Saturday, May 3, 2008

Foraging continues in the woods

Stinging Nettles, front and center in the photo. Wear gloves to pick and long sleeves. I snap off the top 10 or 12 inches from the plant , leaving the rest for re-growth. Pull carefully as the root system is shallow and you can pull out the entire plant before you know it. Avoid doing this. I spend an hour in the woods gathering two big plastic bags full of nettle tops. Then it is a two hour session in the kitchen to pull the leaves off of the stems and to par boil the leaves so that I can freeze them for winter time eating. I set a big pot of water to boil on the stove whilst de leafing the stems. Fill bowls with the leaves. When all the leaves are off of the stems and the water is rolling, I add approximately four cups of leaves to the water at a time. Press down with a wooden spoon and let cook for about two minutes. Remove wilted leaves ( now the sting is gone) and pile into another bowl. Continue this process until all the leaves have been cooked. Let the wilted leaves cool in the bowls on the counter. Squeeze the liquid back into the kettle of "pot likker" and now I am ready to place wilted leaves in freezer bags. The "pot likker " is nutritious also. I freeze this in containers to cook beans in, for soups. Remember to wear gloves and long sleeves until all the leaves have been par boiled.

I am currently enjoying reading the book: The Forager's Harvest, A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer.

Mr. Thayer says that nettles are high in vitamin c, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron.

I plan on drying some leaves in the dehydrator to use in soups and teas this winter.
Here they are, morchella esculenta ( morels). Can you find three ? This has been an excellent year for morels in our neck of the woods. The season started late and Rhett is now finding the big yellow ones which herald the end. Maybe a few more days of foraging in the week ahead.
There are two morels in this photo. The one on the left is bent over. The top caught on the adjacent twig which caused it to grow down towards the ground.

I saute the morels in a bit of olive oil. Cut them in half first and lay them in hot oil in a big cast iron skillet. A pinch of black pepper and sea salt. Flip morels over when lightly brown to cook the other side. Throw these earthy , tasty morsels on a salad of water cress and twice roasted red beets. Also good on top of sauteed nettles tossed with pasta and roasted garlic.
The buckeye trees are flowering now. There is a grove of buckeyes down by the creek.

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