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!
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!”
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.
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!
- 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.