Wild Arkansas

November 19, 2011

Tis the Time for Nuts

Filed under: baking, foraging, nuts — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 2:45 am

The problematic nature of the black walnut or Juglans nigra comes not from its bountiful supply, but from its inability to let go of that nut easily.

The hard-shelled nut is a difficult one to crack, which is probably why the nuts are so plentiful for the intrepid forager willing to tackle the task of processing.

A couple of years ago I collected only a couple of pounds of walnut from a tree I found in Lowell. After reading about the difficulty of processing, I set about hulling the nuts from the shell, and as time-consuming as that was, it did not compare to the chore of getting the actual nut from the shell.

And to boot, there isn’t much meat to get. It’s very small in comparison to the English walnut, but…and this is a very big BUT. The meat is worth the effort.

This is one of the sweetest nutmeats you will taste. If you know your nuts, then you know the black walnut is superior in taste to the walnuts you’ll buy in the store. The bitterness you find in the store packaged variety is absent.

Not a lot of people try processing the black walnut, but this year we’re doing it again and attempting to get at least a full pound of nut meat. That’s a lot of meat.

The difficulty in obtaining the meat is not from breaking the shell, (though I have heard that some people have went so far as to lay nuts out on the driveway and run over them to break through the barrier.) but from digging the meat from the many chambers inside the shell.

Be sure to wear gloves during the process or your hands will stain. The stain lasts a good while. Though I wore gloves, some stain still managed to come through and lasted about two weeks.

 

The process of getting from harvesting to nut meat is not a short one. The steps in order:

1. Cut hulls from the shell. Use a knife to slice all the way around the shell as deeply as possible. Twist to remove one side, then cut the other side away.

2. Run cold water over hulled nuts and scrape or brush the remaining hull from the shell. Let the shells dry before the next step.

3.  crack the nuts; either with hammer or car tire doesn’t matter as long as you can get to the meat.

 

4.  Use a small utensil; a knife, or nutpick… something that will fit into the small chambers inside the walnut. If you have more than five pounds of hulled nuts you will be digging for a very long time.

The whole process for two pounds of hulled nuts took approximately three hours.

Though the black walnut meat really is one of the best I’ve tasted, the process is time consuming and frustrating. If you have family members or friends who will help, it will make the time go much faster, you’ll get done quicker and probably have more fun.

The nut meat can be eaten raw, used in baking or any way that you would use other nuts.

 

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May 3, 2011

Filed under: foraging, organic greens, trails — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 5:31 pm

For locals ready to get out and gather, our wait is finally over.

Spring is here. Right?  After this last bout of bad weather I’m hesitant to say we can “Spring” into action once again. But I’m ready to make a go of it.

I’m currently in Siloam Springs (awaiting the asparagus) and have started walking along the Dogwood Springs Trail again. All kinds of green beings are poking their heads out.

This morning’s observations:

Poke greens, curly dock, sheep sorrel, wild carrot, lambsquarters, dandelion, chick weed, chicory (greens), lady fingers…

I know there’s more to come soon. Someone mentioned wild plums this morning (which I’ve never collected) so I’m on the lookout.

An added note: I’m not currently having the regular walks, but if you happen to be coming by Siloam in the coming weeks, shoot me an email and if there’s time we can take a stroll around the area.

Safe foraging.

October 7, 2010

Arkansas Harvesting Law

Filed under: foraging, law, legal, Wildcrafting — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 8:50 pm

For Lake Wedington & Ozark National Forest Area

No harvesting in recreational areas. [If traveling from Fayetteville, anywhere along the left side of the road is off limits once you get into Wedington area.]

In general forest areas – for personal use only. That is, if they find you with five gallons or fifty pounds of a particular specimen you’ll probably be cited.

For more information on Benton and Washington County forestry permissions/law contact the Arkansas Forestry Commission.

Harvesting Wild American Ginseng in Arkansas (PDF)

If you have any further information about Arkansas law on harvesting or foraging on public lands please email wildarkansas1 at yahoo.com

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For laws on hunting refer to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission website season and bag limits.

October 5, 2010

Something about Chicory

Filed under: chicory, foraging, herbs, recipe — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 5:41 pm

Best known as a coffee substitute or additive, young leaves are less bitter than dandelion, especially if picked growing in shade. As a medicinal chicory is found to contain volitile oils that kill intestinal worms and in Germany the flower has been used to treat ailments from gallstones to sinus problems.

Every part of the plant is edible with no ill effects. It is best tasting when found growing in shady areas and from early spring through the autumn months.

I dug some chicory recently and am currently using the herb as a liver tonic.

The root, brushed with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 minutes, produced something palatable, but tough and stringy. On further consideration, I believe I should have soaked in salt water for awhile and then roasted it.

The leaves sauteed for two minutes with onion and garlic are not as bitter as I expected and mixed with other veggies or pasta would hardly be noticeable.

There has been some confustion over what chicory is edible. All chicory is edible, but some is more palatable than others. All chicory is bitter to some degree, but the Chicorum endiva or Belgian endive is cultivated most often.

The purple ray flowered, spindly limbed species we find alongside roads and in pastures share many of the same qualities as the cultivated varieties, but is higher in nutrients and lower in palatabilty. You must work to make it palatable.

The chicory root can be quite deep as it is a tap root. Set your spade or shovel about five inches from the center of the plant and then dig down and inward toward the center.

Use a small spade to brush dirt away so you can see where the root is and dig under it. If the root is too large it will be too tough even when soaked or boiled. Try to get roots that are not more than two inches in length or after a frost.

The following recipe is taken from Dolce Vita Diaries.

Chicory Spaghetti

Ingredients for 4 people

Spaghetti – 400g (or any pasta you fancy)

Wild chicory – 500g (plain chicory is available in most supermarkets)

Chilli – one dried one, chopped

Anchovies in olive oil – 3 fillets (optional)

Garlic – 2 cloves Olive oil – 5 tablespoons

Parmesan – 75g grated

Black olives (optional)

Wash the chicory well, cut it up roughly and put it to boil in plenty of salted water. Boil for 15 minutes or until the thicker bits are soft. Drain.  Boil a pan of water for the spaghetti. In a big pan or wok heat the oil on a low flame and add the garlic roughly cut into quarters, the anchovies and the chilli pepper. After a few minutes add the chicory and cook slowly for another 10 minutes. Add the spaghetti to the water and cook for about 5 minutes until ‘half’ cooked. Then spoon out the semi-cooked spaghetti into the chicory mixture (keeping the spaghetti water) and mix well.

Add the spaghetti water to the pasta/chicory one ladle-full at a time (like cooking risotto) and keep on stirring. When the spaghetti is nearly cooked add the grated parmesan, leaving a bit to sprinkle at the end, and mix well. This method gives you quite a creamy sauce, so that’s what you should be aiming for. Check for salt and serve. If you use short pasta instead of spaghetti it’s a bit easier because‘you don’t make such a mess’.

September 29, 2010

Wild Wednesday at Murphy Park

Filed under: allium, dandelion, Edible plants, foraging, fruit, nuts, Pinus, taraxacum — Tags: , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 7:20 pm

Unfortunately, my camera broke so I don’t have photos of the edibles at the local park. Fortunately however, one of the groundskeepers aided our quest by pointing out several edibles we probably would not have known about.

At Murphy Park today:

Allium or Crow Garlic. It never gets above the ankle because of the weekly mowing so we’ll never get to see the flowers, but it still tastes and smells like onion. The groundskeeper said he would be quite happy if someone were to come along and dig it all up.

Plantagos- Both, the narrow and broad-leaf varieties.

Dandelion- ah the old standby.

Lepidium or pepper grass. It’s spread out in the grassy areas and around trees.

Black Walnut, crabapples, pine, oak, clover, wild strawberry (for some odd reason they are fruiting in shady spots) and yellow wood sorrel.

September 14, 2010

Scouting Siloam

I made it back to  Siloam Springs yesterday and began scouting the area to see what has changed in the past month. I’ve found quite a few edible weeds.

If you use pokeberry to dye with, the season is getting short. The berries are more than ready and beautiful as ever, but you need to pick them soon.

Epazote is going to seed. There are still a few hangers-on, but the next two weeks you may want to start checking plants daily to see if they have turned brown yet, to plant for next year or trading online.

The field amaranth here is almost completely seed. If you have the patience to grind flour, now is the time to collect.

The wide leaf dock is looking beautiful. We just got a new growing spurt, so it’s time for fresh greens.

New mullein – meaning just the new leaf is sprouting. If you’re just collecting leaf, there’s quite a bit of on the edges of wooded areas and along fences.

Last, but not least, the lambsquarters are still leafy. I’ve been collecting quite a bit of it for freezing so if you run across large patches in the area that look a bit thin on leaf, you may have come behind me.

September 6, 2010

Five common edibles anyone can find

duck potato

Fall is here, and some of us who forage regularly begin looking less at the herbaceous leafy stuff and more to the branches of trees (nuts) and roots. The following five edibles are ready right now.

Good luck and have fun.

1. Despite lack of a first frost, chicory root can be dug early. Though related to dandelion, the whole plant is much less noxious than its bitter cousin.

Try digging some of the root and test for taste. If it’s too bitter, wait another month. Chances are, it’s going to be sweet tasting.

All parts of the chicory can be consumed, but at this time of year it’s best to just use the root.

2. Maypops can be found on disturbed ground. The egg-shaped yellow-green fruit is sweet when ripe, but very seedy. People of the Appalachians reserved the fruit almost exclusively for creating a maypop drink by pouring boiling water of the fruit and straining, but the fruit is a good trailside nibble despite the seeds.

3. The duck potato or Sagitaria latifolia was early this year, but in ponds throughout NW Arkansas there is an abundance of the plant.

Get your shovel out, because these babies are not coming out without a fight. I’ve tried repeatedly stomping for the prize with no results. This is one you’ll have to work for.

4. Ahhhh…the sweet smell of chamomile. Sweet dreams come with this bouquet. Not only is chamomile great for soothing the worried mind, but it tastes great and smells even better.

If you’re not going to make tea with it, pick for just the sweet smell or use for pouporri.

Find this near lakes, ponds, rivers growing on the drier ground. Moist environment without being soggy. The herb has been spotted in several public parks from Rogers through Fayetteville.

5. Oh nuts!

Yes dear readers, it’s time to look up. Those wonderful, protein-packed nuggets of nutrition are here once again.

Black walnut, hickory, pecan and acorns too. They are all here for the picking (up).

The black walnut you want to husk yourself. Do not wait for it to dry, because by that time the worms have gotten into the meat.

In some areas the acorns are falling, in others they are still green. Just take a look around and see what you can find.

I gathered red oak acorns in Springdale that were green and had to boil several times before they were palatable. Be sure to leach the tannins from these babies, because they have a very acrid taste without the proper preparation.

If you travel further west toward Siloam Springs, you may find more white oak that has a less bitter acorn. I’ve been told the white oak acorn is sweet, but have yet to experience it myself.

August 6, 2010

Ready, ripe for picking

Picking Passionflower

Several patches of passionflower caught our attention last week. The vine is literally growing everywhere in Northwest Arkansas and we harvested a couple of pounds, dried it and have put it aside for tea.

Prunus serotina or the wild black cherry is also ready. We found several trees in Rogers and Siloam Springs, the fruit falling to the ground.

Prunus serotina - Black Cherry

Fruit can be used for jelly, as trail nibble or for juice.

We harvested some for snacks–it can also be dried and eaten like raisins.

August 4, 2010

Re-post: summer edibles w/parts

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, fruit, herbs, summer — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 5:37 pm

Cattails

A couple of readers expressed an interest in viewing the list with the information on which plant parts should be harvested. Here it is.

A Short list of common edibles currently in season (summer) for Northwest Arkansas, though some can be found throughout the year.

Common name                         Binomial                                What’s Edible?

American Elder             Sambucus canadensis        Berries (prepared)

Asparagus                       Asparagus officianalis        Tips

Black Cherry                 Prunus serotina                   Berries

Cattail                            Typha latifolia                      Root, stem, flower, pollen

Chicory                        Cichorium intybus             Every part of plant is edible

Chufa                            Cyperus esculentus            Tubers; raw or cooked

Dandelion                  Taraxacum officianale        Every part of plant is edible

Docks                          Rumex (acetosa,longifolia…)    Leaves; raw or cooked

(There are several varieties of dock/sorrel in the area; including curly, spinach, broad leaved and the dooryard. All are edible.)

Ground Cherry       Physalis pubescens                    Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Ground Nut              Apios americana                          Tubers; cooked

Lambs quarters      Chenopodium album                  Leaves; raw or cooked

May apple                 Podophyllum peltatum             Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Mulberry (red, white) Morus rubra/alba               Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Oak (Red, White)    Quercus rubra/alba                  Fruit; raw (alba) or prepared (rubra)

Passionflower          Passiflora incarnata                All parts are edible; raw or cooked

Pawpaw              Asimina triloba        Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Peppermint          Mentha piperita        Leaves; raw or cooked

Pickeral weed       Pontederia cordata        Leaf stalks/fruit; raw and cooked

Plantain/Plantago   Plantago major, asiatica…    Leaf; raw and cooked

Purslane            Portulaca oleracea        Leaf/leaf stalk; raw and cooked

Quickweed           Galinsoga parviflora        Green tops; cooked

Smilax              Smilax rotundifolia        Vine tips/berries; raw and cooked

Smooth Sumac        Rhus glabra            Fruit; cooked

Spearmint           Mentha spicata        Leaf; raw or cooked

Sweet Flag          Acorus calamus        Young stalks; raw or cooked

August 1, 2010

So many plants, so little time

Patrick investigating

Lactuca nine feet tall. The vibrant lavendar of the bull thistle, smart weed, jewel weed, flea bane, dog bane, sumac and few delights for the wildcrafters among us: chamomile, evening primrose and vervain among them.

Roaming the perimeter of Lake Fayetteville with Mr. Ethnobotany we only managed to traverse half a mile per hour–stopping every few feet to take photos and investigate our finds.

Though quite a few of the specimen we stopped for had already went to seed, there were just as many in full bloom or headed that way.

Patrick dug the root of a first year bull thistle as I looked on. It took a bit of work, because the thistle has a tap root much like the dandelion. This one happened to be a youngster, but I imagine if it had been older, it would have been next to impossible to uproot completely.

Bull thistle

The taste and smell of the raw root is quite distinct and brings to mind a time when we grew our own artichokes. The thistle is a relative of the artichoke, afterall.

The chamomile (Matricaria) we found grew close to the marina. Though I’ve seen plenty of photos of the plant, it was my first up close and personal encounter. You can tell a nerd by how excited they get over their first encounter with a much loved plant.

[Yes the heart leaps into the throat and there is a brief moment of wide-eyed wonder, corresponding to a sharp intake of breath.]

Toward the end of our walk, I realized I had stepped into a patch of Rhus radicans (poison ivy) and felt the stinging sensation creeping up my ankle. Patrick spotted some jewel weed, grabbed a handful and instructed me to crush it and use the juice on the infected area.

Voila! It worked. The pain immediately subsided, as did the itching and two hours later I had no rash.

Alas, the quick rise of temperature into the nineties dictated we stop early, though with the promise of another visit soon.

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