Archive for August, 2010

Holy Puffballs, Batman!

puffball big 350x284 Holy Puffballs, Batman!

A puffball mushroom the size of my fist. Photo by Gregg Davis.

All this rain is making the mushrooms come out—a connection I never made before since I’m pretty much a beginner with edible fungi. So, when Gregg and I took a long, off trail hike above our house to an isolated beaver pond at 12,000 feet, crossing an above tree-line meadow to get there, I was beyond surprised to find three large puffball mushrooms the size of my fist growing there. 

Puffballs can grow to enormous sizes, so these were not necessarily all that big. According to, the Western Giant Puffball (Calvatia booniana), which is found in open fields at high elevations, can grow as large as a soccer ball. “Wildman” Steve Brill has a nice picture of a giant puffball at his website if you want to get a sense of their potential. Imagine eating one of those babies!  Read the rest of this entry

Roseroot is Edible, Who Knew?

roseroot flowering 350x262 Roseroot is Edible, Who Knew?

What I believe to be roseroot, or Sedum rosea.

I first noticed roseroot on a high-country hike above Fairplay, Colorado as Gregg and I were scrambling up a rock face, off-trail as usual. The plant is distinctive and attractive—tiny, blood-red flowers atop a fleshy stalk with spirally overlapping (Peterson, 1977) succulent, white-green leaves—and so I photographed it to look up later in Plants of the Rocky Mountains, a flora identification guide we obtained recently from The Printed Page bookshop in Denver.

Plants of the Rocky Mountains by Linda Kershaw, et. al. (1998) is not specific to edible wild plants, but when I found the plant in question in the picture index followed by the entry, lo and behold, I also discovered that our local roseroot is edible. (A quick perusal of the new guide revealed that edibility information is included for many of the plants, to my very pleasant surprise. Come to find out that Linda Kershaw also authored Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies, a guide I have yet to obtain.) What luck!  Read the rest of this entry

Weird Clover Flower Soup

red clover field 350x277 Weird Clover Flower Soup

A field of red clovers next to the driveway, with small white clovers betwixt.

The come-down from my huge purslane processing of the other day has been harder than I imagined it would be, such that I have been remiss in processing the bag of plantain that Jim gifted me from Denver. I’ve been afraid to look but I fear it is decomposing in the refrigerator. I had some dandelion leaves in the fridge too—the ones that came attached to the roots I dug up for the purslane South Seas salad the other day. However, when I pulled them out yesterday to chop up and add to the salmon salad I was making, they were covered with disconcerting brown dots.

Compound these two unfortunate episodes with my less-than-successful experiences with red clover, and you get a somewhat disillusioned Wild Food Girl.

Here’s what happened with the clovers: We came home from our trip a week ago to find the side of the driveway, which last year was rife with pennycress, carpeted with beautiful red clovers in full bloom. Beneath those, a more subtle crop of small white clovers peeked out from behind the leaves of their larger cousins. Read the rest of this entry

Purslane Rescue Mission

purslane 2010 350x262 Purslane Rescue Mission

Pennsylvania purslane

We went to the east coast for two weeks in July, and my sister met me in Maine with small bag full of New Hampshire purslane—that low branching succulent that many American gardeners throw in the yard trimmings without a second thought. She’d rescued it from her garden for me. It was really cool, as my sister is far from a wild food convert. I promptly boiled it up and served it with butter and salt to the extended family. My sister thought it was the perfect topping for the bratwursts. 

Two weeks later, Gregg and I headed to the Philadelphia airport with several pounds of purslane. (I can only imagine what the TSA folks thought when they inspected my baggage and found a cooler bag full of weeds, roots intact.) 

I kept the roots on the plants so that the purslane would travel well, and it worked. Thanks to Bill and Marnie in Ithaca and Gregg’s dad Frank in PA for the purslane bounty; I’m pleased to say that not only did the purslane make it home safe and sound to Colorado and into some delicious dishes, but also that the roots and attached shoots made it safely into the dirt in my makeshift garden off the end of the back yard. Read the rest of this entry