Foraging

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                                                                                                                                                             

Yes, You Can Find Yummy Wild Edibles in Winter

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but once the snow, sleet and freezing rain passes and the winds die down, it's time to head out for pine needles, birch bark and rose hips. Some foraged foods are meant to be
harvested in winter.

One advantage of learning how the plants look in all seasons is that you know just where to go when it's time to harvest.

                            Pine needles are rich in Vitamin C.

                            Pine needles are rich in Vitamin C.

Pine needles, the mature leaves of the pine tree, are very high in Vitamin C. They so familiar and accessible that we tend to walk right by them without really paying attention to them. All you need is a handful of pine needles, gathered nearest the trunk, where they are highest in Vitamin C. Making pine needle tea is as easy as boiling water.

                              Beautiful, icy rose hips in winter.

                              Beautiful, icy rose hips in winter.

Rose hips are the seeds of the wild roses have lost their blossoms, the bright red berries, are actually quite palatable after a night below freezing temperatures. I like rose hip tea best, but rose hips can be found in other recipes.

I do not know why the liquid created from the inner bark of the birch tree is called "beer." But common names are typically confusing. Winter is the only time to harvest the flavorful cambium, the layer between the inner bark and the wood, for a delicious beverage.

The technique for harvesting the cambium and preparing this beverage are easy, but you need to follow the procedure to ensure you do not harm the birch tree. This tree is easy to identify even without its leaves, because it has the distinct smell of wintergreen. Birch tree branches that have been broken during a storm are the easiest to harvest. You want a branch that is roughly as thick around as two fingers.  Use a paring knife or your pocket knife to shave the bark. Hold the knife at an angle when you do this and you will be able to see three layers. The outer layer is thin, like paper, the inner layer is the hard wood, and the middle layer is soft and easy to scrape. The soft middle layer, called cambium, is what you will use to make this beverage.

                                                                                                        Birch beer shavings.

                                                                                                        Birch beer shavings.

Winter is the the most challenging time of year to forage for plants. Our ancestors needed a large supply of stored food and remarkable hunting skills to survive winter. Maybe that is why my foraging soul finds pine needles, rose hips and birch bark so precious.

Welcome!

I'm so excited to start a new year with a brand new website to bring the joys and benefits of foraging to a new audience. I've been a forager, lover of fresh, healthful food and environmentalist all my life. In 2015, my goal is to grow a community of Urban, Suburban and Rural Foragers armed with the knowledge to find great natural foods easily without harming the land or animals that live there.