Forage verb : to wander in search of food or provisions.
City foraging is a skill I have been cultivating since my days in Beer Sheva, where the shuk was my only ‘supermarket’ and I could do a weekly shop for 15 dollars or less. Here in Tel Aviv I love searching for foods, herbs and spices, and everyday is a chance to discover new vendors, tucked into the nooks and crannies of this bountiful city. I know how to spot the goodies for the most part and am able to easily dodge expensive food ’boutiques’ (tourist traps) and distinguish the aged, from the old and dusty. Foraging for wild edibles, on the other hand, is not my field of expertise and when Sarah and Miriam, two of the food writers I am getting to know here, sent out an invite for a wild edibles foraging and cooking event last week, I was very excited to broaden my limited knowledge of the subject.
Since we are at the height of the rainy season here in Israel, patches of wild greens have sprung up all over – wherever there is dirt and sun. Sarah, who lives outside the city offered up her yard and her neighbor’s for picking and with her’s and Miriam’s guidance we were able to identify more than 15 types of edibles, along with some very poisonous non-edibles.
The trickiest to pick were the nettles, and Miriam showed us how to cut them and use the scissors or clippers as tongs so as not to get stung. Cooking the nettles takes the sting out and they are well worth the effort as they are full of vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium, and have a pleasant flavor, similar to spinach.
Miriam washed the nettles and we sauteed them with some olive oil, onion and some of the mallow we picked — another wild green that can also be used for rolling and stuffing, as one would use grape or cabbage leaves.
Meanwhile Sarah heated up her saj, a traditional bread pan for making middle eastern flatbreads such as pitas, and we all gathered chunks of dough that had been made earlier that day, stretching them into roundish shapes before placing them on the surface of the saj to bake.
Sarah chopped up some fresh zataar from her garden and some chickweed, and mixed them into soft goat cheese.We then filled the baked breads with the cheese and the sauteed greens mixture, rolled them up and placed them back on the saj to heat through before piling them all on a plate and sitting down to a beautiful and tasty lunch.