Monday, April 4, 2016

Headed out for dinner

While Ed watched the news, I headed out for dinner. You are probably thinking that I was on my way to one of my favorite in-town restaurants. But instead, I pulled on my overalls and grabbed a metal bucket and took off for the creek that runs through Farm Dover. I was headed out to collect dinner by foraging along the creek bank. There was plenty to choose from.

I was inspired – and perhaps emboldened – by Samuel Thayer's guide to identifying, harvesting and preparing edible wild plants titled: Nature's Garden. In his book, he covers a small number of plant species in detail, replete with thorough preparation instructions and photos.

He cautions his readers to never eat a plant unless you are 100 percent positive of its identity. Oh how I love a good challenge!

He goes on to outline the five steps to positively identifying a plant. His steps include making a tentative identification, backing it up with a trusted reference comparison, cross-referencing with at least two more field guides to double and triple-check your identification and then go on a specimen search to ensure that you can find and identify the plant in diverse stages of growth and growing conditions. His last step involves being absolutely confident that you have identified the plant correctly, being sure enough to bet your life on it. Yikes!

Here's what I gathered in my bucket.

Chickweed. We have been eating it all week and have not died from it yet.
 I've served it raw and sauteed. 

Wild garlic. It has a hollow stem and strong oniony smell.
Mustard Garlic. Highly invasive, so I pulled these up roots and all. Stems are particularly good. 
Ramps. From our original creekside patch that Maggie planted five years ago.
Just this year, Ed and I planted 3 dozen ramp sprouts and about 50 ramp seeds.
The sprouts are sprouting! Not sure about the seeds. 

The bees love our dandelions and so do we. Be sure you harvest chemical-free plants.
A trio of purple: Purple Deadnettle, Violets, and Ground-Ivy

In Thayer's book, he writes about the time he and his wife went on a 30-day wild food diet. He says they didn't do it to prove that it can be done, since for most of human history, everybody was on a life-long wild diet. They didn't do it to prove that they could do it, as they had done it before. He says they did it because they wanted to focus on eating really good, healthy food and to feel the satisfaction of being self-sufficient. He says eating wild makes each meal an adventure, and so they did it for the excitement. 

So tonight's meal will be focused on really good, healthy (and super fresh) food. I'm thinking of making a big salad and a ramp omelette – with special thanks to friend Jackie for the farm fresh eggs. It will certainly be an adventure. Let's just hope I've identified all the fixings 100 percent correctly!

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