I went instead to the Goblin Market. It seemed more to my taste.
You never get a chance to make a second impression.
In Mount Dora, FL, this is a restaurant.
I went instead to the Goblin Market. It seemed more to my taste.
Ah burdocks. I wrote about these plants before; we are still waging war on them at the Would-Be Farm.
In springtime, they are among the first plants to push green leaves out of the ground. They are unmistakable, lush and green. They grow everywhere, including in a ring around the area where we burn them in the autumn.
This spring, I harvested a few. And by "harvest" I mean "dig up, kill, and eat without prejudice."
Burdock is widely used in Japanese cuisine. I didn't have sake, soy, or much else, so I cooked it as I might have done with a carrot or some lotus root.
I put them into a bucket of water and then first scrubbed the clay dirt from the roots before peeling them like carrots. I sliced the roots into slivers, and sauted them with apple slices and maple syrup.
It was a little tough, a little subtle, and It didn't make our top ten list of exotic delicious items from the farm (Pureed hickory-nut frozen dessert, anyone? Maple syrup perchance? How about apple-wood smoked fish? Or milkweed greens? Or wild free-range turkey? Ahhhh.), but Mr. Linton allowed that –– all things considered –– we wouldn't starve if we were left with only burdocks to sustain us.
Happily, there are other crops on hand. We had our first mushroom from last year's plantings.
The single mushroom –– shitake –– was delicious, even to me, and I do not like mushrooms as a rule.
And <insert sound of heavenly choir> the asparagus yielded a sampler this spring.
Other good news from the Farm: several of the plants that looked dead at the end of last summer's drought have returned from Underworld. The spirit of Spring springs eternal.
We all have the one friend who appreciates fine food. The one who seeks out and enjoys beautiful meals, and then describes the food in such glowing terms that it makes a person want to try these epicurean delights.
My pal L. does this for me. Thanks to her, I have reconsidered my prejudice against casserole dishes, as well as things described by the term "fusion," along with my longstanding self-imposed prohibition against eating named internal parts of animals.
When dining with L, it's all, Truffle fries? Sure! A flight of chicken livers? Irony aside, why not! Haggis? Hmm, okay maybe I will order the nips and tatties instead, but yay!
She's a fearless and adventuresome eater who has changed my mind about ever again putting something infused with anything of a fungal nature onto my plate. (I used to be all "HECK no!" Now, it's "Maybe!"); not to mention introducing me to the wonders of caramelized onions. Yes, I am rabidly anti-onion, but L. has shown me that when sufficiently cooked, their evil nature bends a little.
L. makes me almost wish that I too could enjoy her favored dish of lobster mac and cheese. Despite the fact that only one of its ingredients is digestible to me. (Gluten me no gluten! Pasta is Italian for "good.")
She does it through pure enthusiasm and artful photography.
I call it food porn, which doesn't mean it's not tasteful and that I don't myself kind of want to post mouthwatering photos.
But I just don't really seem to have the knack.
The Would-Be Farm has good bare bones: open fields for hay or grazing, a pond, neglected groves of apple trees and ground that seems to be ready to welcome new fruit saplings, plus random raspberry patches and mature stands of mixed hardwoods.
While we worked hard to start a bed of asparagus and establish new orchard plantings in the spring of 2015, we were also ready to reap rewards planted maybe fifty years ago.
I don't know if it was deliberate or just the natural progression of land converting itself back into wilderness, but dozens of big hickory trees dot the landscape.
Some of the trees are crap –– for my purposes, at least, bitter-nut hickories are on the short list for the chainsaw. I'm thinking the bitter-nut logs might make some mushroom spawn quite happy come springtime. But shagbark hickories produce nuts sweeter than pecans. And we have some hunormous shagbarks.
With their sinister tails a-twitch, a squadron of squirrels watched as we filled a bucket of the first nuts to drop from the trees. We could reach only a few nuts still on the branches: the grand-daddy trees go 100 feet, with the canopy starting 50 or 60 feet up.
If we'd been able to stay another couple of weeks, foraging every other day or so, we could probably have held off the local rodentia and harvested enough nuts to feed a big crowd. As it was, we brought home a decent haul. The squirrels' resentment was palpable.
Strange but true: hickory mast (that's the term for "the fruit of forest trees") was once a staple in American diets. Native Americans and early European settlers made a sort of nut broth that they used for soups, porridge, and the like. I imagined it would turn out something like almond milk.
I didn't have the patience or the gear (an enormous mortar and pestle system for crushing the nuts and shells is the key element) to make a traditional soup, but I was determined to try my own version. I figured I'd start by extracting the nutmeat.
The first lesson: the outer husk of the hickory nut will stain your hands (just as black walnut will). The rusty-brownish mark will persist for more than a month, Lava soap and various cleaning solutions notwithstanding. Even through gloves.
It's a labor-intensive process, but in the end, I had a bowl full of juicy nutmeat, which I puréed in as little water as possible. The result was not much like almond milk. It was a buttery, rich liquid with the consistency of heavy cream.
I used a cup or two of the hickory cream in roasted-pumpkin soup (sorry, no photos. Didn't last long enough. Nom nom nom.). I think it might be even more amazing as a base for chowder. I froze a portion of the cream after mixing it with some powdered cocoa and sugar and then used the stick blender and some of that (insipid) almond milk to make a dessert the consistency of soft-serve ice-cream...No pictures of that either; it wasn't a visual wonder, even if it was a delicious treat.
So, in all, kind of worth the effort. And the nut shells will flavor the smoke for the next batch of smoked fish.
Even if the former owners of the Farm planted those trees deliberately, I don't think he or she could have imagined how they'd be appreciated all these years later. Which is one of the lasting charms of a farm.
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