foraging

Apple Grape Fruit Leather

This past week when visiting friends, we were offered some of the grapes that were growing as a carport.  What a beautiful gift to be given!  I took a bag full.  They also offered us some apples from a tree that had split and fallen down.  I’m amidst so much processing of food at the moment that I didn’t take too much of either offering.  What I did take however, I turned into something wonderful!

I juiced the grapes and then poured the remaining mash through a strainer, mashing it with a spoon to extract as much juice and fine pulp as I could.  I ended up with 24oz. The remaining pulp was enjoyed by my chickens!

Then I took 24 apples, cored them and put them through the food processor, mixing them with the grape juice to help the processor blend the fruit better.  I blend the fruit until it is very smooth, like a store bought applesauce texture.

This makes for a thinner and more flexible end product.  I poured the mixture (done in two batches) out on Excalibur teflex sheets to dehydrate at 145˚ for 45 minutes to warm it up, then at 115˚ overnight.  This technique drastically reduces drying time, but doesn’t heat the food enough in the initial 45 minutes to ‘cook’ it, so it remains a raw food.  The result was great.  If I were to make it again though, I would use less apples for the amount of grape juice I had, just to make it taste more like grapes.   If I didn’t have too much to do already, I’d be out there foraging for more grapes and apples!

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Summer Freedoms

I love this time of year.  This time of year where snack time means wild foraging.  Strawberries, mulberries, black caps, sorrel, wood sorrel, clover, mallow.  It is a time where shoes (and pants) are optional.  A time where dirt is added to our diet like a food group.  There are special memories being made under this summer sun.  They are the memories that will feed my children’s future.  They will know how to find food to eat from the wild.  But more importantly, they will know how to find and experience joy.  Summer days are made for love.

Salsify Stem Stirfry

Young salsify buds and leaves

The salsify has spread across our property.  A main criticism of planting salsify is that it spreads so readily.  I haven’t figured out why this is a problem yet.  Usually we hold out until fall when we harvest salsify roots, but since we have such an abundance of shoots in our yard, we have harvested young salsify stems and flower buds this spring to fry them up!  The result was a wonderfully mild cooked green that was easy to harvest and prepare.

Salsify fry with pine nuts and pepitas

To make this, young salsify leaves, stems and buds were placed in a cast iron frying pan with butter.  At a medium-high heat I fried them until they were starting to soften.  Then I threw in some pepitas (hulless pumpkin seeds) and pine nuts.  I served it up once the greens had gone limp.  This has become a staple vegetable on our spring table.

Edible Weeds – Forage Your Yard!

“A weed is a plant whose virtue is not yet known”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a photo tour of five ‘weeds’ likely growing in your yard that you can eat!  We use all six to make our ‘weed salads’ which we eat all summer long!  The children love finding and eating many of these plants in the yard as well.  There are several other uses for each as well.  Weeds are great at up-taking nutrients from the soil, so eating them provides a great source of vitamins and minerals.  Their nutrient density is far greater than that of cultivated greens, as they grow in places where they will thrive, not in soils used repeatedly for mono-cropping.  With that in mind, be careful where you harvest from, ensuring the area has not been sprayed or contaminated.  To avoid this problem, we harvest from our own yard.  So, here’s my list of edible weeds to try:

1: Lambsquarters – a beautifully mild and soft leaf.  Great substitute for spinach in recipes, but we usually eat it raw as a nice base for salad.  Leaves can also be dried and powdered to make a flour substitute.  Lambsquarters has the second highest in nutrition of all wild foods following Amaranth.  It is high in Vitamin A and K, and also a great source of calcium and protein.

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Lambsquarters

 

2: Plantain – young leaves make a nice addition to salad in moderation, as the leaves can be a bit tough.  Older leaves can be cooked like spinach or used it instead of cabbage for ‘cabbage rolls.’  Rich in iron and vitamins A and C.  As a side note, plantain is great when used as a poultice on stings or bites, just chew it up, spit it out, and pile it on top of the affected area, covering with a large leaf or bandage to hold it in place.

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Plantain

 

3: Clover – Lovely little round leaves and flowers that make a nice addition to a salad as well.  The petals of the flowers have a beautiful sweet taste, so I usually pluck them before serving to take advantage of this!  It is also considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones.  It makes a lovely tea and can be brewed to assist with women’s moon cycles or menopause.  Clover is a source of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.

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Clover

4: Mallow – a soft mild tasting, but slightly mucilaginous leaf (gummy-like quality once chewed) that makes a nice addition to salads.  The flowers are also edible, but the cheeses (flower buds) are particularly good!  Great source or flavinoids and vitamin C.  Another side note, Mallow tea left to steep for a long time in not quite boiling water is great for dry coughs or hoarseness.

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Mallow
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Mallow Cheese

5: Wood Sorrel – I saved my favourite for last!  This ‘weed’ is everywhere and tastes amazing!  Its distinctive heart shaped leaves make it particularly easy to spot.  It has a sour, lemony flavour.  It makes a delicious addition to salads, including its little yellow flowers.  The leaves are soft and delectable.  We also use this plant as a garnish for the top of soups.  Although I haven’t done it yet, I’m sure if I collected enough of it, I could make a sorrel soup!  High in oxalic acid, so should not be consumed in large quantities often as it inhibits the uptake of calcium.  This ‘weed’ is particularly high in vitamin C, and has historically been used to treat scurvy.

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Wood Sorel

Hosta and Asparagus Tofu

Spring is here!  Which also means that foraging dinner from our yard has begun.  Our asparagus is up and delicious when it makes it inside the house. It is often consumed as a fresh snack, so it never sees the kitchen!  Our hostas have also started poking their spears up through the ground.  When tightly coiled, they can be cooked and eaten.  Once they leaf out, they get rather tough and chewy.  My cooking at this time of year is inspired by what I find just outside the door.  For this stir fry I used some butter to fry the tofu, added in the asparagus once it started to brown.  Just before serving I added the hosta spears until the leaves wilted.  I served it over some quinoa with a splash of Braggs.  Verdict: delicious!