Eating local food doesn't always mean going to a farmers' market or
growing your own. Forget clipping coupons if you want to save a few
bucks on food: amazing and abundant wild food grows all around us. Even a
roadside weed can prove to be a real (super cheap!) treat.
Last month we wrote about wild leeks, or ramps, but June has its own specialties. Here are two wonderful finds for food scavengers in Western New York, along with tips on how to enjoy them.
A big favorite back during the Great Depression (coincidentally), lambsquarters grow everywhere all summer in Upstate New York. Look for them generously volunteering themselves right in your own garden. While most of us yank lambsquarters out, its milky green leaves, picked young (June is their best month) it can be sweeter and more delicious than its cousin spinach. Rumor has it that it's also more nutritious than spinach.
To prepare lambsquarters as a green side for grilled steak or roasted chicken, try lightly steaming (as you would cook spinach), and then serving with a little butter, or saute in olive oil and garlic. Alternatively, you can use it as a substitute for spinach or Swiss chard in a soup, lasagna, herbed pasta (such as pesto), or casserole. You can also try them raw and use them in a green salad.
It is a special time in late spring--not yet, but any day now!--when the black locusts bloom. You know the smell--you've only just started to drive your car with the windows open and then you drive through a pocket of sweet air and you know summer's coming soon.
The black locust isn't much to look at most of the year, but when it's in bloom it is covered with heavy clusters of sweet white blossoms. And the great news is that not only are these blossoms edible, they are heavenly to eat. The bad news is that the window for locust blossoms is narrow. When you see them, pick them! The brighter the yellow is on the white petals, the better the blossoms are to eat (older blossoms tend to be bitter).
There are many ways to eat locust blossoms (as a garnish on fruit or green salads, for example, or, if you're really inspired, homemade locust blossom ice cream is pure manna), but the best known and most marvelous is the locust blossom fritter. To prepare this, make pancake batter in your usual fashion and then dip sprigs of blossom into the batter and drop them on your hot griddle. Cook just as you would pancakes and serve with maple syrup, honey, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar.