Sunday, June 1, 2008

So many choices

Not that I'm complaining, but Spring offers so many delicious choices to the forager. It's an embarrassment of riches to be flush with knotweed and pokeweed and milkweed all at the same (almost) time. Sure I freeze, and can, and preserve, but there's nothing like eating these plants fresh.

I have friends coming to visit next weekend. Friends who are adventurous, excitable eaters, but who don't forage for themselves. I believe I've figured out a way to work all three of the above into the menu and I'm counting on their open-mindedness at suppertime. Should I tell them what they're eating or wait until the meal is over?

Last weekend Mark and I were on our way to a local nursery when I remembered where we'd found some poke last year. We pulled in and in less than 15 minutes had a large bag full. This weekend I walked across the road to my dependable milkweed patch and once again filled a bag in under 15 minutes. Can you tell the difference between the two?

No really, can you? I want to know!

If forced to choose a favorite, I choose milkweed. Not only because it's less work, but also because so many parts of the plant are edible. (Plus it's in the same family, Asclepidaceae, as my beloved Hoyas.) Most wild foods books tell you to cook milkweed in two or three changes of water, to remove the bitter taste. This is not necessary. After reading Sam Thayer's book, The Forager's Harvest, I tried his way of boiling it once, for about 20 minutes. Delicious, and not at all bitter! Since then I've experimented; my favorite way to prepare milkweed spears is to blanch them for a minute or two in boiling water, then drain, toss with olive oil, garlic, S&P, and grill or broil until just before they start to blacken. A little parmesan never goes amiss.

Pokeweed, on the other hand, requires a little more work. After stripping off the leaves (which are also edible, but can be cooked for less time), I boil the young shoots for 2-3 minutes. Have a second pot of boiling water on hand so the shoots can be removed from the first water, then immediately boiled a second time, again for 2-3 minutes. Key: from boiling water to boiling water...NOT from boiling water to cold water then brought to a boil.

Check back with me later in the season and I'll tell you about harvesting and cooking milkweed flowers and pods. Oh, and then there's the lilac wine I started this weekend... As Rosemary Clooney would say, "C'mon a my place, a my place, I'm a gonna give you candy."



6 Comments:

At June 1, 2008 at 11:03 PM , Blogger Gardener of La Mancha said...

I had no idea milkweed was edible. It always makes me think of toxic monarchs, but I guess boiling can do wonders sometimes.

I'm going to make a very uneducated guess: the bottom one's milkweed shoots....?

 
At June 2, 2008 at 6:57 AM , Blogger Ellen said...

You are correct! If I had a prize, I'd give it to you. I know you said you don't have milkweed where you are, but promise me you'll try it when you come East. It's not only edible, but delicious.

 
At June 2, 2008 at 3:21 PM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Mmmm, candy...

Yum, yum, yum, Ellen, can't wait! You'll be as relieved as I am to know that the milkweed I grow, A. incarnata, is also edible (you really are may have to expand that edible garden).

GoLM, there are other milkweeds
that are native where you are (California, yes?) and some have edible uses including young shoots (others are used for gum - gum!)... In fact, Asclepias californica looks very hoya-like in the picture (but others sound more generally tasty).

To see if any neighboring Asclepiads might fit the bill, try http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/database/latinA.html

 
At June 2, 2008 at 3:22 PM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Well, you already know I can tell my poke from my milkweed, but just to add to the ID knowledge of anyone reading this, the reddish tinge to the bases of the poke stems in the top pic is a giveaway, as is the whitish color of the milkweed tips in the bottom photo.

Glad to hear there's more lilac wine underway!

 
At June 3, 2008 at 12:25 PM , Blogger Robert said...

You can tell me ahead of time. I'm not squeamish. I rose is a rose, tasty is tasty.

 
At June 3, 2008 at 6:02 PM , Blogger Ellen said...

Ok Robert, maybe I'll even print up a menu!

 

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