Ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan has had a rewarding experience, joining foragers in the Sonoran Desert harvesting wild oregano, which he recounts in Stalking Oregano in the Wilds of Mexico. It’s worth taking a moment to ponder how many of the foods we take for granted are actually wild harvested, and are thus particularly at the mercy of over-harvesting, climate change and land use changes. We will miss them when they’re gone, which is why the work of the Millennium Seed Bank (which is conserving wild varieties of plants) is so important.
I don’t know how anyone could be bored with apples, but that’s the premise of the click-bait headline for a piece on the apple’s lesser known relatives from Modern Farmer. It looks at such delicacies as the quince and the medlar, and a species I wasn’t aware of called the Mayhaw, which is a relative of our humble hawthorn. It also introduced me to the term pomologist, and new words are always fun.
If you’re facing the dilemma of what to do with a large pome harvest that’s difficult to store in this unseasonably warm weather, then Food52 have an intriguing article on how to dehydrate fruit in the microwave, a technique that may be worth experimenting with if you don’t have your own dehydrator. What could possibly go wrong?
At this time of year our thoughts are turning towards Christmas. I have talked in the past about the possibility of eating your Christmas tree, and Gather has collected a lovely set of resources about the edible and medicinal uses in Recipes for Comfort & Joy: The Healing Powers of Conifers.
If you’ve grown an unusual edible crop, it’s not uncommon to find yourself at a loss as to how to use it. Sometimes the internet can be helpful, sometimes it isn’t. An in appropriate cooking method may make the difference between enjoying your harvest, or not. (In fact, in some cases, it can make the difference between your harvest being edible and poisonous, so it’s good to know if that’s an issue!) The Ottawa Gardener has started a new feature on her blog, talking about the recipes she uses – all of them tested on her kids (although they do seem a lot more adventurous in the eating department than any I know personally 😉 ). Plant to Plate: Yacon is a page where she’s pulling together ideas for a plant I know several UK gardeners are currently experimenting with.
Another good blog for cooking tips for unusual edibles is The Backyard Larder. Alison delights in nurturing and then chowing down on perennial plants, and her latest adventure involves skirret, which (if you don’t know) is a bit like an old-fashioned carrot.
So far my food blogs have been concentrating on more usual crops. This week I have engaged my Inner Womble once more, turning breadcrumbs that would otherwise have been food waste into a tea that met with a universal thumbs up. I’ve also added a couple of my dad’s recipes for using breadcrumbs, although I feel I ought to warn you that (as a trained chef) my dad’s instructions tend to be a little minimalistic!
And putting a bit more science back into gardening seems to be a trend at the moment (and one that I approve of!). The Garden Professors have tackled the thorny issue of whether there is any benefit to using Compost tea. James Wong, meanwhile, is continuing his weekly column in the Guardian by pondering if plants can think. It’s important to remember that any reporting of science in the popular press is likely to be sensationalist, and based on the latest press release from a university about the results in one of their studies. Science is an iterative process, and one of its fundamental features is the importance of reproducibility – one study can’t bring us the truth, it can only bring us one step closer to it. A body of evidence is what’s needed to back up a definitive statement.
On a lighter note, if you’ve got access to black walnuts, you can make black walnut ink. Dyes and inks is one aspect of plant use that I haven’t delved into much yet, but would like to. Could get messy….
What have you been enjoying on the internet this week?
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.