It’s been over 10 years since I convinced a friend of mine to try milkweed fritters with me after reading about them in one of Euell Gibbons’s books. We enjoyed them so much, we made an annual event out of it. Over the next few years, a meal consisting entirely of deep-fried foods evolved into a full-course potluck where every dish contained wild edibles. As word got out and more people expressed an interest in sharing this experience, Laura’s “You can eat that?!” Wild Edible Adventures came to life. The summer workshop continues to be scheduled around the milkweed flowering season.
A wide variety of wild edibles is available at this time of year. The July 7th “shopping list” contained 14 above-ground plant parts that would lead participants into several different habitats, including riverbottom forest, upland prairie, marsh, woodland edge, domestic gardens and yard sites. Our list included:
wild grape leaves, purple prairie clover, wild mint, bugleweed, giant hyssop, wild bergamot, wild caraway seeds, lamb’s-quarters, pigweed, portulaca (a.k.a. purslane), wood-sorrel, chickweed and, of course, milkweed flowers and flower buds.
While exploring the marsh, we also discovered the wonderfully acidic flavour of the swamp smartweed, and gathered that, too. We also paused to enjoy a patch of ripe saskatoons, one of the few patches that actually produced berries this year. All of these distractions cost us some time, but in the end, this fun and diverse group of 12 produced the most delicious Wild Edible Adventure meal that I can remember.
In addition to what we gathered, I provided some sassafras roots to make an experimental sassafras cake. (I mean,what could be better than a cake that tastes like root beer?) I also had some cattail flower tops to add to the main dish.
This is what our menu looked like:
Wild salad (Portulaca, Lamb’s-quarters, Smartweed and Wood-sorrel) with Chickweed Dressing
Wild Grape leaf soup
Wild green lentils with Cattail tops
Blanched Milkweed flower buds
Wild pizza pita pockets
Dandelion Wild Mint cake
Bugleweed and Hyssop teas
As usual, not everything turned out according to plan, which was great. Several recipe modifications have come from the creativity and accidents that occur in the kitchen during these workshops. (Like the time wild mint accidentally got mixed in with the stinging nettle and ended up being a great addition to the stinging nettle soup!)
The experimental sassafras cake tasted wonderful, but (mental note) the powdered roots should be put through a fine sieve first.