Thursday, February 23, 2006

Back Yard Foraging

My grand plans for foraging today ended with a huge splash of sunshine on the patio.
I am addicted to sitting on my patio, with a stack of magazines, newspapers, and sudoku books, any time the temperature is above 60 and the sun is out.
(I've just read Lewis Lapham's impassioned essay, "The Case for Impeachment," in the March Harper's; I'd link to it but it's not available online at the moment. Go find it in print — don't wait.)
Anyway, since the days have been lengthening at Olympian speeds, we enjoyed a good few hours of sunlight today.
So, no. I did not go on the field trip I had planned.
But when I took my doggie out to the grass for a break, I saw a perfect dandelion. It was a bit past ripe, and my new field guide book says dandelions are only palatable before the flowers appear. This one was so mature, the flower had already turned into a puff ball.
However! Cranky and I sampled a leaf, and we pronounced it "tasty." Kinda like arugula, kinda like miners' lettuce. Not bitter, not peppery. Good! (They have bins of disturbingly similar leaves for sale at Whole Foods; $6/lb. Dandelions are free and fresh.)
I am aware that dandelions are also known as "pis-en-lit," French for "wet the bed," due to some diuretic properties of the plant. So I guess we don't want to eat too much of it at once. Er, too far from the loo.
But damn. I wish I had known that those weeds I was dutifully pulling at my last address were purslane. Oh, we had dandelions and miners' lettuce there too. Wouldn't that have made a nice salad?
I contemplated a batch of dandelion wine, to have on hand during Eat Local Challenge month in May. But it takes six months — and it takes a lot of (non-local) sugar, something that has largely fallen out of my diet ever since last year's Eat Local Challenge.
Even so, I couldn't resist photographing the dandelion leaves in a wine glass.


farmgirl said...

Lovely photo! Just one small piece of advice. When foraging for dandelions in the grass, be sure to pluck them from a non-dog area. Unless, of course, you need an extra burst of nitrogen in your salad. : )

cookiecrumb said...

Ooh, Farmgirl. Good advice. Fortunately, this one was off the beaten path, so to speak, but I totally get your point.
Congrats on all the new lambiness chez vous! You must be very busy.

Clare Eats said...

My Oma eatsdndelions all the time, she moves the plants out of the lawn into her garden!

Cyndi said...

I tried the sudoko books, but got impatient with doing it with a pencil, since I had to erase so much. I downloaded a game onto my Treo and now play it all them time. I cheat though, and have the program fill in the pencil marks for me and then I work from there. I guess it's the instant gratification. A puzzle now takes me 15-25 minutes instead of an hour. (I really suck at it, but it's fun).

I've never eaten dandelion--don't care for arugula at all since it's too bitter for me. I'll stick to baby greens--now my favorite salad. Your weather is good enough for greens? I've still got 6 inches of snow on the ground from the storm that came through while we were in Hawaii. It's also still pretty cold down in the valley. I'm looking forward to warmer weather just so I can grill outside again.

Melissa said...

Yeah for dandelion! We were selling bunches of dandelion for almost $2.00 at the farmers market here in Oregon last season. People love the stuff, but it is just growing everywhere.

I love wild salads of purslane, chicory and dandelion. A seed company here in Oregon, wild garden seed, is breeding a bunch of different wild lettuce seeds. I think I may order some.

cookiecrumb said...

Clare: We all hear about grannies and gramps eating dandelion, and it strikes us "modern" folks as so quaint. I'd never even tasted it before yesterday, and what can I say? My loss.
Cyndi: Six inches? Jeez! (You can waste a lot of time here:
Melissa: OK, I'm going to learn to recognize chicory next. I think it's everywhere too.

Pyewacket said...

The best dandelion salad imagineable comes from Chris Schlesinger's Lettuce in Your Kitchen (terrible name, great book). The dressing is made with molasses and chopped peanuts, and the dandelions are mixed with ham and nectarines. Definitely worth trying.

drbiggles said...

Uh, ahem. You are most certainly welcome to 'forage' in my back yard. Plenty of weeds for your salad.

My father used to make dandelion wine. Hooboy that was a long time ago, early 1970s I think. Everyone enjoyed it as I remember. I had a sip, but it just tasted like wine to me.


kudzu said...

Okay, here we go: You will probably not be affected by eating those big leaves but they're not as tasty as the little bitty ones you pick before the blossoms grow. I love them sauteed in olive oil with garlic (what doesn't taste good that way?) or made into one of those greens-with-hot-bacon dressings.

For you and Biggles: the wine is made from dandelion blossoms. Does anyone remember Ray Bradbury's wonderful book, Dandelion Wine?

Farmgirl's right -- be careful where you pick wild anythings.

rae said...

you are so lucky to have a porch and a backyard! i've gotta get out of the city where foraging means bums picking through your trash.

cookiecrumb said...

Pyewacket: That recipe is mind-boggling! I can hardly imagine thinking it up. But I take you at your word. I think I'm going to cook today's harvest, however.
Biggles: We did almost exactly that: I spotted a nice stand of dandelions under somebody's mailbox today, in a spot that looked definitely untended -- unsprayed, that is -- and did the homeowner a little lawn tending, gratis.
Kudzu: Yes, I remember the book (I actually Googled it yesterday to see if there was "anything of interest" for my blog, but no. And I do know that the wine is made from the flowers. BTW, Biggles, if your dad's dandelion wine tasted like wine, I guess he got it right! :D
Rae: Well, then I won't brag about the mountain preserve half a block up the road behind my house. (Your amazake post is a knockout!)

KathyR said...

Harpers website totally sux, so it's just as well.

And, yeah, if only crabgrass were edible.

Lovely photo!

Dagny said...

One of my friends in Virginia used dandelion flowers to make wine. Hers tasted syrupy.