Saturday, April 14, 2012

Edamapleme and other Sidewalk Salads

David Cozzo teaching me how to enjoy Redbud blossoms

The forager mustn’t wait for weekend farmers’ markets or hunt down ethnic food carts to find streetside snacks.  Boulevard bonanzas await the keen eyed and wild minded in urban areas throughout America.  Last weekend while strolling the Denver sidewalks with Alex and David Cozzo, kindred foodies and ethnobiologists, we munched our way to the Botanic Gardens popping fresh Mallow leaves (Malva sp.), tender Elm samara (Elymus sp.), young Basswood leaves (Tillia sp.), sweet nectared Norway Maple (Acer plantanoides) and Redbud (Cercis canadensis) flowers, and most especially, the young pea-like seeds of Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum).

A peeled maple shoot in perfect condition for eating
Maples captured my interest two years ago when I learned that the flowers, shoots, sap, cambium, and even seeds of Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) were eaten by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest (See Turner 1995).  I found the flowers to be a passable (and colorful) addition to salads, and the pealed shoots to have a refreshing crunch.  However, travel and some monomaniacal moments of thesis work limited my experience with the cambium to a taste, and kept me from dabbling in maple tapping and samara snacking.

Spring emerging Silver Maple samara
With my unfinished business with Bigleaf Maple in the back of my mind, I was pleased to see young samara hanging from the otherwise bare branches of Silver Maple along the streets of Denver.  Silver Maples form samara in the spring (before leaf-out), unlike the summer (or at least much after leaf out) forming  samara of Bigleaf maple.  Alex, Katrina and I split open the tender samara and tentatively tasted the turgid green seeds.  They were great!

A Silver Maple seed perfect for eating
When full sized but still young enough to be soft and milky, they have a flavor similar to snap peas or raw shell peas.  The seeds solidify and darken with age, and the flavor simultaneously becomes astringent and not as enjoyable.  Alex had the great idea of making a wild version of edamame with the tender seeds; he boiled the samara for 5 minutes before draining, salting, and serving them.  These Edamapleme proved to be delicious hors d’oeuvres to our Elk burger dinner.

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