Along the Grapevine


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A Backyard Forager’s Pasta Dish

Pasta is a great dish when you want to be creative, or even when you don’t have much in the pantry. With a few pickings from our garden, lawn and fields, I decided to make a vegan, gluten-free pasta dish using Jerusalem artichokes, wild strawberry leaves and chives. I was pleased with the effect of the artichokes and lemon juice in creating a creamy white sauce with no dairy products. As for the greens, you could use any of your edible wilds or not so wilds, but I wanted to try the wild strawberry. I learned that all parts of wild or cultivated strawberries are edible, and since our wild plants are plentiful and don’t give much fruit, why not use the greens instead. For more information about identifying, using and finding resources, check out this site.

If you do decide to use strawberry leaves, there are a couple of points worth mentioning. First, as always, be sure you have identified the greens properly. They are pretty easy to spot, but be sure you know what you are picking. The other point is that, while these leaves are most often used in making tea, they should be eaten only when dried, or very fresh. Once the wilting process has begun, they enter a stage of non-edibility until they are perfectly dried. So that is something to bear in mind if using them.

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Most articles I read said that they are edible, but not really tasty. I beg to differ. They are mild, with a pleasant citrusy after taste. Not remarkable, but certainly nutritious, especially rich in vitamin C. If not sure, sample a leaf or two. This is always a good idea anyway to make sure you don’t have any problem if it is new to you, and you can decide if you want to add them to your dinner.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Sauce

1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes, boiled and peeled

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor. Heat the sauce gently, without boiling. Add some chopped chives and strawberry leaves, and then mix in half a pound of cooked, hot pasta (I used quinoa spaghetti). The flavour of the artichokes worked very well as a cheese substitute, but feel free to add cheese, or anything else, to suit your own taste.

 


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Things to make with dandelions

Welcome to my blog. I have created this to explore some of the wild things I have growing on my property, ingredients seldom found in the grocery stores and markets, and often mowed or thrown on the compost heap. So many of these edible weeds are plentiful, nutritious, and offer an inexpensive alternative to imported and store-bought produce.

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My first thought was to focus on wild grapes and their leaves. However, they are still not ready to be picked in this area, so I shall begin with the humble dandelion. Rather than be irritated by their persistance and size, I began to experiment with the flowers, roots and leaves in my cooking. It is somewhat labour intensive, but at least I end up with very fresh, organic and free ingredients. If you have young children around, I recommend ‘allowing’ them to help you.

If you are skeptical about eating the flowers, unless you suffer from ragweed allergies (the same family) or if you have a history of gall bladder problems, you might wish to avoid these or consult your doctor. Otherwise, most people find the honey sweet taste of the flowers surprisingly pleasant.

If you are still not persuaded to try them, note that they are high in anti-oxidants, contain vitamins A and B12, and have long been considered a remedy for headaches, backaches and cramps.

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The first recipe I am sharing is for dandelion flower pakoras. This is an interesting variation of fritters, and this batter can be used with almost anything edible.  It is so simple and quick to make, it hardly deserves to be a called a recipe.

Dandelion Flower Pakoras

1 cup chickpea flower

1 tsp. chili pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup water

Pick about 1 cup of dandelion flowers. Wash gently, and remove the top of the stem right under the flower. If you remove too much, the flower will fall apart, but the loose petals can be used in the batter along with the whole flowers.

Mix the chickpea flower with the salt and chili. Stir in the water until you have a smooth batter. Dip the blossoms in the batter. Remove each batter-coated blossom with a spoon and fry in vegetable or coconut oil until brown and crispy.

Serve warm, as is or with a condiment such as chutney, tamarind sauce, or even ketchup.

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And now for the dandelion greens. These are often used when young in salads, but why stop there? They are a good source of calcium (even more than kale), iron, high in vitamins A and C and are a source of  vitamins E and K. They are often used in detox recipes, contain all essential amino acids and are 14% protein.

Dandelion Pesto

1/2 lb. greens

1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

4 cloves garlic

2 tsp. salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor, adding the greens a bit at a time.

Serve with pasta and add some freshly grated parmesan. Or use it as a base for a pizza. Freeze any leftovers.

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