Garden Diary - June 2013

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Sunday, 9 June 2013
NJMA Goes Foraging at Deer Run Park

There's a notice posted in the New Jersey Mycological Association's on-line newsletter: The next foray will be the Bob Peabody Wild Foods Foray and Picnic on Sunday, June 9th, at Deer Path Park in Readington. Our special guest expert leader will be author Tama Matsuoka Wong, and the emphasis this year will be on edibles (rather than medicinals)! The foray will begin at 10:00 AM, after which we'll hold our semi-annual potluck picnic. Please bring a food dish to share (and a card listing your ingredients), and also bring your own place settings (plates, dinnerware, etc.)

The rain of the last few days (nearly 4 inches of it) has eased off. This morning is sunny, not too humid nor hot. Perfect weather for on outdoor event. I made a batch of pork and venison chili, and pickled some bamboo shoots. Off I go. Good thing Deer Path Park is relatively close to home - it seems there's a bridge out on Staunton Station Road and the detour took me left and right and back and forth, over a couple of narrow one-lane bridges so far off in the back of beyond that there wasn't any other-way traffic, and back to where I needed to be. And only a few minutes late.

People already clustered in the parking lot where Tama has apparently made some preliminary remarks.


We set off checking the plants growing in the turf and in a small area next to a corner with a
post and rail fence where deliberately planted daylilies and butterfly bush intermingle with
self-planted crow garlic, Allium vineale, creeping Jenny, Lysmachia nummularia, and others.

Tama pulls samples, mentions their usefulness - excellent when young, edible but not very tasty.
Some people came with small baskets, truly ready to forage. Others came equipped for note-taking.

. . . . .

There were field cedars, Juniperus virginiana. Some female trees were loaded with berries, not yet mature. We could flavor gin . . . I mentioned that's it's good with venison or rabbit. Some plants of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca were just coming into bloom. Their milky sap is bitter, and has glycosides that upset normal heart beat rhythms. Blanch, nibble to see if the bitterness is gone, blanch again if necessary. Once prepped so that the milky sap and its bitterness is gone, the immature flower clusters may be used in a quiche or some other dish. My thanks to Bob Hosh for the tip and suggestions.

There was burdock. One couple collected some. They'll use it in kinpira,
a rustic Japanese dish that combines gobo (burdock root) and carrots.

Tama had much to say, and would frequently pause during our walkabout to offer more information.

A few people had brought field guides, using them to check identification.

Our leisurely stroll probably covered a mile and a half or so. Then back to the picnic pavilion and
a varied, tasty potluck lunch, everything from a wild mushroom soup to salads, bread with mushrooms
in the dough, little dumplings, spicy noodles, and more. Let's not forget desserts. Berries and watermelon,
a cake with rose petal jam for its filling. Sumac or nettle tea. The foray was great fun, the food delicious.

And the socializing - the socializing is the best.

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