Native Noms: Vegan Wild Onion and Tuber Stew(s)

winecup_tuber_stew
Eat me. (I dare you.) Photo: K. Angel Horne

LET ME START WITH A DISCLAIMER: Someone has to be the first to try any plant, root or recipe to test for edibility. While I’m surely not the first, aside from the Foraging Texas website, I have not found other sources of winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) tubers officially recommended as “food.”

Foraging Texas says the tubers “taste like sweet potatoes and can be eaten raw or cooked.” After my cooking experiment, I disagree with both the taste and that it is possible (or by any means suggested) to eat the starchy roots raw, if at all.

My suggestion? Unless you are very strong-stomached or want to trailblaze a new cleansing trend, this stew is probably not for you.

The morning after eating about 6 to 8 ounces, my stomach was definitely not the happiest place on Earth. I may have got ahead of holiday weight gain, but if “gutsy in the kitchen” or “fast and loose with a spoon” don’t align with your personal brand, I’d skip to the Wild Onion & Tame Tubers Stew below.

 

Winecup Tuber & Wild Onion Living on the Edge Stew (for the adventurer)

First, dig: I harvested three plants’ worth of tubers and really dug down to get as much root as possible. I don’t think that’s necessary, as the most substantial part of the tuber is going to be the fat “bulb” right below the stem. If the soil is moist or loose enough, you can peek down to see how developed this tuber is before actually harvesting. As you’re not really disrupting the roots at this point, the plant would probably be minimally stressed if you decided to move on and look for a plumper specimen to harvest — just re-cover and gently pack the soil.

The winecup stems are very tough, so I ended up cutting the tubers off much at the same place one would cut off the top of a carrot (about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch down from the stem). I also harvested a few bulbs of wild onions (Allium spp.), which are easy enough to dig up, as they grow straight down. These plants look much like the grocery store variety of green onions (or chives).

INGREDIENTS

  • Approximately 2 to 3 winecup tubers (mine were no bigger than small carrots)
  • 1 golden or other potato of your choice (mine was the size of a small fist), cubed
  • 1 wild onion, bulb and shoots, chopped (set aside one shoot for garnish)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • Have on hand:
    • salt, pepper
    • other favorite sassy/savory spices
    • olive oil

Note: This is enough for one small serving for one person. It’s pretty labor intensive, so makes sure you are willing to expend some time and energy on serving up a petite bowl of loathing. This would actually be a pretty good dish for your racist uncle or the ex you only invited to your dinner party because all your other friends are still friends with him or her and you want to appear to be the bigger person. Unlike traditional revenge, this dish is best served slightly above room temperature.

DIRECTIONS

I roasted these little devils because I think roasting some of the roots for a soup is usually a smooth move. In this case, I think I would advise against it. I ended up rehydrating the super-fibrous tubers for several hours before they seemed workable again.

winecup tuber preparation
LEFT: After the first rinse, you can see how much excess root I left on these twisty little gut bombs. Cool-looking, but unnecessary. I trimmed off most of the thin, stringy roots. CENTER: Peeled tubers on the left, tuber peels (destined for the compost bin) on the right. RIGHT: After peeling and removing spots I deemed “icky,” I was left with a small bowl, maybe one cup, of tuber. It looked unsettlingly like chicken…especially to a vegan. Photos: K. Angel Horne.

It’s a free country. I’m not going to tell you how to behave in your own kitchen. But if you want to be a rebel and roast ‘em (because I think you probably shouldn’t, but you need to make your own mistakes; I get it!), preheat that oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to steam ‘em, get your pot and basket watered and ready. If you’re sad that you never get to use your wok, by all means, dust it off.

Pull apart the twisted tubers and really scrub them. My root systems had dirt all up in there. Trim off the stringy parts of the roots with kitchen scissors; they’re really dry and tough, and I don’t bake enough to be certain that they aren’t a fire hazard.

After cooking the tubers (if you’re reading ahead, good for you! you could even try this before cooking them), let them cool enough to be handled. I peeled mine by hand to separate out the fleshier inside from the sad, dry skin.

Add a splash of oil to a small pot and heat for a moment before adding your sliced wild onions.  

Cook the onions for one to two minutes on medium-high heat until they start to brown.

Add one cup of the broth, tubers, and potatoes and simmer until everything is tender. I kept an eye on mine and added the other half cup of broth as the liquid was absorbed or evaporated. Somewhere in that process feel free to add some salt, pepper, and a “wildcard” spice of your choice. I used a seasoning mix that’s mostly sage, but you “do you.” Unlike many problematic poisons, you don’t have to add nutmeg for the sake of covering up telltale smells.

Let the whole ordeal cool for a few minutes and then blend. I used an immersion blender, but a food processor might tame the tubers into an even more “digestible” puree. Work with what you’ve got!

After pureeing the mixture into a pretty creamy concoction, I used a fork to fish out some of the “unblendable,” stringier pieces of tuber. I shouldn’t have to tell you to pour it into a serving bowl, but if you like a comprehensive step-by-step recipe: Pour it into a serving bowl.

Slice your remaining shoot of wild onion into dainty little loops and sprinkle them over your stew. By now it’s probably a reasonable temperature, so if you lovingly prepared this dish for yourself, cancel your hike for tomorrow morning and dig in. If this dish is destined for a frenemy’s place at the table, make sure they don’t switch seats with your bestie at the last minute. Frenemies are sneaky like that.

IF you read through all this and think that maybe you’ll just try that cayenne lemonade diet to get a jumpstart on your “new year, new you” crusade instead, read on for a more benevolent variation.

Looking pretty innocent there, Winecup Stewie. Photo: K. Angel Horne

 

Wild Onion & Tame Tubers Stew (for the sensible)

This recipe incorporates a native ingredient with minimal fuss and ends in a savory, creamy stew that probably won’t require any “recovery” time.

INGREDIENTS

  • Approximately 2 to 3 roots of your choosing (such as parsnips or carrots), cubed or coined
  • 5 to 6 golden potatoes (mine were each the size of a small fist), cubed
  • 2 wild onions, bulbs and shoots, chopped (set aside a few shoots for garnish)
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • Have on hand:
    • salt, pepper
    • other favorite sassy/savory spices
    • olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Roast the roots and, if you like, half-to-all of the potatoes for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pull them out and let them cool while you heat up a splash of oil in a soup pot.

Toss in the chopped wild onions and sauté for one to two minutes on medium-high heat until they start to brown.

Photo: K. Angel Horne

Start Stewing: Add two and a half cups of the broth, roots, and potatoes and bring to a boil. If you prefer a thicker stew, just add two cups of liquid up front and see if you want to work the rest in later. Turn it down to a simmer and add some reasonable amount of salt, pepper, and a “wildcard” spice of your choice. I used a seasoning mix that’s mostly sage. Cook until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Take a ladle or two full of vegetables and broth and set aside before blending the rest. I used an immersion blender, but use a blender or mash by hand if you prefer.

After pureeing the mixture into a pretty creamy concoction, stir back in the unblended liquid and vegetables. You can blend it all if you don’t want the variation in texture, but I find it satisfying (probably because I enjoy chewing).

Slice your remaining shoots of wild onion into dainty little loops and sprinkle them over your stew upon serving.

MAKES TWO FULL-MEAL SERVINGS OR FOUR SMALLER SIDE OR APPETIZER SERVINGS

Both recipes are vegan.

More Articles in This Series

Chile Pequin-Citrus Turkey
Prickly Pear-Cranberry Sauce
Spiced Pecans
Wild Onion and Chile Pequin Cornbread
Prickly Pear Margaritas
Persimmon Dessert Bars
Chile Pequin Vinegar

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