Sunday, June 27, 2010

Edible weeds

I thought I'd share my notes and pictures with you from a recent edible weeds course I took with community friend, Alexis Pitsopoulos. Alexis is incredibly knowledgeable and is a great teacher. Most of these weeds are pretty universal, especially in cool to temperate climates.

This is not such a great pic of a dandelion, however it is important to note the flower is on a single stem. The leaves look very similar to hawksbeard (see below). The root can be used for coffee or as a vegetable. The leaves in salad. Wine from the flowers.

Dandelion (taraxacum)

We have loads of sheep sorrel in our garden. I cursed it until I tried eating the leaves. Now it's a best friend. Great in salads or soup. Normally grows in the garden where the soil is a tad acid.

Sheep sorrel (rumex)

Often feared as they are confused with deadly nightshade, but this black nightshade is very good eating. Cook leaves as a vegetable. Berries are good raw or cooked.

Black nightshade (solanum nigrim)

Mainly used as a medicinal plant although groundsel can be eaten too. Leaves cooked as a vegetable. The young leaves have been used in salad, though inadvisable since the plant is a cumulative toxin. It is often used as a poultice and is said to be useful in treating sickness of the stomach, whilst a weak infusion is used as a simple and easy purgative. NB I fried some falafel and added some groundsel leaf, stem and flower heads right at the end. I threw in a pinch of salt. Amazing result! In fact I preferred the groundsel quickly fried to the falafel.

Groundsel (senecio vulgaris)

Known as soursob, shamrock, wood sorrel or oxalis the leaves, flowers and roots can be added to salads. Oxalis contains Oxalic Acid, so should be eaten in moderation. The flowers are delicious.

Wood sorrel (oxalis)

This bitter wild lettuce is like cos. Eat young leaves raw, older leaves in soup/smoothies.

Wild lettuce (lactuca)

Wild roses or briars make ripe rosehips in the winter well after the petals have dropped. You can add ripe rosehips to stews and soups. Boil and strain to make a sauce. Boil to make a health giving tea. Rose hip tea is refreshing, pleasantly tart and contains vitamins A, B, C, E and K, pectin and organic acids. Besides battling colds, the nutrient rich tea boosts your health in other ways as well; it helps strengthen the body's resistance to infection, reinforces digestive function, combats all kinds of illness with fever, flushes out the kidneys and urinary tract and relieves mild rheumatic pain.

Wild rosehips (rosa)

The leaves of storksbill can be cooked as vegetable, but the entire plant is edible with a flavor similar to parsley if picked young.

Storksbill (erodium)

A primitive sage, lyreleaf sage or wild sage is not medicinal, but the fruit can be eaten. Apparently it makes a good incense.

Wild sage (salvia lyrata)

You can soak fumitory in cold water and wash face as a tonic and cleanser.

Fumitory (fumaria)

Young leaves of acanthus can be eaten. The flowers and fruits (cheeses) can be cooked as vegetable.
Acanthus (acantha)

Sow thistles are bitter but very nutritional. All aerial parts can be eaten. Young leaves in salad; cooked greens.

Sow thistle (sonchus)

Slightly slimy mallows are soothing medicinally. Roots can make a healthy tonic tea. Young leaves can be eaten raw; flowers and fruits (cheeses) can be cooked as vegetables.

Mallow (malva)

Wild fennel (apiaceae)

Flatweed (hypochaeris radicata)

Dock weed (rumex)

Hawksbeard (crepis)

Milkweed (silybum adans)

Wild radish (raphanus raphanistrum)

Plantains can be be used for salads and soups, but only very young leaves. Also have medicinal properties.
Plantain (plantago)

As you can see, I still have to complete my notes, and I will add to them over time, especially notes on application (cooking) of weeds.

And these are two that should never be eaten:

Hemlock (conium) – highly poisonous

Privet berries – poisonous

Foraging for winter meals

We have been eating a considerable amount of wild food that we have foraged close to home. I don't think there is a more pleasurable way to gather food than to slowly walk through the bush, arriving at the lake, throwing in a fishing line, collecting edible weeds and walking back through the town, scouring the ground, returning home with bags of greens and other gems.

Here's a dish we put together for tonight's dinner consisting of double boiled wild radish leaves blended with our potatoes, parsley, spring onion, eggs and garlic to make beautiful vegetarian patties which I served up with my green tomato chutney.

Apart from the salt, pepper and olive oil everything was either foraged or grown at home. The salt comes from desalination processes near the Murray River and the oil comes from an organic farm 10 minutes from here. The pepper is the only ingredient we don't know the origins of.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garden and forest foraging

We've been extending our local winter food base by eating local edible weeds. A friend of ours, Alexis, takes an edible weeds and wild food workshop at our local neighbourhood centre. We took his course last weekend and have been harvesting food this week we never thought we'd be eating.

It is so exciting to find new food plants in abundance that have taken no effort to produce and are highly nutritious. This new food supply is so beautifully radical and is collected and foraged with so much pleasure. It's more 'do-nothing farming' than we imagined was possible.

The primitive is alive and well in us and the skills we've lost are profound, we're realising. Yes! We are reclaiming a public food commons. Uncapitalised food is go!

Here's a recipe for a Greek-style horta dish adapted from one of Alexis' recipes:

Wild horta served with potato and leek soup from our garden.

Rinse under running water: foraged hawksbeard, wild fennel seeds, chickweed, water cress, spear thistle, garden kale and flatweed and boil for 10 minutes. Rinse again under cold water and again boil in salty water for another 10 minutes. This removes much of the bitterness.

Rinse again and mould into a ball, squeezing out excess water. Cut across the ball into slices. Throw into a bowl and drizzle olive oil and lemon or lime. Crush some fresh garlic and throw into a hot dry pan. Heat for several minutes, while tossing.

Sprinkle wild fennel seeds and throw back into the bowl and serve warm as a side dish to the soup. We ended up throwing ours in with the soup. It was delicious, however I was so exhausted after our afternoon walk that I didn't think to take a final pic. We were happy to have yet another gorgeous meal 100% gathered within walking distance of our home.