Thursday, May 1, 2014

First Mess Of Greens Of 2014

The missus was safely ensconced in Wally World for a bar-code memorizing session by early afternoon today. That meant I had at least an hour before she wore down, got bored or spent her measly $20 allotted to pick up a few essentials. From my scouting last fall, I knew where some poke should be growing this spring. I stuck my pistol in my pocket, and then followed it with a plastic bag from the wonderful Chinese emporium near which I was parked. Then, I donned my camouflage union cap from my factory job of several years past, grabbed my big black umbrella with the cane tip on the end, locked the truck and started my hobble towards the back of the lot.

I watched for possible edibles as I did my best to stroll nonchalantly along the edge of the lot to the railroad tracks that ran behind the building, but to no avail. Turning left at the tracks, I shuffled carefully along a sort of level trail just inside the edge of the ballast, though sometimes the tiny path disappeared and I found myself balancing on the rather unstable slope of large pieces of crushed limestone. The train whistle in the distance had caused me to think that walking the ties might not be the wisest thing to do. I hadn’t traveled to many yards when I came to the place where an old home had once stood. There was no trace of the house itself, but the bloomed out Easter flowers and the huge maple tree were obvious give aways.

I was barely off the right-of-way when I hit a small parch of burdock. I knew it was supposedly edible (or at least not poison), but I’d never tried it. I picked a few of the tenderest leaves, ranging from two to eight inches, wondering if I might still be in the drift zone for the herbicides the railroad sometimes uses. Since it was a small amount, I decided to take the chance. I put the leaves in the bag, having pulled it from my pocket, and then put my belt through the handles of the bag so it was supported hands-free. Coming to a second small patch a few feet further, I wondered about the possibility that I had picked the poisonous leaves of someone’s old rhubarb patch, instead of burdock. I was relieved when I saw a couple burs sticking to the tip of my umbrella.

Looking into the tiny patch of woods I was entering, I could see that the places I’d expected to see poke were no more, victims of a winter plowing during a snowy spell. The former ridge of dirt around an old water tank had been shoved a few feet further into the trees and was a muddy, barren mess. Beyond the ridge, however, I could see some new poke leaves coming up near the skeletal remains of last year’s plants. I picked a decent little mess before leaving the little copse of trees and entering a small clearing surrounded on two sides by swampy ground and the third by the parking lot I’d walked earlier. There, I found a little curly dock, dandelion, broadleaf and narrow-leaf plantain, a little lamb’s-quarter and a bit of heal-all. I managed to hide my “catch” in the truck before I received the call from the little woman to pick her up at the door.

After arriving home, I managed to pick a little more dandelion, some violets, a couple small clumps of wild onions and some chicory without my wife being aware. Then, I hid my little bag of greens in my office until the right opportunity presented itself. Later that evening, my wife put a movie on and I snuck my greens and my small stock pot to the kitchen. I’d already boiled them for five of the planned ten minutes when the missus arrived to complain that I was stinking up the house. Realizing that she was too late to roust me from my work, she returned to her movie.

After taking the greens off the stove and draining them, I tried the burdock first and decided that I didn’t like it, so I pulled the remaining leaves from the pot. Putting them in a large dish, I salted them lightly, buttered them heavily and then tasted the mixture. It was more bitter than I’m accustomed to, though the poke alone was delicious. I think the chicory was the cause of the bitterness. I tried something I’d never done before and put a couple teaspoons of xyletol in the four cups or so of mixed greens. That went a long way in taming the bitterness. I ate about a third of the greens and then covered the remainder and put them in the fridge. I figured it was best not to allow myself to come down with the same symptoms our cows did on spring grass! I enjoyed the process and the flavor.

Maybe you should try springs greens if you haven’t yet. I’m sure they’re better for you than those limp clumps of green stuff from California that they carry in the store! © 2014


Chickenmom said...

Have tried dandelions, but not the others. Rhubarb! Think I'll grow some this year - I can taste that pie already!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I would love a course in foraging. I know the basics but would like someone experienced to come along the first time. I think there's a lot of food out there that we just walk by.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

I never tried burdock but I suspected that it isn't very good as the steers won't eat it. I think I will wait on our lambsquarters to come up good before I get wild greens. Sounds like you had a good day of it with the other greens, I haven't seen any poke yet, could be late this year.

Gorges Smythe said...

Cm. the burdock root is supposed to be edible, but I never tried it. I found the leaves rather watery and tasteless. I'd thought about trying rhubarb, but it takes a lot of sugar, something hard to come by in hard times.

I never had anyone to teach me, Kathy, just start out with the ones you know. Then learn more, but take no chances. Look for one common in your area, pick a leaf and take it home to compare to computer images. When you can get it right every time, you should be safe. Also, be sure that you do a good search for look-alikes and learn them.

I think some things are running a few days late this year, SF.

Sixbears said...

I'm looking forward to some wild greens my own self. Have to check by the rock walls where it gets a bit warmer.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yeah, location definitely makes a difference, Sixbears.

Scooney Adrift said...

I was not hungry until I read your post! A pone of cornbread would have made it complete.

Gorges Smythe said...

You're right about THAT, Scooney!