It’s that time of year: Is it a wild mustard or a wild radish?
While mustards can vary a lot within the genus, and radishes as well, there are some family differences. They are, however, used the same way.
The mustards tend to have clusters of blossoms without prominent veins on the petals. Radish blossoms tend to not be in clusters but more singular. Radish blossoms have more pronounced veins. Leaves can vary as well. Mustards tend to be smoothed leafed, radishes rough but that can vary with the opposite true as well. Height can also be a factor. Mustards like to grow straight and tall, radishes twist and bend. They would be tall if they did not have scoliosis. The blossom color can vary within the families. Mustards and radishes can both range from yellow to pink to white. Also no matter where you are in the world a mustard or a radish will have four petals and six stamen, four long, two short. To read more about the mustard go here, the radish here.
How to pick a cactus pad. In a word carefully. Most foragers know cactus have edible parts but what does one look for, generally? First make sure it’s a pad, segmented often oval or tear-drop shaped. You do not want anything that looks serpentine. Also no white sap. White sap in plants that resemble cactus can be very deadly even after being dry many years. In one case smoke from burning dessicated euphobia branches killed some stranded people. They were trying to stay warm around the fire on a cold desert night. So, pads, no white sap. While which cactus you collect (opuntia or nopales) might be the luck of the draw, the less spines the better, and the less glochids the much better. Glochids are tiny tuffs of sharp hair that hurt, are hard to dig out, and last for days. Ma Natures knows the pads are good food so she protects them mightily. Big spines can be cut, burned or scraped off, glochids burned or washed off. Just scraping is not so successful with glochids. Wear stiff gloves without seams. Those little glochids will pass right through seams and get ya. Hint: Young pads, the ones we want anyway, often have not developed glochids.
Let us presume you have a spineless, glochidless young pad. What do you do with it? You can eat it raw, skin and all, or roast it or boil it. I know one restuarant that steams them (preserving color) then lightly grills them puting the pads whole on a Mexicanesque hamburgers. With older (de-spined) pads you can still eat them raw or cook. Usually the tougher spine “eyes” are removed just like you would with a potato. And the pad can be peeled as well. Pads at a certain point become woody and too tough to eat. To read more about cactus click here.
Florida Herbal Conference is February 15-17. You learn better at conferences because you are getting a distillation of information from teachers with years of experience. Any questions can be answered quickly and to the point, no rummaging around to resolve an issue. You’re also with like-minded folks so there instant camaraderie. You are the majority. For more information and to sign up go to: Florida Herbal Conference.
Urban Crawl. It’s that time of year. Christmas is just a week away. If you look at my class schedule there’s private forage scheduled for December 24th, Christmas Eve. That’s for you. Because you read this newsletter you will know about a free, class I do every year around this time. We meet at a Panera restaurant and wander around Winter Park village for two or three hours looking at wild edibles along with some cultivated and ornamental ones. No fee, be my guest. Just a romp and a couple of cups of coffee. Ho ho ho. It’s my Christmas present to any subscriber (et ali) who wants to participate. When: Dec. 24th, time 10 a.m., rain or shine… or snow…. Location: 329 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL.
This foaging newsletter’s number of subscriptions grew 100% this year. Not shabby. However the mailing program allows subscriptions to be deleted if the reader has not opened four newsletters or more in a row so the actual gain was 50%. Still good. I have a financial interest in removing non-opening subscriptions in that the mailing cost is directly related to the number of subscribers. People who receive the newsletter but don’t open it reduce the reader rate, the click through rate, and increase the cost. Thus the newsletter is sent only to those who regularly open it. In the future there will probably be either ads or a subscription fee. Personally I would prefer tasteful ads. While it may not seem so it takes, on average, about 12 hours a week to create and mail the newsletter. And I would like to thank the vivacious Kelly for her proof-reading and tolerating my counter arguments. Writing any regularly-occurring work is a challenge because it’s a non-ending insatiable appetite. The literary beast is always hungry and the dead line is always hovering. As long as it is enjoyable — for me and you — I will keep crafting it.
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