Forage Processing Day and a Bread Experiment Brewing

Forage Processing Day and a Bread Experiment Brewing

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Today being Thursday, it is my processing day of the week, not Tuesday, which this week was an emergency attempt to make space for Monday’s foraging run. I’m making progress. I thought two trays of catnip were dry, but it turns out only 90% dry. They are now mostly crushed and condensed onto one tray instead of two. I thought two trays of nettle were crushable, but they still had hints of dampness, so they are condensed onto one tray and in the house. A tray of pineapple weed also needed more drying time after discovering hints of dampness there too. Half the great sage haul was able to be crushed and put away. The pennycress needs more time to rid it’s dampness in the seed pods, but the barley grass was dry and snipped down to size to put into a larger container. Bits of mustard weed and prickly lettuce were dry, crushed and put away. I was able to fluff up and condense more trays so that remaining pineapple weed and crane’s bill all went onto trays, and most of the remaining nettle got onto trays as well. I was able to put away 2 grocery tubs while a third sits empty, acting as a stand for a couple trays to sit on under the umbrella. The fourth now holds significantly less nettle than it had been holding, so I’m happy. I have a stack of small trays to wash now.

curly dock seedI have been continuing my efforts to locate wild flours, hoping that I’d find wild flour options that have gluten in them. It appears however, from other foragers out there who have been at it longer than I have, that unless you find wild potatoes, wild flax, or wild apples (such as crab apples), you’ll need to blend your wild flour with a domestic flour to have it hold together. Alternatively, use a binder, and most of those are domestic as well unless you trip across birds’ nests. Potatoes, flax, chia seeds, rice, and apples are generally considered domestic and found either in yards, gardens, or the grocery store. So that’s a mild disappointment.

However, a number of foraging articles out there mention quite a range of wild plants you can otherwise use as wild flour. I already know about the dock family, cattail, and plantain. I don’t have waders or tall rubber boots to be digging up cattail root to turn into flour, otherwise I’d positively LOVE to be doing so! Broadleaf and Narrowleaf Plantain don’t grow proliferantly enough for me to gather their seeds in large quantities. My habit is to harvest a stalk, leave a stalk, so that they can continue to propagate. If the area I find them in is struggling, I’ll harvest a stalk, leave a stalk, and spread a stalk’s seed to help them scatter. I had good success doing this at one patch that unfortunately got dumped on with sand a couple years later. People don’t know what they’re doing out there!!!

young pineBut of all the various ways to get wild flour, the most surprising to me was the use of conifer bark! Rumour has it, as I haven’t seen any actual links to information proving the historical references other than one lady claiming her Scandinavian relatives STILL do this, that northern Scandinavian peoples have used Pine bark to make flour for millenia! They apparently use both the inner and outer bark. The outer bark has very few carbohydrates, but both outer and inner have quite a few nutrients. The rule of thumb is that if you can have the tree in a tea or food, you can have it in a flour. The usual warning applies here, that you should steer clear of cedars, juniper needles, and yew. Of those three, Juniper berries are the only edible part of the Juniper tree or shrub. Cedars are useful as aromatics and essential oil, topical use only, and yews are just plain poisonous with no redeemable use that I’ve seen as of yet. Yews are the only conifer with red berries. Rumour has it that if you tap it for sap, its a tree that loses it’s leaves in the winter, but of those trees, Birtch seems to be the only one also used for flour and then, only the inner bark.

As noted by people who have actually used tree bark for flour, it’s best not to cut into a living tree unless that tree is slated for being chopped down anyway. Otherwise, look for recently downed trees, large downed tree branches, etc. I would add that if you go looking for downed trees or branches, DO NOT harvest bark that has begun to grow green lichen on it!!! See my post where I share photos of how fast lichen can grow on a living tree, let alone a dead one! If lichen has begun to grow on a downed tree, you are only safe if it is monochrome!

Now I find myself wondering about gathering the bark that got shocked off the trees at the one foraging zone we go to, drying it out, grinding it up, and seeing how it turns out as a flour.

I’ve found a recipe for dock bread finally that ONLY uses dock flour. It calls for four eggs, and it appears those eggs both lift and bind the flour together. I began looking for egg alternatives that would do the same thing, but so far I can find egg substitutes that bind, and egg substitutes that lift, but seemingly not both. I do have an applesauce cake recipe, but it also uses baking soda and vinegar for the lift. I intend to try the egg version first, so I have a benchmark to go on, and then I’ll try the applesauce/baking soda/vinegar version.

My egg allergy is lifting, praise the Lord! All these years later! But I still prefer to bake eggless recipes whenever possible simply to keep the grocery bill in check. Eggs are highly nutritious! I advocate eating them to those who could use the nutrition they offer, and those who can fit them into their grocery budget! We don’t have land to keep laying chickens, so that option’s out.

DandelionOne of the flour articles mentioned a dandelion petal bread recipe, referring to the petals as a type of flour. I wouldn’t call it flour so much as a baking addition, the way you might add nuts, seeds, fruit, zuchinni, carrot, etc. So I looked at the two recipes and plan to merge them to make Dandelion Dock bread! Who knows, it might become Dandelion Dock Applesauce bread! One lady took the dock bread recipe, added milk, and got a dock cake instead. If my experiments work out, I’ll share those in another blog post.

I think someone needs to share a list of wild binders and leaveners. There are articles out there for gathering wild yeast, creating wild starter similar to sour dough, etc. I’ve just rather enjoyed not having much in the way of yeast breads in the house for awhile now. I guess I should just stock up on baking soda, vinegar, and baking powder in the meantime. There are articles and how-to’s out there for making your own vinegar too, if you don’t mind stinking out your neighbours in the process. It’s a great way to make use of apple cores, apple peel, etc.

Just like I need to carve out time for the ebooks and courses I recently bought, I also need to carve out time for this bread-making experiment! But maybe I can do that this weekend, as it appears no one has registered for either of the foraging workshop dates. As more and more studies point to the deliberate and long-term poisoning of various aspects of commercial food production, learning what you can do with the wild food you find is helpful.

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