edible Archives

Gracilaria tikvahiae in culture 450x297 Northeast Seaweed Farming & Foraging: A Chat with Charles Yarish

Native Gracilaria tikvahiae, an edible seaweed, in culture. A non-native Gracilaria that looks identical and is also edible has invaded the east coast. Photo courtesy of C. Yarish and J.K. Kim, UConn.

If you’re planning to make blancmange—a traditional milk pudding thickened with Irish moss seaweed—don’t forget a splash of brandy, says Dr. Charles Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut (UConn). “The French always add a little brandy.”

Dr. Yarish is also a fan of Gracilaria or “ogonori,” a hairy sea vegetable that he farms in Connecticut’s coastal waters. He grows the native species, Gracilaria tikvahiae, though there is also a non-native Gracilaria that’s made its home on the U.S. east coast in recent years. Both species are edible, but the only way to tell them apart is a DNA fingerprint.

Seaweed for Healthy Waters

Yarish is a lover of seaweeds, not only for the dinner plate, but for the role they play in coastal ecosystems. His research dates back to the 1980’s and involves growing various species in his lab and at field sites off the coast.

One site is at the confluence of the Bronx and East Rivers in New York City, where his kelp farm helps to remove nitrogen and other excess nutrients caused by agricultural run-off, over-fertilized lawns, and even air pollution. A certain amount of nutrients in the water is a good thing, but too much can tip the balance, upsetting coastal ecosystems and causing die-offs of plants and animals, or unwelcome algal blooms like “red tide,” which render shellfish toxic for human consumption. “If we can use aquaculture systems to manage these nutrients, this is an exciting breakthrough,” Yarish said. “And we’ve shown we can do that.” Read the rest of this entry

Sprouting Flour with Quinoa’s Wild Kin

zuni steam bread Sprouting Flour with Quinoa’s Wild Kin

Zuni Steamed Bread dumplings, made with sprouted lamb’s quarters flour, prior to steaming.
Photo by Gregg Davis.

I’d been eating a lot of store-bought quinoa while staring longingly at the seeds of its relative, the ubiquitous weed, goosefoot. In fact I kept a jar of the black seeds in my pantry for more than two years before attempting to eat them. Truth be told, I was stumped by them.

I eat goosefoot greens all the time when they are in season. Nicknamed “wild spinach,” the plant is related to both spinach and beets. Common varieties in Colorado include Chenopodium album, also called “lamb’s quarters,” C. berlandieri, and C. fremontii, not to mention strawberry blite (C. capitatum) with its interesting red flower clusters.

There are several edible Chenopodiums commonly treated together as goosefoots. In Colorado, Cattail Bob Seebeck lumps C. album, C. berlandieri, and C. fremontii together, describing them as herbaceous, weedy plants with leaves that range from goosefoot-shaped to narrower, often with a light, mealy coating and red stripes on the stem, a frosty look on new growth at the plant’s tip, and green clumps of inconspicuous flowers.

Chenopodium berlandieri and C. fremontii are said to be native to North America, though there is some debate as to whether C. album is native or introduced. Even if it was introduced, however, its post-contact period use is likely to have been similar to that of the native species. Read the rest of this entry

Seaweeding the Eastern Shoreline

sea lettuce Irish moss CT Seaweeding the Eastern Shoreline

Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), top right, and a species of sea lettuce (Ulva), collected in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

My parents shot me quizzical looks last summer when I announced my plan to gather seaweed in Long Island Sound, off the Connecticut coast. Not only would I collect, but also dry the seaweed at their house so I could take it back to Colorado with me for cooking experiments. I experienced similar incredulity from Connecticut’s DEP Inland Fisheries Division when I asked for a permit to harvest seaweed for personal consumption.

And yet, seaweed collection is a longstanding tradition along swaths of North America’s West Coast, where local indigenous peoples made—and continue to make—seaweeds a part of their diets.

In British Columbia, for example, the Kwakwaka’wakw and Haida packed layers of partially dried and fermented red laver (Porphyra abbottae syn. P. perforata) into tall cedar boxes along with boughs of Western red cedar and then left them for a month, weighted down with rocks, before unpacking and repeating the process several times to make seaweed cakes (Turner, 1997 ed.). They would later tear or chop these cakes into small pieces, soak and boil the seaweed and serve it with the rendered grease of euchalon—a small, greasy fish—along with boiled dog salmon or clams.

The middle and northern coastal First Peoples of the same region gathered herring spawn-covered blades of giant kelp—the brown algae Macrocystis integrifolia—and dried them out to later reconstitute, boil, and eat with euchalon grease or cut into strips for chewy snacks that children could carry to school with them (Turner, 1997 ed.). To protect herring populations, however, this practice is now illegal in most states without a special permit (Hahn, 2010).

Fortunately there are many spawn-free seaweeds—or sea vegetables—in coastal waters around the world, almost all of which are edible, conditions permitting. Read the rest of this entry

A Fall for Thick, Rosy Hips

Rosehips Pence 2013 Gregg Davis A Fall for Thick, Rosy Hips

Red rosehips stand out against the yellow fall foliage and white aspen trunks in the Colorado high country. Photo by Gregg Davis, 2013.

Legions of soft, plump, frost-kissed rosehips hang heavy upon their slender, prickly stems. Many are perfectly ripe, slipping off the ends of their branches with a soft, orange gush, leaving a sticky paste to be licked off the fingers.

First I made rosehip sauce, by cooking the hips down in enough water to cover and then mashing the softened fruits through a screen to save the liquid paste while discarding their itch-causing seed hairs. I sugared the filtered stuff gently and cooked it down to thicken.

But the rosehips continued to call to me after that, so we headed out under overcast skies for a second batch, visions of whole dried rosehips for wintertime teas dancing in my head. Plus I wanted to de-seed a small batch to dry for use as rosehip “raisins” in granola, and to cook down another fresh batch into my first attempt at rosehip soup, a popular dessert in Scandinavia and Iceland (Hahn, 2010) that I read about in a couple different books.

rosehip ripe 450x337 A Fall for Thick, Rosy Hips

After a frost or two, rosehips often turn a translucent red, a sign that they are ripe and ready for harvest.

We had the forest to ourselves that day due to the inclement weather. Gregg busied himself putting his camera away every time the skies opened to release short bursts of light drizzle, and then pulling it out again when the rain let up. But the views were gorgeous nonetheless, the floor of the aspen grove dappled with the yellow leaves of the season’s change, while more fluttered in the breeze—green, yellow, and red in contrast with the backdrop of so many tightly-packed, tall, white trunks.

The rose bushes were interspersed, a few still green but most turning yellow and gold, making the bright red hips all the more evident upon them. Some hips were tiny, others nearly an inch in length. Some bushes were tall; other came up only to my calf. These traits varied as we walked, as the aspect of the hill and growing conditions changed from dry slope to wet gulch, shade to sunny exposure.

I aimed mostly for soft hips, plucking them from branches and depositing them into my bag as we walked, leaving more hips upon the branches than those I picked, and spreading out the harvest so as not to denude an area. In total, I got maybe a gallon—enough to dry a couple pints and still have some left over to play with in the kitchen.

By the end of the hike, a light snow was falling. This truly is a magical place. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—October 2014 Release!

WEN cover October 2014 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—October 2014 Release!We clambered through the underbrush in an overgrown lot and parted the spiny branches of wild plum to glimpse a wonderland of apple trees plump with every size, shape, and color you could imagine. These were not trees bearing malformed, feral apples grown from seed, but a forgotten orchard of once carefully tended apples—plump red apples and tart, juicy green ones, tiny candy-like red-and-yellow striped apples and big, spotted red ones. It boggles the mind that these heirloom apples, far more special than the commonly cloned varieties you find in the grocery store, could be free for the taking. We tasted each variety, marveling at the myriad flavors, and giggled as we gathered the fallen fruit.

This month’s issue of the Wild Edible Notebook, just released, features adventures with found, free, feral apples. Next is a piece on the wild mustard peppergrass, followed by a review of Langdon Cook’s book, The Mushroom Hunters. As always, wild recipes conclude the magazine. Here’s a closer look at the October 2014 edition:

apples feral orchard Colorado 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—October 2014 Release!

Feral heirloom apples foraged from a forgotten homesteader’s orchard.

  • Feral Apples – This story features “wild” apples—from a romp through an overgrown Colorado homesteader’s orchard, to feral apples (Malus spp.) across the country and how they came to be. There is also a nod to our native and introduced crab apples.
  • 5 Peppergrass Mustards – In this piece, we peruse peppergrass (Lepidium spp.), which you might know as “poor man’s pepper.” While many authors recommend using the green seedpods of this plant, this story centers on the dry mustard seeds, which I used to make an Oktoberfest sampler plate of tasty mustard condiments.
  • Recipe: Spicy Beer Mustard with Peppergrass & Pennycress – Of all the mustards I made, this one came out best. Make it as is, substitute store-bought mustard seeds, or add your own spicy twist.
  • Review of The Mushroom Hunters – Those of you pining for mushroom season, as I am already, may find respite in The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America (2013). For his second book, Langdon Cook turns investigative reporter, joining pickers on dangerous missions to “hostile” patches, sellers on their day-to-day business, and chefs and restaurateurs in forage-friendly kitchens from Seattle to New York, to paint a picture of the wild mushroom trade from deep, dark forest to pricey plate.
  • Recipe: Pico de Gallo Fruit Salsas – I love chips dipped in freshly made pico de gallo salsa, but fruit adds an entirely new element. We tried this recipe with foraged pears, found apples, and leftover scraps of wild black currants, all with great results.
  • Recipe: Sweet Pickle & Apple Relish – This recipe uses Grandma’s icebox pickles, plus apples, for a yummy sweet relish you will relish.

Read this issue by subscribing to the Wild Edible Notebook for $1.99/mo

The Wild Edible Notebook is an always-photo-filled monthly magazine available as an iPad/iPhone Apple Newsstand magazine; a screen reading PDF; a tall, skinny, “Android-friendly” PDF; and my favorite, the 11×14” PDF print-and-fold booklet. The subscription is $1.99 a month through Apple for the Newsstand magazine, or for access to all the PDF versions here at the blog. When you subscribe, you get access to 5 or so back issues in addition to the current and future editions. Here’s how to do it: Read the rest of this entry

Fruiting Forward

wild plums cold morning1 Fruiting Forward

We went for wild plums in the cold, misty morning, gathering them with fingers freezing and lethargic, my feet squishing in icy, wet boots. It was worth enduring the thorny thicket, the musky scent of catnip tall around us, to come home with 20 lbs or so of plums, without making a dent in the patch. Read the rest of this entry

Book Review: Dina Falconi’s Foraging & Feasting

Foraging and Feasting 340x450 Book Review: Dina Falconis Foraging & Feasting

The cast iron Dutch oven illustration emphasizes the cooking, alchemical, and transformational qualities the book offers for the use of wild food.

My mother-in-law-to-be walked into our apartment and bee-lined it straight for Dina Falconi’s book, Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook (2013), which I had out on the coffee table. The cover is a hand-drawn festival of colorful wild plants, from bulbs to greens to flowers, bursting forth from a Dutch oven to dance on the crisp, white background.

It’s a hardcover book that really is quite lovely in the hand, so I could see why Nancy liked it. She collects and sells antique children’s books, many of which are fashioned with such quality. I love hardcover books with decorative end papers, and this book’s are fantastic—a whimsical, pink-red revelry of Alliums (field garlic, to be exact) drawn by Wendy Hollender, the botanical illustrator who teamed with Falconi on the project. The rest of the book is hewn with similar care, from the full-color botanical illustrations of 50 common edible plants with identification and usage information, to the recipe section that follows.

The seeds for Foraging & Feasting were planted a long time ago. Falconi recalls her earliest experiments in the culinary arts—sprouting grains and beans, and cultivating cashews into cream—in her family’s small railroad apartment in New York City. Later, at summer camp, she made the “life-altering and mind-blowing discovery” of wild mint, berries, and other wild-growing foods.

“For an inner city kid this was surreal—harvesting fresh, vibrant food directly from the earth rather than purchasing items viewed through store windows, separated by store walls, and owned by somebody else,” she writes.

She became enamored of the idea that she could connect with her forbears through food—both the early Americans who foraged for food, and her more recent ancestors, those of Jewish, Mexican, German, Mayan, Lituanian, Austro-Hungarian, and Italian descent. “As a lifelong cook, I have enjoyed creating and eating foods that my forbears may have eaten as a way to celebrate and honor them,” she said. “I guess you could call it soul-filling food, grounding food.” Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

WEN September2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!Last night we had the in-laws-to-be over for dinner and I set out two jars of jam to accompany the chicken, each made from a different species of wild-foraged gooseberries. One was red, mild, and sweet; the other deep purple, tart and tangy. In the fridge we have two more jars—one syrup and one sauce—each made from a different species of wild currants.

There are approximately 200 currants and gooseberries of the genus Ribes in the world, all native to the northern hemisphere, including 55 species in North America, about 15 of which are scattered across the Mountain West, Thomas Elpel explains in his new book, Foraging the Mountain West (2014). Not all have wonderful flavors, and some have sharp spines on the berries themselves, such that gloves are required to process them. But there are five species of currants and gooseberries that I enjoy on a regular basis here in the Colorado high country.

golden currants gregg2 450x299 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

Golden currants along the Blue River, yum.

The September 2014 Notebook, just released, features my photo-illustrated excursion to collect, process, taste, and eat these berries, followed by a similar foray into edible wild mushrooms. Here are some details on this month’s contents:

  • Currants & Gooseberries – This story features five species of currants and gooseberries I enjoy on a regular basis here in the Colorado high country—the spiny, red-berried mountain gooseberry (Ribes montigenum); the spiny, purple-berried whitestem gooseberry (Ribes inerme); the non-spiny wax currant (Ribes cereum); the non-spiny trailing black currant (Ribes laxiflorum), and the non-spiny golden currant (Ribes aureum). I hope you will find the pictures particularly helpful.
  • Coastal Black Gooseberry by T. Abe Lloyd – Then, for you West Coasters, there is a piece by wild-edibles blogger, teacher, and author T. Abe Lloyd, whom you might know as “Arcadian Abe,” on the coastal black gooseberry (Ribes divaricatum).
  • Ribes RecipesRibes recipes in this edition include Gooseberry Syrup and Gooseberry Sorbet, made by wild food writer Hank Shaw from spiky Sierra gooseberries (Ribes roezlii); and another of my dad’s famous marinades and glazes, this one made with wax currants.
  • Mushroom Foray – August was a good month for hunting mushrooms in the Colorado high country, and it looks like we’ll have some fun with fungi in September too, so I also included a mushroom foray in this edition. I undertook this most recent journey with my parents as houseguests, and it was interesting to see how they did in the field identifying and field dressing mushrooms, so they are an integral part of this piece, which aims to introduce new mushroom hunters in particular to four wild mushrooms. The photo essay is a major part of this story, which starts with a quick look at the many species of mushrooms lined up in my fridge and laid out to dry on nearly every surface of my apartment, before diving deep into short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes), Rocky Mountain porcini (Boletus edulis), large and small puffballs of the Calvatia and Lycoperdon groups, and brown-scaly hawk’s wings (Sarcodon imbricatus).
  • Porcini Recipe: The edition concludes with one of my favorite mushroom recipes—Porcini Roasted in Miso Garlic Butter by my favorite wild food cook, the blogger Butter of Hunger & Thirst. The recipe is rich and addictive, just like her writing.
placeit1 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

You can read the Wild Edible Notebook on your iPad/iPhone in Apple’s Newsstand, view a PDF on other devices, or print and fold the magazine into a cool booklet on 8.5×14 paper.

Read this issue by subscribing to the Wild Edible Notebook for $1.99/month

The Wild Edible Notebook is an always-photo-filled monthly magazine available in several formats including Apple’s Newsstand for iPad/iPhone; a screen reading PDF; a tall, skinny, “Android-friendly” PDF; and my favorite, the 8.5×14” PDF print-and-fold booklet. The subscription is $1.99/month through Apple for the Newsstand magazine; or $1.99/month here at the blog for access to all the PDF versions. When you subscribe to either, you get access to 5 or so back issues in addition to the current and future editions. Here’s how to do it:

  • Apple Newsstand magazine – Open the App Store on your iDevice; then search for Wild Edible Notebook. There are several free issues to read, and if you want, you can subscribe for full access to the most recent issue, along with five back issues, and the new ones that come out every month.
  • PDF downloads – Go to the Wild Edible Notebook tab at this website, scroll down, click “Subscribe,” and follow the steps to submit payment and create a username and password you can use to login to the Member Profile & Downloads page and start downloading wild edible content!
  • Free samples - Check out a few free issues by joining the email list (scroll to the very bottom of this page and type your name and email address). You will receive an email with a link to the free download area (check your spam box if you don’t receive the email), where you can get a couple of the past Notebooks for free. If, after you read the free Notebooks, you fall completely in love with them but cannot afford the subscription, I sometimes give offers via email for how to get a free subscription. If you do decide to support my project for $2/month, I send you many blessings and wild edible karma along with the subscription!

Dad’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

porcini bun 2014 Gregg Davis 450x351 Dad’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

A porcini bun pushes its way through the duff in a spot everyone doubted but me. Told you so, family!

My early porcini spot finally started fruiting a couple days ago, a full month behind last year’s schedule. My guess is that the mushrooms decided to wait for my parents’ arrival in Colorado. After so many trips to check for them, Gregg doubted I’d find any, but there they were, pushing their beautiful, bun-shaped, brown-red forms through the duff.

Last year, the season seemed almost past when my parents arrived for their annual summer trip, but there were still mushrooms enough for Dad to make his creamy mushroom soup. He made it with porcini (Boletus edulis) along with lesser mushrooms including short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and yellow, blue-staining Suillus tomentosus, noting that for best results, a mix of mushrooms is best.

Later, I adapted the recipe to use strong-flavored hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), both kinds of Suillus, and beef broth, with excellent results.

Hopefully you can enjoy this adaptable recipe with whatever mushrooms flavor your dreams. Read the rest of this entry

Lambs’ Quarters Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

lambs quarter Breckenridge 450x319 Lambs’ Quarters Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

Flowers and leaves of this common weed, lambs’ quarters, are edible. It is now in season in some Breckenridge locales. Seek weeds and you shall find.

The other day we tore ourselves away from our computers and headed out into the forest in the fading light to sneak in a brisk walk before bed. I have mushrooms on the brain, always, these days, so I was hoping to find some.

Our neighborhood at 10,000 feet on the mountainside at the base of a ski resort is crisscrossed with trails through the forest—some single-track, others wide enough for two to walk abreast—and most abutting gigantic micro-mansions that I think could make for stellar eco-villages come the apocalypse. But that’s beside the point.

We descended on a footpath first, then turned on a wider path across a bluff. The light was fading fast so I was eager to gain the road, but in that twilight, we were fortunate to come upon two frolicking fox pups. We watched them for a bit before I noticed the lambs’ quarters growing lush near some blue spruce trees, which must have been planted somewhat recently. The lambs’ quarters plants were happily escaping the property of the big house for which the spruces were planted to provide buffer. Read the rest of this entry

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