Contributed by Paul Tappenden, Rockland’s Suburban Forager.
I arrived at Cropsey Farm at 9 AM, where I had arranged to meet Lisa. While I waited, I walked around the fields, to see what might be growing there and noticed that there was lots of lambsquarters and purslane growing in among the crops. They both looked very healthy, and as luck would have it, the purslane was blossoming (a rare sight). In fact there were carpets of purslane that were covered in little yellow flowers. What a happy, beautiful sight!
People often tell me that they have trouble getting rid of purslane from their gardens. I cannot see the sense in removing it as it covers the entire ground protecting the earth from the heat of the sun, and preserving moisture. What’s more, it rarely ever grows higher than about 4 inches. Besides, it is a very attractive plant, and need I say, exceedingly edible. It has relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and bevy of vitamins and minerals. Best of all, it tastes good.
As well as these two culinary delicacies I was able to find some young pokeweed plants, growing along the edges of the field, so I gathered some of those.
Lisa soon arrived and helped me gather some greens, then we walked around the edges of the field and gathered some black raspberries. It was a little early in the season and most of the berries were still red but we were able to gather a small bag of ripe fruit.
When we had several bags filled with nature’s goodies, we headed back to the kitchen in the old farmhouse and laid our harvest out on the table. We had managed to gather an interesting array of different plants including some milkweed flowers and red clover flowers that we could use both as a garnish and for their nutritional value.
Since we intended to prepare a meal anyway, Lisa and I decided it would be a nice idea to cook for the farmers and volunteers. However, we had no idea at this point what we intended to prepare, other than the fact that Lisa had brought with her some spelt batter for making pancakes.
We sorted through and cleaned our forage, and decided that the best thing we could prepare was a hearty stew, a mixed green salad and some milkweed pancakes. So I got on with preparing the greens while Lisa prepared the pancakes.
Next, Lisa sautéed onions and some wild herbs (including the grape leaves and Sassafras we had gathered), before adding the rest of the greens, some zucchini, nettle stock and water.
While the stew was simmering, we set to work creating a salad, which we adorned with the flowers we had gathered, some shredded coconut and some of the berries. Lisa then took the rest of the berries and made a black raspberry and balsamic vinegar dressing to go with the salad. It was yummy!
Lunch time was fast approaching, so we cleared the table and laid out the dishes and the food that we had prepared so far. By now the stew was smelling quite delicious and permeated the air, as the folk from the farm started wandering in from their morning’s work. It was easy to see how hungry they were by their reactions to the aroma. We couldn’t wait to start eating and were soon seated around the table and digging into the pancakes and salad with that delicious dressing.
The bowls were soon emptied and everyone was ready to try the stew. I have to say at this point, that there are no more appreciative diners than folks who have been out working in the fields all morning.