With a few hard frosts behind us, our options are slimmer if we want to eat straight from the garden. There are still some great things out there to eat, however, before we dive into our canned and frozen foods for the winter. Beet salads, carrot miso soup, home made horseradish, and even foraged roots from the back field have graced our table this week.
This weekend’s warm temperatures motivated me to find a few of the edible plants I had read about in my foraging book. At this time of year, roots make up most of the options. I dug burdock, thistle, and parsnip – digging deep down into our dense clay to free the taproots so I could tug them from the ground. Interestingly, two of these three species (thistle and parsnip) have leaves that cause skin irritation. The roots, however, are completely safe to eat!
After taste testing our peeled boiled root selection, wild parsnip was the clear champion. It was very similar to the parsnip available in the store – just a little less sweet. We are trying to eradicate the plant from our back field but is is still very common in our neighborhood, making it easy to find and harvest. The roots of medium sized plants each yielded a decent amount of food. I seared round disks of the parsnip in vegetable oil, adding water and covering my pan to steam and soften the roots. Once they were fully cooked, I sprinkled them with salt and maple syrup. Mmmm….
Making our own horseradish was pretty easy. It’s one of those foods that is so much better fresh! This year we moved some plants into our garden so that we could have our own source of roots. Now that the leaves have started to die back, it’s time to harvest. We peeled and diced the horseradish roots, used a food processor to finely grate the pieces, and mixed it with white vinegar for our final product. The finer it can be grated, the spicier it will be. For more details, check out this article. We’ve been enjoying on sandwiches, salad dressings, and to spice up soups.
After so many summer salads, our root crops are offering a welcome seasonal change. Our next challenge: what to do with a 22 pound hubbard squash!