Almost Unknown Edibles

Discussion in 'General Food and Foraging Discussion' started by The_Blob, Jan 25, 2009.

  1. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    Cattail
    Typha agustifolia
    Typha latifolia

    Cattails are one of the most versatile and wide spread wild edible plants that there are. They grow in desert water holes, mountain ponds, roadside ditches, northern swamps. The two main species that grow in America are Typha latifolia and T. agustifolia. The T. latifolia is much larger (3 to 5 meters tall [10 to 15 feet]), various (sub)species grow around the world.

    At the very top is the stamenate or pollen part of the cattail. It is good eating. Further down there is a distinct break and the undeveloped seed or fluff part. The lower part is good before it turns any brown. After any part of it turns brown it is tough and fibrous. You can cook both parts as you would cook corn on the cob. Some say it tastes like the cob. When they are at this stage, some people call them kittens tails.

    To collect some pollen, cover the cattail with a large plastic bag and beating the pollen out of the stamenate. After beating the pollen out, you can cut the cattail because they often break while beating them, the lower part is good for cooking yet.

    You can make a better harvester with a 3 liter pop bottel by making a 1.5 - 2 inch hole just below the curved part of the bottle on the cap end of the bottle. Put the cap on and insert the pollen laden cattail flower head through the hole you made. Tap the cattail stem to release the pollen into the pop bottle. More pollen will be ready to harvest in a day or two. 2 liter pop bottles work too, but the pollen tends to get stuck in the neck of the bottle when emptying it.


    A little of the pollen can be added to other flour to make bright yellow bread or pancakes. This pollen is high in protein like most pollens.

    The shoots of the cattail. can be yanked and cooked.

    Look at the cross section of a root. See the starch laden central core to the root. The outside layer is entirely fiber. To get the starch from the fibrous core; first by peeling off the outside layer and cutting away bruised parts where mud and sand have gotten into the root. Then tease the fibers apart so they release the starch by pounding them in a mortar or by crushing and teasing them in a bowl of water The water becomes ropy and slippery. Let the starch settle out and pour off the water and dry the starch and you have nutritious flower.

    Cattails are a wildly abundant food generally found throughout the world…

    You can follow the energy of the plant through the seasons, and can eat this plant virtually year-round. It’s rhizomes, corms, new shoots, immature male flower spikes and pollen all provide tasty wild food nourishment. Here is a curried cattail soup that is pretty tasty.

    Curried Cattail Soup

    3 T butter
    1 small onion, minced
    1 1/2 cup cattail shoots, chopped
    1 1/2 T curry powder
    1 T cattail rhizome flour, or wheat flour
    2 t Bragg’s liquid aminos, or soy sauce
    4 c chicken or vegetable stock
    salt & pepper to taste

    Saute onion in butter until translucent. Add cattail shoots and curry powder. Saute 1-2 minutes and sprinkle cattail or wheat flour on top. Mix together and cook 1-2 minutes. Add liquid aminos/soy sauce, mix well and add stock. Bring soup to eating temperature, add salt & pepper to taste and serve.
     
  2. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    Amaranth (Pigweed)
    Amaranthus viridus

    Description: These plants, which grow 90 centimeters to 150 centimeters tall, are abundant weeds in many parts of the world. All amaranth have alternate simple leaves. They may have some red color present on the stems. They bear minute, greenish flowers in dense clusters at the top of the plants. Their seeds may be brown or black in weedy species and light-colored in domestic species.

    Habitat and Distribution: Look for amaranth along roadsides, in disturbed waste areas, or as weeds in crops throughout the world. Some amaranth species have been grown as a grain crop and a garden vegetable in various parts of the world, especially in poorer areas of South America.

    Edible Parts: All parts are edible, but some may have sharp spines you should remove before eating. The young plants or the growing tips of older plants are an excellent vegetable. Simply boil the young plants or eat them raw. Their seeds are very nutritious. Shake the tops of older plants to get the seeds. Eat the seeds raw, boiled, ground into flour, or popped like popcorn.
     

  3. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    Acorns
    Quercus alba (white oak)
    Quercas rubra (red oak)

    Processing Acorns: Step by Step

    Acorns are one of the signatures of autumn, all the essence of the mighty oak is distilled into the humble acorn.

    Acorns have largely fallen into disuse by humans as a food, much less as a staple food. Acorns used to be such an important crop that whole cultures were centered around them, especially the many Native American tribes of the Atlantic coast. Today few people have ever even tasted an Acorn, much less eaten a hot, buttered Acorn muffin, though many are dimly aware that they are supposed to be edible. Perhaps this is because they are intensely bitter when eaten fresh out of the shell, unlike the wild Black Walnuts and Hickory Nuts which still have faithful people willing to go to great pains to extract their sweet, flavorful nutmeats. Acorns require an extra processing step to leach out the bitter tannins that make them unpalatable in the raw. Or perhaps it is because acorns have such a high content of fats and carbohydrates, undesirable traits in today’s culture, but of paramount importance in primitive societies for sustenance. 100 grams of acorn flour (roughly one cup) contains a whopping 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 54 grams of carbohydrate. They also rate pretty high for vitamins and minerals in a nutritional profile, truly a survival food of high degree.

    Step One: Harvesting the Acorns

    Harvest Acorns every year, usually in mid-late September. The best places to harvest them are in grassy parks, mowed lawns or waysides as it is very difficult to gather them in the undergrowth of the woods or tall grass meadows. Oak trees seems to have a cycle of production, so that the oak that yielded heavily one year might be dry for the next few years. This can make it tricky to find a good spot as Acorn harvest tends to move around and be somewhat hit or miss from year to year.

    Harvesting is as simple as picking up the acorns off the ground and putting them into a bucket. I try to get the fresh fallen Acorns early in the season, before they have started to get weathered or buried in leaf fall. Sometimes they are green when they fall, sometimes brown, either way is fine for collecting. Acorn flour yield is roughly 2:1, so two gallon buckets of whole acorns will yield close to 1 gallon of acorn flour.

    All Acorns are edible, but some varieties are larger than others and some contain less tannic acid so are much easier to process. Oaks are divided into two main families—red oaks and white oaks. Red oak leaves have pointed tips and white oaks have more rounded lobes on their leaves.

    Step Two: Baking the Whole Acorns on Cookie Sheets

    When I bring the Acorns home, I don’t always have time to shell them right away so I might need to store them. The problem with this is that there is a certain little moth that lays its eggs inside the Acorns and if I wait too long, the larva will have hatched and eaten some of the nutmeats. In order to kill these eggs, spread the acorns (whole, in the shell) on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven at 250° for 20-30 minutes. This will allow for a few days before further processing, but for longkeeping, it is necessary to dehydrate them to avoid mold (I learned this the hard way!). This step should be done within 24 hours of harvesting the acorns.

    Step Three: Shelling the Acorns

    Shelling the acorns is the most difficult step. I used to crack each acorn by hand with a nutcracker and it was a very time-consuming with low yields. I have since developed my own technique for cracking large quantities of acorns in relatively short order. Dehydrating the acorns thoroughly helps to make their shells more brittle and makes the nuts come loose from the shells easier. I have learned that dehydrating them is essential in efficient shelling techniques.

    Cracking the shells: Using a heavy-bottomed stock pot or 5-gallon bucket or other large vessel, put about a 3” layer of acorns in the bottom and pound them to break open as many shells as you can. I use a rock. Don’t pound so hard that you crush all the nutmeats.

    Have another large vessel ready to sift the cracked acorns into. Place a piece of 1/2” mesh hardware cloth over the vessel and pour the acorns on top of it. Run your hands over the acorns to help them fall through the mesh. Don’t worry about pieces of shell falling into the vessel--these will be winnowed out later. You may need to push some of the larger nutmeats through the screen. There will probably be several uncracked acorns in the mix. Return them to the crushing operation. I always have some that I end up cracking by hand, but otherwise this is a pretty efficient process.

    Winnowing: You should now have a bowl or bucket full of nutmeats mixed in with lots of shell bits and debris. Set up a fan on a chair outdoors (or wait for a very windy day). Place an empty vessel below the fan and slowly pour the acorns into the vessel. The shells should blow away, while the nutmeats fall into the empty vessel. This may need to be repeated several times to get them really clean. Some larger shells may need to be picked out by hand.

    Step Four: Leaching the Acorns

    Once they are shelled, you need to leach the bitter tannins out. There are two techniques for leaching—a hot water leaching or a cold water leaching. Each method yields a different product. I prefer the hot water leaching. This is accomplished by simply boiling the acorns.

    Put the acorns in a cooking pot and cover with about twice as much water. Bring them to a full boil, and boil them for about 5-10 minutes. Then pour off the dark, muddy, bitter water and add more water. Repeat this process up to 5 or 6 times until the Acorns taste mild and palatable.

    Step Five: Dehydrating the Leached Acorns

    Rinse the acorns and then spread them out on clean bath towels to absorb as much water as possible to aid in the drying process. You must get the acorns perfectly dry to store them or to grind them into flour. I have a dehydrator that I use for this step, but it only holds a half gallon or so at a time, so I spread them out on a clean tarp or sheet in a dry place while they are waiting their turn in the dehydrator and I do them in batches. You could also spread them on cookie sheets in a lowest setting oven, being careful not to burn them. At this point the acorns are ready for long storage or to grind into flour.

    Step Six: Grinding the Flour

    The next step is to grind the shelled, leached, dehydrated acorns into acorn flour. Use a hand crank corn mill. Once the acorns are ground, sift them through a mesh strainer to sift out any larger crunchy particles. Then use a small electric coffee mill to get the flour really fine, and also to grind those larger particles.

    This flour can be stored in glass jars until ready to use. Acorn flour is very much like cornmeal in texture, rather than a fine flour. Therefore, when I bake with it I like to use my favorite cornmeal recipes and substitute 50%acorn flour when I have it. It makes wonderful Acorn "corn pone", muffins, and pancakes.

    Acorn Yeast Bread

    2 cups warm water
    1 TBL dry yeast
    1/4 cup honey or sugar
    1/4 cup oil
    2 eggs
    2 cups acorn masa or 1 1/2 cups acorn flour plus one cup water (see below for how to make masa and flour)
    5 1/2 cups whole wheat (or white) flour

    In bowl combine water, yeast, and honey or sugar. Stir. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Add 4 cups flour and stir. Place one cup flour on counter and place dough in center of it. Knead for 10-15 minutes, adding remaining flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to counter. Oil large bowl and place dough in it, turning once so both top and bottom are oiled. Cover and let stand in warm area until doubled (about two hours). After doubling, punch down and let rest 10 minutes. Knead about 10 times and divide into two loaves. Place on cookie sheet or form into loaves and put in loaf pans. Let rise again until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

    To Make Acorn Flour

    Shell about 1/2 to 1 gallon of acorns, discarding any black or dark brown ones. Place in largest cooking container available and fill with water. Bring to boil. Drain off colored water after about twenty minutes. This is the leaching process. Repeat until water comes out clear after boiling (about 7-8 times).

    Drain. Grind acorns to flour. Manose metate can be used (or blender works well for us while in civilization). Dry in dehydrator or oven (with the door open) until all moisture is gone. After dried, store in airtight container and use as flour.
     
  4. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    Dandelion greens... If you don't treat your lawn, this can be done easily.

    From mid-April through mid-May the best for harvesting wild dandelion greens at their young and tender best. Although dandelions can be found throughout most yards, I’ve discovered that the best ones grow in the wildest of places, safe from the punishing foot traffic of pedestrians and the whir of the lawn mower blade.

    As they pine trees bordering my property have grown they’ve created a fringe forest ecosystem. The soil there is particularly rich due to the accumulation and decomposition of pine needles and windswept autumn leaves. Just enough sunlight passes through for dandelions and other opportunistic plants to thrive.

    My thinking is that if the land is prepared to offer up free food in the form of salad greens, mushrooms and berries, one would be silly to refuse. Embraced throughout human history and across cultures and cuisines, the dandelion has been cast as public enemy No. 1 in postwar, suburban America. An estimated 80 million pounds of pesticides are used each year on home lawns to eradicate them. Yet each year, the scrappy plant returns, thumbing its sunny yellow nose.

    For me, letting dandelions grow wild and pesticide-free in my yard is not just about frugality and ecology, but also gastronomy. They also serve as a useful reminder that good foods are closer than we may think, even as close as our own back yard.
    All parts of the dandelion are edible and have medicinal and culinary uses. It has long been used as a liver tonic and diuretic. In addition, the roots contain inulin and levulin, starchlike substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion. Dandelion roots can be harvested during any frost-free period of the year and eaten raw, steamed, or even dried, roasted and ground into a coffee substitute. The flowers are best known for their use in dandelion wine, but they also can be added to a salad, made into jellies or dipped in batter to make dandelion fritters. The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. Dandelion greens can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or braised. For use in salads, greens should be harvested from new plants while still small and tender, before the first flower emerges. Larger greens tend to be tougher and more bitter, and better suited for cooking.

    Wilted Dandelion Greens Salad
    4 slices of bacon, chopped
    1 small red onion, diced
    2 tsp brown sugar
    2 tbsp cider vinegar
    1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and dried, stems removed
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Fry bacon bits in a skillet until they are crisp and have rendered all their fat. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings and return the skillet to the burner. Add onion and stir in the sugar and cider vinegar. Pour the hot dressing over the greens, tossing the greens so as to coat them with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Simple Sauteed Dandelion Greens
    1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
    1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and dried, stems removed
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok on medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it becomes translucent. Add the greens and saute 2 to 3 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally. If your greens are tough, you may want to cover the pan and steam them for a minute or 2 more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Dandelion Salad with Fresh Goat(?) Cheese and Apples
    (If you don’t have any apples stored from the winter, substitute any firm fruit that’s in season)

    2 tbsp cider vinegar
    3 tbsp vegetable or nut oil
    1 tsp Dijon mustard
    1 tsp honey
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and dried, stems removed
    1/4 pound fresh white goat cheese, crumbled into pieces
    1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
    1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

    Whisk vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper together. Pour over greens and toss lightly. Top with goat cheese, nuts and apple.

    Dandelion Mushroom Calzone
    3 tbsp olive oil, divided
    1/4 pound mushrooms (button, shiitake or baby bella), sliced
    2 large garlic cloves, minced
    1 bunch dandelion greens, washed and dried, stems removed
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1 pound pizza dough
    1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add mushrooms and garlic, and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the dandelion greens and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll or stretch the dough to form two 10 inch rounds. Transfer dough rounds to a floured baking sheet or pizza pan. Sprinkle a layer of shredded cheese on half of each round, leaving a 1-inch border. Add the dandelion and mushroom mixture to the cheese layer, and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling, forming a half-circle. Press and crimp the edges together to seal. Using a knife, poke a hole or two in the top. Brush the calzones with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake for about 11 minutes or until the calzones are crisp and turning golden. Cut them in half and serve hot.
     
  5. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    Lamb's Quarters (Goosefoot)
    Chenopodium alba

    Many people see Lambs Quarters as nothing more than a common weed, never realizing that a tasty and nutritious green vegetable could be enjoyed, free for the picking.

    Finding Edible Lambs Quarter Weeds

    As with any edible weed or wild plant don’t eat unless you are positive of its identification and that it has not been exposed to chemical sprays or pollution. So if you’re not familiar with lambs quarter refer to a good edible weed field guide or consult with someone who is familiar with the plant before eating it. Lambs quarter can frequently be found growing in vegetable gardens, on disturbed soil, and along the fringes of fields and banks. The plants can grow to about four feet in height with multiple branches forming off of a main squarish looking central stem. Lambs quarter leaves often have a white, pollen-like substance coating their undersides. Forage for wild lambs quarters around your landscape or allow a few plants to grow in the garden amongst your vegetable and herb plants. A few seed suppliers sell a cultivated variety of lambs quarter or Giant Goosefoot called “Magentaspreen.” This variety has an attractive magenta hue on the young leaves and stems. To harvest lambs quarter just cut or snap off the youngest and best looking branches from the top and sides of the plant. Learn to identify lambs quarter and you may be surprised to find it growing up all around you.

    Cooking Lambs Quarter Greens

    The leaves and stems are edible and absolutely delicious, with a flavor that can be compared to spinach or chard with an earthy, mineral rich taste. It’s difficult to describe, but if you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach you’ll love lambs quarter and enjoy the change of pace provided by its distinct flavor. When cooking lambs quarter the easiest preparation is to simply steam the leaves and stems in a small amount of water until tender. The greens will cook very quickly and turn a dark green color as they shrink down during cooking. The cooked greens are delicious just as they are with no additional seasoning or flavoring necessary. The young leaves and smaller stems can also be eaten raw in salads. Or you can experiment by substituting lambs quarter for spinach or chard in some of your favorite recipes. Once you steam a batch of the fresh leaves and stems the biggest surprise may be just how much you enjoy the taste of this plant that you previously yanked from the garden and discarded.
     
  6. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    Chickweed (chickenwort, craches, maruns, winterweed)
    Stellaria media OR Alsine media

    Chickweed is simple to identify and if you don’t let it get totally out of hand it shouldn’t be much of a problem to control, at least not in cultivated garden areas. What’s more, chickweed is edible, nutritious, and has even developed a reputation as a medicinal plant. While chickweed is easy to recognize, it’s not as easy to describe. The plant grows in a thick clump or mat of leaves, stems, tiny buds, and flowers, all of which can be eaten. It is a low growing plant that spreads along at ground level rather than growing vertically. The small oval shaped leaves grow in pairs and are medium green in color. The plant’s stems are delicate, almost hollow-like and succulent. You’ll notice tiny unopened flower buds and white flowers along the ends of the meandering stems.

    Chickweed’s Growth Habits

    Chickweed is a rapidly growing weed that grows best during the spring and fall seasons and will become sparse and spindly during the heat of summer. It matures rapidly and can blossom and set seed within a very short time of germinating. This rapid growth and seed production is what can turn this edible weed into a nuisance in lawns and even gardens if allowed to grow unchecked. So never allow it to grow in garden areas long enough to mature and produce a seed crop, and don’t add this plant to your compost piles.

    While I personally haven’t had a problem with chickweed growing out of control it in my garden, I would definitely not purposely introduce it for the sake of having a wild plant to feast on. Once you become familiar with the appearance and habits of chickweed you’ll have no problem locating more than you can use because it’s all over the place.

    Locating and Using Chickweed

    There’s one variety of this edible wild plant goes by the name of Common Chickweed, and it is one of the most widespread and common weeds that you will find. Just another example of why there is no reason for people to go hungry when oftentimes there is food, organic as can be, right at your feet with no cost beyond the time it takes to gather it up.

    As with any edible weed or wild plant, be 100% certain of its identification before eating it, and never collect plants form areas that may be polluted or exposed to chemical pesticide or herbicide treatments. Also, be aware that even though a plant is edible, some individuals may have allergies and sensitivities to eating or even touching them.

    Vitamin rich chickweed can be steamed or cooked as an ingredient in soups, but probably the most popular culinary use is simply as an addition to green salads. Harvest the plants when they are lush, green, and full, including the tender stems, buds, and flowers, right along with the leaves, as they’re all edible.

    Chickweed is reputed to have many medicinal properties and is often recommended as a weight-loss aid and for skin irritations. In addition to using the fresh leaves, it can also be dried for use in making herbal teas. The plant is sold in capsules and tinctures, and used in formulas for poultices and ointments.

    Even if you choose to continue to treat chickweed as nothing more than a common weed at least familiarize yourself with its appearance and add it to your collection of edible weeds such as nettles, plantain, and dandelion that you can easily find and identify
     
  7. TechAdmin

    TechAdmin Administrator Staff Member

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    Very good information! This is all stuff you have made?
     
  8. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    only the acorns, cattails, and dandelions, but I hope to do the rest this year, just to try it
     
  9. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

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    That is an impressive list of things that a person could eat. I never knew about the CatTails - I did know about the dandelions and making a tea or salad and such from them.
     
  10. drRapier

    drRapier Guest

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    Very interesting! Wish I had the time to explore more options like this. I'm not sure how well I would actually like most of these things if I did try them....but it would be pretty sweet to try!!