Tastes Deadly!

Tastes Deadly, this post is about the so called “deadly nightshade” (Solanum nigrum) but for those that don’t live in Australia the tittle is also a play on the words, In Australia deadly has two meanings, deadly as in deadly poisonous and deadly as in wickedly cool/good!

All Solanums have this beautiful simple flower & if you look at tomatoes or potatoes you will see thier flowers are similar as they are all in the same family.

As a child I was told that Solanum nigrum was “deadly” and not to go near it, it is a  weed here and is look upon with unfriendly eyes and hands itching to rip and yank  them from their earthly beds. My grandparents have a farm and it was and is a constant menace as far as they are concerned they can’t get rid of them quick enough.
Recently my uncle and grandfather visited me in my garden a rare occasion and as I showed my grandfather proudly around my new raised garden beds I heard from behind me my uncle say “what are these weeds doing in here you need to pull them out before they fruit and spread everywhere!!”  I turned to see him hand out stretch his claw like fingers heading towards my nurtured beautifully lush Solanum nigrum’s,  I in as a controlled voice as possible said “Don’t you touch those bloody plants I eat them and they are nearly starting to fruit!’  the response one of incredulous came back at me in a snap “No wonder you are always sick!” I was a bit flabbergast and responded “Excuse me I never get sick thank you! it is you guys that always have colds and are unwell all the time my health is the best it has ever been thanks to all my new weedy friends!”

See the green berries and below in next picture the ripe black berries, the green berries will make you sick if you eat a heap of them, they must be ripe, nice and black!

When people don’t understand something they get defensive strange response but there you go humans are a strange bunch, seeing he wasn’t interested in questioning his misinformed beliefs about this plant I didn’t bother to explain myself I just moved on and continued my garden tour half of which is “weeds” and just to clarify that particular comment a bit he was mistaking the conditions associated with the way I was born causing me to have back, joint and migraine problems all my life as a sicknesses and as far as I’m concerned they are two different things, I very rarely get cold when most around me suffer badly from them, so just to be clear my foraging life style is the best thing that has ever happened to me and has done nothing but improve my health helping me to deal with my ongoing painful conditions much better!

Enough about that back to the star of the show the gorgeous black  beauty Solanum nigrum, I allowed several plants to come up naturally in the new soil I bought into the yard from my grandfathers farm and I was exited to actually make something substantial with all the berries I was expecting, I had nibbled here and there at times in the past on wild feral ones around the place but that wasn’t enough for me so I studied up on uses for the foliage as a food and found many references to populations of people all around the world using the foliage as a food if prepared properly which involves parboiling to neutralize the toxins.

Deadly nightshade (Solanum nigrum) berries

I picked a bunch and prepared as per researched information and tentatively tasted a mouthful of the foliage, after the amount of boiling required which was 15 minutes, change water and another 15 minutes was very soft like over cooked silver beet leaves and the taste was that of any overcook greens nothing special and not really that pleasant, so a bit disappointed I consoled myself with the thought of the eagerly anticipated berries. I did finish the bowl of greens and I’m glad of the knowledge that they are a food source if ever actually required in a survival situation so no loss it’s all about learning and sharing knowledge.
Anyway in my berry anticipation fever I went out everyday I could to check the abundant green berries to see if there was any color change, waiting, waiting, waiting and finally after being stuck inside  for a day or two I was pleasantly surprised to see beautiful black perfectly round berries on all the bushes and in my excitement I ate this first flush fresh off the bush enjoying the bursts of tart juice as you bit on them, I love their refreshing flavor and they are now one of my favorite berries, not that they are technically a berry but anyway, the only problem I had with them was they ripen gradually not all at once so I had to go out everyday and pick like half a cup full over a months or so and freeze until I had enough to do something with but that was ok the excitement just built as my frosty jar got fuller and fuller when finally full I made this yummy Deadly sauce!

Deadly nightshade sauce-

  • 500 grams Solanum nigrum aka “Deadly nightshade”
  • 3 cup extra water
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup fruit vinegar

salt, pepper, bay leaves and a coupler cloves

Put fruit, water, vinegar, seasonings into a pot and simmer until reduce slightly about 20 minutes take bay leaves and cloves out and blend put back in pot add sugar and hard boil for 15 minutes or so and bottle. It is quite tomatoey but tarter and tangier almost citrusy, zesty…….

I was a bit disappointed with the color as the liquid that was in the jar after defrosting was a gorgeous violet color unfortunately it didn’t maintain this color but the taste makes up for it, you can’t have everything can you!

I only got one bottle of sauce out of this lot but it is very concentrated and you only need like a table spoon to add a nice flavorful punch to any dish.
Well I hope I have challenged any preconceived misinformed ideas you may hold about this tasty, useful, abundant, hardy plant, I think the two big injustices in the wild food plant world is the totally wrong, undeserved bad reputation that the Solanum nigrum and the Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) has (see other blogs) been given. Both these plant are what I would call toxic raw but edible if prepared properly and I’m determined to champion the cause and benefits or these two misunderstood beauties of the plant kingdom.

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Winter sauces

Jiminey cricket it’s cold out side, there is snow on the mountain and it is wet and blowing a gale, good day to cook all day I recon, and with the wood heater cranked I and the house were soon warm! there isn’t much space on the old wood heater it isn’t a proper wood stove I’m still dreaming about that, so I could only cook one thing at a time because if I have the heater going I don’t like to use the gas cooker as well but thats ok I was in no hurry.

I thought it was going to be ruff so I got Hawthorn berries (Crataegus sp.) and stewed field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) out of the freezer the night before, now I’m freezing in glass I cant just grab things out run under water and use in my normal last minute spontaneous way I have to let them defrost slowly so more planing but it is way worth training myself to do it this way rather than using all that poisonous plastic rubbish which I’m determined to be rid of in my life!

Field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris)

Hawthorn berries (Cataegus sp.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lit the heater and made myself a yummy breakie,  first things first hay! my new season ducks that I bred and hatched just after Xmas had started laying and I was exited and eger to taste their rich orange yumminess, I poured my beet kavass had fried my fermented bread, fried up some wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) and left over potato and jerusalem artichokes and last but not leased I cracked the egg into the fry pan it was a double yoker I had never had a double yoked duck eggs before so I took a picture to share. YUM!

Yummy breakie to start the day

So after my fabulous breakie I started with the 2 mushroom sauce, 2 mushroom because yes there are 2 different mushrooms in it!  I had never made a mushroom sauce before but thought I would give it a crack, I had already stewed the field mushroom earlier on in the season so they had water, salt and pepper added to them already, I threw these in a big pot and brought them up to the boil while they were heating up I peeled, chopped and fried a heap of onions for both sauces, I added half this mix to the mushroom once boiling and then I added all the other ingredients and let this simmer for a while strained cooked again with the sugar and bottled the full recipe is below.

I started a yeast spelt bread as well I thought seeing as the house was so warm I would take advantage of that too, once I finished the mushroom sauce I made a start on the hawthorn berries I put these in a big pot covered with water and simmered until the berries were nice and soft, once cooled I put these through the mouli (hand food mill) and saved all the seedless pulp, I added all the other ingredients to this hard boiled and bottled by the time I had done this the bread was ready and in the oven.

2 Mushroom sauce recipe

  • 2 kg Field mushroom (Agaricus campestris)
  • 3 cups dried Slippery jack (Suillus luteus)
  • 1  liter water or more
  • 10 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 spring of rosemary
  • ½ cup chilly flakes
  • 2 cups fruit vinegar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 table spoons balsamic vinegar

The field mushrooms I used here were stewed and frozen so they had liquid in them already about a litre of water so if you do this recipe from fresh mushrooms you need to add this water.

Add field mushroom to pot (with 1 litre water if fresh) add 2 cups of extra water add dried Slippery jacks (Suillus luteus), vinegars, soy sauce, bay leaves, rosemary, chilly flakes, salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes, strain this mixture and put the liquid back in pot with the sugar and hard boil for another 20 minutes and bottle.

The recipe for the hawthorn sauce is in the recipe section of my page the only difference to this one was I added some fermented horse radish to it, my cooking is very organic and spontaneous every time I make a sauce they are slightly different thats what makes it exciting every time I cook, I don’t follow strict recipes I just use a basic recipes be it bread, sauces, muffins or what ever and add what ever is available at the time.

Well all in all it was a very productive day indeed the mushroom sauce is one of the most flavorful amazing recipes I have come up with so far, I was very chuffed with myself!

New Mushroom Indulgences

Well I wanted to share yet another post on wild mushrooms I was really exited about finding two new mushroom species I can eat that taste great this season. This has been the most abundant and varied mushroom foraging season I have ever experienced and I can only hope that the mushroom fairies keep blessing me with this abundance every year… 🙂

Lepista irina

There was a group of these above, Lepista irina growing under some desidious trees just down the road from my house they are a nice big mushroom with good texture and great taste! I don’t know a common name for these.

A little further down the road from these was the other new one Tricholoma terreum apparently known as the Grey knight or Dirty tricholoma, these are a small crisp fleshed mushroom and they to taste great as well!

Grey knight (Tricholoma terreum)

I’m so wrapped I have found more scrumptious mushrooms to eat and there are plenty of these around here in Tassie I have seen them everywhere I look for other species but the other one above Lepista irina is not so common.
Along with these on that day I picked Wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) and a small amount of Saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) as well.
Now the process I go through when trying a new edible mushroom is that I only try a small amount and see how I feel the next day I try more and if I’m ok after this I eat as I like, this is a good idea when trying any wild food for the first time.

I don’t have any pictures of the Lepista irina as a prepared meal I like to try new mushroom just seasoned and not mixed with other ingredients so I can taste the mushroom flavor on it’s own so I didn’t take pictures of them because it just looked like a plate of mushrooms really and it is getting harder because it is nearly winter here and by the time I eat of a night it is to dark now so looks like I will have to have big breakfasts or lunches so I can keep blogging!
But I did take a picture of the Grey knights (Tricholoma terreum) tonight because I went back for another harvest today.

Grey knight (Tricholoma terreum) and Wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) with pasta, there is pasta under there!

A little bit more bragging, sorry, I also harvested a basket full of Parasol (Macrolepiota procera) mushrooms last week and have been eating them all week too. I made a free range egg and spelt pasta and added the parasols, salt and pepper, nice and plain but it tasted absolutely amazing, I only ever if I’m lucky get a small amount of these I only know of one patch in my area so I look forward to these every year….. who am I kidding I look forward to all the wild mushrooms every year!!

Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera)

Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera)

I will be updating my mushroom list shortly, well thats it for now I hope you have been as lucky with wild mushrooms as I have been this year, enjoy!

Pickled Sow Thistle buds

This was a first for me and it worked out really well, I will definitely be doing this one in the future.

I picked all the Sow Thistle (Sonchus sp.) flower buds that I had in my yard at the time as they rarely get to bud up here because I use the greens a lot and I am constantly pruning them to keep them lush and green. But I got this little jar worth, I cleaned the buds and put them in the jar, I made a brine solution with black peppers, bay leaves and rosemary in it and pour on top of the buds I then put a little river pebble on top to sink and hold the buds under the liquid and I let this sit for about 7 to 10 days and now they are ready to use. You can either taste them to see if  they are ready for your tastes but I noticed these buds sunk to the bottom of the jar so I think this is an indication of being ready too.

These are the fresh buds before fermentation

The buds after fermentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have heard these referred to as false capers I don’t really recall what capers taste like but these are nice, so give this ago.

Yummy fermented Sow Thistle flower buds

Mushroom basket

I went for a little walk this afternoon the sun was out and I needed to get out of the house I had been cooking and preparing foraged foods all day and needed a break so I thought I would go and look for some dandelion and or some red clove flowers in the reserves and parks around my house.

I ended up with a basket overflowing with, yes more mushrooms, I just can’t believe the amount and variety of mushrooms around this year it is well, overwhelming really.

Mushroom harvest

Here in this picture you can see how many different ones I found, some I know are edible others I have to identify, which I will be doing for a lot of tonight!
I also picked some yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers and I pulled some plants to plant in my yard and I picked some dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinal) as well.

I cleaned the small slippery jacks (Suillus luteus), wood blewits (Clitocybe nuda) baby puff balls (Lycoperdon sp.) and the saffron milks caps (Lactarius deliciosus) and the dandelion flowers I fried these gently until cooked and tossed them to my fresh home made egg spelt pasta, it was how should I put it, bloody scrumptious!!

Wild mushrooms and home made spelt egg pasta

Sorry this last picture is a bit dark it is getting dark earlier and earlier here now and I’m still getting used to the new winter time table.

Well I hope everyone else is lucky enough to be indulging in natures bounty as much as me at the moment, I think it is the feast before the winter hibernation period……….. 🙂

Fennel candies gone wrong.

Well that was a bit of a disaster…… but I made it into something very special, I tried to make a wild fennel (foeniculum vulgare) hard candy from the beautiful fresh wild fennel I foraged the other day but it didn’t completely set so was a bit to soft to use as a candy so thinking, thinking….. aaahu! I will make a syrup out of it.

I looked into the cupboard to see what else I could put into it I grabbed a bit of this and a bit of that put it all into a pot and brewed it all up, I felt like a witch making a potion and I guess it isnt really that different.

So I made a really strong herbal tea added this to the candy mixture boiled it all up again bottled it and bobs ya uncle I ended up with a beautiful winter herbal syrup that should keep any nasty colds or flu at bay not that I ever get sick but it is a yummy relaxing herbal drink hot or cold, I put a dash in my hot tea and it was lovely it is also nice mixed with kombucha and water kefir too, if you eat ice cream you could drizzle it on top and I imagine it would also be nice with gin or vodka on ice.

Winter herbal syrup recipe

  • 8 cups chopped fresh wild Fennel (foeniculum vulgare)
  • 2 cups dried Mullein leaf (Verbascum thapsus)
  • 1 cup dried mullein root (Verbascum thapsus)
  • 1/2 cup dried Rosmary
  • 2 big knobs of Ginger
  • 2 cup of fermented ginger bug liquid
  • 8 6 inch white Willow (Salix alba) sticks
  • 2 6 inch dried Tasmanian Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum) branches with leaves
  • 5 cups raw sugar
  • 1 cup Honey Suckle (Lonecira japonica) vinegar
  • 2 table spoons molasses
  • 6 drops eucalyptus oil
  • skin of 1 lemon
  • 8 cloves
  • about 2 liter water

Ok put all the dried herbs, cloves and grated ginger in about 1 liter of water and simmer for about 10 minutes, strain put aside, cover fresh chopped fennel with about 1 liter of boiling water let sit for 15 minutes and strain add this and the herbal liquid to the sugar and molasses and heat until all the sugar is dissolved then add the vinegar, ginger bug liquid, lemon skin and eucalyptus oil boil for 20 minutes and bottle. This recipe made about 1.5 liters syrup you will loose a bit through evaporation.

Apples, Artichokes, Wild Fennel, Mushies and basket materials.


Yesterday’s trip to the doctors turned out to be a big day of foraging on the way home as usual. I ended up with not only food stuff this time but some basket making materials as well.

First on the list was apples three different types, my aunty had told me there was an empty house down the road with plenty of apple trees in it so once I found the house I stopped grab the basket and filled it up, I don’t know what the apples are exactly but I can only eat ones that are low in acid and these are perfect.

I have actually been munching on the apples I got last time and I have been enjoying them for the first time in my life, being bought up in the “Apple Island” (Tasmania) I think I was over dosed as a child I just haven’t been able to bring myself to eat more than a few mouths full at once. I was determined to use this abundant free resource and it looks like I will use some each year now. I’m going to dry this lot I stewed and froze the last lot, I will show how that turn out in a separate blog later.

In the same yard there were several Artichokes (Cynara sp.) it was a prickly one so I had to be careful but I picked a few leaf bases and the two flower buds that were there. I got a coupler prickles in my fingers but it was worth the trouble and pain. I cooked the stems into a Artichoke and potato soup I’ve made lots of soups in the last month but you can never have enough soups in winter. I served this with  crispy potato skins, these are just the skins dried out over night and tossed through seasoned wholemeal flour then shallow fried until crispy, be careful as they burn very quickly.

Artichoke stem & potato soup

Artichoke stem & potato soup

Artichoke stem & potato soup with crispy potato skins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artichoke stem & potato soup

  • 4 onions
  • 4 potatoes
  • 8 artichoke stems washed and chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • water

Fry the onions & garlic until tender add the artichoke stems, salt and pepper fry a bit longer then add water to cover simmer until cooked, cool blend and strain then serve.

Next on the list was mushrooms, I picked a small bucket full not sure exactly what they were all I knew was they were an Agaricus mushroom of some sort, the smaller one were staining yellow but the bigger ones near these weren’t so I was hoping they were different but I tried a bit of a cooked one and they didn’t taste nice so I tossed them.

Next was wild fennel (Foeniculum sp.) another plant that is abundant that I don’t love the flavour of but really want to use I ended up making a Wild fennel and potato soup which is nice and I made a fennel and molasses candy which are scrumptious a bit soft but I’m trying to use raw sugar and I don’t think it sets as hard as when you use white processed sugar I’m still working on the recipe.

Wild fennel & potato soup

Wild fennel & potato soup

  • 5 onions
  • 5 potatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt & pepper
  • a big bowl of chopped wild fennel (Foeniculum sp.)
  • water

Fry the onions & garlic in olive oil until tender add salt, pepper, potatoes and fennel fry a bit longer until very aromatic then add water to cover simmer very gently for 15 minutes then turn heat up and boil until all cooked, cool and blend serve with a fresh spring of fennel.

Last but not least I harvested White poplar and white willow stems and branches for basket weaving. I’m looking forward to creating some more baskets this winter why I’m hibernating, blogs to come.

White popular and white willow for basket making

Well that’s it for this one cheers