Sunday, April 19, 2009

Keep a Foraging Journal

Sorry for not writing the past week, folks. It gets busy now that it is full-blown foraging time.

I've been foraging. Bags and bags of garlic mustard. I've mentioned already that this plant is a "foreign invader"--the worst part about it is that garlic mustard will take over from other native plants and drive them out. Deer don't eat garlic mustard, and they lose the native plants that deer do eat, so yes, it is a problem. So I'm doing my part by harvesting as much garlic mustard as I can and using the leaves in pesto and drying the roots (they have a slight horseradish zing to them) to add to my mix for vegetable bouillon.

This year, I'm keeping on top of what I've been doing by keeping a foraging journal. If you are new to foraging wild foods, as I am, it will benefit you greatly by keeping track of what you see, where it grows, the date you first see it, how much you harvest, recipes, etc. Last year, I didn't keep a journal and I'm regretting it--I can't remember when the horsetail finally showed up, or the plantain, or the best times and places to harvest evening primrose roots, etc. Which means that this year, I simply have to keep watching and checking. It'd be a helluva lot easier if I'd kept good records last year. Ah, the joy of living and learning!

Here are some excerpts from my journal. If anyone has a better idea of how to keep track, please let me know.

March 5: Long walk down to the old lake. Didn't see much of anything except for some wild garlic, or maybe wild onions. Got a small bag ful of them.

March 20: At the garden: wintercress (creasy greens), dandelions roots and leaves, yellow dock roots and leaves, wild onions. Washed and cleaned all the roots, chopped them up and set them to dry on the windowsill. Cleaned all the greens, and put aside the wintercress. I'll use that for our dinners this week. The dandelion, yellow dock and wild onions went to make a big pot of "spring tonic broth." I added a vegetarian boullion cube for some extra flavor and some garlic and hot pepper. Made a delicious broth, very healthy.

March 25: More wintercress from the big field south of the garden. Wild onions and chickweed too.

April 4-10: Coming back from the Amish, a big patch of garlic mustard. Yeah! Didn't find any last year. Two huge bags of it. Will make pesto and boil some greens up for dinner. Been harvesting dandelion roots for Kathy, since she's switching from coffee to dandy root coffee for now. A book she's reading says to avoid coffee if you have arthritis. That's a tough one, but the dandy root coffee should help. There's some farmer's fields on the way to Williams that are full of dandelion, yellow dock, wild onions, violets, chickweed, yarrow and lots of stuff I don't know yet. I pulled up some very big dandelion roots. Kept the leaves for broth, figure I might boil these twice as they're a bit bitter. Got some yellow dock roots and leaves too. The greens jar for this year is getting packed with dried greens. I'll grind these up with some sun-dried tomatoes, dried onions and garlic into a powder and cover them with olive oil. That'll preserve it and keep it and make a tasty, vitamin rich addition to soups, stews and casseroles. Picked a huge bag of dandelion blossoms for wine. Got enough for the first gallon anyway.

April 13: Made 3 batches of garlic mustard pesto. 3 cups packed garlic mustard leaves, finely chopped, 4 cloves garlic, 1/3 cup parmesean cheese, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup walnuts chopped finely. (Can't afford pine nuts.) I don't have a food processor, so I chopped everything up as much as I could then used my little hand-held immersion blender to make it all into a paste. Wow! Does this stuff make GREAT pesto. Gave some to Jennifer and she loved it too. YUM.

April 14: Picked a bunch of redbud flowers. The redbuds are glorious this year. This is a nice tasting flower, a lovely bright pink color. I'll get some chickweed and orpine and make a salad with them. Pretty.

April 15: Saw a huge field of what looked like black mustard (brassica nigra). Pulled over and got out to check. Yep. Little yellow flowers with four petals in the shape of a cross. Narrow, hairless, wavy-toothed upper leaves. Brill says very nutritious vegetable, full of vitamins and minerals. Gathered a bag of leaves, but mostly I'll wait for the seeds to show up. I want to make my own mustard this year.

Plantain just coming up, this year's plants. No horsetail yet, at least not in the huge patch where I found it last year. I'm seeing a lot of plants I don't know--have to get my guides down in the car and my backpack where they belong so I can start figuring out what they are.

April 17: Back to the dandelion fields for more roots and blossoms. The leaves are getting too bitter for me so I'll focus on other spring greens. The roots are now chopped and drying, the blossoms are now in the second gallon of dandelion wine. The first gallon is bottled in an wine jug with a balloon with pin-pricks in it as the air-lock. I'll keep making wine from everything I can. There's some great recipes for making wine from wild plants here:

Wines from nettles and chickweed. What a hoot. :)

April 18: More garlic mustard for more pesto. This is probably the last batch of the garlic mustard I'll get. It's flowering already and about to go to seed.


As you can see, I've been busy. I'll try to show up more here, though. I hope I can keep up. Next month we get to gardening in earnest.


Gen-IL Homesteader said...

Patricia, I'm new to foraging. Can you recommend a good (preferable small sized) book of wild edible foods that I can carry along. Our local Borders doesn't carry any that I can peruse before buying. Our library only had a few older ones. I'd like something with some good color prints/pictures and good descriptions. (Chris. Nyerges' book seemed to have great descriptions, but bad pictures.) Thanks for your help!

Robin said...

Hi Patricia and readers - I know of the PERFECT foraging journal. It's made from a vintage book on seeds. The original pages were removed and replaced with blank sheets where you can journal to your heart's content.

Follow this link:

Patricia said...

Hey Homesteader: My favorite take-with-me guide is Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide. Amazon has it. Good pix of most plants, info on harvesting and preparing. The other guide I usually take with me is Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Eastern/Central) by Steven Foster and James A. Duke. Book #1 should be Edible Wild Plants. I tend to collect guides and books on foraging these days, even if they're not appropriate for taking with me when foraging. Good luck!

Thanks, Robin--I'll check it out.

sunni said...

Ooooh, mustard! I grew some a few years back and enjoyed it immensely. The raw leaves add a nice bite to salads, and I enjoyed it lightly cooked in a bit of water—just as one would do with spinach.

I think I also have a couple of recipes for "mustard custard" around. They aren't exactly what the name might conjure; in both, mustard seeds are ground and form the base of a thick sauce that is excellent with ham or beef. If you're interested in those recipes I'd be happy to share.

Happy foraging!