Urban Foraging

August 6, 2012

So first, we owe you an apology. We have been pretty absent this summer. I think it’s because summer is when we go and do so much fun stuff it’s hard to slow down enough to keep up here. However, with summer starting to wane, we are doing better about taking pictures for posts, and we have a *little* bit of a head start on several things, so that we don’t catch up on posts before we are out of fodder.

So! Onward and upward!

This weekend Katie and I took our first dabble in to what I’m calling ‘urban foraging.’ Close your eyes and imagine this:

Actually open your eyes or you can’t read.

*ahem*

Denver, like many other places, is in full bloom all spring as all the fruit trees flower. It’s stunning and it smells lovely. The blossoms eventually drop, the trees leaf out and viola! you have summer. Fast-forward three months and the leaves are *just* starting to get hints of yellow…..and there are effing berries all over your car, the street, the sidewalk, the list goes on.

As annoying as that is, we had the aha! that this is all FRUIT. Fruit you can harvest and use. Fruit that is free.

Let me caveat with this: We did not and do not condone taking any produce from someone’s yard without explicit consent to do so. That said, we have seen a large number of trees with fruit in the medians of streets and in some parks.

So how do you collect all this fruit? Well, basically you can sort the stuff that hits the ground, or you can climb the tree. The first trees we tackled had yellow fruit that we were really excited to think were apricots. Upon closer inspection, however, we discovered that they were actually tiny yellow pears! We had thrown a huge bag of bags* in the car and took it with us across the street. Katie sorted through the pears on the ground, I picked those I could reach on the tree.

Now, I will admit it is slightly awkward to be standing basically in the middle of the highway. But whatever, we were pretty excited.

We took two bags (maybe eight pounds?) of pears back to the car and headed down the sidewalk about 50 feet. Then we spotted the apples. There were apples everywhere. Katie started again with the ground fruit, and I with the tree fruit, when it very quickly became obvious that to pick fruit that was sizeable, I’d have to climb the tree. We spent the next hour getting me in to the tree (about ten feet up), shaking the branches enthusiastically (while Katie stood way out of the way), and then collecting the apples.** I couldn’t believe how hard it was – climbing was easier when I was a kid, but still it was fun. We wound up with four bags of apples that totaled about a bushel. The apples themselves are green with a bit of rosy pink on them, and they tasted somewhere between a Granny Smith and a Gala apple. Our grand plan is to make applesauce with them.

Finally, we also found some berries but we didn’t know what they were. We took them home for identification purposes but PLEASE do not eat any fruit or berry you are not familiar with.

All in all it was a pretty good haul – we are estimating about 40 pounds of fruit, collected in about two hours. The potential is huge if we do this even one day a weekend for the next few weeks.

So back to this idea of urban foraging. I was thinking about it on our way home and I realized that living in the city, we are no longer able to see the trees through the forest. Urban life encourages such a disconnect from what is around us that we can’t even see the resources available. How many people can be fed by produce that is available in public spaces? I’m not sure what I want to do with this thought yet, but it’s certainly something I want to spend some time with.

 

 

* That’s for you Father Burb!

** We do not advocate climbing trees as it can be dangerous. Please be careful.

Crepes

January 15, 2012

Crepes have always been one of those things that is hyped up to be hard. So one day I thought why not? It turns out that they’re not too hard to make and they are quite a versitile vehicle to hold other food. Like fruit. Or chocolate. We’ve made them for sweet and for savory crepes, as well as in the traditional crepe and chocolate crepes (add cocoa powder!). Here is the basic recipe:

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons melted butter

salt

Stir the wets together and add the drys, stirring just until they’re incorporated.The batter can be a little lumpy but try and smooth out the big bumps.

You can see in the back bowl there are a few lumps but largely the batter should pour nicely. Get a flat pan with some sides (we used a frying pan but a saucier is ideal) and get it screaming hot. Spray the pan with oil and pour in your first crepe. They don’t always turn out well, so we photographed the second one.

I find that to get a nice, large crepe, to use about a half  a cup of batter. Once it’s in the pan, swirl it around until you have a flat, even layer. They sell a special tool for spreading out the batter, but you don’t need it.

You can see that the liquid batter is coming over the now cooking edge along the bottom. Keep swirling in circles (although I make slight rounder crepes than Katie did :D)

When all the liquid batter has begun to cook, give it a moment to fully cook. You have to work pretty fast because these are thin little pancakes that will cook quickly. Once it’s cooked on the bottom, flip the crepe over and give it about 20 seconds on the other side. We flip them in to our oven set on warm to keep them toasty.

Before, during, or after, you can consider your filling. Ham and cheese is nice – I’d put those in as the bottom is cooking and then roll it omelette style, nutella and bananas, fresh strawberries and cream – the possibilities are endless. For this particular breakfast, I sauteed some apples in butter and brown sugar.

After dicing the apples, I threw a tab of butter in to the pan and let it melt and get hot. I then added the apples.

I gave these a moment to cook down, and then flipped in about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. That melted and began to caramelize, so I also added some honey and cinnamon. This cooked until the apples were soft (but not mushy) and nicely caramelized – about five minutes. This will depend on how finely your apples are cut.

You can see they took on a nice chicken brown color. They also smelled delicious.

To prepare the crepes, I took one from the oven, filled it with a line of apples, and rolled it up. We had two each topped with the remainder of the apples and the leftover caramel sauce.

Oh so yum. Hopefully you’ll give these a go, and they will seem a little less scary. They’re totally worth it.