Last night I decided to try a grand assortment of the shoots found on or near my property right now. All would be oven-roasted in olive oil and salt at 500 degrees except for the garlic shoots, which are getting a bit tough this time of year as they elongate toward making scapes and need gentle stewing in olive oil over low heat for a long time, 25-30 minutes. They were cooked sparately on the stovetop.
The materials that I had to work with included a good-sized bundle of hops shoots, which I have shown many times before, and all of the following:
Tender cattail shoots are shown in the upper picture. The one below shows, from left to right:
- Annual arugula shoot with buds only just beginning to show.
- Dock shoots harvested before any flower buds show.
- Carrot shoots from some roots that I didn’t get around to harvesting.
- Stalk of a sunflower picked at about 18″ tall and the very fibrous outer layer carefully peeled off.
They were tossed separately in olive oil and a little salt and kept in separate piles on the baking parchment so that we could discern the flavors accurately. All but the arugula were cut in sections an inch long or less to mitigate possible stringiness. I added a couple of chard stems cut in 1/4″ cross sections, after I used the leaves for something else.
Roast away in a preheated 500 degree oven, checking frequently and removing each at its preferred stage of doneness, i.e. when it looks roasted but not burned.
I have been writing about green garlic all season, so no need to say anything more except that, as always, they were delicious.
I love cattail shoots but my husband finds them only passable. Probably for solitary dinners in the future.
Love hops shoots with their feral, mildly bitter, “unimproved” flavor. Love them.
Sunflower stalks have a pleasant enough, rather innocuous flavor and nice texture when carefully peeled. There are those on the Internet who claim that they just pluck them and eat them. These people have probably never been near a sunflower. More on this later.
I have not yet found any way that I like chard stems except roasted and ground into a fairly good baba ghanoush. Eaten alone, there is a touch of dirt in the flavor that doesn’t do it for me.
Dock shoots were amazingly good, with a soft center tasting of lemon with a strain of bitterness. Be sure to cut into sections before cooking to eliminate the stringy factor, and pull large leaves off. Smaller ones can be left in place and are tasty.
The arugula shoot was very slender but a bit stringy anyway. They, too, need to be cut into sections. Delicious though, although they are small and it would be tedious to pick enough for a meal.
Carrot shoots were the real surprise. When roasted in sections they were tender, sweet, and full-flavored with a touch of the terpene scent that makes carrot foliage smell aromatic and carroty. The remaining leaves got brown and crisp during roasting and added textural interest. I liked them so much that I am going to leave the rest of the row of woody second-year carrots in place until they produce shoots. Even when the roots are at this advanced stage my goat loves them, so the roots will not be wasted.
Initially I wanted to taste each type of shoot individually, but I will make a grand mixture in the near future by sorting sections roughly according to size, i.e. thin, medium, or thick. Then I’ll pan-fry them in olive oil in my biggest skillet, putting thick ones in first, then two minutes later mediums, followed by thin bits in another two minutes, then cook until done. Yum.
Look around you and see what’s producing shoots right now. If (and only if) you’re certain that the foliage of that plant is edible, try them out in hot olive oil. I enjoyed goji berry shoots a little earlier in the season, and will be trying wild lettuce and sow thistle within a week or two. Some grapevines produce delicious shoots, although some ( most notably my Concord vine) have so much papery fiber in the leaves and shoots that I consider them inedible; read more here.