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."