Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 at
Delicious yucca flowers foraged from Aurora Colorado.
The yucca around Denver is in full bloom right now, such that when we went to Gregg’s parents’ house a few days ago on June 18, the hillside in the field across the street was covered with spires of the bulbous white and sometimes purplish flowers. Unfortunately, they were protected from would-be foragers by a network of wire and wooden fences, not to mention a small amount of cow traffic.
Gregg’s parents live in a 55-and-over “active adult community” in Aurora. Folks are always out and about—walking, running, swimming, playing tennis and golf. But I figured if we got up early in the morning and headed out there we might avoid a few looks as we scaled a fence I’d scoped out, one that got us to a small 10×20-yard patch of yucca that wasn’t encircled by the second, interior, cow-protecting fence.
The plan worked and we set to harvesting a few yucca flowers from each plant, checking for bugs first and snipping them into our bags while taking care not to get poked by the sharp leaves. In the midst of our foraging, however, an over-55 woman drove up to a town-home on the hillside nearby and demanded to know what we were doing. Read the rest of this entry
Monday, June 20th, 2011 at
Mature dock of a large-leafed variety.
The genus Rumex is giving me a headache. Damn docks! Why are there so many of you? According to Wikipedia, there are about 200 plants in the genus Rumex—which I guess explains why I’ve been having so much trouble identifying them correctly!
Not to get to deep in the muddle that docks made my brain into, but yesterday I unpublished my two dock entries (one at etmarciniec.com and one here at Wild Food Girl) after a reading of Thayer (2010) followed by more online research revealed some amount of confusion on my part over which docks I was eating and by what common and scientific names they are called.
Below is an attempt to clarify:
The Docks I Eat, See, and Dream About
Over the last two years I have been eating two different varieties of dock in and around Park County, Colorado. One has large, wide leaves and grows in moist places. After a number of unsuccessful culinary experiments where I generally erred by collecting leaves that were much too mature to be palatable, this spring I’ve found (per Thayer’s recommendation) that collecting the young leaves prior to or during their slimy unfurling yields much better food. So far I’ve prepared them by chopping the leaves and petioles (leaf stalks) into thin horizontal slices and then sauteéing them, with decent results. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, June 19th, 2011 at
Furled and unfurled cow parsnip leaves ready for boiling.
I gathered some cow parsnip a few days ago on June 15th. It’s still young in the high country (at 10,500 feet), so I just took a little—a few snips here and there of furled, unfurling, and newly unfurled woolly green leaves and petioles (leaf stalks), from a community of plants, no more than two and usually just one cutting per plant.
At home I prepared the same old tried and true recipe from last season I got from Kathryn G. and Andrew L. March’s Common Edible and Medicinal Plants of Colorado, (1979)—boiled cow parsnip leaves and petioles with finely chopped raw onions, soy sauce, and butter—and relished every minute of it. It’s a crazy weird taste, but I continue to love it. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, June 16th, 2011 at
Heads up, readers: The Wild Edible Notebook is here at last! Click through to the end of this entry to download the June edition, which features story-style chapters on goosefoot, cow parsnip, and yucca in two convenient and colorful downloadable PDF formats.
About the Wild Edible Notebook Series
My plan is to publish the Wild Edible Notebook on a monthly basis throughout the summer. Users (particularly those in the Colorado high country/foothills) can print out June, for example, read the stories and get excited about wild food hunting, and then be able to look for those plants right away because it’s the right time of year.
By the time July rolls around, I’m hoping to have the system set up so I can “squeeze” your email address out of you (muhahaha) before you can download the next edition, but for now, it’s free and easy. The articles in the current edition are repeats of content posted here on the site; the difference is the format. In the future, I hope to get on top of my game enough to have some pieces available solely in the Notebook. Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 at
Lathyrus japonicus on the shore in Old Lyme CT.
I ran into an old high school friend at the beach in Connecticut the other day. She was busy chasing around her two toddlers who kept trying to pick the pretty purple flowers in bloom amidst the dunes. “Don’t pick those flowers,” she admonished. “Don’t go in the grass. We need to keep the dunes healthy.” She was right, of course—because sand dunes and the plants therein often play an important role in protecting the land against storm surges—but at the time I was glad she hadn’t seen me picking pea pods from those same dunes just a few hours earlier!
The purple-flowering plant that captured the children’s attention was also the one that had captured mine—Lathyrus japonicus, the wild beach pea. Lee Allen Peterson (1977) puts the range of this plant as the east coast of the United States south to New Jersey, in addition to the shores of the Great Lakes, Oneida Lake, and Lake Champlain. Plants for a Future, the U.K. based “resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants,” expands the range to include sandy coasts from Alaska to northern California, western and eastern Europe, and eastern Asia/China. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, June 10th, 2011 at
Wild Edibles app by Steve Brill and WinterRoot. Image nabbed from iTunes.
Steve Brill recently released “Wild Edibles,” an iPhone app that helps foragers identify and use edible wild plants. The free version, Wild Edibles Lite, contains 20 common plants, while the full version costs $7.99 and offers “165 edible plants, 52 minor look-alikes, 719 images, and 162 vegan recipes.” The release is compatible with iPhone (iOS 3.0 or later), iPod touch, and iPad, with an Android version currently under development by the software’s creator, WinterRoot LLC.
Considered to be one of the foremost experts in the foraging field, “Wildman” Steve Brill has held wild edible plant tours in and around New York City since 1982 and published several books on foraging and wild food preparation. He is perhaps most well known for his 1986 arrest by undercover NYC park rangers for eating a dandelion in Central Park.
I don’t own an iPhone myself, but I downloaded the free version onto Gregg’s phone the other day to take a look. Even though Wild Edibles Lite only contains 20 plant entries, there are still several plants in there that I don’t yet know, despite the fact that I own Brill’s comprehensive 1994 guide, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places. (Informative and thorough as that book is, it’s big to be toting into the field and I find the black-and-white botanical illustrations hard to match up definitively to the actual plants—so I often reach for something smaller and in color instead.) Read the rest of this entry
Monday, May 30th, 2011 at
Cook stinging nettles before consuming lest you get stung in the mouth.
Accounts of stinging nettles are far from uncommon in the wild foods literature; likewise, stinging nettle soup is sold in more than a few restaurants—such that some wild foods neophytes like Gregg’s little sister Caity have more experience with the plant than I do, isolated as I am in high-mountain Colorado. For me, then, finding a small colony of nettles growing out of a culvert in Woodstock, New York last week was cause for great celebration.
I tried nettles on one other occasion three years ago, when, at the end of my cross-country journey to Colorado, I found myself alone and foodless save for a grocery bag full of nettles (which miraculously made it four days without refrigeration in the back seat of my car from State College, PA where it was gifted to me by a friend). This was before my newfound obsession with wild edible plants, and I worried about getting sick as I stripped and boiled the prickly leaves in the unfamiliar kitchen that has since become my own. (Everything turned out fine, though I can’t honestly say I relished the nettles at that moment. Funny what fear can do to the taste buds!) Read the rest of this entry
Friday, May 27th, 2011 at
Wild foraged fiddleheads and morels purchased from a health food store.
It’s been a number of years since I made it out east in the spring—and what a spring it is! Apparently it’s been raining more than usual, such that the outdoors is carpeted in lush new green growth the likes of which I seldom see. Coming from the Colorado high country, where snow still covers the forest floor, I have to admit I’m not sure where to begin.
Gregg and I headed first to Woodstock, New York, to visit my friend Aurora. The Hudson River Valley where Woodstock is located is truly an Eden of wild foods, a fact that she pointed out has been the case for thousands of years—and the reason so many native people relied upon this area for hunting and gathering. Granted, many of the plants that now flourish in these parts were imported by early settlers, but I am overwhelmed by the abundance of wild edibles I have an encountered.
In the Hudson River Valley we found the following plants ripe for the picking (in addition to many other that are not in season): stinging nettles, garlic mustard, mint, clovers, cleavers, goosefoot, mallow, burdock, several varieties of dock, a few late fern fiddleheads, sorrel, wild carrot, dandelion, plantain, and milkweed shoots. I helped Aurora weed some of these plants out of her garden and ended up with a cooler bag full of wild edibles. Later, on the forested grounds of my Alma Mater, Bard College, we found wild ginger, mayapples not yet fruiting, spicebush, and sweet cicely. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, May 13th, 2011 at
Juniper and coriander steeping in vodka to make gin.
Perhaps one day I’ll get into distilling my own spirits, but until that day comes, I did find a lazy’s man’s gin recipe on Ehow that involves wild edible plants.
According to the website of the now-defunct Gin & Vodka Association, gin flavorings (referred to as botanicals) include juniper as the mandatory and dominant flavor, in addition to any or all of the following: coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries, and nutmeg. Additional gin botanicals are listed at Tony Ackland’s site on the home distillation of alcohol.
The wild edible plant I used in my gin is juniper, of course. We have tons of it growing in the back yard and I’ve collected juniper “berries” (which aren’t berries at all, but rather cones) on numerous occasions, so I have a collection of these dry, hand-picked “berries” in the closet. (Another botanical on the list—angelica—also grows in parts nearby, but I have yet to positively identify and harvest any on account of the similarities it bears to poison hemlock and water hemlock, both of which are highly toxic. So, I’m biding my time until I’m 100% positive about angelica.)
Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, May 12th, 2011 at
A whole spring dandelion dug from the Denver dirt.
Yesterday another foot of snow fell at the house, which lies at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. So much for the few hints of green that were beginning to poke out of the dirt. Fortunately, Gregg and I scored some small spring dandelions last weekend at his parents’ house, which lies much lower at 6,100 feet in Aurora, on the outskirts of Denver.
Weeding Dandelions with Love
Gregg’s step-dad Jim was kind enough to let me weed dandelions from the part of the back yard where he doesn’t spray poison due to its proximity to the fish pond. We have a symbiotic relationship in that way—he needs edible weeds removed from his carefully tended landscape, and I want to eat them.
Have you ever weeded dandelions out of a lawn by hand? It’s not so bad if the soil is soft. Between the soft soil and the long metal hand weeding tool Jim supplied me, it was simply a matter of carefully extracting the dandelions—taproots, leaf stalks, leaves, buds, and all. Read the rest of this entry