Foraging: Eating Wild, Eating Free.
Morning Savages! The other day I took a day hike in the San Gabriel mountains to see what I could find. Here are a few of my finds that I’ll be using later in a recipe.
Black Night Shade Berries
No, not that night shade. You’re probably thinking about that other nightshade, the deadly nightshade, or Belladonna. This one is it’s somewhat kinder cousin. You’re of course familiar with it’s other cousin, the tomato. The berries of the Solanum Nigrum are generally only toxic when under ripe. Though there are varieties I’m told that have higher levels of toxin than others. Generally, speaking they won’t kill you unless you ate a ton of unripe berries, and leaves; even then you’ll most likely just get mighty sick or at least give you a mean case of the squirts. The aboriginals in the area used to cook out the toxin in the leaves and shoots but this required numerous boilings with the water being thrown out and changed many times. Maybe if I run into someone who knows that technique well, but at this point I consider that outside my current skill set.
These little babies, are generally considered a weed and not indigenous to this region; but it’s been imported most likely for it’s medicinal qualities quite a while ago. Today, this Eurasian import can be found rather abundantly in the San Gabriel’s. While there is a long list of its medicinal properties dating back to ancient Greece, it rarely sees use in the modern West. I personally have not used it for any of its medicinal qualities though, I’m sure there are plenty.
This is definitely one of those plants I suggest you seek out a guide or plant expert to teach you if you plan on eating it, or using it as medicines. It has some dangerous bits, and it’s got some more dangerous cousins.
Prickly Pear Cactus
If you live in the south west you’ve seen these in people’s yards, and it’s just as prevalent out in the wild. You can use Spanish to call them nopales, or you can use science to call them Opuntia. You might get these confused at some point simply because people call them by all manner of names; which is a testament to their popularity and abundance. These guys are great raw or cooked and there’s heaps of literature on what you can do with these. You can find these in a lot of markets and carnicerias already cleaned as well, if you want to skip foraging and go straight to yummy.
One of the great things about the this paddle cactus is you can eat 99% of it. The only thing you really have to worry about is the pokey bits. Now, there are actually two different stickers on this plant. The first is the big needle like ones and obviously these are a bad time in Borneo if you put these in your mouth. They also have smaller glochids and those are the ones you really need to not get in your throat. The easiest way to remove all these little pricks is to scrape them away with your knife. I like to trim the edge off and cut out all the little brown aureoles, and give it a little scrapw. I then give it a rinse and making sure I get all the bad bits off my knife as well.
The fruits are no where near ripe at the moment, but if you catch them when they’re ripe you’re in for a real treat. I want to mention that you can skin and eat the more mature pads for a different flavor; the skin on these older pads get tough as they age so unless you’re in dire need of fiber, I’d skin it. Heck, you can even eat the flowers themselves, though I’d rather let them become fruit…the fruits on these are unforgettable.
Wild Mustard Seeds
Brassica kaber SON! Or the wild mustard. The particular wild mustard seeds I gathered do not really have a strong mustard flavor. It comes across more as a earthy flavor that I really like, it’s a unique flavor that I feel makes you want to eat outside. Don’t think these are going to be over powering, there’s not a real punch here so feel free to go crazy with it. The flowers of this plant are a great treat, and taste like broccoli. Mostly because it’s a very close relative of broccoli. By the time I got to this it was already well dried and the flowers long gone. But, you take what you can get when you can get it out in the bush. I want to mention getting the seeds out of the pods in any quantity is a bit tedious, so pop on your favorite podcast and do this well before you intend on using it.
Yes, I’m talking about Chi, Chi, Chia. The same seeds used in your favorite thing since the pet rock. Recently they’ve popped up in the health food orientated stores and as an ingredient in Kambucha. They seem to thrive in the San Gabriels. Though not as much of a threat as a cacti, they are fairly spiky and you might want to exercise caution. I just threw them in a container and shook the hell out of it. After my good vibrations, the seeds are piled at the bottom. The downside is some of the pointy bits come off and have to be picked out. Which, you guessed it is tedious. Truthfully, I don’t think these seeds taste like much. They’re a great additive though, especially out on the trail because they have endless benefit as a heath food.
Savage Tip: Throw in water or juice and watch them turn into little tapioca-like balls. Drinking this down really will make you feel full. Great if you’re cutting a little weight, or just surviving trying to keep your mind off the fact that you want to eat something that used to breathe.
If you like Italian cooking or any Mediterranean Cuisine, then you’re familiar with the bay leaf. Not to be confused with the Indian bay leaf or Indonesian bay leaf. They might look similar, but they are not true laurels.
These Leaves are quite aromatic, and have found their way into many a perfumer’s cabinet. These can be used obviously anywhere that calls for bay. You can also dry this if you like, after drying you can grind a portion up with your mortar and pestle for various other uses. Generally speaking you’ll want to remove this from your finish product before eating unless it’s ground. They don’t break down too much and might be sharp going down.
This plant also has many medicinal qualities. It’s proven to have great anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, so if you catch yourself in the field sans your neosporine or foot powder… I’ve also been told that you can use this for headaches and migraines too. There really are many a remedy this great leaf is the basis of. I’ll try a few out the next time I’m afflicted and let you know the result.
In the photo, you’ll notice there’s also a fruit. Which you can eat, if you roast it. If you don’t do the roasting you’ll be doing the runs instead. As I understand it, you can also make a kind of chocolate out of these, but that’s a little above my pay grade. Perhaps that’s a challenge for another one of these days…
Savage Tip: Forage a few extra and put them in cupboards, closets, and tents, to repel meal moths, flies, roaches and silver fish; I’ve also read these repel mosquitoes, but I’m not sure how much of this you’d have to have rubbed and stashed on your person to be an effective personal repellent. Entomologists have been using these in their ‘killing jars’ for ages, because it kills the insects effectively and makes them easy to mount.
Bienvenue Savages! Live Wild. Eat Well.
© 2012 TheSavageGentleman.