Monday, May 27, 2013

Signs of Life and Growth in the Summer

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Sprouting zucchini plant
In my area, it rains in the winter, and the summer is hot and dry. Our prime foraging season is the middle of the winter, when all the vegetation grows like wild because of the rain, sprouting out of the earth at such a rapid pace that it's hard to keep up, hard to know what exactly you should forage, because there is just so much that you can't possible eat it all.
And after the over abundance of greenery, when greens are coming through your nose because you had so many of them, in salads, in quiches, in soups, on pizzas, in stir fries, in stews, in patties, in stuffing, stuffed with things, that you don't want to look another green "in the face" again, it just all dries up and dies, and makes you wonder how a land that was flourishing so much just a week or two prior is now filled with brown, dried, dead plants, completely inedible and relatively useless.

And then you see little signs of life.

Amid all the dried out plants, there are the treasures of the summer, those special foods that you were waiting for because they aren't just the endless monotony of greens, greens, and more greens, but actually are real vegetables and fruit with substance, things you can sink your teeth into.

This post is dedicated to all the wonderful goodies that are coming into season now. And yes, there is much less abundance of edibles this time of year. You aren't guaranteed to find something to eat every step you take.
But when you do, you reach gold mines, some of the best foraged goodies, in my opinion, of the entire year.

The first specialty food aw I foraged this summer was capers. They're expensive to buy, but grow all over my area come summer. I pick them and pickle them and use them year round. I've picked one batch so far, but need to pick more.

Samphire is another summer goody. Unfortunately it doesn't grow near me, only near the coast, so I only get to pick it when I go to the beach or am on vacation, but when I do, I pick a ton. Though it is a green, it is a substantial green with a lot of flesh, thick and flavorful. Tonight I served it sauted with tomatoes and olives over rice and I couldn't stop eating it, it was that good.

Cactus paddles is another summer favorite of mine. It's not a leaf at all- its the flesh of the paddles of a cactus and has as much thickness and substance to it as a green bean or pepper, and its flavor is a cross between the two. I'm still exploring yummy ways to make it, but so far I've made it in salads, in a mock gumbo, in omelets, in burritos, and in Cajun style dirty rice. I think I'll be experimenting with it in tomato sauce, and hopefully I'll can some this summer so I can have it last throughout the winter.

Purslane has got to be my all time favorite foraged veggie, as it's great both raw and cooked, and as I find in summer foraging here- they are substantial and are crunchy and satiating. I put it in sushi and it tastes and feels like asparagus; I cook it and it tastes like lemony green beans. I wait year round for my purslane to start growing, and in fact, its one of the few wild edibles I actually make sure to grow in my window boxes because I want to have a steady supply. I just give it a "haircut" regularly, use it, and let it regrow.
My window box was dead and dry; I'd been ignoring it since the fall, never watering it, etc... And then a few days ago, I glanced at it and discovered, to my surprise, that some purslane had started growing! Without any water in over 6 months! The purslane came in dark purple and small, and then I watered it for a few days and it has lost most of its purple and now looks normal. Purslane- here we come!

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Yucca is another great plant that I pick in the summer. Though its not so fleshy, its taste is far from "green"- the edible flowers tastes like artichoke, and I have fun reaching to the top of really sharp trees to pick these large clusters to feed my family.

Pink peppercorns are a great spice that is in season in the summer. As is sumac. I collect enough of these now to last all year.

And then of course, there's the fruit. Grapes to make grape juice and wine. Apricots with which I make fruit leather and all sorts of other goodies. Num nums which I enjoy as is. Loquats that my kids guzzle down. Prickly pear fruit that my family loves, so long as I make sure to remove all the thorns first...

And on top of these wild plants, there's also the excitement that just after I harvested my measly crop of potatoes and started growing new plants... my zucchini has started growing.

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Still tiny, yes, but that's still signs of life! And as I've mentioned before- even if I don't get any zucchini for whatever reason, I know the whole plant is edible and plan on using that even if the plant doesn't fruit.

If you're a forager, what is your favorite season? What is growing now where you life, and what is your favorite thing to forage right now?

1 comment:

  1. you're doing your best girl :)
    keep up the good work busy bee


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