Tag Archives: urban foraging

Food Hoarders Anonymous

Hey there. So it’s been a while (I think) since I last did a post about seasonal eating and/or preserves and, hey, Erica has an April “eat down the larder” challenge going on, so I figured: Perfect opportunity! So here I am.
See, on the one hand, it’s April. Which means that, ever since the temperature started peaking above the freezing point (call that one mid-to-late March), and the days started – just barely – being longer than the nights (same time-frame), I’ve been going “Oh, crap! It’s only 3.25 months until the service berries start coming in!” and “Oh, crap! I have to empty out my freezer if there’s going to be room for steamed wild greens come early May!” Which means that I’ve already started “eating down the larder” in anticipation of fresher stuff to come.
Which is dandy.
The fact that empty jars are rolling in from various family members, at the same time, is also dandy… if a bit hilarious. (My gift-jars come back empty, sure, but I also wind up with old pasta-sauce jars from the grocery store… which I don’t think was planned, and which I’m hesitant to use for canning… the lids always seem a little too… cardboard to feel like a safe idea… Maybe someone can reassure me on this one?)
Anyway. The point of this post is to talk about, well, my hoarder tendencies when it comes to food.
Because, while I am trying to incorporate things like 2012 rhubarb syrup and 2013 apple butter version 2.0 (I had, like, 16 jars of the stuff at the end of September and have… at least 8 left) into everything from sweet-and-sour cabbage (it worked!) to half-empty-jars-of-jam pancakes (also worked!), and while eating from the pantry is a pretty much staple thing to do at our place anyway (in that “seasonal eating means never having to by non-tinned tomatoes in january” kind of way)… I’m still seriously freaked out at the thought of intentionally eating the cupboards bare.
Some back story:
I’ve been poor – below-the-poverty-line poor – for most of my self-supporting life. Recently, while still being pretty low-income, the addition of my wife’s salary (retail/production, so low-but-not-minimum wage) has popped my household income over that line. But we’re still pretty broke a lot of the time.
Years of temping have meant that I’m used to making about $12K per year and having multiple month+ periods of being unemployed during any given year.
This means that:
(1) When I have money coming in, I buy non-parishable food.
(2) When I am about to stop having money coming in, I buy non-parishable food (and frequently fill up a coffee-shop gift-card while I’m at it, so I can still go out with my frinds on occasion).
(3) Eating down the larder when I don’t “have to” feels a bit like firing off “Help me I’m lost in the woods” flares in lieu of improvised fireworks, two days before going hiking in Bear Country.
This is not to say that I think it’s a bad idea. Quite the contrary.
It’s to say that… I guess one way of putting it would be to say that my idea of “par” – to use another concept I learned from Erica – fluctuates depending on what kind of money I have lying around and how willing (or wise) I am to trust in local resources (read: foraging and gleaning) to make up the gap. In early April, with buckets of snow still on the ground – albeit melting quickly – I am in the heart of Hungry Month. We are still four weeks away from the earliest wild greens – dandelions and garlic mustard, the latter of which is bitter enough that it doesn’t make a very good primary vegetable in a given meal – and…
Oh, this is silly.
To quote my own sister “You have more food than anybody I know”.
This is something she said to me, in June of 2008, when I was freaking out about having to sell a now formerly-marital home before the cold weather hit, because I knew I couldn’t afford to heat the house. I was for-real afraid that I would not have enough to eat.
And yet I still had more food than anyone else my sister knew. I had cupboards stuffed with whole grains and tinned beans and dried vegetables and pasta… But cooking from the larder is a skill, and I didn’t have it yet.
Now I do.
Now I can throw tinned tomatoes and left-over pork and frozen greens and dried ancho chilies (these are mild, folks) into the frying pan with a little bit of lard (or butter or name-that-oil), stretch it with half a cup of raw red lentils (and a cup of stock or water) or a tin of well-rinsed beans and serve it over millet or rice or quinoa or whatever grain I happen to have on hand… and that’s what we eat all winter.
And I still dread the thought of less than five tins of tomato or cream-of-mushroom soup in the cupboard. I still dread the thought of running out of beans. I still dread the thought of my freezer contents dwindling to where I can see the bottom of the bin[1].
I’m afraid I won’t be able to fill it up again if I let my stores drop that low.
So, in the past couple of days, I’ve been out and buying things to try and get myself back up to what I think of – in my haphazard way – as “par”, and to make sure I have something to serve all those to-be-eaten-down preserves with or on or in, as well. 🙂
Tonight will be grilled cheese sandwiches (with apple butter and hot mustard and tinned garlic-chili tuna) + tinned tomato soup.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] Which maybe doesn’t bode so well for my hopes of buying meat by the animal… Good thing the local meat CSA delivers in batches rather than in one fell swoop.

More About Dandelions

Hey again.

Just a quick couple of links to other people’s posts about how to use wild dandelions beyond the obvious salad greens:

First, of course, is dandelion root “coffee” (which my ex girlfriend adores as-is, but which I think would be neat used as a mocha-esque flavour for ice cream, cupcakes, or other goodies).

According to this site, you can also blanch dandelion roots and include them in mixes of (sweeter) roots like beets, celeriac, carrots and parsnips for use in casseroles and stews.

According to this page on edible flowers, young dandelion blossoms have a sweet, honey-like flavour (if you pick them small and cut off the green parts). You could combine them with, say, red clover blossoms, cornflowers (bachelor’s buttons), hardy rose petals, elderberry flowers, a handful of rhubarb slivers[1] to make an iced tea reminiscent of lemonade with hints of licorice, clove, and nutmeg hiding in its flavours.

The Daily Spud suggests frying dandelion flowers the way you might do with squash or daylily blossoms.

The Herb Garden has a recipe for dandelion flower jelly.


You can find a recipe for dandelion wine over at Allotment Heaven.

[1] You could also use rosehips, red/staghorn summac berries, or maybe even thin slices of crab apples, to add sharpness if you are making this in August/September rather than May/June/July. Garden/French sorrel could work for a slightly lemony kick as well.

Urban Foraging – Some Links

So things are kind of wild around my place just now.
As such, for the moment, I’m just going to hand you a couple of links talking about urban foraging.

My garden is kind of suffering at the moment. I’ve been throwing eggshells into my various large planters, in the hopes of giving my sqaush, tomatoes, and beans a bit of a calcium boost, but it doesn’t seem to be working. (Next year, I’ll be adding a healthy dose of bone meal to all my large planters, going with a bush-delicata squash (only one, I suspect), and inter-planting the squash with the beans).

In the next few days, I’ll be collecting choke cherries and wild grapes (apples will come later, I think, though if I had a ladder, I could probably snag some from the tree around the corner right now), as well as harvesting the radishes from my balcony garden (I want to try pickling a bunch of them, if I can). For now, though, I’m going to take a walk over to Arts Court to check out their Will Work For Food art garden, to see what’s going on over there.

Beyond that, have some links!

Foraging for Wild Berries in the City (Toronto)

Urban Foraging and Guerilla Gardening (Location Unknown)

At Vacant Homes, Foraging for Fruit (Atlanta)

– Meliad, the Birch Maiden