Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Wee Bimble Around A Waste Spot

My wife went window-shopping again today. I found a patch of shade a few feet up a slightly overgrown access road to a power substation and settled in for a bit of eye rest. Not being far from the edge of the parking lot at the local mall, sleep was out of the question, but that was okay. Every couple minutes or so, I’d hear a car slow down, so I’d open my eyes to see them gawking at me as if to determine if I was alive or dead. Finally, after easing by three times, the security guard actually stopped his vehicle, got out, and started walking toward my truck. I said hello in a cheery and polite way and he said he was just checking to see if I was okay. I assured him that I was just waiting for my wife to call me and tell me to pick her up at the door. He laughed and wished me well, then went on his way. I suppose folks are concerned about heart attacks and drug over-doses these days, but it was clear that if I’d honestly wanted to nap in my truck, I would have needed to hide somewhere.

After picking up my wife and delivering her to the Chinese Emporium next door (aka “Wally-World), I found a parking spot under a small ornamental pear tree near a triangular waste area between those two beacons of Oriental prosperity. Putting on a camo cap and getting Ol’ Possum Knocker out of the back of the truck, I set off to walk the perimeter of triangle in search of wild edibles. The first leg was along the edge of the parking lot and I seemed to draw more attention than I cared for. (Note to self – use Great Granddad’s cane next time, it’ll draw less attention than a man-sized walking stick. Most city-slickers have probably never seen such a thing.) There were a few cattails along that leg of the triangle, but I wouldn’t trust the sludge they were growing in, as far as digging roots. The heads should be safe to eat when at the right stage, though. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any but, with butter, they reminded me of a cross between corn-on-the-cob and asparagus. The point of the triangle was actually truncated a bit, and along that edge was a nice stand of cattails, guarded by impenetrable poison-ivy standing about three feet tall. They’re safe from any efforts on my part!

About halfway along the second leg of the triangle, I came across a small stand of what appears to be native Jerusalem artichokes. They obviously weren’t wingstem, but they COULD have been asters. They seemed to check out as ‘chokes when I looked online a few minutes later, but I wouldn’t know for sure without checking for tubers. I noticed that they didn’t appear to be hairy-stemmed like the tame variety I planted this year, so maybe I can look online a little more to see what I can learn. I wish now that I hadn’t given away that little folding camper’s shovel a few years ago. It would be perfect for “stealth foraging.”

The third leg of the triangle was the railroad tracks along the river. NOTHING is safe to eat along a railroad, due to wholesale spraying. However, I did find a railroad spike lying along the edge of the ballast and cabbaged it for possible knife-making. A little rise near that leg of the triangle makes me think there may have been a home there at one time, since I remember daffodils blooming there this spring. A huge maple there indicates the high ground was natural and not the result of grading in the last few decades. I’ve seen homeless guys and teenagers sitting in its shade in during the summer, though not at the same time. If there WAS an old home there at one time, it should be a good location for a guy with a metal detector.

The whole circuit was no more than a half-mile, so I was soon at the truck again. I wouldn’t call the experience extremely productive, but enough so that I’ll put notes and a drawing in my foraging notebook. Maybe I can check the weeds for tubers after frost, and watch the cattails for heads next spring.

Incidentally, I read on another blog that there’s a little piece of edible material at the bottom of a thistle bloom. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, when you consider that true artichokes are a type of thistle. I tried one and found it very small and rather tasteless, but hey, if you’re hungry, I’m sure it would be welcome. You better figure on wearing gloves when you pick them, though.

Another day—another lesson about God’s creation. © 2013


Mamahen said...

It would have to be pretty important to get me to the mall or WallyWorld on a weekend these days. Better be careful about napping in your truck these days. No telling who may come around or for what reason.

Ralph Goff said...

Cat tails are edible? My goodness, I have literally acres of them growing on my farm.

Gorges Smythe said...

Well, Mh, the windows are partway up, the doors are locked, and I have easy access to my pistol (yes, I have a permit). Feel better?

Yes, Ralph, the heads are edible at the right stage, as are the shoots, and a lot of starch can be washed out of the roots. The Indians used it a lot. Look it up online if you want more details.

Chickenmom said...

Good post, Gorges - I didn't know you could eat them either. We call them 'punks' here in Jersey and after they are dried out we burn them to keep away the mosquitoes!

Gorges Smythe said...

Cm, if you're going to eat them, you have to get them when they're only about 3/8 of an inch through and still green colored. You may not even see them at that stage unless you sort of unroll the top of the "leaf." You just break them off below the head and boil them and eat them straight off the stock like sweet corn. Some folks say that only the top half (with the pollen) is edible, but I've eaten both halves and thought they were fine.

Phillip said...

I eat a lot of wild greens, especially in spring. My Zulu house keeper finds them and cooks them delicious, called "iMfino" in iZiZulu. One name covers a whole range of edible greens. I personally wouldn't know what's edible or not.

Gorges Smythe said...

Better be certain that you never make her angry then, Phillip! ;-)