For the past two months I have gone on a weekly walk through the Tennessee Hollow Watershed of the San Francisco Presidio. From early spring to early summer, I have watched the progression of species, as one dies back, the next takes the stage. Yesterday I espied a friend, and returned in the early hours of the morn for this week’s foraging adventure. (As a side note, the Presidio is part of the National Park Service…do not forage in protected or off limit areas. I collected on a wee trail between a road and the government buildings. Thank you ossifer, but I’ll just be on my way now…)…
The trail I love meanders between serpentine grassland and forests of cypress and pine. Due to conservation efforts, the area is lush with native flora and fauna…
California Buckwheat is edible and medicinal but I also feel protective of it as a native wildflower, and so I let it be.
The walk in was about 20 minutes to my destination, but I was in good company.
Ithuriel’s Spear is also edible. This member of the Lily family (or maybe the Onion family, depending on who you ask) grows from a corm (kinda like a bulb) that is edible and tastes potato-ish. Again, it’s a native flower, so collect prudently.
Pineapple weed like to grow in disturbed soil. When I was a kid, we would pluck the blooms, crush the heads and then hold them under each other’s nose. “Think of apple, and then smell.” Very appley, indeed. “Ok, now think of strawberry and smell.” Goodness, how can it be? “Ok, now think of banana and smell.” It does! It smells like a banana too. I still play this game as an adult, but I take the flowers home and steep them as they make a lovely tea.
At last I came across my prickly friend…
Milk Thistle! Check out those leaves, aren’t they beauties?
While you can eat the shoots and stems of Milk Thistle, and a top-notch liver cleanser is made from the seeds, I was only interested in the flowers.
You can eat the flowering tops of all thistles, the two most commonly harvested being the Milk and the Bull.
To make a meal out of these meanies, you would have to harvest approximately 8 billion. What we are after here is the receptacle, or as you may know it, the heart. What does this remind you of?
Yes indeed, the Milk Thistle is an ancestor of the cultivated artichoke. Mmmmm….artichokes. (By the way, just so you know what I sacrifice for these posts…my artichoke burned while I was writing this. Boo hoo! Actually, don’t take it personally. Since having a kid, I burn just about anything that takes longer than 10 minutes to cook. Bye bye short term memory, hello Mommy Brain.).
Even though the hearts of the Milk Thistle are about as big as your thumb nail, they are a true delicacy. Sweet, floral and scrumptious. Remember that wild edible forest I want to cultivate? There will be a whole field of these lovelies. You can come over and we will have Thistle Hearts au Gratin, and then take Milk Thistle Seed tincture to cleanse our livers afterward. Woo! Party!
Have a great weekend!