Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Recent Wild Foods

After 3 weeks of pneumonia (I'm almost better, now, thank you!), various graphic design projects and other adventures occurring (yes, we have a stove again, now, but now we have no hot water, the water-heaters can only be sold to tradespeople, but local tradespeople are too busy and do not answer telephone calls...etc...etc...), I've been having a bit of trouble finding time to post. Life, however, and therefore unschooling, continues despite my silence. So tonight I'll at least try to update on some of the most successful wild foods.

First a wee note on un-successful wild foods, though. Please remember that just because I post about our roaring successes, doesn't mean this Wild Food adventure is always easy. We've had plenty of failures. For the past couple of months we've been waiting to harvest some seaweeds, thinking they'd be perfect winter-fare... except that all the low tides have been at night (this has changed, now; and today we had our first 2008 tidepool adventure). We also tried tapping broadleaf maple, to discover that although they're reportedly bountiful, not a drop is flowing. (Did we miss it or is it yet to come? We've been watching the dry jugs for nearly a month, now.) Then there are always those days where we set out for some particular thing and either find it tastes putrid, is nearly impossible to harvest, or is simply non-existent. And then, if the universe smiles upon us and we find something tasty, we have to hope that everyone is still interested in the adventure: "Mama! I just want to climb trees, instead, today!" Heh. Still, when it works it works, and then the hurdles are forgotten in the joy of feeding ourselves from the wild.

Today we went to the beach at low tide, explored the tidepools, and harvested a few goodies for dinner: Not on the menu, but fun to investigate were urchins, sun stars, sunflower stars, sea stars of various types, snails, shellfish, barnacles and crabs of various types, buffleheads, geese, and mallards... and rocks to climb on!

Saccharina sessilis or Laminaria saccharina (Sugar Kelp)

The kids felt accomplished after because it was easy to harvest, and plentiful. We cooked some with our rice for dinner, and it was (to me) like eating an ocean cloud. It made the rice so fluffy and tasty; I am drying the rest and plan to harvest it quite often, now that we know where to find it in large quantities. There is really no comparison, though, between fresh (albeit probably rather polluted) seaweed and dried. Yes we washed and soaked it well, thereby probably ridding it of it's toxins and nutrients...

Red Gracilaria (sea moss)

Apparently this is an aphrodisiac in the Caribbean; we think maybe it's a human-repellent -- it smells horrid. I ended up composting it; hopefully the garden will enjoy it more than we would.

Green Gracilaria
It doesn't smell bad, but since I wanted to look it up before eating it, I dried it instead of trying it fresh. I still haven't found any information on the green varieties, though I assume it's edible, based on the fact that the red variety is widely consumed.

Ulva (Sea Lettuce)
Our old standby! Taliesin thinks it tastes boring, but as long as it's mixed in with something tasty he doesn't mind it. We mixed it in with our rice and laminaria. We've not found it very plentiful anywhere on Bowen (yet), so there was none left over for drying.

How long can we keep our dried seaweed?Dr. Ryan Drum of says that "In proper storage, most totally-dried sea vegetables stay nutritionally and medicinally secure indefinitely. The minerals do not degrade; the phycocolloids slowly fragment over years; the pigments slowly fade, especially the chlorophylls; fats slowly become rancid; proteins fragment slowly to polypeptides and amino acids."

We've been harvesting the young leaves for salads and as a cooked green in Nasi-Goreng (one of our favourite family meals), recently. My personal favourite is a salad made with 80% dandelion greens, 19% diced tomatoes, 1% chives from the garden, and a blended dressing of grapeseed oil, (lots of) grated fresh ginger, a couple of minced green onions, balsamic vinaigre, and honey. Yum.

I think we're going to have to harvest and store some of the young greens. They get rather bitter after the plant blooms, and ours are all showing fat buds in the centre of the leaves. Of course, then there are also the petals to eat, the blossoms to fry and eat with syrup... but still... I'd love to have some dried or frozen leaves to add to future meals.

My family's tradition has been to eat nettles for Easter. (Sometimes my parents wonder aloud at how I became so "earthy" and "nature-loving"... is it beginning to become apparent, yet? Thank you, Mum and Pappa!)

So this Easter my Mum asked if we could all do a little "Wild Food Day" together to get the easter nettles from the edge of the property.

We did! Honestly, I've never loved nettles very much other than for tea (so hairy!), but my Mum cooked them with some onions and really they were very delicious, that way!

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