Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dryland Fish and Other Dixie Delights

by Jas Faulkner

So you've been here for a while and can say the local food is your thing.  Honestly, why shouldn't it be?  Aside from great eateries like The Wild Cow and Tayst and Fat Juicy Taco and Cafe Coco and the to-go selections at The Turnip Truck and a thousand other places in Nashville ready to let loose some delightful fireworks on your taste buds; there is the rich variety of locally produced food just waiting to turn your kitchen into a culinary salon.

You're an expert.  After all, you can tell hot chicken from fried and a Goo Goo Cluster from a Colt's Bolt.

Do you know where to get dryland fish?  What is dock and can you add it to Spring mix?  Is poke sallet for real?

Poke Sallet
You've probably seen poke sallet  (or pokeweed, as it is sometimes known) growing in less tended corners of lots and alleys in Nashville.  It is large, with deep red or magenta stalks and  flat, oval leaves.  As it matures, it produces dark berries that are considered a treat by the local bird population.  The best time to harvest poke is when there are small, tender leaves growing from very fine green stalks.  Many people prefer to suate' poke with olive oil and onions or bacon if they're omnivores. It is traditionally stirred into scrambled eggs.

Do people still eat poke? Absolutely! Best to be smart and safe about it, though.  Either allow a plant or two to grow in your own backyard or find someone who doesn't use harsh chemicals that could leach into those little leaves and make you sick.

What's Up, Dock?
There are a handful of variations of dock growing around Middle Tennessee.  The kind that many native Tennesseans' ancestors ate was called yellow or curly dock.  While it does have some nutritional benefits, and is plentiful in this region, new weed hunters should exercise caution when selecting  and preparing plants. Check out a class with a reputable teacher before you try this (or any kind of wild weed hunting).   The best place in Nashville is practically in your back door if you live in East Nasty.  Shelby Bottoms Nature Center offers classes for all ages and interests.

For more information, visit their website: http://www.nashville.gov/parks/nature/sbnc/index.asp

You Get The Line and I'll Get The Pole and...No?
Nope.  Dryland fish is a name given to one of the most jealously guarded wild food items in North America.  When the water tables were low and creeks and streams had dwindled to a trickle, families would often head out to the nearest wooded area to search for fleshy, tender morel mushrooms.  Inthe kitchen, the morels were  quartered lengthwise, dipped in a beaten egg, dredged in flour and cornmeal and pan fried.  The taste and mouthfeel was thought to be a good substitute for freshwater fish.   Morels were also used as an ingredient in stuffing for game animals and a meat extender before they were hunted into near extinction in some parts of the country.

All of this antique eating sounds great, doesn't it?  It also sounds like a real adventure.  If you're a little short on time to Indiana Jones it for supper, drop by the Market.  You might not find Great-Grandma's Curly Dock, but you will find a selection of locally produced food sold by the people who grew and raised it.  You can't get more authentically Tennessean than that.

Next week:  Jami from Slocal returns to talk about fall herbs, pickles and why hubby Russell is going to kick butt at the State Fair.  Don't miss it!

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