Wednesday, March 3, 2010
A Forager's Hunger
Man, am I ever hungry for a wild salad. Chickweed and dandelion and woods sorrel, with some wild onions and garlic. Maybe add to that some of my marinated dried tomatoes and garlic. I've got my eyes peeled for new, fresh, wild foods every time I go outside, but I'm afraid it is still too early. My foraging journal from last year says that March 5th was too early. Only some wild alliums were around. The next date is March 20th, and now we're getting somewhere, for that's when wintercress showed up.
There are a few mats of chickweed around, but they're not looking all that spunky. The plants look tired and crushed by winter's cold. Yes, they'll spring back and start growing, getting lush and ready for a hungry harvester, but not today. Probably not for a few weeks yet.
If you start foraging wild foods, I highly recommend keeping a foraging journal from year to year. Last year I kept one faithfully, right up until July 24th and then I quit. I imagine I was awfully busy with harvesting, drying, canning and whatnot, but I KNOW I kept foraging until November. I'll just have to do better and make journal notes all year. There's nothing in last year's journal about all the jerusalem artichokes, black walnuts, evening primrose roots, etc. Sigh.
Anyway, in your journal, keep track of the dates when you first notice wild plants. Write about where you found them, for there's a good chance they'll be there next year as well. Describe the scents, the colors, the greeness, the redness of the berries, etc. Describe all you can. Also mention what you do with the plants you harvest. Do you dry them, freeze them, can them? Take notes on how you process the food, how you cook it, the flavor etc. You'll certainly be glad you did. These notes--even scanty, discontinued ones like mine, are invaluable in coming years foraging. If you are teaching the skill, your journal can help your students learn about the plants and their habitations.
Right now, I'm wishing there was a nice, big, fat journal entry about a wonderful meadow where I found a huge patch of lucious chickweed and wild alliums, with the first tender dandelion leaves growing nearby. I'd be off like a rocket to that meadow! Daydreams, my dear, just daydreams.
I guess what I'll do is get some lambquarters out of the freezer for dinner. I'll have a taste of some wild greens at any rate. And I'll be watching for lady chickweed, you betcha!