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Foraging Texas


fifi
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As some of you may know, I am somewhat of a forager. My sister is the all time champion but I have followed along for years. I am fascinated by what can be found by the side of the road that may, in fact, be delicious. (No... I don't mean road kill. At least, I don't think so.) For instance, it seems like just yesterday that I was noticing the drifts of dewberry blossoms and making note of the location so that we could return when the berries are ripe. I now understand that they have been ripening early this year so if we are going to get anything out of this season, we will have to get with it. Last year we had an interesting discussion on this thread where I told the story of the Snake Stick...

Well, a snake stick is a long stout stick that you carry with you into dewberry country. That is because dewberry country is also a favorite hang out for the nastier species of our native reptiles. You try to avoid the whacking scenario -- think of the old fat broad in the B.C. comic strip that is always whacking the poor snake (hey, that is kind of like me!) -- by extending the stick ahead of you to warn any lurking reptiles that you are invading their territory. Copperheads are usually cooperative and will exit stage right. Water mocassins are a bit more problematic. They can be rather belligerent and you may have to resort to whacking. Rattlesnakes are pretty stubborn and may just sit there and rattle at you. If that occurs, the best course of action is to find another dewberry bramble.

The snake stick is also handy for pushing the thorny canes out of the way. One of the rules of dewberry production is that the biggest and juiciest berries are always down under the thorniest canes. Of course, this does not work very well and, when you return home with your hoard of berries, the first course of action is to apply alcohol to all of your scratches and apply tweezers to imbedded thorns. You should do this before you get in the shower and scrub vigorously to remove any chiggers that got past the Deep Woods Off.

Only now can you proceed to make that cobbler, jam, or jelly. When you have done that you conclude that it probably wasn't worth the trouble and you vow that you will never do this again. Then spring comes and you see the drifts of white blossoms and declare "Look! Dewberries! It's gonna be a good crop this year."

The next thing on our hit list is elderberries. It has been years since we found a really good stand and turned the kitchen blue making elderberry jelly.

Then there is the samphire or saltwort that grows in the sand near the beaches. This stuff we just munch on the spot.

Have you ever found the huge beds of coquinas, those colorful teeny little clams that can form huge colonies at the surf line on the beach? When I was a kid, we used to dig some up and then have coquina races to see which one could bury itself first. Later, we learned from Mr. Gibbons that they could be sweated to release their clam juice and make a wonderful chowder.

In drier parts of the state, later in the summer, the prickly pears will be bearing fruit. They make a lovely fuschia jelly if you are willing to deal with the thorns. (Hint... Arm yourself with kitchen tongs for picking and tweezers for getting those tiny thorns out of your epidermis later because it is impossible to avoid them altogether.)

Have you ever dug the sassafras root in the East Texas woods?

What have I missed so far. What do you forage?

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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:laugh::laugh::laugh:

Somehow I knew that would come up.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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In drier parts of the state, later in the summer, the prickly pears will be bearing fruit. They make a lovely fuschia jelly if you are willing to deal with the thorns. (Hint... Arm yourself with kitchen tongs for picking and tweezers for getting those tiny thorns out  of your epidermis later because it is impossible to avoid them altogether.)

Now when you pick a pawpaw

Or a prickly pear

And you prick a raw paw

Next time beware

Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw

When you pick a pear

Try to use the claw

But you don't need to use the claw

When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw

Have I given you a clue?

--From the Jungle Book soundtrack, of course, 'cause that was just gonna bug me aahlll day.

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heh heh

Only on eGullet!

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The last batch I found was on the backside (bayside) of Galveston Island at San Luis Pass. I have also found it in the dunes on the beach side.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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In a more serious vein---greens. Wild greens. Dandelions, of course, but lambsquarter, beggars purse, purslane, and epizote. Devil's claw is eaten at a tender stage by Native Americans, as is--look out--tumbleweeds. Don't say yuck, try tender shoots before they get 'spurs' steamed. Later, mustang grapes. And every Texas teenagers favorite find--watermelon or corn snitched straight from the field--sometimes accompanied by salt; courtesy of the field owner!!!

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The gravel road on which I grew up was lined with wild plums. They probably weren't all that good, but it sure was exciting to come home with a bag-full.

I've also foraged for prickly pear. Don't know why -- again, I think it's the thrill of the hunt. They don't taste all that good, and between the spines and the fire ants, they're just a downright PITA.

My one favorable TX foraging experience was blueberries in the piney woods. Don't remember where. They were damn good, though.

Also, fishing for crawdads with bologna on a string... but I'm not sure that counts. The crawdads usually let go as soon as they break the surface.

amanda

Googlista

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And every Texas teenagers favorite find--watermelon or corn snitched straight  from the field--sometimes accompanied by salt; courtesy of the field owner!!!

For shame, Mabelline! I can remember the family drives to Brayton and Josephine's house in The Valley, and the way someone's cornfield geometry could hypnotize you with its perfection. Dad always bought a big bag from "the field owner", aka FARMER, for roasting ears to accompany the venison tamales at the big family Xmas party. Must've set him back a big four, maybe five bucks.

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I just got back from braving the crowds at the Art Car parade downtown. There, along the bayou, but WAY out of reach were some elderberries with huge and dense masses of flowers. :sad: I haven't had those elderberry flower fritters in years.

*heavy sigh*

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I used to forage for pine nuts before arthritis in my knees made hiking in the hills impossible.

We carried "snake sticks" also because our native nasty, the Mojave green (rattlesnake) just loves to rest under the pinoñ pines. We used rakes to drag the pine cones out from under the "trees", which are usually just big bushes with branches near the ground.

Several years ago I attended a "nature walk" with foraging led by a Native American in the San Gabriel hills, very close to the city. Most people think of the L.A. area as being mostly a metropolitan area but there are some wild lands close in. Just last weekend a California brown bear was tranquilized in a back yard in a suburban area.

I can't recall offhand all the plants he gathered but it was enough to feed the seven of us a very satisfying lunch. The ones I do remember were mallow "cheeses", squaw root, wild onions.

I have snacked on a particular type of kelp, recommended by someone who was familiar with the stuff.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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With regards to corn or melon snitching, we usually knew every carload of kids that had a 'breakdown' by our fields. My daddy always said to nevermind, they got less than the crows. I didn't realize you thought I meant I snitched said produce :laugh::laugh:

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Mustang grapes grow un tended and gloriously enjoyed by us on our back fence. I make "Back Fence Grape Jelly" every year. Last year's product was 15 pints. We also have some wild persimnmon -- aka TX cherries -- around here and are blessed with several around the yard area. They make a good but ugly jammy/jelly, as they are a very dark greenish black when ripe and each fruit has several large seeds which must be strained out. Epizote (for beans) and lemon horse mint (great to use in soups and stews -- as well as to cure bull nettle sting!) are abundant in Central TX. Wild onions and even garlic are often easy to find. They also grow all around my rock walls and we love them. By necessity my foraging must be close these days but I enjoy it anyway. :biggrin:

How about mulberries? They are in fruit now and ready for a good cobbler with pears or pineapple added or just a good jam. They tend to pop up all over.

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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I forgot all about wild bird chiles, too. Then for real adventurous folks in pond and marshy areas, there are arrowhead tubers, called duck potatoes by old folks. Can't forget tender cattail rushes either.

By the way, lemon juice, vinegar, or ammonia are all real good for bull nettle 'burn'.

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With regards to corn or melon snitching, we usually knew every carload of kids that had a 'breakdown' by our fields. My daddy always said to nevermind, they got less than the crows. I didn't realize you thought I meant I snitched said produce :laugh::laugh:

A cracking posting and a lovely sentiment. I won't feel so bad now when i lift melon ,sun warmed when cycling through France. :biggrin:

Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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  • 8 months later...

I remember when I was a kid in East Texas' piny woods my grandmother would always get wild Poke greens. Here is also a breeding ground for wild blackberries, muskdaines(sp?), and wild onions.

"Instead of orange juice, I'm going to use the juice from the inside of the orange."- The Brilliant Sandra Lee

http://www.matthewnehrlingmba.com

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And not mentioned so far the venrable and often messy Mulberry. They grow like weeds in much of Texas. Quite tasty with ripe. The only issue in picking them is wasp, I speak from experience.

Never trust a skinny chef

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Does anyone know what time of year those massive coquina beds can be found?

I found this useful site run by the National Wildlife Federation But they don't say when they show up.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I have never seen Coquina Chowder in a restaurant. We got our recipe from the Euell Gibbons book. As far as I know, no one collects them commercially. This is a definite DIY project. After you have collected a couple of buckets full, you steam them and collect the juice. It is wonderfully sweet and "clammy."

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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  • 3 months later...

thought I'd revive this chestnut to say it's time you went a-berrying, if you're ready for blackberries. Mind the poison ivy, though, as it seems to have benefitted from a mild, wet winter as much as the berry patch has. I had to restrain the middle boy from eating red and aubergine ones, but he did appreciate the ripe ones more.

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I have the grandaddy of all dewberry patches located. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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