Friday, April 29, 2011

Wild edibles; Miner's lettuce

The San Francisco Bay area offers some incredible things for foragers. One of them is a lovely spring crop of miner's lettuce. Miner's lettuce, like Nasturtium, is a member of the Purslane family but unlike Nasturtium, lacks a spicy kick. Far more similar to spinach, it goes well in all manner of salads and makes very nice cooked green.

One of my favorite uses for Miner's lettuce is in a simple trail salad. Some of the areas where I climb are thick with it, as well as Nasturtium. I often bring along a tin of tuna packed in olive oil, a lemon, a small packet of soy sauce and forage greens as I go. It takes no time at all to build a fantastic salad you probably couldn't buy if you wanted to.

Earlier this week I ventured out with my mobile office(laptop and phone) and managed to forage enough Miner's lettuce, Nasturtium and Fennel to bring a pile back to Nook, one of our fantastic local cafes, where they were nice enough to use my wild treasure to make a meal fit to please even the most seasoned foodie. Though, I have to admit I'd almost eat grass if you added the right dressing, goat cheese, walnuts and some sultanas. In this case we added all of those as well as some tomatoes and Arugula. I think we decided it was the equivalent of eating a circus.

Yes please, and I'll be doing that again soon. As these posts come together it occurs to me that I may indeed be able to compensate for lack of space to grow as much as I'd like simply by settling on some regular foraging spots. The wild harvest is certainly out there for the taking.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wild edibles; Pine needles

This one is about as simple as it gets and it's blissfully safe. All pines are edible so, as always, make sure you've got a pine. That shouldn't be too tough but you never know. If it's got needles and cones, it's a pine. There are a number of edible elements in addition to making tea with the needles, though chewing them raw is even a source of vitamins C and A. I have no idea if the heat from making the tea destroys the vitamins but it might.

You can also eat the inner bark. If you do it just right, it's possible to cut it into strips and use it like spaghetti. It certainly doesn't taste like pasta, but if it's available or all you have to eat, it's there.

To make the tea simply steep the needles in hot water the same way you would make any other tea. I like it with a little lavender and pine needle tea is admittedly somewhat of an acquired taste but nothing a little honey won't fix if you aren't in a "survival" situation and have access to it.

Pine needles can also be used to flavor breads and roast meats or fish. One nice thing about them is pines grow all over the place, so as a forager or survivalist, it's basically there for you from the Everglades to Seattle in all sorts of conditions and you can gather it as you walk meaning you expend very little extra effort or energy in your day to add another element to a foraged diet.

They're so readily available that I have never tried to dry them but I imagine you might be able to. I also use the needles to make baskets and freeze the needles for storage once in a while for that purpose. When I get them out they still smell fresh so I'd guess you could at least freeze them if they are scarce in your area.