Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Foraging Tour and Oil Lamps

We just led our first official Foraging tour, and were pleasantly surprised at how well it went. We had about twenty folks there, and planned th' tour for two hours. But as always with foraging, there's no end of surprises. 

There were lots of kids, and they found a nice little hobo shelter to play in while we talked about th' yellow dock plant, and learned how to twist dogbane into a nice string, which me and Josh used for oil lamp wicks.

Rosemary with a nicely twisted string

th' kids in their hobo shelter

Friday, May 10, 2013

Stalking th' wild Asparagus, and other spring goodies

I awake- have a cup of coffee and read the asparagus chapter from Euell Gibbbon's Stalking the Wild Asparagus. That's my goal today. Asparagus.

Spring greens are growing like weeds around here. Oh wait, they are weeds. Anyway, started off th' harvesting with some Salsify plants, also known as Oyster roots.

Oyster roots
  At first glance Salsify looks a lot like th' grass it grows amongst. You gotta put on your "Salsify Eyes", and then they stand out from th' crowd.
You can eat  this whole plant, th' tops tasting like a sweet, almost creamy green,
a good addition to a salad. But th' cream of th' crop here is th' root, which when roasted or baked becomes an incredible delicacy that can't be bought from a store. We wrote a previous post on these, and how to find them amongst th' grass in which they grow, and that they hide very well amongst.

From there it was on to the asparagus. It was just beginning to sprout, mostly what i harvested was tips, but oh were they good tips. In th' words of a first time asparagus forager who accompanied me, "it tastes like,,,,th' way food should taste." 

Like th' Salsify, you gotta put on your "Asparagus Eyes" when huntin these guys. 
Asparagus spreads by rhizomes, so Look for last years stalks, and check th' ground around them. Below is a picture of an old Asparagus stalk, on th' right, and a yet to be identified plant whose stalk looks kinda similar, and usually grows in th' same location. With a little experience, these old stalks look unique, and can be told apart even from a vehicle moving thirty miles an hour down th' road.

 Below are some blanched spears, or spears that've grown under debris, making them white, and tender, more so than th' green ones poking up into th' sun.

Also on the agenda, i got us a good Curly Dock harvest. 

This is a hearty green, which makes a mean saag paneer, and goes really well in lasagne, or enchiladas. And it's one of our most easily identifiable wild foods. Just look for last years rust colored seed stalks. 

And some bitter lettuce, or compass plant. These truly are bitter, but still make a good cooked vegetable, and if you've built up your bitter palate, in this stage they are quite good. It's called compass plant because when it gets older all of it's leaves turn and face th' same direction, ie, that of th' sun. 

And there's always something unexpected waiting to be found. Like a toy boat sailing amidst a patch of Watercress.

And still, after almost a month, thanks to our late season coldness and excessive snow/rain, we're harvesting th' purple "Musk" Mustard. 

I love my job. Being a professional forager definitely isn't going to make anyone rich, monetarily. But when i find a diversity of vegetables greater than i can buy in th' supermarkets, and th' only price i have to pay is being outside gathering them, observing th' world i love, sometimes with th' people i love, getting hot, getting rained on, getting wet, drying off, seeing a fawn and it's mother grazing in a field, watching th' clouds dance above,  i find it an acceptable price to pay. Especially when th' view from my "office" looks like this.

Or when i'm gazing upon Ft. Collins' hidden canyon.

In th' words of Madeleine L'Engle, "Being alive is a marvelous, precarious mystery, and few people appreciate it."