I can write about oysters and clams and life and death, and occasionally hear a voice from here, from there. Take on milk, however.....who knew cows were sacred?
No matter--the thermometer rose over 30 degrees today to a balmy 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The snow is melting, the daffodils and crocuses are reaching up to the sky, and the sun creeps upward. Brighid returns.
Any day now the tiger lilies will sprout--and when they do, I graze. Early spring is a wonderful time to nibble on plants.
I do not spend a whole lot of time discussing my spring grazing habits with my friends. I usually get an odd look, and there's no sense upping the competition.
Nibbling on greens shortens the food chain--I tear off a piece of a plant outside, I eat it. I know where the plant grew, I know whether it got dusted by pesticides, and I know the plant's story. I become more local.
Some folks worry about me. What about the risks?
The same folks will buy their food from supermarkets, trusting strangers who have no interest in them.
(I do trust my local grocery store--they want my business. I also have an ornery habit of trusting myself as well, maybe even more than I trust strangers.)
I suppose I should list the usual caveats here--don't eat something you don't recognize, don't nibble in fields that may have been sprayed, don't take advice from strangers on the internet, and make sure you wash anything you might eat. You should follow the same recommendations when eating anything from your supermarket as well.
Here's a small list of foods I graze on here in Bloomfield:
I may eat more tiger lilies than anyone in Bloomfield, maybe anyone else in the world. Leslie loves tiger lilies maybe even more than I do, but her love is more photonic than gustatory.
How do you eat them? Find them poking out of the ground, tear off a shoot, and eat them.
What do they taste like? Sweet and tender, with just a tiny hint of spiciness.
If it smells like an onion or garlic, it likely is, and if it is, it should be safe (unless poisoned by humans). Euell Gibbons said all wild onions are safe, and I trust him.
Euell Gibbons is the guru of wild foods--his book Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop is one of my all-time favorites. He started his adventures by foraging for his family while only 11 years old--his clan was hungry.
Euell Gibbons was, among other things, a school teacher, a carpenter, a farmer, and a hobo, all honorable professions--I would be proud if my children pursued any of these fields.
What do wild onions taste like? Well, oniony, only more so. I especially love to eat the leaves.
I (mostly) admire Gandhi's life, and one of Gandhi's favorite foods was purslane. This weed grows all over the place--I tossed it into the compost for years.
My Auntie Beth told me it's good, and Auntie Beth is always right.
It is nutritious, ubiquitous, and delicious--the flavor has been described as salty/sour, but it tastes like, um, purslane.
I love dandelions! You've got to get them before they start to flower, otherwise too bitter. Even then, though, if eaten raw they may be too bitter for many.
You can pay good money at a fancy grocery store, or you can forage for them in your backyard.
Should things get real tight for us here in Bloomfield, we have too little land to support our population. We have almost 50,000 people living on less than 5 1/2 square miles. Unless I develop a healthy appetite for asphalt, subsistence living here remains a fantastic dream.
Still, nibbling on greens breaking through our earth here in spring reminds me how connected we all are to our land, even here in a crowded corner of the universe.
The dandelion greens are from New York magazine.