Friday, August 15, 2008

Wild turnip greens for dinner

Yesterday we picked some big bunches of Wild Turnip from our backyard to put in a noodle stir-fry - along with ginger, soy sauce, onionweed, egg, cashew nuts, and mushrooms (ordinary brown buttons from a shop, I hasten to add.)

I felt there was some urgency to picking the Wild Turnip, as my father-in-law had announced he was going to come and mow our lawns for us, and I would have felt a little strange - not mention ungrateful - about giving him a list of weeds to work around!

Wild Turnip is a variety of Brassica rapa - the same species that has been bred and cultivated for its roots to produce turnips, and for its leaves to produce bok choy.

The leaves, buds, flowers, and seeds of wild turnip are all highly edible.

Looking at its buds, you can see the family resemblance to fellow Brassica, broccoli.

Wild turnip produces a crazy hotchpotch of different shaped leaves. It starts as a rosette of 'lyre-shaped' leaves with funny little pox all over them ...

... then it sends up a stalk.

The further up the stalk you go, the more the leaves lose their lyre shape and their pox (I'm sure there's a technical name for those, but I'm enjoying calling them pox.) I've read that the lower leaves, and especially the first leaves of the rosette, are the best tasting and least bitter. We're still experimenting with that ...

From the batch of wild turnip we collected last night, we also managed to harvest a few seed pods. Mustard can be made from the seeds of several different Brassica species and varieties, so we're going to dry these seed pods and have a go at it.

Wild Turnip roots smell delicious (very turnipy), but I haven't read anywhere that you can eat them. One source says they're too stringy. But if this is the only reason not to eat them - perhaps you could still boil them up as part of a vegetable stock? I'd love to know if there's any reason not to eat them apart from their stringiness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Street-smart weeds

A funny side of effect of getting more into foraging has been that when I'm out and about, everywhere I look I see FOOD.

I imagine that if I lived in unspoilt wilderness, this would be a good feeling. But I live in a busy suburb close to the city, and my 'everywhere' is grubby footpaths, crowded roads, and the odd well-used sports field. There's a certain pain that comes with seeing masses of edible weeds sprouting up through the concrete or ashphalt of untouchable places. It's like seeing a crate-load of broccoli rolling away down a gutter.

Wild Turnip is a brassica with delicious, mustardy-tasting leaves, which thrives in our suburb.

It grows here ...

and here ...

and here.

In fact any spot that gets trampled on, peed on, and coated in car exhaust fumes is prime real estate for Wild Turnip.

I like to think that Wild Turnip might have evolved to grow so well in these places as a strategy against being eaten by humans. (Clever plant.)

Still, there may just be enough of it on our slightly-less-toxic back lawn for a stir-fry tomorrow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Weeping Bolete

Walking through the Town Belt with friends today, we came across three big brown mushrooms under some pines. My son thought they might be edible boletes, so we picked one (or rather, my son hit it out of the ground with a stick and I gingerly scooped it up with a bag), and we brought it home to identify.

A book and several websites later, we'd decided that yes, it probably was a pine bolete - maybe Suillus granulatus, also known as Weeping Bolete.

I would have liked to have eaten something with such a great name, but even with all the resources at our disposal we couldn't be completely sure of its identity, and I was troubled by the fact that all of those resources said pine boletes are autumn mushrooms ... It's definitely not autumn.

I wished we had a fungus expert on hand to make a pronouncement.

Anyway, we had fun chopping it up to see what it looked like inside.