In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.

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Foraging Fails, Week Ending 12/16/2018

As 2018 draws to a close, I still had two more foraging posts planned. Both posts were going to cover tubers that can be harvested well into the late fall and early winter, as long the ground isn’t frozen solid.

This week: yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). I had first identified this common yard weed back in July, when its spiky flowers clearly marked the plant’s location. However the small tubers underground are the real prize, and the part which is harvested when nutsedge is grown as a crop. (Here’s a photo of the tubers.)

The tubers are reported to be sweet and nutty flavored, hence their other names: earth almonds, or tiger nuts. I was very excited to excavate this wild food which appeared to be growing everywhere in my yard. Tasty free food. What could be better? I even tracked down a horchata recipe, so I would be ready when the time came.

A clump of yellow nutsedge

A clump of yellow nutsedge

You guys, I have nothing to show for my patience except for several muddy holes in my lawn.

I dug up three different clumps of nutsedge, certain I would find at least a few tasty nuggets clinging to the roots. No such luck! Every vaguely-tuber-looking lump turned out to be thick, heavy clay mud. No earth almonds anywhere.

Nutsedge roots - no tubers here!

Nutsedge roots – no tubers here!

I’m not sure what I did wrong, except that maybe I tried harvesting too early or too late. Or perhaps I misidentified the plant (although the leaves do have the triangular cross-section typical of yellow nutsedge). None of my go-to foraging books covered nutsedge at all, and while many blogs note its edibility I have yet to find a step-by-step foraging guide. Maybe someday I’ll be able to write one… if I ever succeed in finding them myself!

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Foraging Finds, Week Ending 7/15/2018

I had a very long post planned for today, but my writing time has been overcome by events. Rather than showcase all the various wild edibles ready now, or soon, I am going to showcase one singular weed: yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus).

Yellow Nutsedge, Nutgrass, Chufa ... the weed of many names!

Yellow Nutsedge, Nutgrass, Chufa … the weed of many names!

(By the way, I don’t know if that is pronounced “nut’s edge” or “nut sedge”.)

Nutsedge, like yellow salsify, is one of those weeds I couldn’t recognize until I saw its distinctive summer flowers.  It is also known as “nutgrass” and “chufa”, and elsewhere in the world it is actually grown as a crop. Locally, it is considered a weed of such a malicious nature that it has its own specially formulated pesticide.

The edible part of the nutsedge is the tuber.  The tuber is variously called “earth almond” or “tiger nut”, in reference to its nutty flavor. Nutsedge tubers can be eaten, roasted and ground into coffee substitute, or used to make a horchata drink.

If humans played the role of a ‘keystone’ species, and interacted with their ecosystem, we could control our local “weed” nutsedge without the use of pesticides that accidentally poison, well, everything else in the environment. I know that’s what I plan on doing with the nutsedge growing in my own yard later this year!