Archive for April, 2008

It Begins…

April 8, 2008

After treading water here for the past few months, I’ve finally been able to start my progress towards local eating this week.  In my head, I’ve got this divided into three categories:  foraging, gardening, and buying local.  I’ll break this entry into those categories, with a little news in each.

Foraging

A warm week here in Michigan has finally opened up greens season.  I’m finally seeing some growth in the pokeweed patch I’ve scoped out, but the sprouts are only about 1/2″ out of the ground–not quite ready to pull.  I was able to find some dandelions, though.  I made the mistake of eating some past-prime leaves earlier this year (last year’s growth) and it was pretty horrifying.  The leaves are always bitter, but young leaves have a sweet crispness that balances out the bitterness.  I was able to be certain that the leaves I was picking were new growth, because they were poking through last fall’s leaves.

I don’t have the benefit of last fall’s leaves in my own yard, where I have a number of healthy dandelions.  In order to be sure I’m harvesting new sprouts, I twisted off all of the growth on several of the dandelions crowding my lawn.  In a few weeks, the roots will have sent out fresh growth to eat.

My first harvest did not amount to enough for a salad, so I tossed them in to a soup for the last few minutes of cooking.  They were the best part of the soup, but that’s not saying much.

Gardening

I’m not eating anything out of the garden yet (due mostly to the collapse of my coldframe), but things are still happening.  In addition to the seedlings I’ve started indoors, I open-seeded spinach, peas, and swiss chard a few weeks ago.  The spinach is up, and should be ready to eat in a month or so.  No sign yet of asparagus, which I planted last year.  I’ve planted out some lettuce that I started indoors, and it looks to have recovered from the trauma of transplanting and is putting on new growth.  I should have lettuce by the time my dandelions have resprouted, for a mixed salad.

Buying Local

I finally figured out how to get to the farm outlet storefront, which is the only source for local meat and cheese until the farmer’s market opens.  I priced out buying whole/half/quarter pigs and cows, but it’s not practical at this point.  We have a chest freezer, and could probably store it, but we don’t have the money up-front to buy what would amount to more than a year’s worth of meat.  We might be able to go through that much meat when there are more mouths to feed, but in the meantime, we’ll have to buy our meat piece by piece.  On average, local meat through this outlet costs about 30-40% more than factory food, which is a significant enough price difference to make me think about each piece of flesh I cook up.

Cheese is a different matter.  The price was pretty competitive with brand-name, not-on-sale cheese, and it tastes noticeably better than mass-produced cheese.  Since this place is on the way to my regular grocery store, I’m planning on stopping by once a month to stock up on cheese.  I’ve got a bit of meat in the freezer, so it might be a while before I have to suck it up and shell out for local beef.

In other news, I now have my brother-in-law’s digital camera on hand, so I can start posting pics of some of the foods I’m finding.  This will hopefully make this blog more useful to others who are interested in foraging.  I haven’t tried out the camera yet, since I figured everyone knows what dandelions look like, but I’ll be sure to get some poke pics up, including how to spot a patch from a distance.

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