After several drizzly days, Friday morning’s brilliantly clear skies were made to order for my edible wild plants class outing. Our little group met at the entrance to the Bet Keshet Forest, an expanse of wooded hills that stretches from Mount Turan to Mount Tabor and the hills leading down to the Sea of Galilee.
At this point in mid-November, there have been enough rains to bring up a wonderful assortment of winter growth, and our teacher, Uri Mayer-Chissick, pointed out several varieties of edible plants growing right at our feet.
We gathered mustard greens which grew everywhere, sorrel, wild asparagus and several plants which I only know the Hebrew name for. Many of these are bitter, and Uri told us that in the past, bitter was a much more common flavor in peoples’ diets – and bitter foods were considered to be good for the liver. A meal would optimally be composed of foods that were sweet, salty, sour and bitter.
After making a little campfire, Uri mixed up some dough with spelt flour, olive oil, salt and water and each of us grabbed a hunk and rolled it out into a flat circle. In the middle we placed chopped onion and a little pile of the plants we’d picked – then folded the dough over and pinched it shut – then set our little “empanada” on the “tabun” – a concave metal cooking surface that is traditional in these parts for making pita bread and other baked goods. We also roasted Tabor oak acorns which were bitter and not at all tasty.
With the roasted acorns supplying the bitter element and the sorrel its sourness, a little salt sprinkled on the greens mixture, and quarters of sweet orange – we ended our class in a perfectly rounded way.