varieties: var. lupus (European) and var. neomexicanus (native) -- (although poorly studied)
Common Name: Hops
Hops are most commonly known for their bitter/floral/citrusy contributions to the flavour of beer, notably the iconic Westcoast IPA. The reason an Imperial Pale Ale from the Westcoast of North America should taste hoppy is because our wilds, rogues, and roadsides are covered in renegade hops. Here in BC, the district of Squamish was founded by its hop industry at Alice Lake, and since then, the farm escapees have travelled around the province, a boon for wild harvesters and Indigenous Gatherers seeking a lovely spring shoot or floral medicine.
Key Features: Smells like beer, especially the flowers! The mature leaves are shaped like the baby of a maple leaf and a club while younger leaves or leaves of different varieties may simply be one toothed lobe. The entirety of the plant is covered in brisk hairs to help it climb even the smoothest of surfaces. Shoots are in season during the spring and flowers in hot summer.
Edible/Medicinal Parts: Shoots can be steamed, blanched, stir-fried, and pickled like asparagus. As the plant matures its aerial parts become tough and spiky. The flowers are heavily scented and contain cannabinoids and phytoestrogens which are helpful in relaxation and menopause, respectively. It's best to collect flowers to flavour beer while they have lots of pollen and before they have developed seeds because the seeds get into filtration equipment. I have made teas from the flowers as well as potpourri, and pillows for their soothing effect (especially when I'm on the rag).
I often see these weird pointy cones wrapped in cellophane and sometimes framed by an annoying styrofoam plate. They remind me of Dan Akroyd and that awkward alien sex scene I accidentally witnessed when I was too young, and also really bad raspberry dressing with chunks of processed blue cheese (omg 1990 was not good to the Endive).
My point is, the Endive is a queer ingredient. And the memories it invokes are purely awkward, queer, weirdness... and it's not bad. It's just... queer.
To be fair, this cone-headed vegetable is delicious. Endives are crunchy, sweet, and tender. Individual leaves are perfect little boats for all sorts of lovely mousses and seasonal morsels and dressings and cheeses... actually, they are like little love boats... (Maybe that cone head movie is actually super romantic? I dunno, I've had a couple glasses of wine and feeling really emotional rn)
Endives are actually a species of Chicory, which is a group of plants that is found in most parts of the world. This particular species is best as a winter vegetable. I used to think its seasonal and local availability was why it might be a little pricey, but after I did some research I realized the price point is not only because of its availability, but also because Endives are a creative and weird, weird, weirrrrddd thing to produce. They're kind of like the foie gras of lettuce, minus any cruelty.
According to Rodale's Organic Life, this is how you grow an endive (paraphrased though queer nostalgia and red wine):
...sow seeds outdoors in late spring in loose soil [...] Dig up the roots in fall, and cut off the tops 2 inches above the crown. Trim the roots and set them upright in boxes, deep pots, or a plastic 5-gallon bucket. Fill the containers with potting mix to the tops of the roots; add 6 to 8 inches of sand on top of that (wtf who has that much sand, ever). Set the pots in your fucking closet or in another spot where the temperature stays between 60° and 70°F. don't forget to water it, obvs. Harvest the heads (teehee) when their tips (hehehe) peek (heh) up through the sand.
So basically, you take these roots out of the ground when they are already producing normal greens that are bitter. To make them not-bitter, and strangely delicious, repot them in a big bin or something and cover them with sand. Hide them indoors and don't forget about them. Eventually these chicory roots will produce tight, coney clusters of joy and love. Apparently this technique was popularized in Belgium, hence the name Belgian Endive, although, of course, wasn't initially discovered by a white dude named Jan because other parts of the world were far ahead in their culinary adventures (see: Indonesia, Egypt, et al). No, I won't call it 'White Gold,' thanks.
I'm going to try doing this with my red varieties of chicory for a light red or pink version of an Endive. You can actually do the same thing with asparagus to get that weird 'white' asparagus that has no flavour and less nutrition, which seems silly to me, but apparently royalty enjoys that kinda shit so if you have that kind of a sparkly crown, go for it.
That good ol' nugget, HuffPost has a bunch of recipes for endives if you're interested.
Anyway, endives are cool, and they are a true winter delicacy and available locally or you could try to grow them if you're really keen or whatever.
this is a post that I end in a question mark, maybe.
Family: Apiaceae (carrot)
Common Name: Cow Parsley, Wild Chervil
Cow parsley is an edible herb in the carrot family, which means it can closely resemble poison hemlock and other toxic plants. Anyone gathering this plant should be very familiar with this family and all its relatives, as many are delicious while others are deadly. Other important considerations (as with all edge species) are whether this plant has been treated with poisonous herbicides or grew near polluted areas like train tracks (creosote). Cow Parsley is a bioaccumulator, which means it serves to clean and filter toxins and pollutants from the environment but can accumulate these poisons in its roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds.
Key features of this plant include:
-Blushing at the joints that resembles intentional purple/pink paint strokes (NOT BLOTCHES)
-Hairy stems (look closely at the joints in the picture above - they have very fine hairs or fuzz)
-Delicious roots, similar to a carrot but white or cream-coloured. Harvest roots in the cool temperatures of the early spring or late fall when they are the sweetest and most tender.
- Young leaves make a lovely potherb
- Spring stem shoots are tender, hollow, and tasty. They pickle very well and could double as a straw in a caesar!
-Flowers are a lovely, edible garnish
-Seed pods are a carrot/celery-like spice. Dry and add to your caesar rim
Cow Parsley is an opportunistic weed. Pictured above, it is growing at the base of Japanese Knotweed rhizomes. If you look really closely you might be able to make out some aggressive hop shoots who have been treating this invader's land like a nursery. All three (cow parsley, knotweed, hop shoots) are edible, invasive, and very tasty. Again, be mindful of any herbicide treatment because these plants are usually demonized by cities and gardeners alike.
Common Name: Garlic Mustard
This herb is culinarily intriguing; boasting a lovely truffle aroma and edible leaves, shoots, flowers, roots, and seeds. However, it is an ambitious Edge Species that loves to challenge weed-haters everywhere. Pick with reckless abandon while keeping eyes open for herbicide use. In BC it is required for municipal works to post warning signs, but private property is anyone's guess but the owner.
Winter Shoots: Beautiful dark green little hearts with scalloped edges
Winter Roots: Often with a pretty, purple hue. Can be grated like horseradish with a similar peppery bite.
Spring Leaf Shoots: Delicate, light green and tender. Primary leaves are a different shape than the following scalloped hearts.
Spring Stem Shoots: tender, can be sautéed with oil, salt and garlic like Chinese mustard greens.
Flowering Heads: beautiful garnish, garlic and yummy
Leaves: great for salads and salad rolls, salsa verde, pesto, etc
Seeds and Seed pods: young pods are like little green beans but they quickly become stringy and tough. Dried seeds resemble black sesame seeds (or mouse turds!) and taste like wasabi. Sprout them or use as a garnish on sushi.
Common Name: Oxeye Daisy
This is a prolific and easy-to-identify flowering herb listed as an invasive weed in BC. Because it is so prolific you shouldn't have a hard time finding it, especially during its flowering season through late spring and early summer. However, because it is perceived as a threat to local biodiversity, municipal governments have made a habit of spraying it with cyanogenic glyphosates like RoundUP. So! Your enemy when harvesting this plant is not the toxicity of the plant, but rather, the toxicity of chemicals that may have been applied. That's why it's important to steward the places you attend. Keep your eyes open for pollution and abuse, and get involved when you notice harmful activity. Write letters to your local government and engage in friendly discussion and connection with other users of the spaces you dwell.
My other favourite edible features:
-Flower buds can be pickled like capers before they open.
-Honey from oxeye daisies is DELICIOUS.
-odd-Smelling flowers can be dried for teas, as can the leaves
-Short infusions in gin are impressive. I've used it to flavour vermouth as well.
-Petals and flowers are pretty, edible garnishes
-My friend Kris likes to grill the stem shoots in the late spring