Archive for September, 2010

Wild Rosehip Candy Spread

wild rosehip candy spread 268x350 Wild Rosehip Candy Spread

Wild rosehip candy spread.

It was supposed to be wild rosehip jelly, but it came out more like candy spread. Dip a knife into it and the goo remains attached by a long, sticky strand, and when you serve yourself some “jelly” and then put it away and take it back out again, it’s all settled back down like no one had ever touched it. Oh well. It still tastes good. The funny thing is that this is the first time in my short jelly-making career that I tried to follow an official recipe—and look where it got me!   

Rosehips are the “hips,” or swollen bases, of wild rose flowers (Rosa species), as explained by Connie and Arnold Krochmal in A Naturalist’s Guide to Cooking with Wild Plants (1974). They were used to make tarts, jellies, and jams by medieval Europeans.   

I don’t recall the first time I heard that rosehips were well-suited for jelly-making, but the memory has been with me a long time. I remember looking longingly at the big, fat rosehips on the Rhode Island shore where I vacationed with my family as a child, but never being daring enough to taste them, let alone attempt to make jelly out of them.  Read the rest of this entry

Two Variations on Marinated Dandelion Salad

marinated dandelion salad asian 350x301 Two Variations on Marinated Dandelion Salad

Marinated dandelion salad option 1 involves soy sauce.

Not to go overboard on the fall dandelions or anything, but last night’s fresh marinated dandelion salads came out so good and were so fast and easy to make that I figured I’d write up a short post about them. The recipes start out the same and then it is simply a matter of picking one sauce or the other depending on the recipe you’re going for. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 cups dandelion greens or thereabouts
  • 1.5 cups red cabbage or thereabouts
  • 1 medium onion
  • Soy sauce (option 1)
  • French dressing (option 2)

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Fall Foraging in the Colorado High Country

gooseberry currant co 260x350 Fall Foraging in the Colorado High Country

Tart purple gooseberry on a spiny bush.

We had a great hike on Pennsylvania Mountain near our house in the Colorado high country yesterday afternoon. My intention was just to go for a short jaunt because we both have non-wild-edible-plants-related work to get done. So we headed up to one of our usual spots—an old mining road that starts where the county road ends. I brought pint containers just in case we found some late-fruiting currants—which we did, but not until the hike’s dénouement, like some sort of juicy pot of red gold at the end of the rainbow, because it was definitely a rainbow of a hike.

Starting out I was a little on edge because it occurred to me we should have worn orange on account of hunting season, but then we found a few currants hanging off bushes in the valley shade and my mood improved, even though we only found enough to whet our appetites for more.  Read the rest of this entry

Expectorating with Sticky Gumweed

sticky gumweed buds 350x266 Expectorating with Sticky Gumweed

Sticky gumweed buds look like cups full of resin.

Sticky gumweed is so distinctive; it’s difficult not to notice when it’s blooming, which in the Colorado foothills ranges from late July through early September. 

Also known as curly-cup gumweed or curly gumweed, both the “sticky” and the “gumweed” descriptors in these common names for Grindelia squarrosa refer to the gooey resin on the upper parts of the plant. The buds present as cups of the sticky white stuff, while the flowers sit atop “overlapping rows of backward-curling, sticky involucral bracts,” as Plants of the Rocky Mountains (Kershaw, et. al., 1998) describes them. It is in the resin that Grindelia’s medicinal properties reside. 

Collecting Grindelia buds and flowers is a sure way to get covered with the stuff; fortunately, the resin has a delicious sweet smell to it. Wildcrafter Ryan Drum describes even previous years’ desiccating flowering gumweed stalks as having “a faint wonderful odor of vague incense.” He cautions against letting fresh buds and flowers heat up too much during the collection process, and recommends the use of well-ventilated paper bags for doing so. Read the rest of this entry

Jellies and Jams, My Currant Obsession

wild black currants 350x262 Jellies and Jams, My Currant Obsession

Wild black currants with distinctive Ribes leaves.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, I absolutely love making jellies and jams!  

Mind you, this is a complete about-face from how I felt about them yesterday, especially after Gregg read aloud the brochure that came inside the box of MCP pectin and it said we had to “Measure ingredients exactly” because “ALTERING RECIPES or INGREDIENTS could cause a set failure” (the caps are MCP’s emphasis) while I was failing to get my first-ever jam to set. I felt like Julie Powell about to throw a fit over a Julia Child recipe gone wrong. What do you mean I have to measure the ingredients exactly? I near wailed as one nervous boyfriend tried his best to disappear into the background.

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Soapberry Pepper Jelly…A First on Several Fronts

soapberries foaming 350x288 Soapberry Pepper Jelly...A First on Several Fronts

As the name implies, soapberries foam up when cooked.

My mother always told me not to eat wild berries I found growing in the woods, and I have long heeded her advice with the exception of easy ones like blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. That is, until recently, when I found a guide to wild edible berries at our local Fairplay, Colorado public library entitled Wild Berries of the West, by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller (2001). So far, every berry I discover in the wilds here in the Colorado Rockies I can find in that book. It’s wonderful! 

My most recent discovery is Sheperdia canadensis, also known as soapberry, soopolallie, or Canada buffaloberry. According to Plants of the Rocky Mountains (Kershaw et. al., 1998), S. canadensis is a spreading, deciduous shrub with small, bran-like, rust-colored scales on the undersides of leaves and young branches. The juicy, translucent berries are born on the female plants only, range from red to yellow, and feel soapy to the touch. 

The nickname “soapberry” comes from the berries’ saponin content, which is an ingredient in many commercial foaming agents (Derig and Fuller) and the fact that the berries foam up when beaten (Kershaw) or cooked.   

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Wild Huckleberry Masterpiece

huckleberries rocky mountains 350x203 Wild Huckleberry Masterpiece

Rocky Mountain huckleberries foraged near Fairplay, Colorado

The high country huckleberry season (Vaccinium species) is winding down now, but it was such a success at its peak that I feel obliged to write about it. This is because not only did we find the berries plentiful (and literally in our very own back yard at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies), but also because Gregg used them to make what was quite possibly the best wild edible dish I’ve had yet to date.

Colorado Huckleberries

I ate huckleberries last fall in New Hampshire that looked and tasted very much like blueberries, but the local huckleberries near Fairplay, Colorado are very different. When plentiful in mid-August, our back yard berries were translucent and ruby red, dangling like tiny gems from the lush, green, low-lying plants that carpet the forested areas behind our house. I tentatively identified them as grouse whortleberries (V. scoparium), which I read about in Wild Berries of the West by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller. Even as of yesterday there were a few ripe patches out there, although the remaining berries seem to be purpler. (Whether that means the reds eventually turn purple or the purples ripen later I couldn’t tell you. Suffice it to say that the fruits range from red to blue-purple in color.)  Read the rest of this entry