Monday, April 27, 2009

Cannibalizing The Bishop

A couple of posts ago I wrote about my struggle to get rid of Bishop's Weed (a.k.a. ground elder, goat's foot, gout weed and half a dozen other names). I have pulled it up, covered it with plastic, cursed it, smothered it with mulch.

Now I'm eating it.

Joya in her comment on my earlier post wrote that the Russians eat the plant, and I read somewhere that the Romans introduced it in Britain to feed their troops. This was a less successful innovation than Latin, Roman roads, or Roman law. In various chat rooms, I've read about English gardeners at-risk for suicide over Bishop's Weed.

Recently, looking at a new patch of the Bish flourishing by the garage, I pulled up a leaf and chewed it. If the Russians and the Romans ate it, why shouldn't I? It tasted surprisingly mild. So that evening I pulled up a bowl-full of it, washed it well, and steamed it for about four minutes. I drained it and sauteed it with garlic and olive oil, sprinkled it with bacon pieces, and served it over pasta. The Conservative Eater who shares my table, among other things, thanked me for a nice supper.

“Did you like the green stuff?” I asked.

“What, the spinach? Sure. I just—well, you know” he said in his mild way, as I held my breath. “The garlic...a little much, but that's just me.”

The next evening, I didn't bother steaming the Bishop. I sauteed him with (a little less) garlic, and shrimp, and served him over brown rice.

“So how did you like the Bishop's Weed tonight?” I asked, feeling bolder.

“Is that what that green stuff was? I never noticed.”

What higher compliment can a cook hope for?

Meanwhile, I have fallen in love, culinarily speaking. Bishop's Weed, to my taste, is better than even baby spinach—milder, sweeter, and it doesn't leave that furry aftermath on my teeth. It grows all by itself, needless to say, and doesn't take up space in my garden (though it does take up space everywhere else). From time immemorial it has been said to cure gout, which I don't have, but you can never be too careful.

But there is more than just the Bishop's mild taste and availability that makes me feel good about eating him. It is the atavistic feeling that I am putting my enemy to good use. From the head shrinking of Amazonian Indians to the traditional stewing methods of African tribes, primitive peoples (or rather, “those-not-corrupted-by-civilization-or-what-passes-for-it”) often cannibalize those whom they vanquish, hoping to absorb their talents.

Actually, I haven't vanquished the Bishop, far from it. As I write, he is sprouting in my newly landscaped front flower beds, threatening hydrangeas, pachysandra, and various low-growing evergreens. But maybe if I eat enough of him I will absorb his persistence, his resilience, and his optimistic belief that the world is his oyster.

3 comments :

  1. this is conquering indeed.

    though i have to say, you can pretty much saute *anything* in butter and garlic and toss it with shrimp and i would eat it.

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  2. What a better answer to a weed you can't get rid of (I'm wondering now if there's anything i can do with my nemesis, violets...)

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  3. I was plagued by violets in Maryland, decided that "shrinking violet" was a contradiction in terms. I think you're supposed to be able to candy the blossoms and use them as cake decorations, but you'd have to bake a lot of cakes!

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