high altitude Archives

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

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

Colorado High Country Blueberries are a Go

grouseberries Vail 450x337 Colorado High Country Blueberries are a Go

Wild blueberries, genus Vaccinium, collected in Colorado on hands and knees in early August around 9,000 feet.

If you’re looking for blueberries like the kind you buy in the grocery store, look elsewhere. The Colorado high country “blueberries” I’m talking about are not those, but several related species of Vacciniums that are smaller, and grow not on a bush but in the groundcover under your feet in the high country. Whereas cultivated blueberries have round depressions surrounded by a crown, our small high country wild blueberries have a round stamp in the berry, but no crown. They can be red, maroon, dark blue, powder blue, purple-blue, to almost black, and they range from translucent to opaque.

I generally refer to these high country blueberries as “huckleberries.” There are quite a few names that people use for the wild Vacciniums up here— grouseberries, whortleberries, bilberries, huckleberries, and blueberries among them. But just the other day as I was trying for maybe the hundredth time to disambiguate a couple of our local species (having not, on hand, a best friend who is a local botanist though I would appreciate one very much), I read in Weber & Wittmann’s Flora of Colorado (2012 ed.) that it is not correct to call them huckleberries, and that “blueberry” is the correct common name. So I thought I’d try that name for this post and see how it felt. Read the rest of this entry

Hawks Wings Mushrooms – Free Download

wild food 162 450x337 Hawks Wings Mushrooms   Free Download

Hello, you giant hawk’s wing. I think I’ll make you into soup.

I find and eat a lot of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus) in the Colorado high country, and they have already started flushing this year. I’ve eaten them marinated and grilled, dried and reconstituted and sauteed with sauerkraut like my Polish grandmother used to do with her dried mushroom assortments, and best yet in my dad’s creamy  mushroom soup, with beef broth and hawks wings combining to create a rich, deep flavor.

Many people, however, experience hawk’s wings to be bitter and inedible. It seems likely, however, that not all hawk’s wings are created equal.

For one, you have to take a look at what trees they are fruiting under. Are they fruiting under lodgepole pines? Do they have a green stain at the base of the stalk? In that case, you might not be looking at Sarcodon imbricatus at all, but rather a related species.

Vera Stucky Evenson, author of Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997), told me last year that you have to be very careful to read the description and make sure you have the right species within the genus, and to steer clear of bitter Sarcodons. In her book she writes that members of the related Sarcodon scabrosus group (described by David Arora in Mushrooms Demystified, 1986, to be “unequivocally and indisputably inedible due to the awful taste”)—have “chestnut brown, less scaly caps; distinctive olive-black to dark bluish green coloration in the stalk bases; and a bitter taste.” Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—August 2014 Release!

WEN August 2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—August 2014 Release!August’s rains have arrived in the Colorado high country, and with them the mushrooms are starting to flush. I can hardly contain myself. Also recently arrived is—you guessed it—the August 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook! This month’s edition features a travel story to the Rhode Island coastline for clamming, followed by a fungi focus on a couple species of Suillus, a review of New York-based author Dina Falconi’s wild food guide and cookbook, and several recipes to boot.

Subscriptions to the Wild Edible Notebook—a photo-filled glossy available in iPad/iPhone, screen reading PDF, Android-friendly, and print-and-fold booklet form—are just $2 a month. For the first $2 you get access to six issues, including the current one.

Featured in the August 2014 issue:
  • Quahog clams – My family has been clamming for quahogs at the Rhode Island coast for many years; prior to that, my dad and his father clammed in Connecticut. Over the years we devised our own methods, and I am happy to say we are very successful clammers. This story lays bare some of those family secrets, in a photo-documented how-to account.
  • Suillus tomentosus and short-stemmed slippery jack mushrooms – In honor of mushroom season, which has officially arrived in the Colorado high country, I am running my piece on the “Whistling Suillus,” as I like to call the yellow, edible mushrooms that made a lot of noise in my frying pan last year. This piece was originally published here on the blog but has been updated and adorned with many large, informative photographs with captions. I’ve seen a few slippery jacks already this season, and I assume S. tomentosus is not far behind, though those of you in the know might not be all that excited about them… In any case, read up and get ready for a culinary challenge!
  • Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi – This book from Botanical Arts Press (2013) contains labeled full-color botanical illustrations by Wendy Hollender of 50 edible plants, and a cookbook of “master recipes” using wild (and cultivated) plants by Falconi. A wide range of plants can be used in each recipe, meaning that thousands of recipes are possible. The book is a lovingly crafted, healthful celebration of the role wild (and cultivated) foods can play in our lives, as well as a guide on how to do it. Check out my in-depth review in this issue of the Wild Edible Notebook.
  • Recipes – Every issue of the Wild Edible Notebook contains recipes. In this edition, find Mom’s Stuffed Clams and Dad’s Clam Chowder. Also, if you liked the recipes by Dina Falconi that ran last month, there are two more in this issue—one for Herbal Tea Infusions, and another for Wild Grains Salads. I tried the latter with purslane, quinoa, wild bergamot, navy beans, and feta cheese—and found it divine.

Read the rest of this entry

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!

Read the rest of this entry

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