Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gather it, cook it.

I reckon wild food foraging is the perfect companion to solar cooking. Gather your ingredients wild, then cook them with the sun. As activities they complement each other perfectly.

Both are about utilising free, abundant resources that you can find almost anywhere. Both allow you to wander. Both promote self-reliance and independence from any system. And both, if you engage in them with care, are utterly sustainable.

Okay, it's not exactly solar cooking season yet. (Did you see that hailstorm today?) But I did manage to use our little solar oven as a haybox cooker last night, sort of. And I did forage for a little bit of the meal.

On the stove, I brought to the boil a pot of huakaroro potatoes (very waxy and dense), then quickly took them off and put them into the box cooker, which I'd lined with an old cot quilt.

I wrapped the quilt over the pot, tucked towels around it, and laid my son's folded swanndri over the top. I added a couple of my old jerseys over the top of that - just for good measure! Then I put the cooker lid on, and weighed it down with a couple of books. (Not sure if that last bit with the books was necessary, but what the heck.)

I didn't keep track of how long I left it, but I guess not long enough, because when I opened the pot, the potatoes were still too hard to eat. Since I'd now let a lot of the heat out, I put the potatoes back on the stove and brought them to the boil again before re-ensconcing them in the cooker.

Some time later (I really should have kept track!) I opened the cooker a second time, and the potatoes were nicely soft.

After draining and cooling them, I chopped them up and made a salad of them, using home-made orange mayonnaise and finely chopped onionweed. We had them for dinner on a bed of puwha, along with cold slices of the previous night's lamb roast.

The foraged bits were the puwha and the onionweed, both of which grow prolifically around our neighbourhood. I love wild onionweed! I'd choose it over store-bought spring onions any day.

Funny how things change. As a child helping my parents with their weeding I loathed the very sight of onionweed - and the stink of it as we pulled it up by the handful.

Now, when I see it down the road, or up the bank next door, or in our back yard, I think instead, 'Yay, onionweed.'


Nikki said...

I am really interested in foraging atm (no experience yet though), and got a book from the library the other day on NZ native edible plants. It goes through what part is eaten, the nutritional value and how to use it. Interesting reading (an Andrew Crowe book). I'll have a proper read through and see if it's a good one for purchasing.
I recently have been reading up online about acorns and how valuable they are - a good calorie provider. A shame our playcentre chopped theirs down a few weeks back!
Here's the write up if you're interested.

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Nikki - yeah, that Andrew Crowe book is fantastic. Definitely one to own I reckon. I think maybe Lynda has a copy of that one too???

Mine is an old edition. You probably have the revised and updated version, which I'd love to take a look at sometime!!!

Great acorn link. Why did your playcentre chop its one down?


Johanna Knox said...

Actually - come to think of it - Lynda and Nigel might be interesting to talk to about foraging ... wonder if Lynda is reading this ...???

Nikki said...

Oh, that's good to know. I think I will try and get a copy. This is the 1990 edition. I will have a chat to Lynda as well next time I see her. The council asked PC to chop their tree down because it was a risk (but had protected it a few years before with a GPS thingy - a complete drama!). So it's down now. Do you mind me blogging a link to your blog?

Johanna Knox said...

Link away!! (Would I ever refuse a link? :o)

I was wondering what to blog about tonight ... maybe I will post some more thoughts on foraging then ...

Lynda Eichler said...

Boo ! My ears were burning (LOL). Foraging has been a 'suppressed'interest of mine. I too got a book from the library - think it was the wild edible plants one you're talking of(several times) and have taken it camping with us (several times), but couldn't manage to successfully match the photographed plants with anything that I found. Taste testing wasn't very pleasant (LOL) either. Also, didn't manage to find the 'space' to really put much time into it, I guess. Now S & K are older they may be more interested? Very keen to give it another go. Hey ....... another idea for a get-together !
P.S. Johanna, your gather and cook last night sounds like it was a heap of fun, and yum too !

Lynda Eichler said...

Just chatting to Nige and he reminded me about a chap we knew who was the leader of our organic co-op several years ago. He had a backyard that to the unknowing looked like an uncared for section (knee-high weeds). It was his salad plate. He literally used to make a salad from his weeds in his backyard. Sooooo cool. Shame we found him a little too eccentric as I'd love to reconnect, simply for his knowledge of foraging.

Johanna Knox said...

Oh - how amazing Lynda. Do you ever see him round?

Actually I know what you mean about finding things hard to identify from that book. I've found I always need several different image sources to identify something I'm not familiar with.

Actually my dad's lent me a great book of native trees and shrubs. I can't find it right now to tell you the exact name, but it has loads of photos in it - several photos of each different species, from different angles, and showing different bits of the plants - and that is *brilliant* for identification.

Probably having several different books to use in conjunction with each other is the way to go. (And also image sources on the net.)

Sepaking of identification - I've just realised lately how shite I am at identifying birds! I am a complete ignoramus.

Johanna Knox said...

Hi again - the book my Dad lent me is The Native trees of New Zealand by JT Salmon. No good for weeds and little plants - but great for identifying native trees and shrubs and ferns etc.

I wanted to say also that I admire your adventurousness in testing and trying stuff! Maybe next time we go camping (haha) we should have a foraging walk ... I've always thought of you and Nigel as walking Nature Guidebooks!!!

(But can we stay somewhere with a cabin and a shower?) :o) I'm definitely more of an urban forager!!

Nikki said...

LOL, I can picture it now - we all do a camping trip (and no, no cabins lol), cook with our solar ovens and forage for our food...I wonder how many hours we'd last till we were hanging out for more than eating a few weeds and wanting a hot shower hehe.

Johanna Knox said...

haha - I love it. Got a feeling you and Lynda would last longer than me ... :( I know Lynda would, that's for sure. Are you much of camper Nikki?

Nikki said...

We did a couple of short camping trips over summer, but those were the first times really as a family.

Lynda Eichler said...

Johanna - We occasionally bump into the 'backyard weed grower'. He's one of those people you can't miss (LOL). Claims he hasn't had a cold for 20 years! He must be doing something right (LOL). PLEASE correct that walking nature guidebook image of me and Nige. Nigel - YES, but me - not so ! I'm in nature 'for it's aesthetics' - kinda like my appreciation of cars - 'Oh, nice car (nice colour) sorta thing. Seriously though, I have very few labels for anything. Our bushwalks involve me doing a lot of looking, wondering, admiring and smelling, while Nigel is giving me a running commentary in the background (LOL).

Ahhhhhh, camping sounds wonderful. Roll on Summer !

Johanna Knox said...

Nikki - Yeah, I'm sure you'd last longer than me in the wild. :o)

Okay, no cabins, but maybe we could have hot showers using a solar water heater ... ?? And sceretly transplant a few soapwort plants to the campsite, and make a soapy body wash from them every day ... (I know, I know, that would be very bad ...)

And maybe we wouldn't have to live on weeds alone ... S could come and track us down a wild boar (d'you reckon Lynda?) and M could gather and cook up some cicadas and huhu grubs for us ...


Lynda Eichler said...

LOL Johanna - You're right..... We have all the skills needed for independent bush survival!