A walk around my neighborhood

Today, on this blustery October Saturday, kodi, my chesapeake bay retriever, and I decided to go for a walk around my neighborhood to the local park.  During the walk, I noticed all the wild plants I recognized and decided it would be a great blog post to identify as many plants as I could during the duration of our walk.

My neighborhood is nothing special.  Many of the homes have landscaped front yards and my street, which consists of dense foliage and trees, is the main thoroughfare which leads to the less-traveled-by roads winding in a meandering circle pattern totalling about 2 miles to the park and back.   

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         Purple Astors in my front garden

No, I do not consider myself to be an expert in anything, however I do have a well rounded knowledge of many things.  Identifying wild plants is one of them.  I have been lucky to know and work with a true expert in the foraging world, Paul Tappaden, for about 4 years now and everytime I go out on a foraging expedition with him, I learn something new.  In my identification of the plants I happened to see on my walk, I bet there were about 10-15 more that I either could not identify or was not 100 percent sure about.  

But let’s talk about the ones I could identify.  Here is the list of all the wild plants I came across.  In the medicinal department, I found ground ivy, mullein and plantain.  In the edible department, I found wood sorrel, chicory, garlic mustard, dandelion, barberries, acorns, rosehips, puff ball mushroom and wild turkey.  Now, I thought, if disaster struck and I needed to rely on my foraging skills to provide a meal or two with what I found, what could I possibly make?  Well, being a chef, I put together a pretty darn good menu, in my opinion:

Appetizer:  Garlic Mustard Chips

Salad:  Wood Sorrel, Chicory Flower and Puff Ball Mushroom Salad with Rosehip Vinaigrette

Main:  Spit Roasted Turkey with Barberry Sauce and Acorn Biscuits

Dessert:  Dandelion Coffee and/or Rosehip Tea

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         A mushroom (not puff ball) I could not identify. . . but it was kind of cool.

This menu is not one that I could not whip up in a day.  No, it would take me at least 3-4 days to make this meal.  First, I’d have to leach the toxins out of the acorns to make them safe to eat.  I would need water for this and fortunately, there is a lovely little stream that runs through the park we were headed to.  The leaching process takes about 3 days, then the nuts need to be dried and finally pounded into flour.  The dandelion roots also need to be dried and pounded into granuals for the coffee.  On the day I plan to eat this feast, I need to kill, gut and pluck the turkey, which is not my idea of any kind of fun, but remember, this is for upscale survival, so check that one off for the cause.  

On serving day, as I decorate the feasting table with purple astors I picked from my front garden, I decide that there are two options for how the turkey could be cooked.  I could smoke it or roast it over a pit.  I like the pit idea although both would require that I build a fire.  There were lots of birch trees on my walk, so I could start the fire with a bow-drill made from fallen branches and plantain cordage.  The birch bark could be the tinder for my fire along with sticks and twigs gathered from here and there.  With the fire going, I sear off the turkey then let the flames die down and have the embers of the fire slowly cook the turkey to perfection.  Since this will take upards of 3-4 hours, I can start my appetizer.  Taking some fat from the turkey, I render it down in a pot over the fire and then use a bit to rub on each side of the garlic mustard leaf.  The leaves then can be seared in a pan over the fire until they are crisp.  Yum!  Kind of like kale chips, but better.  The salad can easily be assembled raw and the tart flavor of the chicory flowers with the lemony essence of the wood sorrel will be a great pairing.  Puff ball mushrooms don’t have much flavor, so I could use some of that turkey fat mixed with rosehip juice to make a simple vinaigrette.  For the biscuits, I add turkey fat to the acorn flour and then pan fry them like little pancakes.  The barberry sauce would need to be processed in a food mill to rid them of their seeds and the end result is a lovely, red jeweled toned sauce that is remaniciant of cranberries.  With dinner complete, the crowning touch is a warming mug of dandelion coffee.  This is how you live like a king in the wilderness. . . albeit suburban wilderness.

What do you think about on your walks?

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Delicious Rosehips - the red, kind of squishy ones are the best!

© Wild Sea Salt established August 2015