Saturday, May 30, 2009

me learning about edible wild plants

today we went for a walk not far from where we live. after getting over a fight about where to park the car, we enjoyed the rest of the hike thoroughly.

i've been doing quite a bit of browsing in books about edible wild plants. but i'm terrible at retaining information. so i get very excited if i make an identification of any plant. a while ago, i spotted a stinging nettle growing at the side of the path down by the river. i even rubbed the leaf on my thumb and was strangely elated to feel the sting that lingered for the rest of the day.

i've learned that if you cook nettles, their stinging goes away, and they are a very nutritious green to add to a soup or other dish. i haven't tried this yet. i got a little discouraged when i read that the leaves are best gathered earlier in the spring before they become more tough and bitter.

the other very interesting use for nettles is as an alternative to rennet. i understand that in the making of cheese, a substance from the stomach of a young cow is used to digest the milk. this is called rennet. however, nettles can be used to make an vegetarian alternative to rennet. so cool!

anyway, back to today's hike. i was eager to try to identify more plants, even though i forgot to bring the books with me. before too long, i saw nettles growing by the river. i didn't sting myself this time.

most of the hike i looked at plants and observed their details more closely, figuring i could look them up when i got home. i think i may have successfully identified curled or yellow dock as well. i thought it was amaranth, looked it up, and realized it wasn't. then a few pages over in the book i realized maybe that it was dock. i'm pretty sure it's right.

the interesting thing is that if you touch nettles and are stung, you can often find dock growing near by. by crushing the dock leaves in your hands, (maybe even spit on it to add some moisture), you can create a salve that will ease the stinging. (I read this in Euell Gibbon's book, Stalking the Healthful Herbs.)

[i was just looking for a picture of dock online and am now starting to doubt whether i actually found dock. never mind. i'll find it eventually.]

finally: dandelion greens. well, we took our bowls of food outside to eat on the grass, and afterwards, i realized we were sitting on some. adam tried some, and said these are bitter! and they were. but we picked a bowlful anyway, and i washed and boiled them. apparently, you can still eat them as the season progresses, but you compensate by boiling them and changing the water they are boiled in. i cooked them for 5 minutes, changed the water, then 10 more minutes (in very little water), and drained them. with a little butter i thought they were quite good. adam didn't think they were that exciting, but the fact that they weren't gross is exciting to me. i think next time i'll pick more and actually include them in a dish. or maybe with our eggs in the morning.

p.s. we saw so many different animals today! lots of turtles swimming and sunning by the river. a snake in the weeds by the path. minnows, and an enormous fish. probably 4 feet long and almost a foot in diameter--it appeared only momentarily as we sat and snacked by the river. i watched for a long time for it to reappear but it didn't. but wow! later, a snake swimming on the surface, but when it saw us it disappeared into the depths. a groundhog grazing by the road. a swarm of ants on our sidewalk. a solitary little rabbit munching in the grass. and finally a racoon raiding a dumpster. and blackbirds swearing at him and divebombing him.


angie lines said...

P, I am not very familiar with cheese making. So I do not know at what stage the rennet is incorporated but I do find this interesting.

Also, I think it is great that you saw so many creatures on your walk in the woods. I saw what I thought was a beaver the other day but, without seeing it, my dad insists that it was just a ground hog. Thing is ground hogs do not have tales. And this thing totally had a tale. Anyway, ttyl. :)

angie lines said...

PS: I looked up a picture of a ground hog. It was defo a groundhog and not a beaver. :)

bethany said...

lovely walk. thx for sharing. so glad you're learning, i need to badly :) the big pix are delicious and not a problem at all on my end. great to see more of them!

Beth said...

i have stinging nettle in my back yard. i was going to take it out but maybe i should leave it for you. i got stung a couple of times already... the walk sounded delightful.

fog said...


groundhogs are awesome. i consider them totem animals. the way they sniff the air and keep an eye on you. of course they way they run when they are pudgy and well fed is also wonderful. hopefully they aren't well fed on our gardens, tho!


thanks--guess what. i found real dock yesterday. i was so elated. it was growing in a weedy area by a gas station.

it takes time to incorporate new food habits, doesn't it. i picked dandelion greens again but never got around to cooking them.


nettles means that your soil is very fertile, i just read (in you grow girl). if i come visit you we can make nettle pudding and feed it to your poor husband!