Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Walk On The Wild Side

Last night we had another culinary treat.

Pa had been craving liver and onions for a bit now, and that's something that always appeals to me, especially when Pa makes it, as he does it so well, so that's what we had last night. It's probably not a big surprise that our young'uns don't share our enthusiasm for this delicacy, and it is one of the few things we do not insist they partake of. Fortunately, we had some leftover chicken from the night before so they finished that off, along with some mac 'n' cheese. The one item we all shared was the Fireweed stalks Nathan had harvested. This is something none of us had ever tried before and we were pleasantly surprised by the results.

Nathan went out and harvested as many of the young shoots as he could, while still leaving plenty to continue growing and replenish themselves. He then stripped them of their leaves, washed them, and cut them in approximately 4" lengths before handing them over to Pa. Pa dropped the prepared stalks in boiling water and let them bubble away for about 10 minutes.

We all learned a bit from this experiment. First off, when it comes to wild edibles, young is a relative thing, and when it comes to Fireweed, the younger the better. We also all agreed that in the future the stalks would be cut into shorter lengths. Once we bit into our wild vegetable we discovered the younger, more tender stalks were quite tasty, almost sweet, amazingly similar to asparagus in taste, and were of a pleasant consistency, while the only slightly older stalks were crunchy, stringy, and a bit difficult to eat, and although not bad tasting, not nearly as good as the younger ones.

We also tried the leaves of the Fireweed, cooked in lightly salted water. While they weren't bad, especially with a pat of butter melted into them, we all agreed the stalks were the star of the two. We're all looking forward to our next experiment with this locally bountiful wild edible.

Speaking of "wild"....Today is April Fools Day, and that is a day our little family seems to find necessary to "celebrate" in one way or another. As the years have passed, and our children have grown older (and bigger) the tricks have become more of a challenge.

Past years we've gotten fairly creative. One of my favorites, when the kids were still young, small, and light enough to pull it off, was to wait until they were fast asleep and carefully lift them from their beds, transferring them to each others beds where they awoke the morning of April 1. As they grew older we opted to simply switch their top bedding. They would wake in their own beds, but Nathan would be surrounded by pink, while Lindsay would find herself peering at blue surroundings. This year, we just switched their dogs, which somehow had the desired effect.

Of course we always have to do something food related as well. A couple years we filled their milk cups with whipped cream. The first year we did this was great. They both went to take drinks and couldn't understand why their milk remained stationary. This year, we opted to place several drops of food coloring in the bottom of their cereal bowls. They each poured their choice of instant oatmeal packets into their bowls. Pa added the hot water and they began to stir. Amazingly, the colorful results actually did take them by surprise. It was even more fun for me to listen to their good natured groans as they consumed their cereal, Nathan's a lovely shade of blue, and Lindsay's a bright pink. There was an added bonus with Nathan, as he ended up with blue lips and teeth.

My shoes were hidden, and a large rubber spider was gently (and effectively) placed upon my shoulder. A rubber lizard was stashed in my jacket sleeve, and the kids switched the placemats around on the table. I need to come up with one more real good trick for the day. I think I'll hold off 'til later on though. The less time they have to figure out a come-back the better!

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