Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Itching to Browse the Byways

Now that March is sliding toward April, my alley grazer instincts are being reawakened. If you read the original entry, you know that I got excited about all the free food lying around my Montana lakeside town just waiting for harvest.

While alley grazing might not excite everyone I know, food that is local, fresh and free, just about sends me into a rapture. I do love to garden. I garden with gusto, with a greenhouse. However, the pure joy of taking a walk and coming back with groceries, is not to be missed.

I had a few winter months of blogger angst when I couldn't post. In the meantime, I was feasting on the fruits of my fall plunder. A quick turn in the cuisinart turned those back alley plums into ambrosia for toast or waffles. Apples from the seemingly owner-less orchard up the hill became pies and apple-plum sauce, and collards gone wild in my two years previous garden nourished me as soups, stir fry, and steamed greens.

In March here in the mountains, gardens are still slumbering, while the alleys begin thier explosion of spring growth. Some brave souls plant their peas now. I start looking for dandelions and chickweed (stellaria). Every couple weeks, another edible green comes along ready to pick. Eulle Gibbons step aside. This smashing photo of stellaria is provided courtesy of Patrick J. Alexander (USDA, NRCS. 2008. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 18 March 2008). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.)

Last February, I was heading over the hill to work when I spotted a stellaria crawling up the hospital wall. I couldn't believe my good fotune! I swung the car around and pirated the works before the maintenance people had a chance to poison it. Best salad green there is. I just cut it up with scissors and splash on a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.

A south facing fence or wall will be the best bet for March munching. It is a bit early yet, but a warm stretch like this, complete with pussy willows, usually means wild greens in our very near future.

To identify what you find, check out kingdomplantae.net or ask your gardening friends. They usually know a weed when they see one.

Happy munching alley grazers!