Sunday, June 15, 2008


It may not officially be summer, but with this week's bounty you could have fooled me!

The harvest began in NYC on Wednesday when I gathered a mess o' Mayapples. They weren't 100% ripe, but Mayapples are one of those obliging fruits that ripen on the windowsill. Four days later and the fruit is soft and yellow, ready to be turned into an as-yet-un-named delicacy. Leda suggests Mayapple ice cream which sounds like a wonderful idea to me. Any other suggestions?

Over the next few weeks, Mayapples will be ripening in woods all over the Northeast. Young Mayapple plants bearing only one leaf won't flower or produce fruit. But check under the foliage of any two-leaved Mayapple and you may find a small fruit. Give it a squeeze. Is it a little soft, a little yellow? If you answer yes to both these questions, it's time to harvest. Special note to Mum: go out and check your Mayapples! If they're ripe, pick them and call me!

Saturday morning was the first Barryville (NY) farmers' market and Penni and Pat brought me guinea fowl eggs. They remembered how fascinated I was last year by all the different sizes and colors of their eggs: quail, chicken, and duck. Guinea fowl eggs (on the left) are slightly smaller than chicken eggs (on the right). Penni couldn't vouch for their taste, but she warned me their shells were crazy thick. I had to smash that shell against the inside of the sink with considerable force, but it was worth it. The taste is similar to the taste of a chicken egg (a good, grass-fed chicken egg)...maybe a little stronger. But what's most fabulous is the yolk to white ratio. I always wish there were more yolk in an egg; isn't that everybody's favorite part? The guinea fowl yolk is surrounded by a mere centimeter's margin of white. Egg perfection.

Saturday afternoon, despite a litle rain, Mark and I harvested milkweed florets. That's an understatement. We hit the milkweed jackpot, baby! I like the florets even better than young milkweed shoots; they have the shape of broccoli florets but taste so much better. I sauteed a few onions in olive oil, added the milkweed, S & P, and we feasted on deliciousness.

Go ahead and tell me it's not summer. I know summer's bounty when I see it.


At June 17, 2008 at 2:34 PM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Mmmmm! And I just harvested 3 quarts of serviceberries - and I think I have at least another quart ripening out there. (And the blueberries are getting infinitesimally bluer each day.)

Mayapple ice cream sounds wonderful. I loved your jelly, because the color was so beautiful and reminded me of the fruit.

At June 17, 2008 at 2:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice! I bet those milkweed florets were a treat. Here it's been berry time--juneberries and mulberries galore.

At June 17, 2008 at 9:24 PM , Blogger Gardener of La Mancha said...

You are a true foraging pro. Are there any foraging books you recommend for the East Coast? I doubt there'll be much available in West Philadelphia, but I know at least one of classes on the syllabus takes place mostly in the forest. So who knows? Maybe I'll have a chance.

At June 17, 2008 at 9:36 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

GoLM, I have a few favorite books to recommend. First and foremost, Sam Thayer's: The Forager's Harvest. Excellent photos for i.d., and well substantiated, in-depth information on each plant. I have great respect for Sam. Of course, Stalking the Wild Asparagus (Euell Gibbons) is a must read. Also worth reading are Elias & Dykeman's Edible Wild Plants and Robert Handerson's The Neighborhood Forager.

And don't be so sure you won't find much in Philly. Don't forget, I do A LOT of foraging in Central Park. In fact, I'll be picking mulberries there tomorrow, after I finish planting a terrace on Central Park West.

At June 23, 2008 at 12:12 AM , Blogger Gardener of La Mancha said...

I'll be sure to keep an eye out for those books..and for the plants in Philly. Thanks

At June 23, 2008 at 4:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had no idea I could eat the Mayapple berries - what do they taste like?

At June 24, 2008 at 7:18 AM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

They have a very tropical taste, sort of like a combination of pineapple and guava. And a soft texture. I've only ever found one ripe enough to eat right off the plant and it was superb. Most of the time I collect it halfway green and let it ripen, then use the fruit for jelly. But this year I've saving it up for ice cream!

At July 3, 2008 at 12:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, is this showy (aka common) milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) that you are eating? You asked if I knew if I could eat the variety that I saw in Colorado (I don't even know the species yet, let alone if it is edible!) but your post here has me really curious about eating other milkweed family members. We even have a Sonoran desert native, desert milkweed (A. subulata) that I have never considered eating.

I've always put milkweeds in the butterfly food, rather than the human food category, but your experience is making me take a second look.

At July 3, 2008 at 1:19 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Our common milkweed is Asclepias syriaca but I have it on excellent authority that A. speciosa is also edible and quite tasty. We don't get it east of the Rockies so I'm counting on you for a report!


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