Friday, May 13, 2011

Foraging and Feasting

Foraging, you ask?  Why, yes!  Last Saturday Graham and I headed southeast to Moonstone Farm and the annual 'Grasp the Nettle' workshop.  Moonstone Farm is a lovely place, run by lovely farmers Audrey and Richard.  We had a group of about fifteen wild foodies hiking around the woods and streams learning about eating off the land, and afterward we all worked together to forage our own ingredients to prepare a spring greens feast.

I was assigned to Team Nettle.  Three of us cut enough nettle sprigs to feed a small army.

This picture shows only half of what we picked.  We washed and drained them three times to get out the grit.  After washing, we put the nettles in a crockpot with butter and olive oil to simmer down.  Cooking serves to nullify the sting of the plant.  After it's cooked, it tastes somewhat like spinach.

We also had some ramps to play with.  Aren't they pretty?  These were sliced, and some were added to my nettle dish and others added to a burdock stir fry.

Here is Team Burdock, cutting and washing and peeling burdock roots.  They probably had the hardest job of all of us.  You've got to dig a few feet down to get to the tender part of the root.

The root, ready for slicing.

Slicing and sauteing burdock in olive oil.

Here's Team Salad, cutting cattail roots.  At least the person on the right is cutting cattail roots.  I'm not exactly sure what the person on the left is slicing. 

Some of the nettles went into a large pot for a spezz-something soup.  (I forgot the name of it, but it's Italian and has eggs, cheese and sausage in it as well.)  We also were treated to some dandelion flower tempura, which was very yummy.  Graham helped pick the dandelion heads.

Audrey had some nettle pasta made for us already.

One person made a dandelion leaf pesto.

The sliced burdock was added to some garlic chives and Solomon seal in a tasty stir-fry.

My friend Rebecca was on Team Salad, mixing together violet leaves, cattail root and virginia waterleaf with violet flowers sprinkled on top.

My favorite dish of the day was definitely the soup, with the burdock stir-fry and wild greens salad tied for second.  The nettle pasta was pretty good, but the dandelion pesto was too spicy for my tastes.  The worst dish of the day--my sauteed nettles.  Other people liked them, but I didn't care for them at all.

Graham had a grand time as well.  He spent the day playing with a new friend, and I only had to talk him down from the porch roof twice.  Here he is trying to light a dandelion head on fire.  His favorite dish was the nettle pasta.

So, with the current crop of dandelions in my garden (and me not able to till or mulch them), plus the nettle in the goat pen (that the goats refuse to eat), and the bountiful amounts of burdock in my yard, I could feed my family for days on end.  And who knows, I just might try.  Foraging for wild food is much easier (and much tastier) than it seems.


Anonymous said...

Love the sharp clear photos, I think my yard is very foragable. I know i have burdock, nettles, dandelions and solomon's seal, or maybe it is false solomon's seal. Rob asked me what it was a couple of years ago, and i have forgotten how to delineate them.

Erin said...

What a haul! Looks like a great experience and fun times! We have the ramps here in the woods, but I would love to have nettle for tea, I might have to look into that - I keep thinking about actually planting some, but haven't gotten around to it.

Mama Pea said...

Wow, what an incredibly interesting day! I've only tried burdock once (purchased at an organic foods co-op) and we didn't care for it at all. But I have a sneaky suspicion it was old. :o( How great to be able to sample all that "wild" food at it's optimum freshness!

Erin, be careful about planting nettle . . . it's been my experience it's way worse than raspberry suckers! I planted it in a raised bed thinking I could contain it but soon found it ALL OVER the garden. Five years after destroying it (or trying to) I'm still finding it popping up!

Erin said...

Thanks for the tip - I definitely am done with that kind of stuff LOL, I'll do a search for the wild version!

Karen said...

Sorry, girl. Give me ordinary lettuce salad and egg noodles any day!

Jo said...

Yes, although the nettle in the soup was tasty, I wouldn't advise planting it. It will take over everything, and spread everywhere!

Joelie, Audrey did speak a bit about the difference between real and false solomon's seal, but I wasn't listening close enough to catch it. More research is necessary...