "flour" for breads. This is an old-time technique. Doug explained the process as crushing the roots on a rock then putting them in cold water. Using your hands squish and coax the roots and watch as "flour" comes out which will eventually settle on the bottom of your pot. Simply strain and dry and then you can use it in breads. The starter shoots are great for a quick snack or on salads - trim, clean and serve.

Evening Primrose was coming into full seed during the workshop. It has ample essential fatty acids but has to be fresh.

The flowers are delicious but don't eat the callick - the green that holds the flower as its very bitter. The plant is a biannual.

The seed pods have four chambers and are full of tasty seeds. The flavor actually starts off astringent but then switches over to a buttery or eggy flavor - interesting potential!

The primrose leaves are good but need to be prepared properly. Pull out the whole plant cleaning off the dead leaves. Clean the roots and then cook for two hours in lots of water, changing the water once. The leaves will boil down into a sludge which I recommend for quiche, omelets and such.

On the walk we stumbled upon Poor Man's Mustard.

Not much to say except it tastes like mustard and would be nice in salads. Its really too small and not prolific enough for me to look at doing much more than that with it.

My favorite plant of this workshop was purlsane.

Amazing crunch and abundant through our monsoon season. That said, I have only seen it on the day of the workshop. Doug also called this plant porthulaga but I can't find any references for that name - probably the Spanish colloquial word for it.

Another of my favorites - Fourwing Salt Bush.

Some day I'll write more about this since I've been using it as a salt source for my food for the past year. I don't know that its any healthier than table salt but the more subtle flavor is great with almost everything. I like wrapping fish is salt bush branches and steaming them.

Part 3 coming soon...


SharleneT said...

I just cleared my fern garden of tons of purslane and cook it up with some spinach greens. Very good. I'm waiting for my fairy rings to show up (another few weeks) for a great supply of mushrooms.

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