We were hoping for edible mushrooms, but although Ellen and I struck out on those, our foraging day yielded several treats including wild ginger and watercress. We spent most of Friday foraging in the woods near her home in PA.
Wild ginger, Asarum canadense, is not even remotely related to commercial ginger, Zingiber officinale, which is an Indonesian plant that is not cold hardy enough to grow here. This pile of Asarum roots and rhizomes doesn’t look too appetizing, but trust me, it is a delicious spice:
Asarum‘s common name is wild ginger because its taste is reminiscent of Indonesian ginger and it can be used in similar recipes. But comparison doesn’t do justice to the delicate, complex flavor of wild ginger. This shade-loving groundcover is native to our Northeastern woodlands, and was used by local indigenous people as a seasoning. Ellen and I dug up the rhizomes and then replanted the plants with enough roots attached to ensure their survival. Here’s how to harvest wild ginger without killing the plants.
I brought mine home to dry, but we used some of Ellen’s in a pear cobbler.
The watercress went into a salad along with foraged garlic mustard leaves, chickweed, wood and sheep sorrels. Ellen’s husband, Michael, grilled a delicious roast of local beef, and we drank a dry blueberry wine from the Finger Lakes.
The next day, back in Brooklyn, I collected both black and English walnuts. The former are notoriously hard to hull, but hey, they were free local walnuts. Here are both varieties, unhulled, plus one hulled and looking more like the storebought walnuts we’re used to:
I also collected some highbush cranberries, then on the way home stopped at the farmers market for additional supplies. Still no edible mushrooms, but now that the weather is cooler and we’ve had some rain I’m hopeful of spotting some soon.
You can read Ellen’s account of our foraging day here.
“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer
“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos