This story starts with Part I of the Great Elkslip Experiment, so if you haven’t read that entry yet I suggest you do so before proceeding.
Part II – Creamed Elkslip
What I am calling Part II of my experiment actually involved eating the elkslip, so after reading several reports on marsh marigolds (Caltha spp.)—both about our local elkslip in the Colorado Rockies (Caltha leptosepala) and the eastern variety, commonly called cowslip (Caltha palustris), I settled on creamed elkslip for our first culinary trial.
Keep in mind that after a successful lip test (zero irritation), Gregg and I consumed only about 25 small elkslip leaves between the two of us, and they boiled down to next to nothing in 20 minutes. Some sources say to change the water several times and boil marsh marigolds for as long as 60 minutes to remove the bitterness, but ours were not very bitter. They turned the water an amazingly bright green.
Thayer, who has tried Caltha palustris (eastern) but not Caltha leptosepala (western) concludes from other authors’ accounts that the western species appears to have a much milder and better flavor than its eastern counterpart (2006). I have yet to try his Caltha palustris, but in 20-25 minutes of boiling our high mountain Colorado Caltha leptosepala was soft and mild.
I’d never made creamed spinach before, but it seemed straightforward enough. I ended up boiling, draining, and setting aside the elkslip; making a cream sauce by frying garlic in olive oil and butter and adding a little milk (in place of cream) with flour to thicken; then combining the elkslip, sauce, and grated Parmesan cheese and serving as a side dish with sandwiches and sautéed yucca flowers.
“The elkslip is wonderful,” Gregg exclaimed upon tasting it, though I suspect his penchant for cheesy white sauces might have had something to do with it.
I, too, thought the elkslip was good, although I have to admit I did feel a little gassy after lunch. In retrospect, I kind of screwed up the test in the first place by introducing a second variable—an additional side dish of fried yucca flowers, which can cause digestive effects, especially when you eat the pistils like we did.
Still we had no major ill effects to report as of 7:00 PM (6 hours since initial consumption).
Part III – Elkslip Dip!
I couldn’t wait to find out more about elkslip and apparently neither could Gregg, for when I asked if he’d take me to forage more for tonight, he said yes.
We collected it where it was abundant, in the same wet willow thicket the dogs found the other day. There were elk tracks in the mud and also one big poop Gregg noticed upstream from where he had just foraged.
“You’re going to have to wash these really well,” Gregg said while I photographed the poop amidst the marsh marigolds. “Yeah, and boil them too,” I replied.
In addition to young leaves, we also gathered some buds. I ended up manually rubbing each and every leaf and attached petiole between my fingers under running water, then rinsing them all again.
“If you make that elkslip in cream sauce again I’ll go bananas!” Gregg announced.
Later that night we each served ourselves a much larger portion of our second round of creamed elkslip alongside barbecued chicken and corn on the cob. Upon Gregg’s suggestion we tried the creamed elkslip on crackers, then pita chips too.
“It’s like a delicious artichoke dip appetizer,” Gregg enthused, helping himself to more.
“You just like it because of the cheesy sauce,” I accused.
“No,” he challenged thoughtfully. “What you perceive out of the greens in this form is the texture. They’re very creamy, and that’s what makes them good. I love elkslip dip!”
I woke up extremely early this morning to post my elkslip report so I could get on with my life already, distracted as I have been by these plants and blogging of late. But there are bills to pay, taxes to file, a kitchen to clean, jobs to apply for, calls to make, and so forth.
I am pleased to report, however, that after a very generous helping of elkslip (C. leptosepala) dip last night, I am feeling good this morning—sated and happy and in full health. I’d tell you how Gregg feels too, but he’s still sleeping.