Monday, May 21st, 2012 at
A meager collection of wild asparagus nonetheless makes for a painting-like photo.
My friend Butterpoweredbike has been collecting wild asparagus with her family for many years. “Hunting for, and eating wild asparagus is such a long-standing and special tradition in my home, that I refuse to eat it store-bought, ever,” she writes.
To me it’s funny how Butter could be out there getting down and dirty with wild asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) for all this time when in my world, wild asparagus has always been the stuff of legend.
It reads like a fairytale in Euell Gibbon’s book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962), which is not only the title of his historic wild edible manifesto but also a chapter. I was a young woman when I first read his account—how, as a boy en route to fishing, the young Euell stumbles upon wild asparagus growing in clumps alongside an irrigation ditch, then spends a blissful week collecting it and bringing it home for his family, a true provider. Before another spring, however, his parents move them to a “high, dry plateau farther west” and “I was a middle-aged man before I saw wild asparagus again,” he writes.
Oh, the tragedy of it! And, if Euell Gibbons couldn’t find wild asparagus for decades, how was I to do it? Of course what I didn’t realize was how ubiquitous wild asparagus truly is—as long as you’re looking for it in the right place, that is. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at
Good news! A new season of the Wild Edible Notebook is here, one full month ahead of the planned start date.
This first-ever May issue of the Wild Edible Notebook features curly dock (Rumex crispus), examined both in light of its edibility and its designation as an invasive species, in a piece I wrote originally for Eat the Invaders website. Then I interview that site’s creator, conservation biologist Joe Roman, about his invasivore project. Next comes “My Boyfriend, the Liver Fluke,” a lighthearted take on the touchy subject of those creepy crawlies who might be invading your watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) right now. There’s a wild edible poem by correspondent Brad Purcell, a recipe for dock enchiladas by the inimitable Butterpoweredbike, and a handful more cooking ideas for dock and watercress to boot.
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EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.
Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 at
Might think about trimming the chickweed better next time.
If I don’t get the rest of this New England story out soon I’ll be permanently stopped up in the blog-hole, though perhaps it’s something a large dose of chickweed (Stellaria sp.) could solve.
I already wrote about chickweed in Part I of this series, I know, but I just read an amusing account in Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (1985), wherein he first spends an entire hot and humid day prostrate in a chickweed patch gorging himself on the stuff before suffering “the worse case of diarrhea [he has] had to this day,” followed later by his idea to make an extremely strong chickweed tea for a constipated friend—only to discover that it worked so well his friend was stricken with the shits for days.
When I made chickweed for my parents, I snipped it far down the stems, found it too tough and chewy for my liking, and then wrote about it in Part I of this series. Meanwhile I’ve got Sam Thayer (2006) in the back of my head saying, “The deplorable state of information on edible wild plants can be cleared up over time if those who write on the topic exhibit professionalism and follow a few simple guidelines,” one of which is to “not condemn a plant based on limited experience with it.” Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 at
Seemingly innocent poison ivy lies in wait, plotting your extreme discomfort.
One of the things I noticed about foraging in New England that does not present a problem here at 11,000 feet in the Colorado High Country is the seeming ever-presence of poison ivy (Toxicondendron radicans). One morning, overjoyed to find false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum sp.) growing in abundance in the forest around my parents’ Connecticut house, I borrowed a trowel and headed out to dig up some rhizomes, only to find each and every plant intricately intertwined with poison ivy.
Poison ivy is not edible. And, unless you are one of the lucky few not (yet) allergic to T. radicans, coming in contact with it can instigate a blistering, itchy rash. I know first-hand how potent the roots can be, having developed a nasty case after a day digging in the not-yet-leafing-out plants as an archaeology student in college. My hands and arms were so bad that the Health Services department insisted I had contracted scabies. Inhaling fumes is a thousand times worse—the unlucky sap who accidentally burns it in a campfire and then huffs the stuff should be rushed to the hospital immediately, as the rash can develop internally throughout the body as well. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, May 4th, 2012 at
Garlic mustard, busy invading
“There’s a reason why the pre-Columbian population of Colorado was low,” wild plants author Sam Thayer once wrote me, referring to the relative lack of edible wild plants in this semi-arid land compared to lusher parts of the country. How dare he? I recall thinking—though truth be told, here at 11,000 feet in the Colorado High Country, the new spring growth is still less than an inch tall; meanwhile the rest of the country is happily chatting it up about their bountiful spring forage, whether dock and dandies, redbud flowers and milkweed shoots, chickweed and sorrel, and so forth.
Honestly, though, I’m not sure I could handle the abundance.
Take my recent New England trip for example. I arrived in Connecticut mid-April, just as the trees were newly leafing out. One walk with mom down our old country road renders me speechless. There are so many plants I want to try—plants I recognize from my books, plants that nearly every other forager knows well and uses often, plants that I have not had opportunity to try since Wild Food Girl was born.
I conclude that I need a few years out east, not two weeks interspersed with family visits, to get down and dirty with all these wild plants. Especially when my 7-year-old niece purportedly complained to her mother: “With all the wonderful plants in New Hampshire, how will I be able to get enough time to play with Aunt Erica since she loves plants so much?”
Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, April 14th, 2012 at
A peeled, sticky cactusicle, almost enticing enough to lick!
Apparently I’m not the only one to have gone about prickly pear cactus the wrong way the first time around. Allow me to relive that fateful day two years ago on a Malibu, California hillside where I endeavored to pick a plump prickly fruit bare-handed only to suffer the instant ejection by said fruit of 30 or so its tiny, nearly invisible glochids into my fingers, after which I made matters worse by trying to pull them out with my teeth and ended up with lips and tongue laden with the pointy buggers.
The glochids are the prickly pear’s secret weapons, for the perennial succulent also hosts larger, more apparent spines meant entirely to deceive you. You’re a sucker if you grab a piece by a supposed non-spiny section because meanwhile the cactus is spearing your unwitting hands 30 times over—or mouth and throat, as in the case of Sam Thayer, who describes his first childhood bite-and-swallow of a glochid-covered prickly pad in Nature’s Garden (2010). Still, Sam did not let it spoil a fabulous weekend seeking snakes and turtles, and neither did I let it spoil my random hike through the Malibu nudist colony that day. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 at
Venison grill fare: Wild dry-rubbed steaks and kabobs marinated in ginger rosehip vinaigrette.
If wild is a flavor, then venison is it. I can remember days not too distant when the taste of deer was too much for me—too gamey, too foreign, too reminiscent of Bambi’s mother. Enter my brother-in-law, hunter extraordinaire, and suddenly before I know it a hunk of gifted venison is in my freezer, taunting me. How the heck am I supposed to eat that stuff again?
What worked for me back then in Los Angeles works for me still: Bathe the extra gaminess away with one or two days soaking in buttermilk in the refrigerator prior to rinsing, patting dry, and undertaking additional preparations.
Never mind how hypocritical this sounds as I write it, but this time, after painstakingly removing the “wild” from the venison, I then added it back in with the following preparations. Here are the wild things I did with our recently-thawed cache of venison steaks: Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, April 7th, 2012 at
Don’t eat the grass; eat the musk mustard.
Try as I might to remember, I almost always forget my shopping bags when I go to the grocery store. I rarely forget them, however, when I go into the wild.
It’s a good thing too, because Friday’s foray among the wild former farmlands of Denver’s outskirts was a shopping trip to remember; I found so many awesome “deals” [read: free green food] under the capable guidance of my dear friend, metro-area forager, Butterpoweredbike.
The Mile High City was bursting with plant life, the ground dappled with sunlight streaming through new foliage and flowers on the trees. “Stop. Listen. Do you hear that?” Butter asked. “It’s the sound of the wind through leaves. It wasn’t like that a couple days ago,” she mused happily as we skipped back with our afternoon forage of nettles (Urtica spp.) and musk mustard (Chorispora tenella).
I had managed to sting my injured knee through the hole in my pants while collecting the nettles, but Butter gave me a handful of mallow (and grass) to chew up and spit onto it. After weeding the grass from the handful, I did as instructed, and it seemed to do the trick. Afterwards we were nibbling musk mustard on the side of the trail when two gents walked by and said, “Don’t eat the grass, girls! That’s for the dogs.” Tee hee. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at
As close as I got to oven-baked wild mustard potato chips.
“They’re practically potato chips!” Gregg exclaimed, helping himself to more of the thin-sliced, seasoned, golden-brown oven-fried potatoes until they were gone. I’m not sure which enthralls him more—my recent food inventions, or the fact that I am cooking at all.
Now that I can stand up on my own two feet (after 5 weeks off I am now to start putting weight on my injured leg), it is a joy to be in the kitchen. I cook, I clean; I must be a housewife.
The chips didn’t come out as crunchy as I’d hoped. I did them on a cookie sheet in the oven because I didn’t want to deep fry, although online recipes say to use a rack so the hot oven air can circle them entirely. Then there’s a bit, too, about flipping them manually, with which I didn’t want to bother.
So, I used a food processor to slice the potatoes fine, stirred in a mixture of olive oil and wild mustard, and stuck them in the oven on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for an hour, unsticking and stirring with a spatula occasionally. The ones that turned golden were crunchy indeed, the others just a bit chewy. It was enough to ensure all were eaten in one sitting regardless. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, March 18th, 2012 at
Two dock cream cheese spreads–one with garlic, the other with salmon.
I never would have thought it was already dock (Rumex sp.) time of year again were it not for my friend Butter and the pristine metro-Denver-area suburbia full of wild green vegetables where she resides, in contrast to the still snow-covered High Country in which I dwell. But on March 7 she wrote to me: “Knock knock! Who’s there?” and then answered her own question: “Dock!”
“It was close to 70 here yesterday, which melted the last of the snow from the ground,” Butter wrote. “I took a ride today (once again in the 30′s and snowing), and surveyed the ground. The dock plants in the sunnier areas of the fields have leaves which are 1-2″ long! I estimate that in about 2 weeks, they’ll be long enough to pick the first leaves.” Oh, Front Range Denver, I sighed. It’s like the Garden of Eden.
Sure enough and earlier than predicted, Butter picked her first batch on March 14. I know because she squealed happily to Facebookland about it, announcing plans for “a nice coconut-laced dock curry.” Honestly I am more excited than jealous.
For those who do not yet know, Butterpoweredbike mans a monthly wild food recipe-sharing event and this month she’s chosen her beloved Rumex to star in it. Send in your dock recipes or post about them and send her a link to participate, or just check back at the month’s end for a wealth of cooking/foraging ideas. Even wild food greats like veteran foraging-vegetarian, Wildman Steve Brill out of NY, sometimes participate. Read the rest of this entry