Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Forager's test kitchen

Well, now, that makes me think about creating a forager's pin up calendar. A manly arm. A handful of field garlic. Riaow!

Our haul: field garlic (Allium vineale), day lilies (Hemerocallis fulva) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

Day lily tubers, post rinsing. Many foragers eat the cooked shoots and I remain a little hesitant after hearing more than one story about upset stomachs. The tubers had no ill effect on us whatsoever, raw or cooked, nor do the flower buds, come early summer.

Cooked (boiled, then sauteed in butter) the tubers are a cross between young potatoes and sunchokes - more glassy than mealy potatoes. The wilted and olive oil-sauteed garlic mustard was on the good side of bitter, like intense broccoli rabe. Its flowers were not out yet and the buds are milder.

Baby back ribs roasted with lemon on a bed of field garlic greens and bulbs.

Beef short ribs roasted with soy and field garlic. 

Then a momentous curry made with the leftover short ribs. This was killer. I used dried lime - my first time using this wonderful spice - and the meat cooked in coconut milk spiked with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and chile. With field garlic, of course! The recipe will go next door when I've retrieved it from my note book.

And the all-important, now staple pickles. 

And it's only March...


  1. What an inspiring post! One day, I will learn how to forage in this big city I love in.

  2. Excellent haul! I've never had any trouble with any part of the obliging day lily, but I know some people react badly to the tubers. I pity them.

  3. I think with the daylily tubers, and blossoms as well, it is a matter of overindulging. Anyone will have some gastric distress if they reach a critical amount of the particular amino acid they contain, if eaten in high enough concentration.

    Everything sure looks appetizing!

  4. Keep some of those pickles for me ....please

  5. A yummy blog today - wonderful photographs.

  6. So here’s a question for all of you urban foragers. I have just discovered a massive stand of field garlic in the yard beside our building, deep in the back corner where the weeds and ivy grow. Dogs use this yard for a bathroom. I am sure there are raccoons around, and rats and all the other city vermin. I have no idea what kind of chemicals they use to treat our yard, but I am sure they do. Because I do my foraging on the family farm and at my cabin I might not be thinking of other urban issues. I pulled a handful to inspect, and it looks and smells fantastic. So? Should I? What if I were to cook it with some extreme heat – broiled wings or ribs? Would the potential chemicals cook out too? Is there anything else I should be worried about? I’d love to hear from anyone and I thought you might be a good place to start, Marie. Thanks!

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  8. G - was that an inspired typo, or deliberate? I love it :-)

    Ellen - It's been so interesting making different dishes this year, especially venturing East with the knotweed. It lends itself very well to spice.

    Rachelle, really? Interesting...

    Hen - we'll feed you the vintage batch.

    Thank you, Journeyin' Lady.

    Carrie - GOOD question. Well, there's the ick factor, of course, but many forager soldier on past that. Personally, I avoid dog areas.

    If there really are dogs and raccoons using the area as a latrine do wash your hands very carefully after handling the plants and don't touch eyes, nose, mouth during...

    Yes, if they are cooked well lurking bacteria will be killed. Herbicides (do you mean chemicals for weeds or rats???) are generally absorbed by a plant and I don't know that cooking would have any effect. Same goes for heavy metals in the soil. Those stay in the plant.

  9. Thanks for the helpful answer, Marie. The chemicals were what had me worried. From the sound of the answers I have from you and other urban foragers that is the deal-breaker for this particular find. I assumed as such, but was caving to blind joy in the face of discovery. Fortunately, not ten minutes after I left you a comment, my cousin on the farm called to tell to watch my mail tomorrow for a box full of freshly harvested ramps. Should keep me calm until we go open the cabin when there is always potential for a feast of morels. Thanks for the help!

  10. 'Could call the calendar Playsoy... ;-)

  11. While these pictures and posts make urban foraging appealing there is that lingering "ick" factor in the back of my mind - what's in the soil, who and what has left a recent "deposit", etc. I have taken to gardening in my family's Brooklyn backyard garden and only plant edibles in raised beds with new soil and leave the rest of the grounds for flowers.
    Continue your travels and blogging - I enjoy your work.

  12. Anonymous - how lucky you are to have the space for raised beds. I am envious. Did a soil test lead you to your decision to create them?

    Foraging requires basic common sense, especially in a city. The woods in Inwood are the cleanest I have seen in NYC - no litter, ever, few dogs, if any, and as far as I know, no industry to contaminate the soil. The woods in Prospect Park, where I collect litter - no way. I'd eat nothing out of the ground, there. Luckily for me the oyster mushrooms grow high! Foraging is a quest for new flavours and ingredients, I think - quite different from edible gardening.

  13. I did have the soil tested a few years ago through the Brooklyn College Lab services after the NY Times article. I was informed there was a higher than acceptable level of heavy metals in the soil. I remember article also said most garden plots in the boroughs has this problem due to run off and assorted environmental pollutants.
    However, I do remember my father growing lots of vegetables we consumed. There is a fig tree that must be over 25 years old that puts out the most delicious figs yearly - these I cannot resist.

  14. Oh, wow, you can EAT the awful garlic mustard? How fitting for such an awful weed that runs rampant in Connecticut.

  15. Would you have any idea of the nutritional values for the tubers etc.?

  16. happyrock - the buds contain a lot of iron and also Vitamin A, and apart from high carbs, I don't know more about the tubers yet. They are said to be high in anti oxidants. But Google is your friend.

    If you are eating them for the first time taste small portion first and wait 24 hours. A few people are allergic to day lilies, and some hybridised ones (not the orange H. fulva) can be quite different chemically from the "original".

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