Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wild Mustard...

Here is a photo taken in West Sacramento. It is a familiar sight in the fields all around the Sacramento Valley this time of year. Every spring when it comes around...my thoughts rush back to boyhood days running through fields around my home in Elk Grove. I can recall an outing back in kindergarten when we all went into a field and collected the flowers like are seen in the photo...to be put into our lunch. I have reflected on that experience many times since and wondered what in the world we were doing...if somehow I had misremembered the experience! It turns out that this blanket of cheery yellow flowers is created by mustard plants....and that the whole plant is edible...so my memory makes sense!

If you have lived in America for any length of time you should be familiar with mustard...the condiment...that comes from the mustard seed. (You put it on your hot dog)...But if you were born and raised in the West you may have never eaten the greens that come from that plant. When I lived in Louisiana and Mississippi 15 or so years ago...people ate them as a staple in their diet. They were never eaten raw...only boiled down to a pile of soggy greens. Often theirs would be flavored with bacon grease...which makes many of our CA women in their jogging suits and nicely highlighted hair reel in terror...and many of the people in the south lick their chops!

Some mustard greens...domestic or wild...can have a really strong hot mustard flavor. I can recall eating a bite from a really tall Mustard plant at the invitation of a farmer and it LIT my mouth up. He was really proud of how spicy his variety was! Due to this fact...some people will add other greens like Collard greens to take the edge off of the spiciness.

Here this foraging expert adds other weed greens to take the edge off the the mustard flavor in his salad.

Here Bear Grylls eats a little Wild Mustard and talks about a few health benefits.

Over the last several weeks I identified two different varieties of Wild Mustard. One had more of a spear shaped leaf...it was smooth...and it tasted almost broccoli like. I just sampled some raw...it was good. The stem was pretty woody and would have to be boiled to be eaten.

This evening I went out and collected a handful of another variety of Wild Mustard greens. The leaves on this variety were much larger and rounded...and had a more hairy feel. It wasn't the most pleasant texture to have in your mouth raw...but after it was boiled it had a much more pleasant texture. I boiled them as Green Deane describes in this video. Instead of adding oils and things as he did...I put some salt and pepper...and some butter on it. It was good!...not spicy in the least. That video also discusses that "all mustards are edible"...and mentions some identification points.

Definitely Wild Mustards are a family of plants to have in your arsenal of survival...frugal living...healthy living plants.

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