edible Archives

Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

wild strawberry gregg davis 450x399 Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

Wild strawberries look like diminutive cultivated strawberries. If you know one, you should be able to recognize the other. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I bolted upright in bed at 2 a.m., awakened by loud, forceful hail pouring down on the roof. It was June 28, just a week into summer. I got up and walked across the dark living room to peek out the sliding glass doors and watch it come down in the pitch black night. Despite the cold, hard nature of those icy pellets, the hail meant a welcome respite from a recent dry spell that had the flowers drooping in the fields and forests, starved for something to drink.

The next day dawned with a thin coat of white on the mountaintops. A patch of calypso orchids bloomed in my friend’s yard. And I found my first wild strawberries of the season.

Ditch Berries

Last year, the wild strawberries surprised me. I had become accustomed to them fruiting in the beginning of August at 11,000 feet where I previously lived in the dry hills of Fairplay, Colorado. Now we live lower at 10,000 feet in Breckenridge, where the breathing’s free and easy and the strawberries ripen sooner, compared to our old mountainside.

It was early July and I had been circling our Peak 8 neighborhood on foot when I nearly tripped over a plentiful fruiting in the road bed atop a ditch near my apartment. Climbing down into the ditch yielded a good perspective up its steep side, and a hidden world of bright red gems hiding under the low foliage. Forget all those hours spent seeking small glimpses of red at our old place. These were the real deal, many tiny handfuls as reward for climbing down into the ditch to get at them. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—July 2014 Release!

July2014 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—July 2014 Release!I can hardly believe we will be passing into berry season soon, but it’s true, it has been foretold by a wild strawberry I spotted the other day at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country where I live—though I imagine some of you at lower elevations or regions where they fruit earlier have been picking wild strawberries for a little while now. To celebrate nature’s progress, we collected a small handful and let them macerate in sugar to use as a sweet pancake topper.

Intrigued by wild strawberries? For that story—along with glossy photos, how-to’s, scientific names, and first-hand accounts of stalking the wild strawberry—check out the July 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook, released today. Subscriptions are just $2 a month, and for the first $2 you get access to six issues, including the current one.

Featured in the July 2014 issue:
  • Wild strawberries – These occur in most regions of the U.S. In some areas, strawberry season is starting to wane. In others, it is just beginning. Learn the plant to find the berry, especially if it will make you merry!
  • Twisted stalk – Twisted stalk is common to high country locations and northern latitudes like Canada and Alaska. It bears edible berries, though they make some folks flatulent. The shoots are where it’s at. They are a tremendous veggie. But they should only be collected, judiciously, where they are plentiful and the deer density is not too high. Also, one needs to take care to distinguish them from the poisonous false hellebore nearby. The season is probably past for these, but it’s a good time to ID them and take ecological and toxic-lookalike information into consideration with the help of this illustrated story.
  • Fireweed – I know, I know. I wrote about fireweed last time. But it got taller, and I decided to scrape out the pith and use it to thicken soups while reserving the fibers for cordage. I get the feeling this is an ongoing journey.
  • Wild Berry Master Recipes from Dina Falconi – Author and herbalist Dina Falconi was kind enough to share two of her wild berry “master recipes,” which can be used with a variety of berries, for this issue of the Notebook. She is based in New York’s Hudson Valley, and in 2013 published Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook on Botanical Arts Press (www.botanicalartspress.com). The book is part botanical illustrations by Wendy Hollender, and part master recipes for edible wild plants by Falconi. The two raised $115,000 on Kickstarter to pay for production and printing costs so that their beautiful hardcover identification guide and recipe book could become a reality.
  • Wild Salad Recipe from yours truly – I dare you to attempt this salad. There are far too many wild ingredients. Dare to dream, wild foodies!
Subscription worth the money

The Wild Edible Notebook is available for iPad (best) and iPhone as a subscription in Apple’s Newsstand application. (Open the Newsstand app on your iDevice; then search for Wild Edible Notebook and follow the instructions to subscribe). Or you can subscribe here at the blog for access to three different formats of PDFs—a screen reader that fits the iPad perfectly, a skinny, tall version that is meant to be decent on an Android, and the original format of the print-and-fold. (You need to know how to operate your printer, or take a PDF file to a copy shop, to get these printouts to work. Also it’s extra tricky but extra lovely now on the 8.5 x 14” legal-paper size printout. Print two sided and fold for cute, reproducible booklets).

Thanks so much if you decide to support this for $2/month. Your contribution helps to make this work possible.

How to get free issues

Check out the two 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, so watch out the auto-generated email doesn’t get stuck in your spam filter. If, after you read the two 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.

Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!

Fireweed flower 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!

Fireweed is the featured edible flora of the June 2014 Wild Edible Notebook!

June2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!Everywhere I look, there is fireweed shooting up. It’s so common, you might think it were a weed, but in fact fireweed is native to high country Colorado, as it is to mountainous regions and northern latitudes around the world. Fireweed, also known as great willowherb, is edible, though in my opinion the culinary value of most parts is a tad dubious. Still, that doesn’t keep me from trying, and there is much to be learned from this beautiful, tall, fuschia-flowering plant. Please, join me on a journey through time and space with fireweed, a lovely wild plant whose mysteries we can perhaps unravel together. Subscribe for just $2 a month to the Wild Edible Notebook for the full story.

$2 for 6 Issues including this one

For the first $2, you access six Notebooks. That’s pretty cheap. You could cancel after just $2 if you really wanted to. Or, you could read six colorful, well-researched, slightly snarky issues and decide $2 is a small price to pay to get these photo-filled glossies in three different formats each month. Thanks so much if you decide to support this. It is a lifestyle choice to which I find myself compelled despite many more practical decisions I could be making. Instead I fill my time researching, hunting, photographing, picking, cooking and eating, and writing about edible wild plants. So your contribution helps to make this work possible. I spend about 80 hours per month on these and draw a very small monthly paycheck. Currently I gross $2.75 an hour for my work on these. I am not like so many others who made their money in the real world and then retired from it to chase their dreams but with full pocketbooks. I retired from it before making much money. Good move, WFG. Anyhoo, the money goes towards life expenses as would a job, also to the web expenses. The programmer gets paid with wild dinner and kisses. I hope to pay cash money to the contributors one day.

How to Get Free Issues

Check out the two free issues by joining the email list (scroll to the very bottom of this page and type your name and email address). After that if you cannot afford it but are enamored of the Notebook and vow to read it every month, I sometimes give offers via email for how to get a free subscription. But just remember, I’m making $2.75 an hour, covered head-to-toe in poison ivy. Just kidding. The poison ivy is only on my arm. But seriously.

Screenshot TOC1 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!June 2014 Wild Edible Notebook
  • Fireweed -Fireweed is the cover story for the June 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook.
  • Three-Leaved Sumac, Sumacs, & Poisonous Relatives - Next is a piece on three-leaved sumac—which produces tart, edible, red “berry” clusters earlier than its cousins, staghorn and smooth sumac—along with a nod to those cousins and their poisonous relatives poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac too. As if the universe thought the timing appropriate, one of those three is currently itching the heck out of my left arm.
  • Book Review: Ellen Zachos’ Backyard Foraging -There is a review of Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging, a colorful, easy-to-follow guide to edible garden ornamentals and common weeds that would make a good gift for the wild-edible-curious gardener in your life.
  • Poem -I have only ever featured two poems in the Wild Edible Notebook—two awesome ones by my sometimes-muse, Brad Purcell. But this time, I wrote one. Please enjoy my reflective ode to mud. And by all means, send me your wild poems.
  • Recipes -Each issue of WEN concludes with recipe ideas using wild food. In this issue, there are a couple for smooth sumac from my dear friend and fellow bloggist, Hunger & Thirst. From me there is a bit on wilted wild greens, a rework from the blog with a few new pictures. Even though that story has run here already, I find it’s nice to have the recipe in portable format.
Final Pitch (Just Read It)

This seems a good time for a plug. The Wild Edible Notebook is available for iPad (best) and iPhone in Apple’s Newsstand application. Or you can subscribe here at the blog for access to three different formats of PDFs—a screen reader that happens to fit the iPad perfectly, a skinny, tall version that is meant to be decent on an Android, and the original gangster print-and-fold format. You need to know how to operate your printer, or take a PDF file to a copy shop, to get these printouts to work. Also it’s extra lovely now on the 8.5 x 14” legal-paper size printout. Get the right paper, print two sided, and fold for cute, reproducible booklets in full color if you want. There are even coloring pages for the wild edible kiddos in your life!

The print-and-fold is still my favorite–I print it in black and white–because then if I’m cooking and want to refer to recipe without turning on my electronic devices, I can just consult my wild edible library of printed Notebooks. See Wild Edible Notebook for details on the different formats available, and to subscribe. You know you wanna. Tee hee. Thanks for reading this far. You rock. Happy foraging!

edible summit county wildflowers 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Where they grow in enough abundance, bluebells can be eaten.

cow parsnip furled 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Any idea what this high country vegetable is? We just had it for supper.

Just a heads up to interested parties–I will be teaching an intensive 3-week section of Survival Plants in Summer at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge from 6/9/14 to 6/28/14. The course covers edible, medicinal, and toolcraft uses of local wild plants, with a practical emphasis on edibles. Most sessions will be held in the field.

After a successful first class last summer, I have a lot of creative hands-on ideas in store for this second go-around, so I hope very much you’ll join us for what at present seems to be a relatively small group of eager plant enthusiasts.

Class sessions take place from 4-6:50 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week, at the college and at different meeting places throughout the county. There will also be two full-day Saturday field sessions that run from 8 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. on 6/21 and 6/28.

This course was created by Cattail Bob Seebeck, who teaches seasonal sections at several Front Range community colleges. In Summit we are offering just this one section, and it will cover plants in season during the class, in Summit County as well as at field trip locations to be determined.

The class can be taken for college credit or just audited. CMC’s prices are among the most affordable in the country, especially considering the number of hours in the field you get for your money. The course code is OUT-156-BK01 and registration is through the college: http://coloradomtn.edu/campuses/breckenridge_dillon/class_schedule.

Please sign up by June 2. I will be in communication about the textbook and plans. Hope to hear from you!

-Erica aka WFG

Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

greens pie Gregg picture 450x299 Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

Wild greens and potato pie–great for dinner, even better for breakfast! Contains wild mustards and kochia greens. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I’m having wild greens and potato pie for breakfast again, as I have for the last two mornings. You wouldn’t think greens mixed into mashed potatoes in a pie crust would be all that exciting, but I am definitely smitten.

The inspiration came from Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging (2013), which I spent two hours walking around the neighborhood reading the other afternoon. It’s an easy read with lots of nice, clear pictures—great for gardeners with a penchant for ornamentals, because it includes edibility information for landscaping plants like hosta, spiderwort, bishop’s weed or goutweed, and mountain ash among others, unlike many foraging books that center only on weeds and/or native species.

Zachos writes how her yiayia (her grandmother) grew up in the mountains of central Greece, where wild edibles were an important part of village diets. Specifically, she recommends trying the leaves of the aggressive landscaping plant, bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria), as a filling choice for Greek “pita,” or pie. Her recipe for hortopita, a less well-known cousin to spanakopita, involves an ensemble of phyllo dough, wild greens to replace the spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt, and eggs. It sounds absolutely divine. Read the rest of this entry

Wilted Wild Greens with Lemon & Chive Flower Buds

wilted greens above 450x299 Wilted Wild Greens with Lemon & Chive Flower Buds

Wilted wild greens with lemon juice and sweet wine, mmm.

A simple plate of wilted greens, kissed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a dash of sweet wine—doesn’t that sound wonderful? I daresay this one came out just right, judged a winner not only by my taste buds but the better half’s astonished declaration: “These are gourmet,” he enthused, his surprise only thinly veiled.

Whereas in the past I have often kept my various wild-foraged veggies separate so as to bring out each one’s individual flavor, here I think I nailed a good combination of strong-flavored wild greens.

First, I used chive flowers and buds. Chive flowers aren’t exactly wild, but in my book, feral, garden-escaped chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are as much a score as native wild onions and garlics. They certainly might be more sustainable. I figure if you can get your hands on some escaped chives, you might as well grab them and call it “foraging.” That’s what I did—except the chives in question had not actually succeeded in becoming feral, due to the pruning efforts of Gregg’s step-dad Jim. The chives used in this recipe, therefore, were rescue-foraged from Jim’s garden, where their budding and flowering tops were soon to go the way of the weeds in the compost bin. I figure they make good practice for wild cookery anyway, since the flowers are so unique. And, this way, when the chives come up of their own accord at the historic site down the street, I’ll be ready. I imagine you could substitute the flowers, buds, or other parts of a variety of wild onions/garlic/leeks (Allium spp.) for equally good results. Read the rest of this entry

Tumbleweed Salad

tumblemustard salad ID 450x299 Tumbleweed Salad

A close-up look at wild salad.

Just when I think I know everything there is to know about wild mustards, I find another one to eat and then do happy kicks about. This time, I am excited about tumblemustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), which you might know better as tumbleweed, because at maturity when it dries out it detaches from its stem and tumbles on the wind, spreading its seed about.

There are numerous species of plants that do this and are referred to collectively as tumbleweed, so don’t just go eating any old tumbleweed just because I said I like it in salad. Tumblemustard (S. altissimum) is a mustard family member, related to broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and other mustards. It starts from a spirally basal rosette of long, many-lobed leaves that are quite different in appearance from the frilly, smaller leaves that appear higher up when the plant bolts. They are mustards so the flowers, generally lemon yellow, are four-petaled. Read the rest of this entry

Orache is Not the Same as Lambs’ Quarters

orache plant2 450x337 Orache is Not the Same as Lambs’ Quarters

Orache looks a lot like lambs’ quarters, to which it is related. But, it’s a different plant.

One of my absolute favorite wild veggies is orache, an herbaceous, annual member of the genus Atriplex that grows in the alkaline soil of Denver, Colorado and surrounding areas. Oraches are salt-loving plants, so in addition to salt playas in landlocked regions, species can also be found along coastlines and even along roadsides where the soil or sand is saline.

Orache looks a lot like the edible wild spinach “goosefoot” or “lambs’ quarters” (Chenopodium album and related), so much so that when I posted a Facebook picture of the orache I was eating, along with a caption that said “orache,” more than one person commented how much they liked lambs’ quarters!

Both orache and lambs’ quarters have green to greenish-blue leaves that are covered, particularly on the underside and growing tips, with a white, mealy substance upon which water balls up and runs off. Like those of the goosefoots, the flowers that come later don’t look much like flowers at all, but rather small clumps clustered on the upper parts of the stems.

Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—May 2014 Release!

WEN May2014 cover800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—May 2014 Release!The May 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook is finished and ready for download! This edition starts with a new story by Samuel Thayer. Not only is he one of the foremost experts in the foraging field, but a great writer and storyteller too. His piece is many things—a story of land and family; a tale of weed migration and world plant use; and a wild edible discovery. Have you heard of chufa? If not, you might want to read this issue.

The stories I penned for May 2014 include one on orache—a goosefoot relative with salty, arrowhead-shaped leaves—along with a few of its desert-loving, woody cousins. After that I revisit, update, and illustrate a piece I wrote a while back for the blog on cattail hearts—the shoots or cores of cattails, known also as “Cossack asparagus”—which come into season in spring. Last, there is a reflection on what it means to be a weed, including an interview with a local weed sprayer that explores herbicide application practices and their implications for foragers. As always, this issue concludes with a handful of recipe ideas using wild food.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

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

Wild Edible Picnic

gregg picnic sm 404x450 Wild Edible Picnic

A stop for a look around by the reservoir on our way home.

The season’s change is upon us, even here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country. The snow has started to melt away, leaving the detritus of last year’s tourist season in its wake—the bottles and bits of paper and crumpled, dirty cloths and tons upon tons of dog leavings. But there are also green things emerging from under the blackened snow drifts; the promise of foraging season is nigh.

We celebrated with a car picnic, which I dreamed up to get Gregg out of the house, as he is now in week four of his mandated six weeks on crutches after his second knee surgery, or our third consecutive knee surgery as a couple, depending how you look at it.

That morning I whizzed around the kitchen to whip up some food to pack along, aiming to use up as many of the wild ingredients, both fresh and preserved, as I had on hand, since I am still, if somewhat lazily, under the spell of spring cleaning. Then we took a happy drive in the sun to the north end of the county, me reading aloud selections from Richard Mabey’s Weeds (2010), Gregg checking out the spring scene around us and announcing each vista one after the other—a kayaker kayaking, a fisherman fishing, a tall eagle’s nest, a person on horseback, baby cows. Then we camped out alongside the river and had a look around at the first signs of spring’s emergence at 8,000 feet—once in a very small, crutched radius, and the second time a longer but faster solo mission by yours truly while my better half napped—before retiring to the Vanagon, whom we call Myrtle after Gregg’s late grandmother, for the honorary unfolding of her picnic table for the first time this season.

Among the dishes I set out was a pasta salad, the piece I worked hardest on, and a wild garlic-onion cream cheese spread, which though super easy I thought I’d messed up, but over which Gregg went absolutely gaga regardless. Read the rest of this entry

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