Monday, May 20, 2013

Foraging Adventure

I mentioned in an earlier post that I decided to try some foraging the other day.  Actually, it's certainly not my first adventure in foraging.  Since I was very young, I've loved the idea of foraging.  I quickly learned to recognize the wild raspberry canes, and knew exactly when they came out (when the old fashioned dayliles [aka ditch lilies, tiger lilies] are out are out, around the 4th of July).  I also knew that crab apples, though quite sour, were good for eating if you prepared them properly, and I would sneak around at night harvesting all the neighborhood's crab trees so no one would think I was totally nuts.  And don't forget the wild strawberries, which are so heavenly compared to store bought berries  I wanted to learn more about foraging, but it wasn't cool back in those days, and I couldn't find out very much about it. 

To be honest, I still don't know as much as I'd like about foraging, but one of these days I plan on getting a thorough book or taking a class on it.  The idea kind of draws me to it.  There's some kind of magic in being able to go out and find food just growing all by itself.  This really cool article, about how you should just leave your kids alone, mentions how kids long to go out and gather and cook their own food, and says that it has to do with freedom.  To be able to go out and provide for yourself means you're free, and I think I agree with that thought. 

One thing I've known for a long time is edible is the humble dandelion.  When I first found that out as a teenager, I thought it was the coolest thing on earth.  But people hate dandelions, so anytime I would mention it, everyone was totally grossed out.  OMG, you want to eat a WEED?!  Nevermind the fact that most of our cultivated vegetables started out as weeds, and some still can be weeds if you're not careful (you ever try keeping mint or strawberries in one spot?). 

So when I went weeding around my raspberry canes the other day and came across these beautiful, long, luscious looking dandelion greens, I knew it was time.  I had to give up my dandelion virginity.

I picked a pretty good sized bowlful of them before deciding I shouldn't overdo it my first time.  There were so many, though, that I probably could have gotten three times this much just from the base of my raspberries.

Then I thoroughly washed them and picked out all the ones with little orange bug eggs on them.  I probably could have kept the bug eggs and added nutrients that we don't normally get to our diet, but that's totally disgusting to my sensitive American sensibilities.

I read on the internet that dandelion greens make an excellent salad, and that they taste mostly like arugula.  But I really don't like arugula.  I'm really sensitive to bitter tastes (stupid supertaster abilities), so I figured the best way to start was to find a way to use these greens like frozen spinach greens. 

As it turns out, if you parboil dandelion greens, you rid them of most of their bitter taste, so that's what I decided to do.  Usually when I'm cooking greens to be frozen, such as broccoli greens or radish greens (because I can't let anything go to waste), I steam them so they don't lose as much of their nutrients.  But since my goal here was to remove the bitterness of the plants, I decided I could put up with a little nutrient loss.

So I got the water boiling in a large pot, then dropped the leaves into the water.  Once it started boiling again (usually within a few seconds), I set the timer for 1 minute.  (Don't mind my messy stove.  I was cooking up the greens at the same time I was cooking dinner, because, I don't know, I guess I like torturing myself.)

Once the minute is up, I scooped the leaves out of the pot with a pasta strainer spoon thing (what are those utensils called, anyway?) and put them into a bowl of cold water.

Once all the greens were cooked and cooled, I squeezed all the liquid out of them.  You don't really get that much.

Then I chopped it up, put it in a bag, and threw it in the freezer.  I tasted it first, and it's almost indistinguishable from frozen spinach.  I probably saved myself about 50 cents by doing this, but it was a fun experiment!  Maybe next time I'll get enough dandelion greens to last me more than one meal.  Lord knows we have plenty of them in the yard!

Just as a side note, if you're going to forage for wild greens, always make sure you're doing it in an area where no pesticides or fertilizers have been sprayed.  We pretty much leave our lawn to grow as it pleases, and add grass clippings to help keep it healthy, so I know our lawn is pretty clean. 

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