I am a gleaner and a forager. I love finding treasures, especially living edible treasures, that no one wants or uses or recognizes as treasure. Maybe it’s the French half of my ancestry that draws me to this activity. One of my favorite documentaries is The Gleaners and I by French filmmaker Agnes Vardas. Living a block from the University of Idaho campus, my old neighborhood is a transient one. Students come and go. Old folks move to nursing homes or die. Old houses get torn down. Gardens get left behind. The lovely beets in my Creamy Tangerine Sweet Potato Dressing were left behind in the raised beds built my my young neighbors out in front of their house across the street. They have had a baby and moved to a bigger place. They are trying to sell the one on my street, leaving me an open invitation to help myself to the garlic they planted there last Fall as well. It’s choked with weeds twice as tall as it is now, from all the rain, but perhaps there will be a way to dig it up when the time is ripe. They have more than they can use at their new place, I’m told.
Once someone around the block left a whole south facing vegetable garden along the side of a rental house. No one else moved in for a long while. I’d walk down the alley and pick broccoli for supper. After my masterful gardener neighbor and friend was forced out by rent that was too high for him, and the guys working for the slumlord drove over the garden in their haste to build a fence and regravel the parking spaces outside of it, an asparagus plant that had been there for decades came up, literally growing around the fence and up through the gravel. The next Spring, I made friends with the girls who lived there, and showed them the volunteer spinach and where the rhubarb comes up. We ate spinach together all Spring. When my friend still lived there, one Spring he was about to throw a huge pile of green onions onto the compost until he saw that I would rescue (glean) them, so he gave them to me. I ate green onions in everything for a week, and couldn’t have been happier. That started a longstanding tradition of him showing up with whatever extra he had and didn’t want to eat. He’d tell me in his usual wry way that he just liked growing it all, not eating it all.
Perhaps my most unusual “glean” comes with the skill I learned from another seasoned neighbor: how to identify the edible mushrooms in our neighborhood that come up in lawns and under conifers.When I read the section titled “Eat Lots of Mushrooms All the Time” in Eat to Live I laughed. That’s the easiest thing in the world for me to do, especially at this time of year, and I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Fuhrman about their great health benefits. I found these giant specimens of a type of agaricus mushroom my neighbor calls “Meadow’s Edge” under a conifer on campus. They are as big as the circumference of my largest mixing bowl! A magical reason to be willing to take a walk in the rain.
The same neighbor that taught me about the mushrooms nearby is also the creator of a south facing herb garden along the house he’s rented an apartment in for decades, now gone wild with well established perennial herbs. That’s where I first learned to taste lovage, an interesting substitute for celery. Like dill, it aids in digestion and it also has an antiseptic quality when applied to the skin. Originally from the Mediterranean, lovage now grows in temperate regions all over the world. The spicy sweet taste of the leaves (with a hint of almost licorice) sends me down the alley in late Spring to glean whole bagfuls of it. Last year, knowing my love for it, my neighbor brought me huge stalks, some with the flowers going to seed. We hoped I could start my own, and finally, this Spring, through trial and error, I have.
You can top this dish off with another treasure I’ve made from my gleaning and foraging: sage flower infused vinegar.
The basic template for this rice pilaf comes from the one in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I’ve made it unique with these rather exotic ingredients that I’ve grown or gleaned or foraged right in my neighborhood. You can make it without them using their more conventional counterparts, and it’s still quite tasty, but I decided to introduce them to you anyway, so that if you come across the opportunity to try them in your own neck of the woods, you can. You can certainly use the mushrooms from the store and celery instead of lovage. But if you see a vendor at your Farmer’s Market with something that looks like giant celery leaves, you’ll know it’s lovage—and maybe you’ll give it a try.
Wild Mushroom and Two-Rice Pilaf
1 sweet onion chopped
1 leek sliced
1 carrot julienned
1 large sprig or branch of lovage, stem and leaves
(or 1 large celery stalk, with leaves)
1 cup bean broth, 2 cups Everything But the Kitchen Sink Broth
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast (optional)
1 teaspoon of celery seeds (omit or reduce if using celery)
½ teaspoon of dill seeds
½ to 1 tsp salt free seasoning
½ teaspoon of chickpea miso
¾ cup short grain brown rice
¾ cup wild rice pieces
½ cup fresh chopped parsley, lovage, dill leaves, lemon thyme
about 16 oz of wild mushrooms ( or buy mushrooms of your choice and pretend they are wild)
1 tbs of coconut aminos
1 tsp of molasses
Saute the onion, leek, carrot and lovage in a few tablespoons of water until the onions and leek are soft and translucent. Add the microplaned garlic and other dried herbs and seasonings and saute for another minute. Stir in the brown rice and the wild rice. Add broth.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 40 minutes (I do my yoga while this is cooking.) Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes.
If you’re not doing your yoga while the rice is cooking, chop the mushrooms. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Put in the chopped mushrooms. Drizzle with the coconut aminos and molasses, and saute until mushrooms exude their juices and are nice and brown.
When the rice is done and has sat for the 10 minutes, stir the mushrooms in, along with chopped fresh lovage leaves, parsley, fresh dill and/or lemon or regular thyme. Spritz with balsamic or infused vinegar.
Serve on greens with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon pear or sage flower infused vinegar. Chickpeas and a small sprinkling of chopped almonds are nice optional add ins.
Notes: Leeks are another edible treasure you can find this time of year at Farmer’s Market. They are sweet in taste and high in Vitamin C, and if you like, you can use two of them in this, and leave the onion out.
I routinely cook my beans from scratch with a small amount of ground fennel. The broth that results, particularly from cooking chickpeas or white cannellini beans is a excellent choice for the “bean broth” listed in the recipe.