Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Wild Collection, Over-use, and Kim-Chi

When the season is right I get about half of my food from the wild. A lot of the greens, roots, fruits and berries go into salads but the bulk of it gets fermented. I have learned a special technique for Kim-Chi fermentation of wild greens with fish sauce, garlic, ginger and chili. I am told that my Kim Chi tastes like south coast Korean Kim-Chi.

As I was on my way out to do some wild collection the other day I had an argument with a friend who, half jokingly, said 'you are going out to practice deforestation again'. She was dubious of my going out and collecting so much of my food from the woods. 'Yes' she said 'it is ok that you do it but what if everyone did it?' I responded that if everyone did it then maybe the farmer would not have to drive his tractor with the hedge cutter along the roads up on the Warteburg every few weeks. In one pass on the road that farmer cuts down more edible vegetation than all of Witzenhausen would use in a summer.

In her argument the forest should be left alone and allowed to grow unmolested by wild harvesting. My argument is that a focus on over-utilization in wild collection is wrong headed. Utilization of natural resources is exactly the opposite of waste and destruction of natural resources. If I see a use for that forest and the resources it holds within I am less likely to burn it down or allow it to be developed into a condominium. If my food comes from that forest I am not likely to cut it down and turn it into agricultural land. 

The relationship between nature and culture is a delicate balance of give and take. I need to get something out of a relationship for it to mean something to me. 


Kim-Chi Recipe (adapted from David Lebovitz).
2 1/2 pounds (roughly 1 kilo ) of wild greens (whichever is in season)
1/2 cup (100g) coarse salt
2 heads of garlic, peeled and finely minced
Finger sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup (60ml) fish sauce (fish paste is also ok)
1 large handful of spicy spicy chili powder
Directions:
1. Slice the greens into chunks. Cut away the tough stems etc.
2. Mix and mash greens and other ingredients in a large bowl. (Some recipes advise wearing rubber gloves since the chili paste can stain your hands or burn.)
3. Pack the Kim-Chi in a clean jar large enough to hold it all (leave some space) and cover it tightly.
4. Check the Kim-Chi after 1-2 days.up to a few weeks If it’s bubbling and smelly, it’s ready to be eaten
Storage: Many advise to eat the Kim-Chi within 3 weeks. After that, it can get too fermented. I have eaten Kim-Chi that was much much older than that and it was delicious (3 year old jjigae). This is largely dependent on the wild greens that you use. Springtime greens tend to turn to mush after three or four weeks of fermentation, autumn wild greens are heartier and can be fermented through the winter or longer. 
 
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