high altitude 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!

Low Cost Meal—Beans & Dried Dock

dock beans tostadas 450x299 Low Cost Meal—Beans & Dried Dock

Tostadas with jalapenos, dock & beans. I did the tostadas in the oven–broiling, flipping, and broiling again before adding the topping for the final broil. Next time, I need to brush the tortillas with oil; what was I thinking?

My fiance and I are seasonal workers. Most of our income comes from a winter job that lasts 6 months. It offers health insurance for that time period, so we jump on it each winter. In December I can finally get my cavities filled, and he can upgrade his glasses and contact lenses.

But summer is always harder on us financially. Health insurance costs skyrocket to $350-400 per month (each) if we choose to extend our benefits with COBRA. We work a lot of jobs and barely make ends meet. By the time December rolls around again, we are emptying pockets and jars and every other nook and cranny trying to cover bills while fixing up the old cars and ourselves and getting ready for another season’s work.

I’m not saying this to complain. We chose this life—up high in a winter paradise where well-heeled tourists own second homes and we would be lucky to one day afford a decrepit miner’s cabin because prices are so inflated. We chose to chase our passions and to work outdoors, instead of spending a lifetime of recurring 60-hour weeks in a cubicle—so in that respect, this is very much the good life. But the financial struggle is ever present. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—October release!

WEN October 2013 cover800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—October release!The leaves are a’changing and the cool winds have begun to blow. Still, foraging season continues into October, and with it, a new-and-improved Wild Edible Notebook blows into town.

October 2013 brings many exciting changes to the Notebook, including a new look-and-feel with an improved cover and 2-column layout, designed to look better overall and also to improve viewing on smart phone devices. And, October 2013 and all future issues are available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand! Improvements to the PDF versions include a wider screen reading PDF, a new 2-sided print-and-fold PDF designed to print on legal (8.5” x 14”) paper, and an Android-formatted PDF.

The October 2013 issue dives deep into rosehips, the fruits that develop at the bases of wild and domesticated roses. Not only are rosehips an excellent source of vitamin C, but they also lend themselves to numerous culinary preparations. Next is the tale of my mission to dry dandelion leaves for winter, inspired by the idea to make a nutritious green powder described by Colorado forager Katrina Blair of Turtle Lake Refuge. This edition also includes a review of Practical Herbs, a medicinal plant how-to by renowned Finland-based herbalist Henriette Kress, which will soon be followed by the book’s sequel, Practical Herbs 2. There are a handful of rosehip recipes by yours truly as well as my Colorado-based partner in crime, Butter. There’s a rosehip coloring page on the print version, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014, in all of them.

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 the website. Thanks!

Stuffballs on the Menu

stuffballs tomato queso 450x332 Stuffballs on the Menu

Stuffed puffballs with onion & bread stuffing, tomato bits, and queso fresco.

This has been quite a season for puffballs—both large and small—in the Colorado high country. Though the season for giant puffballs is upon us, I wanted to first share a preparation we’ve been enjoying with small puffballs, which are still out there fruiting like crazy too. I like to call it “stuffballs.”

For the stuffballs I’ve been using puffballs of the genus Lycoperdon. Up here we have gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), which when young and fresh have what Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) describes as “conelike spines” covering the top that can be rubbed off. The puffballs are “almost spherical with a tapered base,” she writes, adding that they can be “abruptly tapered at the base.” In my experience the tapered bases can come together gradually, or seem like miniature fat stems. I often find L. perlatum growing deep in conifer forests, in soil on the forest floor.

We also have the related pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme, per Evenson), which are pear-shaped, as the name suggests—also roughly spherical with an elongated base. Michael Kuo at MushroomExpert.com writes that L. pyriforme is a very recent synonym for Morganella pyriformis, and that the pear-shaped puffballs are one of the few puffballs that grow on wood (or lignin-rich soil, Arora, 1984). The mushroom’s surface starts out smooth, Evenson writes, developing coarse granules later so as to appear rough. Read the rest of this entry

Old Places, New Head Spaces

pock marked porcini 450x392 Old Places, New Head Spaces

Pock-marked Fairplay porcini, their colors ranging from red to light.

Yesterday we revisited one of our old, favorite hikes on the shoulder of Pennsylvania Mountain above Fairplay, Colorado. We must have done a variation of that hike—sometimes ducking into the forest on game trails to encounter still-open mine holes and long-abandoned cabins, others taking the old road high above treeline only to descend via questionable routes down dry, crumbling couloirs—more than 100 times in the 4 years we lived over there.Those were the days when slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) were the most exciting things ever, back during my big life change when this latent wild edible food obsession was reawakening.

In all those years hiking there, I found only one porcini (Boletus edulis).

But yesterday, as we were driving the long dirt road to our old spot, a familiar feeling came upon me. So while Gregg parked the car and took his sweet time organizing this and that into his backpack, I ducked into the trees for a look around, only to emerge a minute later with a medium-sized porcini button I spotted poking out of the duff. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—September release!

September 2013 cover 800 288x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September release!September is well on its way, and with it I am happy to announce the release of another Wild Edible Notebook for your reading pleasure. The September 2013 edition is four pages longer than the last, making it the longest Wild Edible Notebook I’ve created to date.

This issue revisits the low-lying high country huckleberries of the genus Vaccinium, a topic I picked based on reader interest. Next is a journey into the wonderful world of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), followed by the story of an even more wonderful culinary journey undertaken in partnership with Chef Bill Greenwood of Beano’s Cabin restaurant in Beaver Creek. This edition also includes a review of The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify and Cook Them (2010) by Virginia-based forager Katie Letcher Lyle. Mushroom recipes dominate the recipe section—a few by me, one from my dad, and a recipe for stewed chanterelles from Lyle. Last but not least is a huckleberry coloring page, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014.

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.

Antelope Liver Pâtés

antelope liver pate 450x337 Antelope Liver Pâtés

Our first antelope liver pâté came out surprisingly good.

I never saw myself eating antelope, let alone antelope liver. I was a GenXer who went to a weirdo college once dubbed “the little red whorehouse on the Hudson,” where I shaved my head and flirted with vegetarianism before traveling cross country on missions of self-discovery that continue to this day.

But what would you do if a giant, smelly antelope liver landed in your lap?

My dad, who has become a hunter over the last few years thanks to my brother-in-law, and who always cooks up the giblets and other pieces-parts come turkey time, saw fit to grab the neglected antelope liver when John took a buck on a recent bow hunt in Wyoming—and then he brought it to my apartment.

When he pulled it out of the bag to cook up for special dinner night, the stench hit us immediately. Who knew it was going to be so smelly, and so big, for that matter? “Whoa, that’s strong,” Dad said, before sending Gregg to the store for buttermilk. We pushed dinner back two hours so he could soak a few slices, and the rest went into my freezer. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—August release!

WEN cover Aug2013 800 289x450 Wild Edible Notebook—August release!What’s that? It’s time again for another issue of the Wild Edible Notebook? It sure is! I am pleased to announce that August 2013 is now finished and ready for download.

This month I found a little more free time to scout new spots and play with plants in the wilds of the Colorado high country, so the August 2013 issue has more in the way of first-hand accounts than past editions. First is an adventure with serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) discovered in abundance at the north end of Summit County, from the happy rain-kissed picking to the many kitchen experiments inspired by it. Then I get busy with pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea), again undertaking one culinary experiment after the next—some successful, some less so. After that comes the story of a lovely mushroom hunt one rainy afternoon where somehow every mushroom we found was larger than life. There are a few porcini (Boletus edulis) recipes from yours truly, along with one from Butter at Hunger & Thirst, and of course a coloring page in case you’re bored and need something to do. Happy reading/foraging/eating/coloring!

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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