Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Urban Gardenener: Foraging in Kansas City and in the Woods

Great story in The New York Times today about serious use of invasive and otherwise normaly uncultivated plants for cooking.  Linda Hezel supplies several trendy restaurants in Kansas City with "bedstraw, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, wild bergamot, red clover, dead nettle, lambs-quarters, wood sorrel, purslane,  plantain (the leafy variety, not the banana)" as well as chicory (see photo taken here in Montreal.)

She grows them on her organic farm, not far from the center of the Midwestern town, but apparently at least one other farm outside New York City also provides experimenting chefs.

Last year I collected some dandelions to cook like spinach, inspired by the elderly Mediterranean folk who still gather them all over Montreal as soon as they appear in lawns.  We thought them not bad, but a lot of work, as even the ones that grew in our small backyard required a lot of work to clean.

What I liked about the NYT's story is its emphasis on nuisance plants, unlike another elegy to foraging that appeared in The Globe and Mail last summer.  It lauded forest foraging which, in my book, can be just another name for forest rape.  All you need is a small army of city folks collecting rare forest plants to wipe out a species in an area.  Look what has happened to ginseng in a number of areas: in the US gathering the plant on public lands is now illegal in several states because of over-foraging.

Invasive, foreign imports are another story however.  Raspberries, blackberries and some grapes sometimes seem intent on taking over the world, and who's going to mourn the dandelions that get dug up in lawns?

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