I'm very interested in the edible weeds of just about anywhere. I think it started in 2006 when I was in Malta. I was standing at a bus stop when I recognised what I thought was rocket (arugula) growing by the side of the road. I pinched off a leaf and smelled it...yep, definitely was! By the time the bus arrived I'd picked a whole bunch to take home for a dinner salad and I was feeling Very Clever Indeed. But it made me think about what makes a plant a supermarket commodity and what leaves it to grow in ditches. Economics has a lot to do with it. At this point we need to honestly recognise that economics is not necessarily going to grow, distribute and sell the full range of plants known to have nutritional and medicinal value. Therefore it's up to us to educate ourselves about non-commercial plants and what they can do for us. In the particular case of weeds, it's their very abundance that is enticing. Suppose you discover you like dandelion root...woohoo, you'll likely find a lifetime supply, free, up and down your street. And we all like free stuff :-)
In an alleyway at the end of my street there are lots of cleavers, Galium aparine. There are even a few in my yard. I picked some leaves, then air dried them by leaving them to sit uncovered in a bowl on the kitchen bench for a week. Then I made a tea by pouring boiling water over them. It was quite palatable, with straw-wood-alfalfa notes that reminded me of Chinese tea.
According to Annie's Remedy, cleavers is a valuable lymphatic tonic and diuretic, can be used to treat psoriasis and arthritis and lowers blood pressure without side effects. Applied externally, cleavers tea can treat sunburn, rashes and cuts and is a useful hair rinse for dandruff and dry scalp.
If you live around Hobart I'm sure you can find some cleavers and I'd certainly recommend you try it at least once. Make sure you identify it properly: if youcome to one of the Otis Beanery classes just ask and I'll show you some. Drink up!
This burger was demonstrated at the Sustainable Living Festival in Hobart on Sat 9 November. It holds together beautifully and is a chewy, wholesome burger for winter or summer.
1 medium potato
1 Tbs olive oil
200g mushrooms (any)
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup barley (cooked)
seasoning to taste, say 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper
1. Steam potato until tender. Mash with a fork until reasonably smooth.
2. Chop mushrooms roughly. Preheat oven to 190C.
3. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and heat. Sautee mushrooms until they begin to sweat. Add thyme and cook a little longer until the liquid has dried up.
4. Meanwhile measure the cooked barley into a medium-sized bowl. Add the salt and pepper. Add the mashed potato.
5. When the mushrooms are ready, put them in a blender with 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add them to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir until they are well combined.
6. Lightly grease a frying pan and heat. Shape the burger mix into four medium-sized patties and fry approximately 3 minutes per side until golden.
7. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the burgers are firm and cooked through. Serve with condiments of your choice!
Servings: 4 medium-sized burgers
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
At the SLF I also used a small amount of minced black truffle and some truffle-infused olive oil to give it some added depth.
Fermentation is a fascinating thing and has long been used by food cultures, and culturers, all around the world. That's why Otis Beanery includes classic fermentations like sauerkraut and yoghurt in our workshop program, as well as some unusual ones like tempeh and water kefir. And it's fun as heck too :-)
People often ask about the benefits of fermented foods. As the classes have a lot of practical things to get through there's not always time to provide a full answer. The article linked below gives an excellent overall picture of fermentation, why we should eat fermented foods and how they fit into our increasingly scientific understanding of the microbiology of the human body.
(Michael) Pollan calls the 100 trillion or so bacteria in his own body “a vast, largely uncharted interior wilderness that scientists are just beginning to map.” The data is not all in yet. That said, there are plenty basic facts we already know, and scientists have made several amazing discoveries about friendly bacteria and fermented foods in recent years.
It's a very worthwhile read so catch the full article at AlterNet here.
We blog about once a month on vegan and food topics in and around Hobart.