Showing posts with label foraging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label foraging. Show all posts

March 26, 2020

Piñones 2: The Lemonade Stand Rule

Bagged piñon nuts for sale by a roadside vendor.
The "Lemonade Stand Rule" originated when I was driving one time on US 20 across western Nebraska. I went through a little town — Rushville? Hay Springs? —  and saw two little kids selling lemonade on the sidewalk in front of a Victorian house.

It was a picture-perfect small town scene. I was trying to be a photojournalist and to build up my stock-photo portfolio. But I knew that if I stopped to photograph them properly, I would have to track down a parent and get a signed photo release, which would mean some explaining— and did I really want to do that when I had an interview scheduled with this USFWS guy at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge (further east) later that afternoon?

I eased off the gas, thought for moment, and then drove on. But I soon berated myself on two counts: "You dummy! There were those kids alone under a big prairie sky. At least you could have bought some lemonade to cheer them up! And why didn't you take the time to get a good clear photo? You'll never be a professional!"

The Lemonade Stand Rule (LSR) states that unless I am extremely pressed for time or the traffic is impossible, I will always stop for kids' lemonade stands. In this over-regulated age, selling lemonade is a sem-Free Range Kids things to do, and the sellers should be supported.

(There should be an Oshá Stand Rule too, after the time I failed to stop at a table selling oshá root down in San Luisand something bad happened.)

What about piñon nuts (piñones) then? 

Last January I was driving and saw a pickup parked by the side of the road with a sign advertising piñon nuts. I applied the LSR, made a quick left across the oncoming traffic and pulled up behind it.

I got to talking with the vendor—he was a re-seller, a local guy—and we were trading a little basic info. He said he lived in the Wet Mountains, and I said, "Oh, up on XXXX  Creek?" and I was right. We had some things in common, and when he volunteered that he had done a little federal prison time (for a nonviolent offense nearly twenty years ago), I knew exactly what that had been about.

The nuts were not cheap. My last post explained why that is. But I bought a small bag and got back in the Jeep, thinking, "I must have lived here for a while."  (I have the photos too, but I am not using them here.)

Please stop for lemonade stands. Fight the Machine.

March 23, 2020

Piñones 1: Smart Birds — How Do They Know?

Some  late-season pinon cone with some nuts. You can see where the birds (jays?)
chopped out other nuts, so why did they leave these? Maybe they knew something.
The white droplets are sticky resin.
Where we live is a sort of a mash-up of the piñon-juniper forest (also known as "the PJ") and the montane forest of ponderosa pine, douglas fir, gambel oak, and yes, three kinds of juniper.

There is one big piñon pine near the house, but we have ignored harvesting from it — that's a messy job (see below) — preferring to just leave the nuts for the birds.

On the other hand, as wild-food chef Hank Shaw  (You will see his blog in the sidebar under "Elsewhere") writes,
If you’ve ever bought pine nuts in the store, chances are you’re eating Chinese imports that are often of dubious origin. And even if you are vigilant about where your pine nuts come from and buy, say Italian pine nuts, you may get high quality, but you pay for it through the nose.

Why aren’t there American pine nuts, you ask? Well, there are. You just have to go find them yourself.
Shaw offers a method for gathering nuts that begins,
First, buy a cheap pair of gardening gloves. The cones are coated in pitch, a sweet-smelling sticky resin that will get on everything. It happens to be one of the most lovely smells in the world, so it’s not all bad. But your gloves will get wrecked, so be prepared for that.
Not gathering pine nuts.
Alternatively, you spread sheets out and knock the cones off with sticks, sort of the old medieval "by hook or by crook" method.

M. was out walking in the woods lately and noticed cones with nuts still on one tree. Odd. She brought some back. We cracked them . . . and almost all of the nuts, while they looked good, had no "meat" inside them.

Which makes us wonder, how did the jays know to leave those alone? They looked normal. Smart birds!

Empty nuts!
The sticky pitch, which hangs in white blobs off the cones in the photo, was a handy glue for ancient people.

I just imagine some woman of the old Southwestern Basketmaker culture who has spent all day smearing the stuff inside a basket to waterproof it. Did she say, "Oh no, I don't have hands anymore, I have flippers!" She probably used some kind of little paddle to spread it.

March 02, 2020

Please Don't Put Oshá on my Cookies

Biscochitos, official state cookie of New Mexico.
This post starts with foragers, but be patient, the Southern Rockies part is coming.

First, from Vice magazine, a piece on rural wild-food foragers in England, which includes this observation:

The pair's foraging ethos sits between the Bear Grylls-style of wild food ("forcing yourself to eat something that tastes horrible") and the "hipsterized" trend to add a foraged element as a garnish, rather than incorporating it into the dish itself. 

So then my wife is reading New Mexico Magazine, and naturally she is drawn to an article about forager-restauranteurs Johnny Ortiz and Afton Love, who operate a tiny restaurant called Shed:
Donning their muddy boots and with recyclable tote bags in hand, they probe the landscape for the edible plant life that a majority of Westerners have long been estranged from, owing to the rise of food monocultures. Ortiz’s food philosophy revolves around foraging and thus maintaining wild plant and animal ecosystems, as well as farming and raising animals, plus digging clay to make much of the ceramic ware in which his meals are served. Shed’s dinners, which consist of a prix fixe menu of 12 small plates, are but the “fruiting body” of an entire ecology.
And, wouldn't you know,
The dishes demonstrate the metaphor: a wafer-thin whole wheat bizcochito [sic] seasoned with fennel, covering a ponderosa pine bark ice cream, sprinkled with piñons shelled in a tortilla press and served in a black micaceous clay bowl made from earth he harvested at a “Taos Pueblo spot where my ancestors would’ve dug from.” There’s osha sprinkled on top.
Oshá, a root, is definitely medicinal — I went through several bottles of the tincture while fighting a virus with a lot of bronchial congestion earlier this winter.

Sprinkling it on a biscochito (essentially a sugar cookie), however, to me is like sprinkling turpentine on vanilla pudding. The taste is not exactly dessert-alicious. Maybe it is "hipsterized." I admit to not having tried it.

May 13, 2019

'False Spring' Pasta


We are used to "false spring" along the Eastern Slope of the Rockies.

Maybe now, with the last snow melted, this is the real spring, but I am still calling this dish pasta falsa primavera — with fillaree, lamb's quarters (quelite cenizo), clover, and dandelion, all picked within yards of the house.

September 27, 2018

Lambsquarters Is the New Kale

Some tiny lambsquarters seeds and a book that has nothing
about lambsquarters in it.
M. and I ate a lot of lambsquarter (lambsquarters? lamb's-quarter(s)? anyway, Chenopodium album) this summer, as I wrote in early July: "Not-Gardening in a Time of Drought."

They, wild amaranth, and our nettle patch provided most of our early-summer greens — on their own, mixed into pasta, or baked with cheese in Greek pie (spanakopita).

We did not know how trendy we are! Lambsquarters was (were?) recently featured in a Los Angeles Times lifestyle blog: " Lambsquarters: Weed harvested as wild food."
Volunteer lambsquarters.
Mia Wasilevich, a wild foods chef, and her partner, Pascal Baudar, lead classes in foraging in the environs of L.A. When they have collected a wild harvest, Wasilevich transforms the weed into something more civilized -- pesto or spring rolls with a brilliant green dollop of lambsquarters glistening under the rice paper.

“It’s a wild food and I prefer to cook it down, even for a short time,” she says. “I do a pureed green velvet soup with it that’s lovely. It can go in any number of sauces. I just did a lambsquarters benedict, like a florentine, with quails eggs. It makes a beautiful sauce.”
I guess that makes M. a "wild foods chef" too, since she is also adept with mushrooms.

But there is more. Ethnobotanists are pursuing lambsquarter(s) as well.
"It's a bit like Jurassic Park," I told a greenhouse visitor while I tucked another inflorescence into a glassine paper bag. "People ate this like quinoa almost 4000 years ago. The variety grown here vanished hundreds of years ago, but with a bit of work we can bring it back". . . .
In the past, lambsquarters may have been prepared and eaten the same ways as quinoa and huauzontle. The archaeological data are clear that lambsquarters was an important crop in prehistoric eastern North America, but many details about the extinct crop are hard to pin down. Where did it come from? How was it grown? How was it eaten? What is known comes from seed cashes and storage pits where seeds passed the centuries until archaeologists uncovered them.

And from the sadly defunct Colorado foraging blog Wild Food Girl, recipe for "Lambs' Quarters Pesto with Sunflower Seeds."

More:
This is a weed of garden beds and landscaping. Like a dedicated pup, it follows us humans around, much as we have sought it out. In The Forager’s Harvest (2006), Sam Thayer explains that the goosefoot C. berlandieri has been used by native people here for thousands of years, prior to contact with European settlers, who brought their own strain of edible Chenopodium to North American soils, whether or not intentionally. There is archaeological evidence for Chenopodium seeds in North America dating back thousands of years, he explains, citing Smith (1992). “Depending on classification, these seeds may or may not represent C. album; but some of them certainly represent plants that would commonly be called “lamb’s quarters,” he writes.
In past years, we have always counted in the lambsquarters coming up on its own in various spots. Unlike the guy in LA, we don't have to keep them a secret — they are right next to the house.

What we have done this year is gather some seeds, just to make sure that they keep coming up. Who knows, maybe we will devote some garden space to lambsquarter(s) — our own little Neolithic Revolution. You can be a foodie and eat like the Old Ones at the same time!