During our recent visit to the Dane County Farmers' Market in Madison, Wis., we encountered an ingredient that's seldom seen at stores or outside of the eastern and midwestern states. Hickory nuts are an autumn treat, similar to the pecan but smaller in size and very rich and sweet in flavor.
It's an old cliché that we often don't know what we have until it's gone. Sad but true. Jessica Theroux's beautiful, simple video that documents an Italian farm woman preparing a meal is a poignant example of this. There are very few people left who live like her subject, Carluccia. People who know what greens to forage in the orchards or how to cook beans over a fire, how to raise a cow or slaughter a pig, or roll fresh pasta by hand. Come spend a few minutes in her world.
A few days ago we were passing by a field of wild fennel and made a mental note to return and collect some of the yellow, anise-flavored flowers. Now we're really keen on going back after reading yesterday's article in The Atlantic on growing and harvesting your own fennel pollen and seeds.
Most people are familiar with the use of mesquite firewood for barbecuing, but did you know the tree has edible pods, too? Flour made from the ground beans is becoming more readily available, and if you live in the Southwest, where mesquite trees grow, you can harvest your own beans now or later this year.
Do you forage for fallen fruit? Do you hunt out your local mulberry tree? Does canning take over your kitchen in the middle of the summer? If any of those are true, then one of these t-shirts might be your new summer uniform.
In yesterday's post about elderberries, a reader commented that you can batter and fry the aromatic flowers. Incidentally, the Guardian just posted a recipe for elderflower fritters, which they dub "the perfect summertime dessert." Do you have elderflowers you can forage for in your area? Have you ever cooked with them?
Here's something we picked up at the farmers' market that is often foraged in the wild: elderberries. Ripening in summer, these clusters of currant-sized berries come from the same bush that gives us elderflowers for syrup and liqueur.
For years we lived among yucca plants, not realizing their pretty white blossoms were edible until one day someone knocked on our door, asking if he could harvest some of the flowers in our front yard. Since then we have only eaten them raw – they make gorgeous cake decorations! – but we are looking at ways to cook them this summer.
Q: The NY Times published an article recently about using wild violets in foodstuffs. My understanding was that the typical wild violet in the Midwest or Northeast (Viola sororia or papilionacea) are not the same as the violets used in, for example, France.
Last night I picked lots of wild violets with the hope of making violet syrup. However, the result neither smells nor tastes anything like the lovely, light, springtime syrups with which I am familiar. What can you tell me about using Viola sororia or papilionacea in cooking? How can a novice tell the difference between "American" violets and the violets (Viola odorata) used by the French? Are Viola sororia or papilionacea the correct type to be used in syrup-making?