Monday, 22 July 2013

Foraging Mallow

I'm not an experienced forager, and I've never actually taken any classes or learned from an experienced forager. Everything I know about foraging I've learned off the internet. That's why I don't take any risks, such as picking wild mushrooms. I don't know enough to be sure that I won't be poisoned. I stick with plants that are common, easy to identify, and most importantly, don't have any poisonous look-alikes.

Which is why mallow is a great wild edible for beginners. It's super easy to find and identify, and it's a weeds, so it grows pretty much everywhere. You've probably seen it before; it grows quite prolifically along the sides of sidewalks. I find that it likes edges and corners the best, but again I don't have a whole lot of experience. It's highly unlikely that you'll find a single mallow plant growing alone; the usually grow in large clusters close to the ground. This is nice, because you only really need to find a few large mallow patches to harvest a decent amount. As far as I know, only the leaves are edible. It does have one really similar look-alike, but it's edible too, so it doesn't really matter.

It even grows in empty pots.

Mallow can be eaten raw, but it's a bit fuzzy, so I wouldn't recommend it. It can be cooked like any other green, in soups, casseroles, etc., but it's best to mix it with other greens. For more recipe ideas, check out this site. I'm not a huge fan of the taste, so I've decided to dry my mallow and turn it into a powder. Apparently this powder can be used to thicken soups. I've never heard of greens thickening soups, but it's definitely a healthier option than other thickeners, so why not try it out? It'll probably also be nice in smoothies, and much easier and faster than always washing and stemming your greens before blending them.

I don't have a dehydrator, so I sun-dried my mallow. To do this, first wash the leaves and spin them as dry as possible. Remove any stems. Spread the leaves out on a cookie sheet, on parchment paper if you don't want to clean the sheet. I like to put a wire cooling rack on top of leaves to keep them from blowing away in the wind. Leave this out in a sunny spot for a few hours, until dry. Obviously, the hotter, sunnier and dryer the day is, the faster the leaves will dry.

Powder the leaves by pounding with a mortar and pestle, grinding them in a coffee grinder, or by blending them  in either a food processor or blender. I think the coffee grinder would be the most effective.

You're going to end up with a lot less powder than fresh leaves, so pick a lot!

This is all I got from the entire pan, about 1/2 cup.

Happy foraging!

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