28 April 2009

the wild lunch

Last weekend we (my bf and I) ventured out into the wilds of Prospect Park to go a-foraging with Leda Meredith. So far this is our third foraging tour, the first time we've searched for wild edibles in Spring. This year, I feel especially aware of the seasonal changes - the sprouting leaves, the blooming flowers, the increasing cacophony of bird song.

A lot of the tour was a review of plants I knew, though in some cases, I didn't recognize them in their Spring habit. Here are some of the new things I learned:

Every flowering tree with edible fruit has an edible flower. If a tree blooms in Winter then experiences a deep freeze, it won't fruit that year. This can become a serious problem for farmers (and us) as our climate shifts.

Cherry blossoms in full effect!

There's a tree we've admired every Spring that grows little clusters of tiny pink flowers around its branches. Found out it's called Redbud (Cercis canadensis) and the little flowers and buds are edible. They taste a little bit like green beans.


Close up of Redbud

The last couple of weeks of April are Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) season. The thick stalks can be prepared like rhubarb - they can go sweet, like in a pie, or savory, like in a soup (Leda brought some Japanese Knotweed soup for us to taste). The plant contains reservatrol, the same beneficial substance that's in red wine.

Japanese Knotweed

The stalk of cattail (Typha) is like hearts of palm (you just have to peel off the harder outer layer). The male cattail produces something similar to baby corn. Cattail pollen is a flour substitute. According to Leda, cattail pollen pancakes are delicious.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flowers are only available for a couple of weeks as well. The whole plant is edible, and it's the only diuretic that does not deplete potassium. It's also delicious beer-battered and thrown in a salad.

Fryin' dandy-lion

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a mild little flowering plant that's good in salads. Some think that it dissolves fat in the body (still waiting for the clinical trials on that claim!). These were in our salad as well.


Yummy foraged salad!

Check out last year's foraging adventures