Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Urban Foraging Oasis (Some Instruction Included)

I discovered, whilst on vacation, a wondrous place that deserves a mention in this blog even though it is not in the proximity of anything remotely resembling a "foothill" (or any other hill except for perhaps a hill of the fire ant variety). It is a place where the nascent forager can take their first hesitant steps towards relishing food stuffs that do not come pre-washed and pre-packaged but are instead literally lying at one's feet. "Where is this amazing place?", you ask and "How much is the price of admission?", you wonder. In the order of your inquiries: Redland, Florida and $8.

The place is Fruit and Spice Park; a public 37-acre tropical botanical paradise owned and operated by the Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Department. The garden hosts over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts. But this is not your typical "look-but-don't-touch" botanical garden and, depending on the season, you can sample all that grows here.

There is, however, one important directive - You are prevented from picking any produce from the plants. You are allowed only to eat what has already fallen. While this may sound less than ideal, the fare is most plentiful as there are numerous trees of each fruit variety and typically only the ripest fruit actually falls to the ground.

On the late December afternoon that we arrived, the staff greeted us with a graciously prepared sampling table of about a dozen fruits that were not fully in season but were available in limited supply for "special" guests from the foothills (as long as you pay the $8 admission, I am sure that you too will be awarded this premium privilege). After consuming this copious snackage, we gorged ourselves on carambola, coconut, egg fruit, finger limes, gamboge and other succulent sustenance despite Syd's supposition (correct, of course) that a large meal made up entirely of fruit would lead to later "issues" of the digestive system that would inevitably make our camping trip to the Everglades somewhat more eventful than desired...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Foraging in the Higher Elevations

In the lower elevations, most of the sweet berries of summer have been picked and eaten, turned into jam, or have simply withered on the vine in the oppressive heat. Nevertheless, many sacchariferous surprises still await those willing to climb a little higher. Yesterday's hike into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area yielded a plethora of these still succulent gems and the 72 °F ambient at 6000' was a welcomed relief from the dog days of summer below...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The First Road Cabbage of 2012

Today is a day of joy and celebration. Today is a day that has been the subject of much anticipation. Today is the day that the Cabbage Gods have smiled on me and have provided me with much needed sustenance. Today is the day of the FIRST ROAD CABBAGE of 2012. Today is truly a great day...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Very, Very Good Berry and a Very, Very Bad Barry

There is really nothing quite like the fully ripe wine berries (Rubus phoenicolasius) which are now making their appearance in the lower elevations of the foothills area. These
bright red gems of sweet succulent goodness literally make my mouth water with anticipation. Kinda like the exact opposite of a Marion Barry...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

One of my Favorite Buds

Shortly before they emerge to display their beautiful splendor, the unopened flowers of the daylily can be gently plucked, delicately rinsed, dusted with powdered cayenne, lightly salted and then sautéed in a bath of simmering butter. That sounds like the perfect start to a quiet evening shared with one of my favorite buds...

Monday, May 14, 2012

BlackBerry Users Apparently Not Foragers of Blackberries

I checked my blog stats today and apparently BlackBerry users do not like to forage. How hypocritical of them, using a device whose moniker is derived from such a yummy wild comestible...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Faux Spinach With a Mean Streak

If you do not like the taste of spinach, STOP READING NOW, DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST. If you do like the taste of spinach, it is time to pick some weeds. In their raw state, nettles are less than palatable but, once cooked, they lose their sting and gain in flavor. Wood nettle (Laportea canadensis) (pictured at left) is very similar to its better-known "cousin" stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and they both taste surprisingly like Popeye's preferred performance enhancer. Even so, most people seem to prefer the later due to wood nettles' slight "mucilaginousness". To prepare, harvest the younger leaves from plants that have not yet flowered, place in a cooking pot and cover with cold water. Next, stir gently and remove any bugs that float to the surface (if desired). Drain the water leaving the leaves wet but with no standing water and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. You can then just stand by the stove and eat them right out of the pot unless the wife is present, whereas proper plating is prudent (pictured below). While the two varieties do resemble one another they can be easily distinguished. Wood nettle has an alternate leaf arrangement but stinging nettle leaves are borne oppositely. Also, stinging nettle seems to be more commonly found in populated areas while I tend to find wood nettle in less accessible environs. However, the easiest way to tell which one you have found is the "sting test". Stinging nettle will sting at the slightest provocation but wood nettle is somewhat less irascible. Some wood nettle stingers even appear to be totally stingless - Until you lick them...