07 May, 2011

Wild Fare

We have been blessed to get some old timey, local knowledge from my mother in law's neighbor & it has changed our menu (considerably, I think) for the better. She was gracious enough to come & walk our property w/ us, pointing things out to us explaining what they were good for & how to prepare them. Meet our new green, the poke-weed.

Now, I'm not big on greens. I like raw spinach & being located a little more southernly than I was raised I've tried the local fare. (Livermush w/ Cheerwine, anyone?) I'm not big on kale, collards, turnip or mustard greens. I'll eat them but I won't relish them like this Poke-weed. It's delicious! Seriously! It has the consistency of canned spinach which I've also never liked, but w/a nutty asparagus flavor. There is one small drawback, & that is that it's poisonous. If you try this, please use more than my paltry blog post to guide you & get a field guide (the human kind, that will literally guide you) to verify. But it's so good!

With any plant you harvest, use a sharp knife. Poke-weed can grow tall & has large leaves but you want a newish plant & the newer smaller leaves off of the crown. It has a thick, fleshy stalk that is light purple when new & darkens considerably as the plant matures. PURPLE=POISON. Avoid cutting the purple altogether, as the plant grows, the purple travels up the stem of the leaves.
This is wild onion & it's starting to be at the end of its season on our property & beginning to go into its reproductive phase. It is small, strong, pungent, & replaces both garlic & onion when you cook. If you do pull it all up, it won't reproduce as there are no cloves, just the single bulb. Leave some for next year.

A tiny scape. Besides the weedy appearance of a patch, scapes are a good indicator of allium maturity. In my domestic garlic patch, I had no scapes last year which is why I thought my garlic all died when I transplanted it from Va. Now I have twice the amount & a goodly harvest waiting for me. Scapes & stems can be chopped & used in any dish where regular green onions would be used, just wash first. I have also heard that you can pickle scapes, but I've not got any experience w/ that.

The bulb.

A poke-weed of advance maturity. They put out purple berries in the fall which are also poisonous but from what I've read, make a good dye. See all of the purple? I did harvest the leaves & cut the stalk back to extend our harvest, but watch for that purple. For the record, we didn't die.

Now to cook! Take your greens, wash & rinse well.

Next boil for 10-15 min. There is death in the pot! Or maybe just some stomach cramps, probably more in elderly, very young, or people w/ compromised imune systems. I'm not offering medical advice, just showing what I did.

DRAIN YOUR FIRST WATER. Then boil it again for another 10-15 min. A second picture would be redundant, so see above again.

DRAIN YOUR SECOND WATER. Repeat glance at below photo if necessary.

The wild onion, cleaned up. I'm throwing in store onion w/ it, I need the garlic flavor.

Squeeze into your garlic press, you ought to have olive oil or bacon grease (hey, we like both) warmed up in your skillet.

Saute. Yes, those are hamburger buns & they were delicious, but not made w/ as much love, they are a bread machine product.

Pick a lot of poke-weed, it does cook down considerably after 2 boilings.

Fry it all up, I threw some lemon pepper & salt on there.

A yummy supper & enthusiastic children! Mine did not eat this batch because of the diced onion as they hate onions & felt deceived & let down when I served it. They both ate all of Mike's who made his w/ just the wild onion. I did eat 2 batches in a 24 hour period once & had some stomach cramps. If you have regularity problems, this will do it for you. We've had it 3x this week w/ no problems, excepting my greediness.

The lowley dandelion is another great green & I've read of ways you can cook all of its parts as well, but here's a simple salad. The plant below has flowers, so it's no good. You want the serrated toothy leaves that haven't budded yet. You also don't want plants where fertilizer has been applied.

Here's a big bunch, just to show the taproot. Dandelion is good for your kidney's & packed w/ vitamin C.

My thumb is on a flower bud so this plant is suspect. The salad from this bunch was heading towards the bitter side, but that's not anything blue cheese can't fix.

Clean & rinse your leaves very well. It's a low plant, so all of the rain spatter is goin to join itself to the underside of your leaves.

Drain it out & repeat until the water washes clean. No, I'm not actually doing that here, I'm playing w/ my photagraphy skills.

Add whatever vegetables you have & use like lettuce! If you've gotten it early enough, it's pretty sweet. I'd give up after June though.

I haven't tried this one yet, but I'm pretty sure that it's lambs-quarters. I plan on washing, cutting & steaming it this week, I'll let you know how it turns out.

I can't tell you how excited we are to see & use God's provision of our land in ways that we've never heard of. My mother-in-law's neighbor is another wonderful blessing & we're thankful for her wisdom & lore in local woodcraft.

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