Katherine Deumling is a native of Portland, Oregon, who grew up in Germany and has lived in Italy and Mexico; her culinary leanings have been shaped by these places and cultures. She runs the small cooking school Cook With What You Have and is passionate about helping people cook more often and have more fun in the kitchen. Katherine is a board member of Slow Food USA and the former chair of Slow Food Portland.
I am a posy poacher, like my mother. A former colleague taught me that term, and I’m glad to have found such a pleasant-sounding way to describe my slightly dubious habit.
I try to stick to branches from street trees (especially this time of year, when there’s little else) and prolific shrubs or flowers that are leaning into the public domain, are badly in need of pruning, or are invasive or neglected . . . You see I have many reasons why my swiping of branches and flowers to brighten my house is actually a useful and needed job.
About five years ago I also, briefly, became a parsley poacher. I spied the most beautiful and substantial clump of parsley on my bike ride to the grocery store. It was in the strip between the street and the sidewalk in a jumble of weeds, in a crack between bricks, and it seemed to be exactly on the property line between two houses. I eyed this beautiful, green clump for a few weeks on my way to and from the store. It never changed, other than getting bigger and bigger.
At this point I did not yet have a hearty crop of parsley of my own, and after weeks of watching this neglected plant, I did my first poaching. Now why I didn’t just ring the bell of both possible owners in question, I do not know, but I snitched parsley that day and weekly thereafter for most of the winter, always leaving plenty in case the owners did decide it was worth something.
Of course, I realize I could have just bought a bunch of parsley at the grocery store every week, but somehow the discovery of that abundant clump, thriving with no care whatsoever, was so much more fun and interesting.
I grew up with an abundance of parsley. It was the bright green carpet on the edge of my mother’s vast garden that I was frequently sent out to pick in the rain and dark, as she was preparing dinner. She used parsley with skill and creativity, transforming plain white rice into the most wonderful one-pot meal with garlic and onion and green chiles stuffed with cheese, and she added it to tomato sauces and soups and cream sauces and gratins.
I now use it in my own ways, and am especially drawn to it this time of year, when the sweet, rich root vegetables and squashes are in season, to which parsley offers a wonderful, fresh, bright counterpoint. I just finished a lunch of toasted whole-grain bread topped with two eggs over-easy and smothered with salsa verde — the Italian salsa verde, that is.
These days, my neighbors and I collectively grow enough herbs to share around. Down the street, there’s a bay tree (and prolific parsley this year too!); up the street, there’s rosemary and sage. I offer oregano, thyme, savory, and parsley to anyone in need.
Now that I grow my own parsley and let it go to seed — keeping me in adequate supply year after year — I can also use the beautiful stalks to make bouquets, obviating the need for posy poaching. At least when it comes to parsley.
Related recipe: Salsa Verde with Hard-Cooked Egg
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Change in our kitchens
Reflections on cooking — and a career that’s based largely at the stove.
The Food Corps co-founder
Flatbreads from around the continent
Beyond a supporting role