Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The inspection

Hopefully the birch poles will pass the cat's test.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Eat an invasive plant for Earth Day

Young knotweed shoots are top of the list when I think of my favourite spring vegetables. Sour, soft, and very adaptable.

It's far more fun to eat Japanese knotweed shoots than to pour glyphosates on them. Put away the Roundup, and whip out your pruning shears or oldest kitchen knife and get slicing. Or invite some local foragers over to de-shoot your clumps of knotweed. While the herbicide schills claim that glyphosates degrade too fast to harm the environment, studies are mounting that suggest the opposite.

I still wonder whether repeated harvesting of the shoots might not deplete the underground rhizome of its energy and eventually lead it to die off. Would a progressive park manager not allow foragers to collect the shoots from a designated Japanese knotweed patch? The plant is out of control in our local parks and I see no harm in such an experiment, and much potential benefit.

Above? My lunch today: Japanese knotweed and field garlic soup, with a drizzle of field garlic greens oil.

Heartbreak's flowers

On Easter Sunday we climbed a low mountain, called Mt. Taurus (or Bull Hill) above Cold Springs, on the Hudson, diagonally opposite Westpoint. The mountain may not be very large but the path did go straight up. Fittingly, this part is known as Heartbreak Ridge.

Everything was brown and grey, with patches of old green moss on the rocks.

The old quarry below looked like an Okavango delta. But no crocs or hippopotamus. Only a lost tourist who had ridden the train north with us. Later we caught the same train to Manhattan together again.

Dun and metal and slate. The pointed suggestion of buds to come on the trees whose rough bark I did not recognize.

One green plant, on the compact path.

Trail markers pointed the way, pinned to the unknown trees.

And in the leaf litter signs that the Easter bunny had passed.

And right at the top of the ridge, where we turned off the path to eat our sandwiches on a rock high above the river, and far below the soaring turkey vultures, flowers.

Several clumps grew within feet of one another, and nowhere else. The rest of the forest remained dry and papery. Later, their leaves made them easy to identify: Hepatica nobilis. At least I think that is the species.

After lunch a mourning cloak butterfly flew through the trees, rested, took off again.

We climbed in T-shirts and descended in layers of sweaters. 

We brought home Japanese knotweed, found on the lower slopes, and an unexpected sunburn.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mint on the cheap

A good way to get a cheap mint patch going is to root a bunch of $1.99 store-bought mint in water, and then plant it out once the stems have lots of little white roots going.  It takes about ten days. I hardened mine off a little before planting outside, by putting the water glass out (in the shade) during the day for about a week.

Keep well watered once planted. Mint can take some shade, which is helpful. Not many herbs like the shadows.

We eat a lot of mint, so I don't think controlling it will be a problem. One of my favourite things to make last year was a pile of mint and watercress leaves dressed with olive oil and a shake of sherry vinegar,  then rolled up in a thin layer of fattoush, a flat bread. Add creamy feta for luck.

My pea recipe in 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life calls for a bunch of mint.

And then there are always the mojitos of summer, and mint-packed gin and tonics...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Field to table

Field garlic oil and salt

Some wild food ideas I've been working on.

Field garlic deviled eggs

Last night's menu looked like this:

Field garlic deviled eggs

Nettle, dock and garlic mustard bruschetta with field garlic olive oil on sourdough 

Sweetfern bourbon-infused chicken liver mousse, with fresh field garlic chutney

Japanese knotweed and field garlic greens vichyssoise

Shawarma-style lamb with mugwort and field garlic

Baked potatoes with field garlic greens salt and butter

Orange and treviso salad with pickled dandelion stems and pickled Japanese knotweed***

Spicebush-scented crème brûlée

(***Late last night after we'd done the dishes and were on our way to bed, I discovered the enormous platter of forgotten salad on the large bedroom table where I'd left it to stay cool...)

 Field garlic chutney on sweetfern chicken liver mousse

Spicebush-scented sugar, for crème brûlée

It is a pretty, sunshining Saturday. Outside in the early Harlem afternoon (the sun has just reached the terrace) my alarm bird is calling - a white-throated sparrow. It sounds exactly like the calm alarm on my phone. 

Today I will garden, and tomorrow I will forage some more.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Birds, boules and bruschetta

On Thursday the housefinches sat unafraid in the sour cherry in the sun.

Inside, two boules rose.

And dock (Rumex) and nettles were cleaned, for this evening's bruschetta, with friends.

The loaves baked at 500'F and sang as they cooled. 

Around them the humans tried not to break, and then had supper: bread with cheese.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A wild spring walk, after snow

I crunched to the subway on a layer of ice. It had rained, then snowed, then frozen in the night. In the woods the snow still lay in the lee of trees and logs, where it melted fast when the sun touched it.

The Dicentra cucullaria had opened and were just lightly battered by the unusual weather.

Below. This is my year of learning (more) trees: buck eye?

Horse chestnut?

Lovely spicebush (Lindera benzoin), everywhere.

The sky above was clear blue.

Precisely one violet had opened.

Robins sang and a woodpecker worked. I saw two joggers and two walkers. And one man, planting things. I wondered about that, for a bit. He did not want to be disturbed.

More day liles than anyone could ever eat, below. They have taken over. No indigenous spring ephemerals up here. 

I braked hard: nettles! And yes, they do sting. A lot.

My old friend jewel weed (the fat seedlings, below) really did help with the stinging. I rubbed my hands till they were green. And then it stopped. Placebo?

I rounded the wide corner and there was the mighty Hudson. It was much colder on this side.

My collection, unpacked at home. To be worked on, today.

Clockwise from L: field garlic (Allium vineale), mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), 1 lurking dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum/Fallopia japonica), dock (Rumex sp), and nettles (Urtica dioica). The flowers are lesser celandine (Ficaria verna).

All invasive plants, bar the nettles.

The menu for a dinner tomorrow night will employ all of these vegetables, bar the lesser celendine. It is still evolving (the menu, I mean), starting with today's batch of sourdough boules, which will contribute to some wild greens bruschetta, tomorrow. I suppose a field garlic boule is a bit much?
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