Discovering back yard culinary treasures

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Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Howie Hart » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:19 am

A few evenings ago, my friend, Mary Jo was over. Although we've been friends for a couple of years now, she had never "toured" my back yard so we walked around and I showed her my grape vines. There is one patch of something growing, that comes up every year. I wasn't exactly sure what it was. Several years ago, I thought it might be some kind of basil and actually made pesto from it, which was quite nice, but my sister, who liked it, said it didn't taste like basil. I posted here about it and was told it can't be basil, because basil isn't a perennial. Then, someone told me they thought it was mint, and while it does have a bit of mint aroma, the leaves didn't look right. Mary Jo took one look at it and said "You've got a lot of lemon mint there". :shock: I looked it up and lo, and behold, it is lemon mint and has many uses; rubbing crushed leaves on your skin as a mosquito repellent; can be brewed into a stress reducing tea; seasoning for fish; seasoning in sausage; a substitute for oregano; and even to make pesto!! As we made out way behind my garage, where I have a lot of junk piled up, she exclaimed "Cardoons!" :o I said "You mean these big leafed weeds that keep coming up, year after year?" We had fried cordoons at a St. Joseph's Day dinner we went to in March, and I liked them. She's going to cook some up for me this weekend and maybe I'll make some lemon mint pesto and serve it over home made pasta.
There is a large wooded area behind my house, filled with turkeys and deer. I'm going to try to find a local mushroom expert and see what might be back there.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:52 am

Nice! We get cardoons in one of the grocery stores here but I've never bought them. According to a pal of mine, the ones the store gets are usually too old and tough. He's found them around the area in vacant lots and such, but I've not seen any foragable ones myself.

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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:01 am

One of our local grower's at the Farmer's Market has written a book with sketches about edible plants in No.CA. She is a graduate of UC Davis, has a farm and grows a lot of unusual things that I love to peruse each week. I glance at her book now and then but the black and white sketches are off putting. Too bad she did not take pictures, but that would have added to the cost of her book. I don't think I would take a chance on eating something that looked like one of the sketches. Just too many things that look alike or similar to each other.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Susan B » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:38 pm

Howie, please post your experience with the cardoons. I planted a cardoon from a one gallon pot about 4 years ago. I planted it for the flowers and didn't consider eating the leaves, but it grows bigger every year. Last year the flowers were about 6 feet high. This year already it is about 4 feet in diameter and hasn't even set buds yet. I am thinking about eating some now.

I tried to load some photos, but I can't seem to shrink them to 1000 KiB.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jenise » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:57 pm

Cardoons are delicious! Lots of work, but worth it.

Susan, I know you have a book of edible 'weeds'. Have you found a lot of things around the village to harvest? Too bad mule tails (also called horse tails) aren't edible, we could spruce up Comox by eating Jack and Kathy's yard. :)
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Howie Hart » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:03 pm

I found this link, and it is what mine look like: http://www.recipesandramblings.com/foragingwildgardoons.htm. I don't recall ever seeing any big thistle type flower, as mentioned on other web sites, but maybe that's because I always weed-whacked them, thinking they were some sort of wild rhubarb weed.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jenise » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:17 pm

Howie Hart wrote:I found this link, and it is what mine look like: http://www.recipesandramblings.com/foragingwildgardoons.htm. I don't recall ever seeing any big thistle type flower, as mentioned on other web sites, but maybe that's because I always weed-whacked them, thinking they were some sort of wild rhubarb weed.


Howie, that's so cool. Your friend has a good eyes--I recognize the 'cultivated' variety shown in the picture but not the others. You're right, they look like rhubarb.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:29 pm

we could spruce up Comox by eating Jack and Kathy's yard.


Don't know about Jack and Kathy, but I didn't think Comox needing sprucing up...it is beautiful there! :lol:
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jenise » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:08 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:
we could spruce up Comox by eating Jack and Kathy's yard.


Don't know about Jack and Kathy, but I didn't think Comox needing sprucing up...it is beautiful there! :lol:


Comox is a street between Susan and I, and the house in question is in need of some serious manicuring. It's for sale and no one's tending to the yard.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Karen/NoCA » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:35 pm

Jenise wrote:
Karen/NoCA wrote:
we could spruce up Comox by eating Jack and Kathy's yard.


Don't know about Jack and Kathy, but I didn't think Comox needing sprucing up...it is beautiful there! :lol:


Comox is a street between Susan and I, and the house in question is in need of some serious manicuring. It's for sale and no one's tending to the yard.

Oh, I was thinking to this Comox

http://comoxbythesea.com/
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jenise » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:15 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:Oh, I was thinking to this Comox

http://comoxbythesea.com/


That's not far from us!, but no, not the one I was referring to.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Redwinger » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:05 pm

Not directly on topic, but, NJ grows a few Nasturtiums every years. Today, I'll pick a few leaves and include them in our salad. Hope I don't mix up these guys with the castor plants she has out there. :?
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:46 pm

Redwinger wrote:Not directly on topic, but, NJ grows a few Nasturtiums every years. Today, I'll pick a few leaves and include them in our salad. Hope I don't mix up these guys with the castor plants she has out there. :?

Oh, yeah, you'll caper around after that!
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Karen/NoCA » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:45 pm

We have a huge elephant ear plant under an ornamental tree that we stuck in there because it was so unhappy in it's former place. We were not going to leave it there as it is sort of out of place. It disappears in the winter and comes up in the spring. It came up so well the following Spring with 13 huge ears for us to enjoy all summer. Each year it gets bigger. Recently, a visitor from Hawaii told us that the roots of that plant are edible, and that we could bake them like a potato! Not that I am planning on taking the happy plant out anytime soon, but I suppose if we were in starvation mode it is good to know. Now I am wondering about the leaves and stems, if they are edible, as well...
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sat Jun 08, 2013 2:29 am

Karen/NoCA wrote:We have a huge elephant ear plant under an ornamental tree that we stuck in there because it was so unhappy in it's former place. We were not going to leave it there as it is sort of out of place. It disappears in the winter and comes up in the spring. It came up so well the following Spring with 13 huge ears for us to enjoy all summer. Each year it gets bigger. Recently, a visitor from Hawaii told us that the roots of that plant are edible, and that we could bake them like a potato! Not that I am planning on taking the happy plant out anytime soon, but I suppose if we were in starvation mode it is good to know. Now I am wondering about the leaves and stems, if they are edible, as well...

On a quick read, the answer is 'no'. All parts of the plant contain large amounts of calcium oxalates which become oxalic acid.

The most persistent person trying to eat elephant ears is here: http://www.eattheweeds.com/is-wild-taro-in-florida-edible-2/
A fellow in Hawaii who did it wrong is here: http://www.mauijungalow.com/2012/03/taro-vs-elephant-ear-telling-them-apart.html
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Karen/NoCA » Sat Jun 08, 2013 3:08 pm

Mine is definitely the Elephant Ear. The person who told me grew up in Hawaii, eating the bulbous root of the plant. However, I think I will stick to a baked potato! :)
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:12 pm

Cardoons.jpg
Cardoons.jpg (41.05 KiB) Viewed 2429 times
Meanwhile, back on subject, here was tonight's dinner at Mary Jo's: Italian sausage, with peppers, onions and mushrooms, spaghetti with lemon mint pesto, batter fried cardoons and Pinot Gris. Sorry for the partly blurred image - taken with my phone-camera - lens must have been smudged.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Susan B » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:14 pm

Howie, was it as delicious as it looks?
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Susan B » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:19 pm

Jenise wrote:Cardoons are delicious! Lots of work, but worth it.

Susan, I know you have a book of edible 'weeds'. Have you found a lot of things around the village to harvest? Too bad mule tails (also called horse tails) aren't edible, we could spruce up Comox by eating Jack and Kathy's yard. :)


I have found a number of things, most are more work than they are worth. You may have some of my cardoons if you choose to make the effort.

Also I have 4-6 gooseberries this year! No sign of any color but green, but their appearance is fun.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Howie Hart » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:21 pm

Yes - both the pesto and cardoons very tasty! The pesto was very intense and a little went a long way. The cardoons were cleaned and cut to length. Then I put them in my pressure cooker covered with water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice, cooked them for 15 minutes, drained, rinsed, cooled them and took them to my friend's where she made a batter with egg, bread crumbs and grated Romano cheese and fried in olive oil.
EDIT: The cardoons were not that hard to prepare. Cut them off near the ground, cut off the leaves, put them in a sink full of water and scrubbed them, using a designated toothbrush to get some dirt out of the concave parts and cut into 6 inch lengths.
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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Paul Winalski » Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:54 pm

There are wild brambles of the blackberry persuasion growing behind my condo. They don't produce fruit every year, but when they do it is delicious. There are also wild black raspberries in the area.

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Re: Discovering back yard culinary treasures

Postby Jenise » Fri Jun 14, 2013 5:28 am

Susan B wrote:
I have found a number of things, most are more work than they are worth. You may have some of my cardoons if you choose to make the effort.

Also I have 4-6 gooseberries this year! No sign of any color but green, but their appearance is fun.


Are your cardoons like Howie's or are they the other kind? They must grow well up here, I was noticing them as part of the landscape (at least I think they're cardoons, not artichokes) around the Cordata Food Coop parking lot.
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