Attention Wild Food Aficionados:
Fall foraging forges forward, and by that alliteration I mean to say that foraging for wild food “has not yet ended” this fall, so don’t put away your scissors or your plastic knives or your bare hands just yet!
Just yesterday I came across some fabulous fall dandelion greens in the Colorado high country despite its notoriously short growing season. They were growing amidst the deep, down-trodden grass at the base of willows lining an old mining road, and some were nearly as long as an arm! Up here, anywhere the miners and their mules once trod is a good place to look for dandelions. At the very least these early travelers toted the seeds along by accident. Other good places to look for fall dandelions are next to water sources in shady, protected places and any lawn in any neighborhood, provided it has not been sprayed by the owner or town/city tree-spraying operation.
After much internal debate, I decided to stop reading a book before coming to the end of it. I absolutely hate doing that. I usually consider it a mission to finish a book. But this one I ultimately had to put down.
The book is The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. My sister loaned it to me on our trip to Maine earlier this summer—brought it especially for me, in fact, to see what I’d think.
The Shack starts with an absolutely horrifyingly yet spellbinding story about a very tragic thing that happens to a young girl, and then the rest of the book (so far as I’ve read) details how her father, Mack, deals with that tragedy and an earlier tragedy in his life in the context of his relationship with God.
Truth be told, I’m always skeptical of a God story, especially one that comes across preachy and didactic as The Shack does. I understand that many people have found religious inspiration in this book, so I’d like to make it perfectly clear that my intention is not to discount, or to cast judgment on, their experiences. And, while I respect and honor religious choice, I myself am neither Christian nor a church-goer. I understand, too, that there is an ongoing debate over whether this book is considered to be heretical or revelatory. Due to my relative inexperience with Christian theology (aside from a quasi-Christian upbringing to which I no longer ascribe) I don’t consider myself very qualified to speak on the matter. I did, however, find an interesting examination of theological perspectives put forth in the book at the blog, Doxxa.
Heads up, blog readers, especially those of you interested in wild edible plants–I have an exciting announcement to make!
New Wild Food Girl site:
Etmarciniec.com is now the proud parent of a new baby bloglet dedicated solely to the topic of wild edible and medicinal plants as well as other wild food. Please oh please visit wildfoodgirl.com. (And if you want, you can join the RSS feed in the upper right corner.) I’ve posted two new articles already, one related to goosefoot and the other to cow parsnip. I do not intent to post any new wild food articles here at etmarciniec.com, so please make the move with me if wild edible plants is your reason for visiting this site.
What happens to the old content?
After much thought, I decided to leave most of the old articles up here at etmarciniec.com for ease of browsing, although I may set up a 303 redirect on a few of the most highly-searched pages if I can figure out how on earth to do that without screwing things up, heh.
In the meantime, thanks so much for reading and I hope to hear from you over at wildfoodgirl.com.
Gregg and I have found yet another tasty wild green to supplement our store-bought diet: fireweed!
Not to be confused with other plants referred to by the same common name (I found reference to one in an older wild edible plants guide), the plant of which I write is Epilobium angustifolium.
I first read about it in Gregory L. Tilford’s Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. In fact, the book’s cover is adorned with a montage of fireweed flowers atop a blown-up image of a fireweed leaf, so Tilford must think highly of the plant.
So many people have told me that the “bluebell” is edible, and yet, despite my growing collection of wild edible plants literature, I have found only one reference to it as a food source. Thus, much of my evidence for the plant’s edibility is circumstantial.
“The leaves are awesome,” said my friend Rachel Sowers, a gardener by trade, as we rode up the chairlift late season at Arapahoe Basin. ”If you’re camping in the backcountry you can add the leaves to a salad. They’re super tasty,” she said.
And Gregg’s sister Wendy has a friend who supposedly “goes gaga for bluebells,” but who has, on occasion, eaten enough of the small blue bell-shaped flowers to become sick.
Type “hair boom” into your browser and, with the exception of opinion pieces, you can read the same Associated Press article in newspapers across the country which announces the decision by BP and the U.S. Coast Guard not to use the hair booms made of donated human hair and animal fur to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf. “We foresee a risk that widespread deployment of the hair boom could exacerbate the debris problem,” Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Shawn Eggert is quoted as saying.
How, exactly, would the hair booms exacerbate the debris problem?
According to an attractive fact sheet [PDF] by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Using Booms in Response to Oil Spills,” a February 2010 field test revealed that “commercial sorbent boom absorbed more oil and much less water than hair boom, which became waterlogged and sank within an hour.”
Enter Matter of Trust, the 6-person San Francisco based nonprofit that has mobilized volunteers, collected 20 warehouses full of hair, animal fur, nylons, crab traps, and other materials needed to construct the booms, and yes–conducted their own tests.
Plants do seem to grow slowly when you scrutinize them every day, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing to the few wild plants that endure the firm, rocky soil and high elevation of our backyard. I wonder if they appreciate the attention? (Probably not if they realized that I am diabolically hashing up plans to cook them for dinner…)
As a whole, the wild foods literature speaks highly of shoots and young leaves. The difficulty is that the young plants are often more difficult to identify than mature plants.
I hope I’m not boring you too much with my recent dandelion obsession, but we enjoyed yesterday’s dandelion green salad so much that I figured I’d post it now and give the other wild plants a little more time to grow before I start messing with them.
Since I’m referring to dandelions as “wild plants” here, it’s probably a good time to mention an interesting bit I read yesterday in Samuel Thayer’s book, The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, & Preparing Edible Wild Plants (2006) in a section about “The History of Foraging and Wild Food Literature.” Thayer explains the way in which much of the Native American knowledge about edible wild plants was lost in the early days of European settlement, in part due to the fact that to eat wild plants was stigmatized as “savage” among European settlers. The few plants that were acceptable to eat in times of food shortage, he explains, were “dandelion, chicory, plantain, stinging nettle, curly dock, sow thistle” (and the list continues)–plants that the settlers brought with them. Thayer makes a distinction between these “quasi-wild, human-dependent agricultural tag-alongs that came from Europe” (which he says dominate the wild plants literature), and true, native wild plants.
Potage Parmentier, or potato leek soup, is the first recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is also the first recipe that Julia Powell prepares after stealing her mother’s 1967 edition of the book and embarking upon a year-long cooking project to prepare every recipe in MtAoFC, a project that became first a blog, then a book, and then a movie.
For my third book of the spring, then, I picked up Powell’s Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, and of course it probably goes without saying that I am finding the story inspiring, at the very least, because of my own recent forays into blogdom. Aside from that, however, I also find myself wanting to cook some of the recipes over which Julie sweats (except maybe the aspics, which require the boiling of calves’ hooves).
I doubt I would have picked up this book on my own, but the college where I recently became an adjunct faculty member handed out Double Take: A Memoir (2009) after a two-day in-service on standardizing the curriculum (don’t ask), and so I felt both touched (I am always tickled to be given books) and obligated to read it. It is the second book I’ve read this spring (after Twilight, that brain candy of a book). My understanding is that at some point the college will hold some sort of discussions of Double Take, so maybe I’ll attend if I can get the date right. It would probably be useful to have a conversation with live book-readers from time to time, instead of always sending my thoughts out to the (largely, so far) unresponsive interwebs whilst I sit alone in my borrowed high-mountain abode, out of touch with reality, fixating too much on my purpose in life.