Wild Edible Basics

Wild Edible Basics

Tender Tops: My Clean and Easy Technique for Harvesting Wild Edibles

Foraging is about working smarter, not harder. Nothing is more satisfying than coming home with enough freshly picked wild ingredients to create or enhance a recipe.

You eliminate most of the hard work by using your folding scissors or small knife to cut the tender tops of green plants like lamb's quarters, quickweed or even knotweed. You're not going to eat the more mature, tough parts of the plant anyway, so there is no need to carry that extra weight.

Take a close look at this photo for how to harvest lamb's quarters. As you can see, the scissors is taking just the top of the plant. Notice the waxed paper in the background. 

Unless you are harvesting wild roots, you do not need to pull up the entire plant. This was about fifteen minutes of work, including folding the waxed paper so my leaves stay fresh and don't bruise.

Once you are back in the kitchen, you want to make sure your wild gathered ingredients are free of pollen or insects. Sturdier leaves can be rinsed in cold water and spun in a salad spinner.

More delicate plants, like wood sorrel and Asiatic day flower blossom can be misted with a plant sprayer and blotted dry with a lint-free towel or paper towel.

That's it! 

 

Wild Edible Basics

Japanese Knotweed: Myriad Uses, Amazing Flavor

                          Freshly foraged Japanese knotweed

                         Freshly foraged Japanese knotweed

If you like rhubarb, then Japanese knotweed is for you. Not everyone has access to a fresh rhubarb patch, but Japanese knotweed is one of those invasives that spreads faster than you can harvest and eat it. Japanese knotweed is tender for about three weeks before it becomes too tough to be worth harvesting. Gather as much as you can in that time, and use it in salads, sauces, compotes, jams, pies and every way you would use rhubarb. In the field, the segmented Japanese knotweed stalks look a lot like bamboo making it easy to recognize, although the leaves of these two unrelated plants are different. The best knotweed stalks are flexible and less than 12 inches high, about as thick as asparagus. I like to cut them 1-2 inches above the ground and trim off the tips and leaves while in the field. Once I get them home, I'll peel the outer skin. Early in the season, I cut them up and marinade them before adding them to a knotweed mushroom salad. You can simply peel them and freeze them for later use without having to blanch them in boiling water. I actually prefer to peel, cut and cook the knotweed until it has the consistency of applesauce. You can strain this for a smooth consistency or incorporate the stringy pulp into your recipe. Cooked knotweed has a greenish yellow color, so to make it prettier, I usually add frozen blueberries, which turns it a lovely purple color. My personal preference is for the texture of rustic cut, rather than diced or finely chopped ingredients. I like to peel and cut very ripe apples and pears in to the knotweed blueberry mix and cook everything over low heat, adding water as needed until the fruit mix is the consistency of chunky applesauce. This basic fruit mix can be flavored using cinnamon and cloves, or ginger, or any flavor you prefer.

Timeline
1-2 Days Before

Harvest asparagus-size shoots 1"-2" above the ground
Trim tops and leaves
Peel the smooth outer skin from the stalks
Cut into bite size pieces and freeze what you do not use immediately
For fruit mix, combine in a saucepan:
2 cups knotweed pieces
1 each – apple and pear cut into pieces
1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 ounces water
Bring the mix to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer. Covered the pan so the steam escapes, let everything cook 15 minutes. Add another half cup of water and simmer until all the ingredients are soft. Strain mixture for a smooth texture or leave it as is for a chunky texture. Refrigerate what you will eat in the next seven days. Freeze any excess for future use.
Serving options:
Add to yoghurt, ice cream, hot cereal.
Freeze in ice cube trays - insert a popsicle stick before freezing.
As a pie filling
As a side dish
                    

Shopping List:
Foraged Items:

Enough knotweed shoots to yield two cups per recipe
Pantry Items:
Apples, pears, blueberries, or any ripe fruit
Oatmeal - quick or old fashioned
Maple syrup
Vanilla
Cinnamon
Ginger