The Fine Art of Foraging

Foraging is a lost art for the most part, and it does require some specialized regional knowledge of edible wild plants.  When we first moved to the affluent Boulder County area we would sneak around harvesting sand plums, crab apples, choke cherries and other delectable goodies along fence rows.  Eventually we realized that these were seen only as ornamental or nuisance plants by the area humans, and stopped sneaking when we picked.  Only the birds and squirrels are annoyed by our foraging habits, and we are careful to leave more than we take.

I grew up picking wild black raspberries, elderberries, mulberries, and all types of wild greens, and I still love the feeling of getting some kind of “free” delicious food that can be turned into preserves or goodies of some sort.  Here in Indiana the choices are endless, and in my past week here I took advantage of one of my favorite wild greens, purslane.  Purslane grows well in Colorado as the weed it is, but it doesn’t achieve the same large, lustrous leaves it attains here.  It is a succulent plant and it is used as a cooked or fresh green in many parts of the world.  I personally do not enjoy it cooked, but enjoy it raw in a salad or mixed with yogurt as a raita.  It has a light lemon flavor that pairs well with tomatoes.  Here is the wild plant, with some of the small yellow flowers at the tops of the stalks:

I am sure you have seen it growing in your garden and pulled at least a few–if you let it grow it will develop large, tasty leaves.  The stems are also edible but the leaves have the best flavor and texture.  My mother kindly left a few large plants for me so I could make some purslane salad while visiting, and so I picked off the top leaves and tossed them with tomatoes, a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and some salt.  Simply and tasty:

This is also great tossed with a little feta cheese and/or some cubed melon.  Try it the next time you decide to rip out one of those garden weeds, and I think you will be surprised.

My mother also enjoys making wine (I just sampled her super-strength pear wine, which would be popular on ice in Russia, or in any maximum-security prison–it’s a little strong…), and elderberries make great wine.  Mom picked a large patch that she found and did the hard work of removing them from their stems:

They are a tiny fruit, so she plucked a few buckets to come up with the three pounds needed for a small batch of wine.  They are beautiful little fruits:

The wine is in process and I will give you a tasting update in a few months.  Past experience is that it makes a mellow, rounded and pleasingly tannic wine.

I have so enjoyed my visit and I fly back to Colorado tomorrow.  I am going to smuggle some of these tomatoes back on the plane with me, and possibly some corn.  I am planning to do my fair food blog as soon as I get back, to focus on the deep-fried stuff that is both tasty and bizarre.  Meanwhile, I leave you with my favorite garden meals from the past week–zucchini fritters with fresh tomatoes and green beans:

Plus the classic way to enjoy a garden tomato, a gorgeous BLT:

Thanks for reading!

-Angela

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12 Responses to The Fine Art of Foraging

  1. Julie August 10, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    The best thing about elderberry wine is the Monty Pyhton quotes from the cool peolple.

  2. FRS August 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I heard your mother was a hamster. Just saying.

  3. Anonymous August 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Elderberries!!!!! My entire family of 6 kids and parents would drive north from Detroit on John R. until it turned into a narrow sand road. There we picked huge boxes of elderberries. My mom made jams and pies that were so good I'm never tempted by other jams or pies. The family often talks of those elderberry trips and laments that the berry succumbed to urbanization. I will send them your pictures and tell them to head to Indiana!
    ps–I'm not really anonymous but I don't know how to sign my name–Denise Heikinen

  4. FRS August 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Denise, they definitely are not as thick around here as they were when I was growing up, but there are still thickets to be found–send the family down and my mom will show them her secret picking spots!

  5. Anonymous August 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    I've never tasted an elderberry–don't think I've ever lived where they grew–and I'm so curious. Also–can you tell us how to make wine? I think I'll be enjoying a flood of raspberries very soon–Juliet.

  6. FRS August 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    They are pretty tannic raw but they are great cooked into jellies and such. I will get a full wine recipe for you, but basic idea is about three pounds of the berries (stems removed) and two pounds of sugar, cooked together and cooled then mixed with yeast (a special type, I think). It ferments for a couple of months before decanting into bottles. I'll get a full recipe for you…

  7. Patricia Stoltey August 11, 2010 at 6:24 am #

    I had some of your mom's elderberry wine a couple of years ago when I was there for a visit. It was wonderful! I bet I'd like that pear wine, too.

  8. FRS August 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    The elderberry wine she has made in the past has been really good–the pear wine was kind of like vodka. I think I would like it as a mixed drink. My favorite is her white grape wine, which is pretty yummy.

  9. Anonymous August 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Winemaker's
    Recipe Handbook
    Copyright 1976
    Raymond Massaccesi

    Filled with over 100 easy-to-use tested recipes.

    I am mailing a handbook to you.
    mom

  10. Alisa August 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    elderberry wine sounds wonderful!Im loving the photos you have.I saw your blog from the foodie blog roll and I like what you have here.if you won't mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post.Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post and it's all set, Thanks!

  11. FRS August 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Awesome! Thanks Alisa, I actually managed to add the widget.

  12. Rebecca Subbiah March 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    great blog post need to look for some

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