So my roommate and I have been trying to eat locally as much as possible lately, and I've always had an interest in wild edibles so we decided to try using wild food more in our home. About the same time I got my new bread book, I also purchased a great book called Edible and Useful Plants of California. It's from the late 1970's but is endlessly helpful in identifying the plants in our very own neighborhood that are good for salads, teas, jellies, etc. Our first big experiment was the pyrecantha jelly, which turned out phenomenally well. So I was walking around our immense back yard, book in hand, figuring out what was what. I noticed we had a huge patch of miner's lettuce so I picked some to make a salad.
It's a strange looking plant, kind of Lilly-pad shaped with a little tuft of flowers in the middle. In the book it said they had a nice succulent quality but were bland-tasting on their own. I picked some, washed them, tried a bite, and was pleasantly surprised that it had a delightful taste! The texture is kind of like spinach, but it tastes nice and nutty like arugula, almost identical if you ask me! Then I went out into the front yard and picked a little hand full of wood sorrel, or shamrocks, as they are more commonly known. I knew for years that you could munch on the sourgrass - the stalks of the yellow flowers that bloom from the sorrel in the springtime - and they have a wonderful tart flavor, like a really sour grape. But I didn't know the leaves were edible too and have a lighter version of the same tart lemony flavor. They were the perfect accompaniment to the nutty miner's lettuce. I added a tiny bit of tomato, carrot, and celery to it as well and dressed it with some yummy garlic-rosemary dressing I got from Whole Foods, and it was such a tasty salad! I'm hooked on the stuff and I know where there is another big patch on my way home from work, so I might have to stop and pick more. I left the baby ones in the back yard so hopefully they'll be ready in a few weeks, especially after all this rain.
Oh, and that same night I made pink elephant sugar cookies for the meetup group. I was having such a fun day, eating free wild food and dancing around the house while making sugar cookies. I need more days like that!
*Please note: never, ever, ever, under any circumstances eat any wild foods that you cannot identify and be 110% sure that they are perfectly safe to eat. And mom, I do follow that rule, I swear! <3
In preparation for the (hopeful) abundance of our recently planted garden (pictures as soon as it stops raining I promise), I have been learning how to make jams, jellies, preserves, and pickles. I have wanted to do this since I was a little girl, and now that I have the time and resources at my disposal, I figured it was time. My first attempt at making jam turned out pretty good, but it was definitely a learning experience.
Angela, Dennis, and I went around the corner and picked loquats off of a tree growing out of the sidewalk. We brought them home, washed them, and I made jam from them. There are a few things I should have done differently:
1. Chopped them finer - I had no idea how resilient their skins were and assumed they would cook down softly, but they remained whole, which makes for a very chunky jam.
2. Used less sugar - Since I didn't have a recipe for loquat jam I used one for plum jam. I also didn't have as much fruit as the recipe called for, but I halved the recipe to compensate. But the amount of sugar seemed to me to be too much, but I used it anyhow and I think the jelly is a bit too sweet.
3. Not stirred during the final boil - It doesn't say anywhere in any of my books whether or not you are supposed to stir the fruit as you hard-boil it to 220 degrees, so I stirred it now and again. The place where I stirred it the most caramelized much faster, giving a deeper flavor, but also making the color a little muddier. I now know that you're supposed to just let the jelly boil away and not touch it...
Which brings me to my next canning project: pyrecantha-rose jelly.