Friday, October 28, 2011

Balsam Roots

This morning was pretty soggy outside so I thought it would be a good time to finally work on the Balsam Roots (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) that I picked in North Central Washington last month.  While I was washing the dusty pine forest earth from the roots I was trying to figure out a good way to cook them.  They are traditionally cooked in earthen ovens for 24 to 48 hours at which point the indigestible inulin is converted into sweet tasting fructose.  I wanted to use my slow cooker to simulate the traditional method, but I unsure what to do about the bark on the roots.  The slow cooker, differs from the earth oven in that it boils the food instead of steam/bakes it.  My concern was that I might infuse the roots with extra phytochemicals by boiling them in a tea of the root bark, so I opted to remove the bark.  The bark is very thick, hard, and deeply fissured, so I was not looking forward to peeling them.  What I thought would be an irksome task turned out to satisfy my more manly needs.  A hammer was the perfect tool for pounding that bark to smithereens; it flaked off like the shell on a hard-boiled egg.  The roots are cooking now and they fill the room with a godly aroma of balsam.

Once the bark is removed the Balsam Root looks really strange
When the rain stopped Katrina and I biked up to UVic to harvest some more Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) rhizomes.  We dug one up that was much smaller than the one we got last week.  It was about 1 cm in diameter and was about 10 cm underground.  I also learned that, when wet, the brown, dead fronds make an excellent hand rag for scrubbing dirty hands.  Back home, I steamed the rhizomes but the pan went dry while I was on the phone and the roots burned (temporarily replacing the godly aroma with a god awful one), so that is strike two for Bracken Fern rhizomes.

 After dinner we put yesterday’s Haw through the fruit mill.  I steamed the fruit to soften it first and both Katrina and I agreed that the flavor is really improved with cooking.  The mush that comes out of the fruit mill looks like pumpkin pie filling.  Evidently, the Chinese make pies out of Haw, so we are going to try a bake one with ours, but no time for that tonight.
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