This week in July's Friday Foraging Series we'll be talking look-a-likes and I'll share two of my favourite foraging recipes!
Look-a-likes are plants that have similar features to one another. They're important to be aware of because sometimes the plant that we're looking for might have a poisonous or toxic impostor. Or the look-a-like might just taste or smell really bad. Like have you ever found yourself knee-deep in skunk cabbage? Not fun.
Tips for Uncovering Undesirable Look-a-Likes: -We can stay aware of impostors by using our plant ID books, they'll usually have warnings, especially if there's a poisonous species involved. -We can also check with other foragers. Take a picture if you're uncertain and send it around for a second opinion. -One of the best ways to know what you're picking is to look for several identifying features. A good plant ID book will tell you the size of the plant, where it likes to grow, the shape of the leaves, when it flowers, the colour of the flower and any other distinguishing features.
Here's two of my Favourite Summertime Foraging Recipes and the potential look-a-likes!
Sumac Iced Tea Sumac berries make a wonderful, lemony iced tea. They are cooling and loaded with vitamin C, an important antioxidant that boosts our immune system and protects us from sun damage. A perfect summer-time drink!
Sumac is a large family of plants with over 250 varieties. Staghorn sumac have edible, bright red, furry berries that grow in a cluster that we can pick for our lemonade. Berries are usually ripe by late July and into August. Other identifying features are that it grows as a shrub, up to 20 feet tall. It has a compound leaf with multiple leaflets that are serrated. New branch growth is fuzzy.
Sumac Ice Tea Recipe- To brew tea, pick several bunches of ripe berry pods and steep in cool, filtered water in a sunny windowsill for several hours. This is sometimes called a sun infusion. Strain through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth to remove berries. The brew is very tart, like a cranberry lemonade. You can add extra fresh lemon or for a touch of sweetness, maple syrup or raw honey. Sumac ice-tea is an amazing thirst quencher on scorching summer days!
Look-a-like: Poison Sumac This is the sumac species you want to avoid.
Note that these berries are whitish, green and that the leave shape is quite different from the Staghorn species.
Sauteed Lamb's Quarter Lamb's Quarter, also known as wild spinach, is a delicious edible green that you can use in the kitchen in a variety of ways. This plant grows everywhere- road sides to back alleys. Note the dusty, white look on the inside of the new leaves. It grows to 2 feet or more. Leaves have a goose-foot shape. Add leaves to green smoothies, use young leaves raw in salads, grind seeds into flour, or steam, saute or stir-fry older leaves. This nutritional powerhouse is one of the most nutrient-dense plants we can find. High in iron, calcium, potassium, niacin and antioxidants.
Sauteed Lamb's Quarter Recipe- My favourite way to enjoy Lamb's Quarter is to saute the leaves in a bit of olive oil with garlic. Pick leaves and give them a good wash. Heat a small amount of olive oil on medium -low heat in a frying pan. Add thinly sliced garlic and let garlic soften for a few minutes. Then add Lamb's quarter. Saute until soft. Remove from heat, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on the top and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.
Look-a-like: Poison Nettleleaf Goosefoot
Note that Nettleleaf goosefoot has a tough looking leaf that lacks the powdery white look of Lamb's Quarter leaves. Nettleleaf goosefoot also has a bad smell, so you can crush a leaf in your fingers and if it has a rank odour, leave it be.
Thanks for reading! Next week on the blog, I'll share some of my favourite ways of preserving foraging harvests! From drying herbs for teas, to canning, to creating tinctures-we'll explore the different ways we can store foraged goodies.