Archive for June, 2011

Stir Fry on the Wild Side

wild everything stir fry 350x279 Stir Fry on the Wild Side

A delicious and attractive wild stir fry.

Yesterday I experienced the somewhat unique problem of having too many bags of wild edible plants in my refrigerator and not enough “normal” food with which to make lunch. So I improvised—and it worked out surprisingly well.

When In Doubt, Stir Fry 

My most successful stir fry in recent months, then, involved sautéing finely chopped red onions and fireweed shoots for 10 minutes in olive oil, then adding yucca petals and Mertensia leaves, sautéing for another 5 minutes, and serving with noodles.

Normally I add a sauce to my stir fries, but this time I didn’t season it at all. Yucca was the dominant flavor, followed by the onions and olive oil. The fireweed shoots made for a nice, crispy texture, and although the Mertensia leaves lost the mild oyster-like flavor they have when raw, upon cooking they turned a beautiful bright green that made the dish look fantastic.

Here are some more details on the wild ingredients:  Read the rest of this entry

Soup or Candy, Cow Parsnip is Dandy

large cow parsnip leaves 262x350 Soup or Candy, Cow Parsnip is Dandy

Large conspicuous cow parsnip leaves.

We foraged another batch of cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) the other day. It is very plentiful where it’s plentiful, showing up in large bunches amidst the willows alongside the stream at approximately 10,500 feet where we go. Again, I reach in and snip the new, unfurling or still rolled-up leaves, petioles (leaf stalks) and all, one or two per plant.

I love the scent of cow parsnip, although both the smell and the taste are acquired—such that some authors, like H.D. Harrington, called cow parsnip “rank-smelling,” and after trying it indicated in Edible and Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains (1967) that “the taste was fair but a suggestion of the rank and unpleasant (to us) odor still lingered.”

If you’ve never tried cow parsnip before, I recommend a dish like the Kathryn G. and Andrew L. March’s (1979) tried-and-true boiled cow parsnip with raw onions, butter, and soy sauce. Even with these added flavors, you get a good sense for what cow parsnip tastes like, because it certainly does have a strong taste. Unique, wild and woolly, strange, and interesting are among the adjectives that come to mind. Gregg himself was uncertain about cow parsnip for a while, but has since embraced it.  Read the rest of this entry

denver yucca2 262x350 Southwestern Fried Yucca Flowers—Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Colorado yucca flowers at 6,000 feet.

Late last summer, during a whirlwind west-coast visit, I found myself on an unlikely hike through prickly pear cacti up a Malibu mountainside in a private ranch of rented houses to a pool that was clothing-optional on Wednesdays. (Spending time with my friend Reina is always an adventure.) 

En route to the pool I tried to pick a prickly pear from atop a cactus in ill-advised bare-handed fashion, only to find that the spines, unlike those of thistle, for example, are quick to release from their fruity bearings and inject themselves into the unlucky plucker’s skin in great numbers. We’re talking 50 spines, give or take. Then, I made the situation even worse by attempting to remove them from my fingers with my teeth, thereupon transferring dozens of sharp hair-like spines from fingers to lips and tongue. 

This is not an entry about prickly pear (although I’ve had a request and one will follow!). It is simply to set the stage for a latent realization…  Read the rest of this entry

Warm and Fuzzy Mullein Celebration

mullein processing station 350x262 Warm and Fuzzy Mullein Celebration

Mullein processing station.

No matter which way I turn, mullein (Verbascum thapsis) seems to insert its fuzzy leaves into my life.

First there was the requested rescue mission to Aurora (on June 18), where Jim and Nancy invited me to weed out all of their mullein. Much to my excitement, there were about 20 big, healthy rosettes—a far cry from last year’s 10,000 tiny ones. This time I gathered enough mullein that when washed and laid out to dry, it covered three cookie sheets with a small mound of leaves on each one. 

Of course, this brought to mind the need to do something with last year’s dried mullein leaves, of which I still have a medium-size box full.  Read the rest of this entry

The Great Elkslip Experiment Parts II & III

elkslip dip cracker 350x301 The Great Elkslip Experiment Parts II & III

Delicious Elkslip Dip on a cracker.

This story starts with Part I of the Great Elkslip Experiment, so if you haven’t read that entry yet I suggest you do so before proceeding.

Part II – Creamed Elkslip

What I am calling Part II of my experiment actually involved eating the elkslip, so after reading several reports on marsh marigolds (Calthus spp.)—both about our local elkslip in the Colorado Rockies (Calthus leptosepala) and the eastern variety, commonly called cowslip (Calthus palustris), I settled on creamed elkslip for our first culinary trial.

Keep in mind that after a successful lip test (zero irritation), Gregg and I consumed only about 25 small elkslip leaves between the two of us, and they boiled down to next to nothing in 20 minutes. Some sources say to change the water several times and boil marsh marigolds for as long as 60 minutes to remove the bitterness, but ours were not very bitter. They turned the water an amazingly bright green.  Read the rest of this entry

The Great Elkslip Experiment Part I

western marsh marigold elkslip 350x303 The Great Elkslip Experiment Part I

Calthus leptosepala the western marsh marigold.

There is a new wild edible plant in my refrigerator, one I have yet to try, and about which there is some debate as to its edibility. That plant is elkslip, aka mountain marsh marigold (Calthus leptosepala), and today I will conduct Part I of my experiment eating it.   

Don’t Slip on the Mountain Marsh Marigold, You Elks!    

I found the elkslip growing in and around wet areas in the forest near our house (at approximately 10,500 ft in the Rocky Mountains outside of Fairplay, Colorado).   

I first read about this plant, which is also referred to as “Western marsh marigold,” in wild edible plants guru, Euell Gibbons’ 1973 book, Stalking the Faraway Places and Some Thoughts on the Best Way to Live. (Man, what a title!)   Read the rest of this entry

Aurora Yucca and the Recipes I’ve Tried With It

yucca flowers 350x292 Aurora Yucca and the Recipes I’ve Tried With It

Delicious yucca flowers foraged from Aurora Colorado.

The yucca around Denver is in full bloom right now, such that when we went to Gregg’s parents’ house a few days ago on June 18, the hillside in the field across the street was covered with spires of the bulbous white and sometimes purplish flowers. Unfortunately, they were protected from would-be foragers by a network of wire and wooden fences, not to mention a small amount of cow traffic. 

Gregg’s parents live in a 55-and-over “active adult community” in Aurora. Folks are always out and about—walking, running, swimming, playing tennis and golf. But I figured if we got up early in the morning and headed out there we might avoid a few looks as we scaled a fence I’d scoped out, one that got us to a small 10×20-yard patch of yucca that wasn’t encircled by the second, interior, cow-protecting fence. 

The plan worked and we set to harvesting a few yucca flowers from each plant, checking for bugs first and snipping them into our bags while taking care not to get poked by the sharp leaves. In the midst of our foraging, however, an over-55 woman drove up to a town-home on the hillside nearby and demanded to know what we were doing.  Read the rest of this entry

Reconciling Docks

Breckenridge dock mature 261x350 Reconciling Docks

Mature dock of a large-leafed variety.

The genus Rumex is giving me a headache. Damn docks! Why are there so many of you? According to Wikipedia, there are about 200 plants in the genus Rumex—which I guess explains why I’ve been having so much trouble identifying them correctly!

Not to get to deep in the muddle that docks made my brain into, but yesterday I unpublished my two dock entries (one at and one here at Wild Food Girl) after a reading of Thayer (2010) followed by more online research revealed some amount of confusion on my part over which docks I was eating and by what common and scientific names they are called.

Below is an attempt to clarify:

The Docks I Eat, See, and Dream About

Over the last two years I have been eating two different varieties of dock in and around Park County, Colorado. One has large, wide leaves and grows in moist places. After a number of unsuccessful culinary experiments where I generally erred by collecting leaves that were much too mature to be palatable, this spring I’ve found (per Thayer’s recommendation) that collecting the young leaves prior to or during their slimy unfurling yields much better food. So far I’ve prepared them by chopping the leaves and petioles (leaf stalks) into thin horizontal slices and then sauteéing them, with decent results. Read the rest of this entry

Crazy for Cow Parsnip Again

furled unfurled cow parsnip leaves 350x262 Crazy for Cow Parsnip Again

Furled and unfurled cow parsnip leaves ready for boiling.

I gathered some cow parsnip a few days ago on June 15th. It’s still young in the high country (at 10,500 feet), so I just took a little—a few snips here and there of furled, unfurling, and newly unfurled woolly green leaves and petioles (leaf stalks), from a community of plants, no more than two and usually just one cutting per plant.

At home I prepared the same old tried and true recipe from last season I got from Kathryn G. and Andrew L. March’s Common Edible and Medicinal Plants of Colorado, (1979)—boiled cow parsnip leaves and petioles with finely chopped raw onions, soy sauce, and butter—and relished every minute of it. It’s a crazy weird taste, but I continue to love it.  Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook June Release!

wild edible notebook June sm 1 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook June Release!Heads up, readers: The Wild Edible Notebook is here at last! The June edition features story-style chapters on goosefoot, cow parsnip, and yucca.

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, please join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of this website. Thanks!

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.


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