Forage and Dine

This past Sunday The Farm on Adderley hosted a two-part event inspired by wild edible plants. Part one was me leading a foraging tour in Prospect Park. In the evening, the participants reconvened at the restaurant to feast on Chef Tom Kearney’s wild foods-inspired dinner.

He started us off with a clear soda infused with lilac flowers and bishop’s elder. There were some unusual wines on offer from Enlightenment Wines that included ingredients such as rosehips and black currants.

The six course meal started off with grilled spring onions and a harissa yogurt (okay, that part wasn’t so “wild.” But it was delicious). Then came a beet salad with walnut puree, chickweed, and elm samaras (apologies for the funky lighting in the pics – it was pretty dark in the restaurant).

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After that came pan-seared skate with fiddleheads and trout roe (yum!), then pasta stuffed with nettles, ricotta, and miner’s lettuce (very good, but it made me chuckle because it was the third day in a row that I’d eaten nettles).adderly3-sm

We were all starting to feel full by that point, but the next dishes were too good to pass up.

The final savory offering was a poached egg on top of farro grain with a pistou of foraged herbs. I couldn’t quite tell which foraged herbs, but the overall combination worked. (Remind me to ask Chef Tom).

Dessert was a wonderful elderflower panna cotta with wood sorrel granita.

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Eater’s Log, 2nd Week of April 2012

foraging-haul-smI’m racing to keep up with the abundance of wild edible plants in season right now, plus making the most of all the fresh herbs that are back up in the garden. It’s a lovely problem to have.

Some things are weeks ahead of schedule thanks to the warm March, others are the April regulars, and they’re happening simultaneously. Violets, redbud blossoms, Siberian elm samaras, Japanese knotweed, ramps, nettles, garlic mustard…and that’s just for starters.

I’m also using up some of my food preservation pantry to make space in my freezer and on my shelves for the seasonal parade of fruit crops. One “use up” that turned out especially well was freshly foraged Japanese knotweed (tastes similar to rhubarb) plus strawberries from my freezer that I turned into a sorbet.

sorbet-sm

Confession: I canned way too much applesauce last year. Solution: turn some of it into fruit leathers. These make a handy grab-and-go snack that is much more portable than lugging a heavy glass pint jar of applesauce in my bag.

Fruit leather roll up made from home-canned applesauce
Fruit leather roll up made from home-canned applesauce

I came up with a semi-wild vegetarian meal that was really delicious. It was nettles and garlic mustard greens on rice with miso and wild ginger glazed tofu. I guess the nettles and wild ginger don’t really count as “wild” since I encourage patches of both in my garden:

greens-tofu-sm

The dandelions are in their annual full flush of blooms right now, which means the greens are already too bitter for my palate. What to do? Well, you might feel like trying out the recipe for dandelion wine that is at the end of this piece on wild edibles.

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Forager’s Log – 1st Week of April, 2012

Violets
Violets

The mild winter and warm start to spring have resulted in a foraging bonanza: Some plants I would normally be harvesting in April, such as violets and redbud,

Redbud
Redbud

are blooming right alongside plants like poke shoots that are usually a May wild crop.

Garlic mustard is already at that most delicious, broccoli rabe-like, just-starting-to-flower stage.

Garlic Mustard
Garlic Mustard

I missed dandelion greens altogether this year. They turn bitter after the plants flower. Usually the main flush of dandelion bloom is about a month from now, but when I got back from my recent trip they were already flashing their sunny yellow hue.

Dandelion wine, dandelion flower fritters, dandelion root “coffee,” dandelion as herbal medicine – there’s still plenty to do with this plant ally. But I’m sorry to have missed the wild greens.

From the pics my fellow foragers are posting on Facebook, Japanese knotweed’s rhubarb-like stalks are ready for collecting, also ahead of the usual schedule.

Nettles are ready now, too. They lose their sting when cooked or dried and are one of the most nutritious and, in my opinion, tasty wild greens.

Nettles
Nettles

I’ll probably combine them with garlic mustard and toss that with some pasta for dinner tonight. Maybe throw in some of the tomatoes I dried last year, some herbs from the garden, olive oil, and grated cheese.

Juneberry blossoms
Juneberry blossoms

The Juneberry Ellen gave me is blooming, as are its cousins in the park. I just checked my foraging/garden log for past years, and usually it hasn’t bloomed in my garden until the 3rd week of April. So I guess maybe they’ll be “Mayberries” this year.

My next foraging tour is this Saturday. Want to join me?

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The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes