Sunday, May 3, 2009

Foraging- from weeds to seeds

My garden is greener than it's been for a long time. It's a beautiful thing to see. Chubby, tender shoots sprout everywhere. It's a verdant carpet covering damp, chocolate-brown earth. 
I kneel down in front of it all and then, start hacking away- because it's all gotta come out! You see it might look pretty, but it's weeds. That's right, the garden is green, but it's not green with anything useful... apparently. 
Milk weeds, dandelions, other things I can't name- I hack, I pull, I twist- I rip it all out. 
1/2 an hour later I'm hot and sweaty, covered in sap and only about 1/8 of the way through. I turn around and survey the damage- a huge, lush pile of leaves with roots pointing oddly at the sky. They look at little mournful- and I am suddenly overwhelmed with a huge sense of waste. This pile of leaves looks so promising, so vibrant- I could swear they would be crunchy and probably a little peppery too.
 I suddenly wish that I knew more- more about what I was ripping up and more about weather or not they were edible. What if I was throwing away a perfectly good salad? It sure looked like one? And besides, isn't foraging the 'new black' when it comes to eating local?
My recent mushroom trip must have inspired me. I didn't necessarily trust myself to eat what I'd dug up, but it did inspire me to start looking into what was about to make intimate friends with the compost bin. So I grabbed 'Wild Food Plants of Australia' by the renowned Tim Low and began thumbing the pages, looking to see if perhaps that really was a garden salad on my lawn.
Judging by the pretty definitive pictures in my field guide, here's a couple of the things that I think were mixed into my grass greens:
* Common Sowthistle- tastes like endive acc. to Low.
* Yellow Wood Sorrel- a bit like clover (the little buggers), makes good 'tarts' and salad.
* Yam Daisy, Murnong, or native dandelion- the root is good for stewing, tasty but not too high in vitamins.

To my disappointment I am not growing any chocolate lilies, grass potato or quandongs...   
Still, if the GFC gets really tough- I know that I won't starve. I may not be living in style, but i'll still be able to have you all over for dinner. 

NOTE: I am NOT encouraging you to eat things you think you have identified in your garden- but I am hoping that you might take a healthy interest in thinking beyond the square when it comes to food... I haven't quite got a pot of nettles stewing on the stove... yet.

For now, I better head back to the organic, heritage, grown-from-seed vegie patch, where at least I know what the radishes look like.

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