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MORAN: Harvesting and cooking edible, wild plants

Watercress
August 10, 2016 - 1:44 PM

 


OPINION


If our food represented our region, we would all know the recipe for vichyssoise by heart. When we have a surplus of fruit we have ways of cooking large quantities and getting through boxes of the stuff. The Okanagan valley is not only abundant in fruit, but edible wild plants as well.

Harvesting the leafy and tender parts of plants like watercress and stinging nettle is sustainable in large quantity. The roots and stem are left intact, and the forces of nature will push up no matter what. Cut stems will branch out in two ways instead of one, resulting in more seeds. Small growth underneath will push up to bask in the sun and replace what has been harvested.

Watercress
Watercress

When I need to use a pound or more of wild greens my favourite recipe to get the job done is a puree soup. I usually make vichyssoise with nettles or watercress. Feel free to mix it up and try something else.  The name is complicated but the recipe is very simple. It is pronounced (vee-she-swah). Technically, this soup has two names (both in French) depending on whether it is served hot or cold.

Here is what you will need:

One large potato
One onion
One cup of whole milk
One cup of stock
Two cups of water
Salt, herbs, garlic, in preferred quantity
Two tablespoons of butter
One pound of stinging nettle or watercress

In a large pot, cook chunks of onion and potato in butter on low heat for fifteen minutes. Add your liquids and simmer for another fifteen minutes. Fresh herbs or a bit of garlic/garlic powder are fun to toss in. Thyme and parsley are my favourites. The soup will be cooked and ready for greens. Add your greens and turn off the heat. Let the vichyssoise cool for twenty minutes. Put the soup into a blender on high setting. Once it is smooth it is ready to eat!

Stinging nettles
Stinging nettles

The end result should be a slightly thick, green, consistent and creamy soup (equally thick and creamy from the potato and the butter/milk). The best pairing is a butter-laden thick and crispy piece of toast. If you have some high-quality olive oil you can try scratching a raw clove of garlic on your toast and drench it in oil. This soup is great served hot or cold, making it the perfect dish to do in large batches.

This is a food I am always proud to eat. The sustainability and health benefits from these wild crops cannot be outdone. They taste great too, and there are so many other positive aspects to wild harvesting in our community and participating in our surroundings.


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