Wellness Wednesday: occasional oxalis
What do you expect when you attend a dinner party at someone’s home? Fancy place settings and a three-course meal? Potluck, great company and a chat while watching the latest TV series? Candlelight, soft music, mood lighting and a bowl for everyone’s keys (disclaimer: I haven’t ever been to that kind of dinner party!)?
When I received an invitation to a dinner party last weekend where the theme was “feral”, I wasn’t sure what to expect, apart from the fact that it wouldn’t exactly match any of the above categories. But it turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve had in a long while! Everything was foraged, received, bought from farmer’s markets or self-grown, so the meal included wild mushrooms, smoked carp pate made from fresh fish, kangaroo chilli con carne (a great use for roo which can sometimes be tough and too strong in flavour) and steamed spaghetti squash from a friend’s backyard. Oh, and cricket chips that someone brought along as a birthday present for the host*, which actually don’t contain that much insect, so if you’re squeamish but still a bit curious, you might like to try them (they just taste like chickpea/corn chips but with added protein… and crickets and other insects are about a zillion times better for the planet than beef or other farmed animals).
For me, the highlight of the meal was this dish, although if you’re squeamish you may want to look away NOW. Can you guess what is in it?
Apart from the bits of cured sausage for extra flavour, this dish is entirely made up of garden pests, namely weeds and snails. The host and his partner “purge” common snails by feeding them on “clean” food like bran for a while before boiling them and popping them out of the shells ready to use in sautes like this or any other dishes that need a bit of protein. They don’t really have that much taste and are just chewy, maybe a bit like calamari. So for me, it wasn’t the snails but rather the weeds that were the star here – namely, the oxalis.
Although this weed has a pretty flower (it has many varieties but I think this is the one you’re most likely to encounter and the one used here), it is one of the most frustrating for many gardeners as it’s difficult to remove due to its stubborn root system. Until now all my interactions with oxalis have been negative as I’ve struggled to remove them from my dad’s bonsai pots without disturbing the soil. Simply looking at this plant, I would have thought it would have a grassy taste (it kind of resembles clover). But it actually tastes quite refreshing, juicy and citrussy so it’s perfect for salads or garnishes. And, like most weeds, it’s free! I will definitely be eating more of this rather than just chucking it on the compost heap next time I’m weeding, which is only very occasionally. Which is fine, because from what I can gather after some Googling, oxalis shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities (due to its oxalic acid content). Yes, the “sometimes food” rule that parents often pull out when kids pester them for junk even applies to weeds! But I’m sure a handful of oxalis is still better for you than a handful of chips… unless they’re Chirps cricket chips, that is!
*Perhaps I should add that the dinner party host is an entomologist so obviously has an interest in all things environmental and bug-related – his bath currently holds cages made of fabric and housing 350 butterflies that he is breeding for a media client.