Archive for May, 2011

Spring Foraging in the Hudson River Valley

morels fiddleheads 336x350 Spring Foraging in the Hudson River Valley

Wild foraged fiddleheads and morels purchased from a health food store.

It’s been a number of years since I made it out east in the spring—and what a spring it is! Apparently it’s been raining more than usual, such that the outdoors is carpeted in lush new green growth the likes of which I seldom see. Coming from the Colorado high country, where snow still covers the forest floor, I have to admit I’m not sure where to begin. 

Gregg and I headed first to Woodstock, New York, to visit my friend Aurora. The Hudson River Valley where Woodstock is located is truly an Eden of wild foods, a fact that she pointed out has been the case for thousands of years—and the reason so many native people relied upon this area for hunting and gathering. Granted, many of the plants that now flourish in these parts were imported by early settlers, but I am overwhelmed by the abundance of wild edibles I have an encountered. 

In the Hudson River Valley we found the following plants ripe for the picking (in addition to many other that are not in season): stinging nettles, garlic mustard, mint, clovers, cleavers, goosefoot, mallow, burdock, several varieties of dock, a few late fern fiddleheads, sorrel, wild carrot, dandelion, plantain, and milkweed shoots. I helped Aurora weed some of these plants out of her garden and ended up with a cooler bag full of wild edibles. Later, on the forested grounds of my Alma Mater, Bard College, we found wild ginger, mayapples not yet fruiting, spicebush, and sweet cicely.  Read the rest of this entry

steeping gin 262x350 A Bathtub Gin for the Wild Edible Plants Enthusiast

Juniper and coriander steeping in vodka to make gin.

Perhaps one day I’ll get into distilling my own spirits, but until that day comes, I did find a lazy’s man’s gin recipe on Ehow that involves wild edible plants. 

According to the website of the now-defunct Gin & Vodka Association, gin flavorings (referred to as botanicals) include juniper as the mandatory and dominant flavor, in addition to any or all of the following: coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries, and nutmeg. Additional gin botanicals are listed at Tony Ackland’s site on the home distillation of alcohol

The wild edible plant I used in my gin is juniper, of course. We have tons of it growing in the back yard and I’ve collected juniper “berries” (which aren’t berries at all, but rather cones) on numerous occasions, so I have a collection of these dry, hand-picked “berries” in the closet. (Another botanical on the list—angelica—also grows in parts nearby, but I have yet to positively identify and harvest any on account of the similarities it bears to poison hemlock and water hemlock, both of which are highly toxic. So, I’m biding my time until I’m 100% positive about angelica.)

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Whole Spring Dandelions Delight

dandelion shoot tangle 350x332 Whole Spring Dandelions Delight

A whole spring dandelion dug from the Denver dirt.

Yesterday another foot of snow fell at the house, which lies at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. So much for the few hints of green that were beginning to poke out of the dirt. Fortunately, Gregg and I scored some small spring dandelions last weekend at his parents’ house, which lies much lower at 6,100 feet in Aurora, on the outskirts of Denver.   

Weeding Dandelions with Love  

Gregg’s step-dad Jim was kind enough to let me weed dandelions from the part of the back yard where he doesn’t spray poison due to its proximity to the fish pond. We have a symbiotic relationship in that way—he needs edible weeds removed from his carefully tended landscape, and I want to eat them.   

Have you ever weeded dandelions out of a lawn by hand? It’s not so bad if the soil is soft. Between the soft soil and the long metal hand weeding tool Jim supplied me, it was simply a matter of carefully extracting the dandelions—taproots, leaf stalks, leaves, buds, and all.  Read the rest of this entry

Zen and the Art of Acorn Processing

acorn meats skinned 350x262 Zen and the Art of Acorn Processing

After a long, cold winter working two jobs on top of my reckless pursuit of other passions, I came back to my wild food obsession fully the other day over a handful of acorns.

The acorns were from last fall’s visit to Connecticut. Mom and I gathered them on an ill-fated hike before getting lost in the 1,000 acre forest behind my childhood home—a forest I once knew every inch of that is now riddled with confusing new paths from an abandoned housing development.

Mom had in fact collected some acorns for me earlier that fall, but apparently they require refrigeration or immediate drying (Thayer, 2010) lest they begin to rot. So when I visited in October of 2010, we tossed out the first batch and gathered a second in the forest behind the house (before leading ourselves astray and walking in circles, in the rain and growing darkness, for the better part of an hour).

I refrigerated that second batch until my departure for Colorado, then carried it on the plane in a cooler bag and commenced to drying the acorns on a cookie sheet in front of the woodstove here at 11,000 feet in the Rockies. They were supposed to dry to the point that they rattled in their shells. When that didn’t happen, I considered throwing them out. Instead, I forgot about them for about 7 months. Read the rest of this entry

Traffic Spike Means Spring Has Sprung

young wild strawberry 350x346 Traffic Spike Means Spring Has Sprung

Wild strawberry plants peep through the May snow high in the Colorado Rockies.

The traffic at Wild Food Girl is on the rise, which I guess means it must spring somewhere in the world—just not here. This was a record snowfall year for the Colorado high country and many of the wild edible plants I would write about (now that my winter responsibilities have finally ended) are still covered with several feet of snow. 

It is now year three of my informal blogging-about-wild-edible-plants project. During the summer of 2009, I learned to design/manage/write in blogs and launched www.etmarciniec.com, which contains 57 entries on wild edible and medicinal plants along with other samples of my writing. During the summer of 2010 I created this website so that all subsequent wild-edible-food-related entries could have a home of their own, and proceeded to write all of the entries that appear on it.  Read the rest of this entry