high altitude Archives

Wild Black Currant Brandy Voted Best in House

wild black currants fairplay co 350x262 Wild Black Currant Brandy Voted Best in House

Rain-kissed wild black currant goodness.

It’s wild booze month at Hunger & Thirst and again I have Butterpoweredbike to thank for motivating me to the computer to write something. That—and for getting me into the liquor cabinet for a night of distraction from my many winter obligations.

Fortunately, Gregg and I were good little alcohol squirrels over the warmer months, storing wild foraged ingredients in bottles of booze now and again. One batch of our prized bathtub gin—made from vodka flavored with juniper “berries” and wild angelica—remains, but as of the other night there were also a few experiments yet to be tried: wild grape vodka, wild black currant vodka, and wild black currant brandy among them. Read the rest of this entry

There’s No Foraging Like Snow Foraging

colorado rockies october 2011 262x350 There’s No Foraging Like Snow Foraging

October snow hovers in the high country.

It’s mid October and it just keeps snowing here in the high country at 11,000 feet in Colorado Rockies. You’d think foraging season were over, but it’s not.

Two days ago I awoke to a steady snow and found myself unable to focus on work. By noon it stopped but the wind kicked up; the way it whipped around the house inspired Gregg to curl up by the fire and swear he’d stay inside all day. I felt exactly the opposite, however: I needed to go outside.

It’s hunting season so the hand-me-down pink bell bottom cords and orange puffy vest were in order. It was hat and gloves weather too with all that wind.

The mining road was vacant and the snow plentiful. I reveled in getting fresh tracks as I hiked through 3”- 4” deep swaths of pow. At a switchback I clambered over the fallen tree trunk that obscures the footpath to the secret meadow, which I descended brushing snow off the low bushes as I went.

There were many non-producing low juniper shrubs en route but eventually I found the one I was looking for, which I’d spied a few days prior. It is the most fruitful creeping juniper shrub I’ve ever found, and despite the snow it was still laden with plump, blue berries.  Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—October Release!

wen oct2011 640 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook—October Release!Halfway through October I am once again honored to present the Wild Edible Notebook, my journal-style tale of select plants. This fifth issue is about acorns. It includes an entry about my own experience processing and preparing a bounty of Colorado acorns (yes, we have acorns) as well as a Wisconsin acorn neophyte’s adventures with her back yard bur oak. The accounts feature interviews with none other than wild food guru, Samuel Thayer. There are also reviews of Thayer’s two books, Nature’s Garden (2010) and The Forager’s Harvest (2006) as well as Hank Shaw’s recently-released book, Hunt, Gather, Cook (2011). As you can see from the cover at right, I went hogwild with InDesign’s  pencil tool for this issue.

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.

 

Berry Bliss at Strawberry Park

strawberry park springs fall 350x262 Berry Bliss at Strawberry Park

Strawberry Park hot springs in fall. Photo by Gregg Davis.

This blog is just the small-potatoes-rambling of one over-exuberant semi-neophyte foraging addict, but I swear, wild food must be en vogue or something—because in the last four months I have received not one or two but three different emails from producers seeking to create TV or web shows about foraging. 

One inquired as to whether my collecting missions require acts of bravery. Acts of bravery? I was inclined to reply in the negative, but, eager to please, I dug deep and ventured this response: “Does hanging off a mountainside to collect currants count?” (It’s not that I have to hang off the mountainside; it’s just that that’s where the best currants are.) I got the sense that he appreciated my effort but found the answer wanting, however.   

Next he asked whether I travel worldwide for special wild foods. “Um, no,” I replied. Clearly my hobby is less sexy than TV might hope. “Mostly I forage locally where I live,” I explained. Really I’m just a poor fool working 10 jobs, scavenging my food from the wild so I can afford to live in paradise, and banging away at the keyboard about things that interest me whenever I get the chance.    Read the rest of this entry

Foraging Fungi in the National Forest

forest products sign 350x270 Foraging Fungi in the National Forest

As of September 2011, the South Park Ranger District does not require a mushroom permit. Fungi foraging in the neighboring White River National Forest, however, requires a free permit for personal use.

Note: I wrote this article at the behest of a Forest Service representative; it is re-posted here, plus subtitles, with permission of the Summit Daily News, which ran it on October 1.  

Just as collecting firewood from the national forest for home use requires a permit, so too does foraging for fungus in the White River National Forest in and around Summit County, Colorado, including areas that were once part of the Arapahoe National Forest. 

Fungi Foraging Permit Free but Required

“Mushroom gathering requires a personal use permit that we have been issuing for free at the Dillon Ranger District Office,” said Cary Green, timber management assistant for the East Zone White River National Forest. The limit is five gallons of mushrooms/day — the equivalent of one 5-gallon bucket or two grocery sacks — with a total season limit of 67 lbs. Other popular Forest Service permits include those for Christmas trees, boughs and transplants. Read the rest of this entry

A Daily Diet of Puffballs and Leftover Bread

gem studded puffballs 350x262 A Daily Diet of Puffballs and Leftover Bread

Gem studded puffballs from the backyard.

Looking back to the puffball entry I wrote on August 13 last year, I can’t believe how long it’s taken for my backyard colony of gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) to emerge this season. Emerge they have, however (in early September, finally!), and with them a host of other puffballs as well.  

First there were the big puffballs I found on September 3 amidst the sagebrush in an open field on a hilltop in a dry aspen forest in Fairplay, Colorado. This after Gregg’s parents took me on a crazy off-roading adventure (which they didn’t think was all that crazy) consisting of a mile-long drive up a hilly mining road strewn alternately with rough talus and nasty ditches from the spring runoff to get to the trailhead. It’s true that I’m a wee bit squeamish about off-roading, but Gregg’s usually cautious parents seem to have a penchant for it ever since they emerged triumphant from an ill-advised tour in their Jeep Grand Cherokee over Mosquito Pass from Leadville to Fairplay a few years ago.   Read the rest of this entry

Lactarius Deliciosus is fine with me

delicious milk caps 350x262 Lactarius Deliciosus is fine with me

Newly picked Lactarius deliciosus aka delicious milk caps. Note gills are light orange, not white.

It rained quite a bit a few days ago and now the mushrooms are up again, though we’ve found only one bolete in recent days—a magnificent one, but past its prime so we left it. I wonder if the season for boletes is past?

No biggie. Boletes are good but so are Lactarius deliciosus, a mushroom I had not intended to try because it has gills, but when my friend Butter announced that she was looking for it, I starting looking too—and then found them in abundance.

Delicious Milky Caps 

Lactarius deliciosus is just as it sounds: milky and delicious. It’s creamy light orange, both on the cap and gills (which should not be white). Deliciosus is what happens when you sauté it in oil for a while—though just how delicious it is seems subject to debate, with Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) saying, “Although a popular edible in other countries, Colorado’s variety of this species are not always delicious.”  Read the rest of this entry

The Current Currant Season is Kicking

currant spiny 350x262 The Current Currant Season is Kicking

Juicy Ribes berries dangling from spiny branches, beware! Photo by Gregg Davis.

The currants and gooseberries were not yet ripe here at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies when I published my August Wild Edible Notebook, which is devoted to berries—strawberries and huckleberries, specifically—but now they are, and oh what a currant season the current season is!

I had an inkling of the potential the other day when we visited the Como Roundhouse during Railroad Days and Deb was kind enough to let Gregg and I and Kor from Holland out back to see the ruins of the housing tenements, where I found big bushes laden with ripe and hairy but not altogether tasty red currants. Yesterday, however, when we pulled into the parking lot of the Limber Grove Trail, berries were the first thing I saw.

I couldn’t believe the size of those purple berries. There were so many of them—and the biggest I’ve ever seen! So eager was I to begin collecting that I didn’t realize I’d positioned myself in a big anthill until ants were swarming up my leg. After hopping around maniacally to shake them off, however, I found better footing and returned to my collecting.

The bushes were rife with big, painful spines, complicating picking. When I absentmindedly tried raking the bush with my fingers like I do with huckleberries, I wound up cutting a painful, horizontal paper-cut-like slice into a purple-red stained finger.   Read the rest of this entry

Angelica Enhances Alcohol, Satisfies Sweet Tooth

angelica leaves stems 350x262 Angelica Enhances Alcohol, Satisfies Sweet Tooth

Angelica leaves and stalks waiting to flavor a bottle of gin.

How many times have I hiked the same route never to discover angelica? Probably more than a hundred. Of course, this is very much in keeping with what I have come to expect from wild plants—I almost always find something good when I’m out foraging, but it’s often not what I set out to find. 

In his angelica entry in Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West (1997), Gregory L. Tilford generalizes the genus (Angelica spp.) instead of identifying specific species.

According to Growing Hermione’s Garden, Angelica archangelica, commonly known as garden angelica, Holy Ghost, wild celery and Norwegian angelica, has been cultivated both as a vegetable and a medicinal since the 10th century. The name of the biennial plant “comes from the Greek word ‘arkhangelos’ (arch-angel), due to the myth that it was the archangel Michael who told of its use as medicine,” the blogger writes. 

I searched but did not find a USDA listing for angelica in Colorado, although Angelica atropurpurea L., aka purple-stemmed angelica, is listed as endangered in Maryland and Rhode Island and threatened in Tennessee—so these are not states in which to forage it. Angelica lucida L. is listed in Connecticut and New York as endangered and Rhode Island as threatened; Angelica triquinata Michx is listed as endangered in Kentucky and Maryland; and Angelica venenosa is listed as a species of concern in Connecticut. There are approximately 60 species of Angelica in total. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—August Release!

wild edible notebook august 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook—August Release!

Halfway through August I am once again honored to present the Wild Edible Notebook, my journal-style tale of select plants. This third issue is about berries, specifically the strawberries and huckleberries we’re finding in the Colorado high country this month. Unlike the last issue there are no recipes per se, although I do spend some time pontificating on the dishes we’ve been making with this delicious bounty. Aside from that there are the usual humorous and introspective tidbits characteristic of my first person accounts.

The August edition is 98% brand new content (thus accounting for my long hiatus in posting blog entries).

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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