Archive for July, 2011

cow parsnip carpet 262x350 My Definition of a Good Day: Cow Parsnip for Breakfast, Dinner and Dessert

A cow parsnip carpet far as the feet could walk.

I woke up yesterday morning and cooked my very first quiche, in which the principal ingredient was—you guessed it—cow parsnip! We had it for breakfast; we had the leftovers for dinner; and then we had cow parsnip candy sticks for dessert. For me, there is simply no getting tired of cow parsnip.

I tell my friend Butter that I’m learning to cook through wild edible plants, and not the other way around. She uses fancy cooking words like “duxelle” and “frittata,” meanwhile I’m clutching my head and she has the nerve to say that she eschews recipes. OMG if I didn’t have the recipes I’d be lost! Of course I usually can’t be bothered with measuring cups and most of my “principal ingredients” are not in cookbooks anyway, but a little guidance is always good for discovering, for example, that eggs are important to quiches.

Cow Parsnip Quiche

The quiche-for-breakfast idea came up as I was trying to think of a way to serve Gregg the king bolete (Boletus edulis) that Butter and I found on our first outing together, by the roadside, after searching for them unsuccessfully on foot for several hours. That was also, incidentally, when I gathered all of the wonderful cow parsnip that now fills my refrigerator.  Read the rest of this entry

Slippery Jack on My Breakfast Plate

slippery mushroom 350x262 Slippery Jack on My Breakfast Plate

Not so slippery after all!

Okay so our second attempt to identify the little harbinger of mushroom season growing in the forest outside the house, about which I wrote on July 23, was the better one— as our little guy was a slippery jack (Suillus brevipes) and not a baby king bolete (Boletus edulis) as Gregg had hopefully surmised. 

Still, who am I to poo-poo a slippery jack? They’re tasty—a fact we discovered last season after we got up the guts to taste one we’d spent several days watching. 

Just Enough Info to Steer You Wrong 

Identifying characteristics for Suillus brevipes, which is in the Boletaceae family along with Boletus edulis, include a cap that is “brownish, becoming ochre-brown with age; glutinous, smooth, shiny when dry; cuticle peels easily,” says Vera Stucky Evenson in Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997). She describes the underside of the cap, which has pores as opposed to gills, as containing tubes that are “pale yellow, dingy olivaceous at maturity…not staining.” (Some mushrooms, when you cut them, stain a particular color, but not Suillus brevipes.) The stalk is “white, becoming yellowish.”  Read the rest of this entry

A Puffball at 12,000 Feet

puffball halved 350x295 A Puffball at 12,000 Feet

Puffball, halved to reveal white gleba but sterile base starting to go yellow-brown. Photo by Gregg Davis.

Not everyone is so enthralled by puffball mushrooms. Well, by the size, maybe—for accounts of huge Calvatia boonianas and their proud finders grace newspapers perhaps more than any other mushroom, says Vera Stucky Evenson in Mushrooms of Colorado (1997), a publication of the Denver Botanic Gardens. But the taste, some opine, is nothing to write home about. 

“I took one to dinner tonight, and one of my friends wasn’t impressed,” Butter wrote to me yesterday at 2:00 a.m. “Puffballs don’t have the strongest taste, but they are nice, and I really enjoy their texture.” Of course, she would—as would I, wild edible plants enthusiasts that we are. But to the distinguished palette? Are they worth the effort? 

Success with puffballs may lie in the preparation method, for while some mushrooms are so flavorful that they constitute a meal or side dish in and of themselves, other might be better suited to, say, a cream sauce—which is how Gregg and I inevitably eat our puffballs.  Read the rest of this entry

Do Thistle Flowers Make Good Artichokes?

thistle flower buds 350x262 Do Thistle Flowers Make Good Artichokes?

A bowl of assorted immature thistle flowers.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to take the thistle experiment one step further, having recently discovered the relationship between thistles and commercially-grown artichokes, which I love and miss from my years in California where they are both plentiful and cheap. 

The thistle crown of my previous experiment was artichoke-like enough to please me immensely, such that even though Thayer (The Forager’s Harvest, 2006) says it is hardly worth one’s time to “peel the bristly bracts from the outside of a thistle flower bud (well before flowering time) and expose a tiny, tender, delicious, artichoke-like heart,” I had to try it anyway.

It was a crime of opportunity, really—the “crime” being the theft of the thistle buds from the plants and also from the ants, who were swarmed upon many of them, and the opportunity being our recent foraging trip to Golden, Colorado, where the thistles were big and readily available. Because of the ants we selected our experimental buds carefully, taking six in total— four that I think were musk or nodding thistle (Carduus nutans) and two which I believe were Cirsiums.  Read the rest of this entry

Paean for a Mushroom Prophecy Come True

first mushroom 350x262 Paean for a Mushroom Prophecy Come True

The little muschroom guy who's growing outside our house. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I received a happy email regarding mushrooms this morning from a new friend, who predicted they would be popping up near us in the Colorado High Country within the week. She herself has already found a bolete and some oyster mushrooms and was newly back from foraging giant puffballs in Golden yesterday—all of which of course make me quite envious. 

“You should have great access to Boletus edulis,” she wrote, because “they like it high,” followed by this happy rant: “Omg, I can’t even contain my excitement over mushroom season this year. I want soooo badly to collect enough to dry for the winter, so that I can continue to eat mostly wild then. I’ve been canning and freezing all along the way, but darn it, mushrooms! Yummy savory mushrooms for stew and sauce and gravy! Can you imagine that during January! Holy heck.” 

Mushroom Prediction Inspires Yarn 

I told Gregg about Butterpoweredbike’s prediction while we were in the back yard this morning, though honestly I remained doubtful, thinking the ground was too dry. “No it’s kind of damp,” Gregg said, pressing on the dry dirt to the sponginess below, before re-embarking on his oft-repeated tale of how, last summer while I was away, he found “so many” mushrooms in the forest by the house, including quite possibly a Boletus edulis, and that he has the pictures to prove it. But then—and here’s the exciting finale—“The animals stole them!” Read the rest of this entry

Tale of a Golden Foraging Opportunity

golden colorado hillside 254x350 Tale of a Golden Foraging Opportunity

Forager on a Golden hillside. Photo by Gregg Davis.

On our way home from Denver last Friday, Gregg and I made a detour up Golden Gate Canyon Road to check out a 93-acre ranch that Marilyn, who I met when she commented on a post, invited us to forage. (Actually, truth be told, I invited myself and she was generous enough to accept.) The canyon is breathtaking and so was her land, 93 acres of very steep hillside accessed by a potentially gnarly dirt road and then slowly through the cattle gate to where her family’s oasis is nestled.

She gave us a quick tour of the property, pointing out all the wild edible plants (even though I though that was my job), and then directed us up the hill. “Make a good hike of it,” she said, sending us on our way. 

Well, a “good hike” it certainly was—straight up, up, up, between the rocks, through the scrub, baking in the hot sun—and this after just completing three hours of skate camp in Highlands Ranch, also in the hot sun. So, for the first half of the hike (read: the up part), I was sweating profusely and frustrated with myself for my lack of excitement about the adventure, as I’d looked forward to it the entire week prior. It was all I could do to collect a few edibles while Gregg took photos. “We’ll come back when we’re less tired,” I said, trying to justify my attitude.  

But then, near the top of the hill in a ditch right before the well, something wonderful happened that snapped me right out of it: Gregg stuck his hand right into a patch of stinging nettles!  Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—July Release!

wen July 2011c cover 640 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook—July Release!Halfway through July I am honored to present the second issue of the Wild Edible Notebook, my journal-style tale of select plants. In this issue, read up on succulents including roseroot, rosecrown, and purslane. The July issue also has instructions for a few brightly-colored wild dishes as part of a new Recipes section.

This issue differs from the first in that the entries featured are edited, updated, and otherwise revised versions of previous blog posts, rather than simple reformats. If you’ve read this blog thoroughly you might recognize some of the information; still, I hope you’ll find that the Wild Edible Notebook tells a more updated tale than the original posts, part of my journey towards figuring out exactly what form all of this writing might one day take.

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.


Hundreds of Apples

ruth gregg apple tree 350x262 Hundreds of Apples

Gregg and Ruth pick apples.

I feel so fortunate today for the generosity of people—and the several hundred apples in Gregg’s parents’ garage just waiting to be peeled and made into applesauce, apple cobbler, dried apple slices, and possibly apple jelly. 

We arrived at Ruth’s house in Aurora yesterday afternoon, severe thunderstorms threatening, and with her help managed to pick several bags full while the storm, which was pouring down in another part of town just a few miles away, passed us by without incident. 

We made Ruth’s acquaintance through this blog. After listening to a piece about urban foraging on NPR that welcomed folks to be generous with their wild edibles, she searched online and found us instead. I don’t mind one bit. “That’s because I integrated Facebook and made you findable!” Gregg exclaimed gleefully upon hearing the news. (This is true; thanks be to Gregg for the web savvy.)  Read the rest of this entry

Sweet Pickling Succulents

roseroot 350x262 Sweet Pickling Succulents

Roseroot with blood-red flower buds.

Succulents are juicy plants that store water in their leaves, stems, and roots, an adaptation which helps them survive in arid climates or soil conditions. Aloe, agave, sedums and purslane are some examples. 

Although “dry” is not a word I’d use to describe the high country right now, it often is dry, and so the timeless succulents are there, now sucking up this season’s water bounty and growing like crazy like everything else. 

Two edible succulent plants I collect at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies are stonecrop and roseroot / rosecrown (the latter in fact being two related plants that look similar and grow in proximity to one another.) 

All of these plants are thriving right now—although I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

Read the rest of this entry

Free Apples Need a Good Home ASAP

apple tree 350x262 Free Apples Need a Good Home ASAP

Green apple tree photo by Derrick Coetzee. This is not the actual apple tree.

Ruth from southeast Aurora dropped me a line via the blog two days ago offering free green apples from her apple tree, which is going wild with fruit this year. Any Colorado locals are encouraged to take her up on the offer immediately, as the apples are ripe for the picking, in fact falling off the tree at this moment. 

Contact Ruth at 720-217-6394 to schedule a pickup or get directions. 

The timing is good for Gregg and me, too, as we’ll be down Denver way this week and plan to go get some for ourselves, though I don’t think I can handle more than a couple bags full. She believes they are Granny Smiths and they’re 2 to 2.5″ in diameter—good for pies and jams, she says. They’re organic as they’ve never been sprayed.   

If you can’t use any apples yourself please pass on the word lest the fruits of nature’s bounty go to waste.

[Photo is not the actual tree; it is courtesy of Derrick Coetzee, licensed through Creative Commons.]

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