I have been terrible about keeping up with pictures as we do these experiments so please forgive the stock footage. However, the pictures do link to the Wiki listing for that plant so it’s not all bad.
We’ve been working hard getting back into foraging. Some of what we’ve been doing is things I’ve shared before but some is new. Some was successful and some not so much. It’s good to hear both experiences. And none of it’s very complex or worth a post on its own.
We have grown to love cattails. This year we were so afraid we’d miss the small window of opportunity to get cattails for pickling. I discovered something – it’s not too late so long as the center stalk is not visible. The part we pickle is the tender part of that stalk. Shorter plants are better because they have less waste but you can save the long leaves for weaving. I just haven’t gotten there yet.
To make the pickles, strip away all the leaf parts until you are left with a solid tube of tenderness. My post here has my recipe. That year I saved too much of the leaves and the outside parts of my pickles were too tough.
This is what the cattails looked like just before I poured on the brine:
Cattails are a great food source that gives the entire growing season. I was able to collect a little pollen but not enough for a good experiment but I’ll be working more on that as time goes on. We did manage to pick 2 small cattail heads with both male and female parts. I’m not 100% sure which is which. The heads had two parts – one is a small version of the head of a mature cattail and the other was a cone shaped flowery bit that was actually longer than the dense part. We boiled them in water and ate them. The top flowery part was soggy but the dense tube like part was so tasty with a little butter. We were sorry they were so small. We’ll be catching them again and again to see what size is “perfect”. They’ve been compared to corn on the cob. While there are some similarities, flavor is not one. There is not a strong flavor but it’s open to whatever seasoning you give it. So we ended up with a butter, tender vegetable that we really wanted more of.
I’ve been reading Katrina Blair’s The Wild Wisdom of Weeds and it practically haunts me. I had pulled up a ton of weeds in my garden and composted them just the day before starting her book. It killed me to think about all that luscious food gone to waste. Her book made me want to eat more weeds.
So one day, I stole some thistles from a neighboring garden plot. I rushed them home, washed them and juiced a handful of leaves. With joy and delight, I brought the cup to my lips. That first taste of grass and green hit my palate and before I could fully think “that’s not bad”, the bitter set in. It grew and grew until I realized I hated thistles. What was I thinking? I, of course, took the glass to my husband and presented it to him. I watched his reaction and wished I could have filmed it.
We did save the roots and are currently drying them to see how they work for tea. There might be something worth saving when it comes to the thistle. So far, it’s not the plant. I’m glad I’m no longer curious and I do know that if we were starving we would have healthy food. I’m sorry I didn’t have Katrina’s love for the plant.
This was one of those things that I wasn’t sure what and how much to share. Arnica is a very rare plant and our region is one of the few in the world were it still grows wild. We lucked out and managed to pick a ton of it. If you do have the privilege of picking wild arnica, it is asked that you only pick the flower. We did our best to leave the roots and any unopened flowers behind. The soil was a little loose so we did get a root or two as we tried to just pick the flowers. I would recommend bringing scissors. We hadn’t gone out with the intention of picking them because we thought it was too early.
What I want to share is that medicinal plants can be used to infuse oil. Since we had so much I used a stovetop method. While washing the plants and running them through the salad spinner, I heated a large pot of oil on the stove. I heated the oil to about 150 degrees, just enough to be warm but not enough to cook the plants (normally I do this on low in my crockpot overnight – oil and plant but there was too much to fit in my crockpot). I left the plants for a few days. It got hot and started to smell strange so I strained it. We’re not usually this hot so my system was a little off. We wanted to make sure it was well infused. This oil we’ll most likely make in to salves but I’ll have more on that later.
While in the mountains, we noticed the elderberry trees were in full bloom. I picked a bags worth. I got to tell you, the smell alone was worth it. They smell like flowers and anise. It was incredible.
I filled a quart jar with flowers (removing them from all the stems) and then filled that with vodka. So far, that is becoming awesome. It’s been infusing for about 5 days. I can’t wait to taste the end result.
Last night I took the remaining flowers and made elderflower cordial. It’s still infusing as well. I really can’t wait to share those recipes with you but I want to wait until I get them finished.
So that’s what I have been up to lately. We have lots more foraging experiments to go since our summer season has just started.