Thursday, April 14, 2011

Urban Land Scouts--Fed by the Land

Jeff Ross, discussing the onion

When I earned my Urban Land Scout Level 4 badge last year, I didn't know much about foraging. Well, I knew something--just enough to put a few things on the Urban Land Scouts map, and know that I could handle the thorns of the wild blackberries in order to make dessert out of them. I also knew that there was wild garlic growing around our neighborhood, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with it.
I was looking forward to yesterday's workshop as a kind of chance to re-affirm my level 4 badge--I definitely wanted to learn more about the edible things that could be foraged in the urban and suburban environment. Once Jeff Ross, the garden manager from Blackbery Farm, started talking, I couldn't help but try to hurriedly write down everything that he said. In the hour and a half of the tour, we barely made it outside of the grounds of Beardsley Farm; in that time, Jeff identified at least twenty five different edible or useful wild plants, and discussed some of the lesser-known points of a couple cultivated ones. In the picture above, he's demonstrating that the stringy roots of onions--the ones most people usually cut off and discard--have a lot of the great onion flavor, and taste incredible when flash-fried.

My head is still spinning a little, not just from the sheer amount of information Jeff presented yesterday, but with the knowledge that it was only the beginning. There is so much more to learn! I'll leave you with a picture of my notes--maybe you can make some sense of them. By the end of the workshop (on the following page, not pictured), my notes deteriorated into exclamatory remarks, such as, "Forsythia is NOT edible!! Pea tendrils are delicious! Let your collards go to seed and eat the florets!" Let me know if you have any questions, and keep in mind that a lot of the notes are specific to Beardsley. (Also, I probably misspelled or mis-wrote a few things....)


Skippy said...

Where do you go to forage? We live in the city and I am fascinated with the idea of just gathering up some plants and making a salad, but our yard isn't far enough from the road to make it safe.

I want to see what you find! Take pictures-- of the plants and of the tasty meals you make :o)

P.S. You always did have the most awesome handwriting ;o)

zemmely said...

For that workshop, we just foraged around Beardsley farm, which is not that far from the road, too. Then again, to me, anything 50 feet away from the road is fine to forage--I'm going to be getting the same level of toxins, whether I breathe them in, or eat them from plants. (And there's less likely to be pesticides on a good bit of foraged food.)

That day with Jeff, we just ran through a long list of what can be foraged. Then people collected dandelion heads and yarrow leaves, and flash-fried them in canola oil. My friend Katie made a dip out of wild garlic (looks like skinny onion greens when it grows) and buttermilk (so I didn't try any, but people said it was good).

If I ever make a meal of it, or just take good pictures of edibles, I'll post them!