Thursday, 17 December 2009


I was going to tell you about a book that has eluded me for many years until yesterday when I stumbled upon i t in Clunes. Its called Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons, one of the early 20th century forager-writer-cooks. Way before the word locavore entered our culinary lexicon Euell was out there picking, cooking and extolling the virtues of “weeds” such as Calamus, Scarlet Sumac and many more including one of my favourites Purslane.

Then I thought I better alert you to the inferior form of Purslane being sold commercially by the recherché providores and show you the preferred culinary form that we love to see self-seeded each year in our garden.

But while taking the photos of the different forms of purslane it occurred to me that while we were getting into the succulents, I had better describe Aptenia    possibly the most common but not as yet trendy succulent that many of you will already have in your gardens.

 Aptenia is all over the garden and as I was stalking it with the camera I noticed that the nasturtiums were making seeds and I had better remind you of the succulent seed pods Nasturtiums make. When young and moist they are such a treat in salads. But no sooner had I clicked a couple of these I realised that I had never written about the plant they were growing under, the Jostaberries, those little but abundant thornless gooseberry blackcurrant crosses that were just ripening, and to tell you how easy they are to grow. But as soon as I had I taken my eye off these I noticed that the black nightshades needed pulling out, or did they instead need picking? Deadly nightshade? Or Black nightshade? Wonderberry? or Blunderberry? But if I started on this I would have to remind you of Luther Burbank and how he was nearly undone by these nightshades. While on the solanaceae I realised that I had posted on Tomatillos and Cape Gooseberries before, but I had forgotten to water or write about the ground cherries, that other Physalis, possibly the finest one of all. Then the hose started to get a life of its own and dragged me to the Lime and Lemon Verbenas that also desperately needed to be watered and then they started to complain that they too have never had their own entry here. But neither had the Drip Still described by Euell in Stalking the Wild Asparagus that lets you distil the essence of such elusive aromas as the Verbenas with simple pots and bowls that are found in every domestic kitchen. But I cant tell you about that either because it’s too darn hot........


Thermomixer said...

Some respite today and hopefully OK for the weekend.

Well foraged with the book! A little nugget of gold still left there.

Does the Aptenia have any distinguishing flavour ?

Are you going to feature essence of anything from your still in your menu? ..or do you need another 6 chefs in the kitchen?

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Aptenia has a real citrus tang excellent flavour.
Now that its a bit cooler I might explain the still.
You crush up the verbena or lemon zest or whatever into a fine paste
mix with water and put it into a pot with some water, You place a small empty bowl in the middle and place a bowl over the top with cold or iced water. Heat the water and herb mix gently and the volatile oils in the herb mix evaporate before the water does and condense on the cold bowl and drip into the small bowl below.
You need to change the water on top to keep it cold. Its a one man operation.

Thermomixer said...

LOL - thanks George. Didn't think the still would take more than 1 person to run the still - just need the others with tweezers to help plate it up. :)

Might need to tell Ben if his distiller breaks down then he could saves 10's of thousands on this replacement model.

Might hace to steal some Aptenia next time we're down.

steve said...

Hi George, Funny isn't it how many of these 'new' trends like foraging & gleaning have actually been around for ages.
Had to laugh about ( & agree with)Alla W Taskers comment in Epicure about the dangers of foraging in inner melbourne creeks, most of which are polluted & that cant be good.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Hi Steve.
Of course foraging is the oldest trend in the world, primitive societies etc, What gets me is the spin as you mentioned that is not questioned.
The purslane is a good example the stuff being sold in town is edible but not choice, so many will dismiss it as a MENU ENHANCER like your culinary weasel words. {great post] I do feel for urban cooks that seek the same sorts of bucolic pleasures that the country gives and see no problem with sensible gleaning in the city as so much just goes to waste. I have a favourite pomegranate tree in Prahran that never gets picked, we glean lemons in Colac that are also left for the birds or to rot on the trees ets etc. I was cooking a dinner at a local large property many years ago that had an old disused kitchen garden raised to hip height outside the kitchen window during the prep I heard the rider mower coming and giving this old well established asparagus bed a good number one cut, I could have cried. PS Its been raining all day
Halleluya seedlings [and weeds] singing for joy. Hope you get through the silly season in good cheer. G