Friday, July 8th, 2011 at
One of the back yard thistles we ate.
Don’t get too excited. There isn’t a “wild artichoke” that I know of per se. But there is a pretty good substitute for it, if you don’t mind the risk of getting prickled and are willing to put in a bit of work to get at it.
Weed Demolition Discovery
A week and a half ago Gregg and I were offered the opportunity to clear our beloved weeds from a very productive bed that his parents, who co-own the house, decided to cover with weed barrier fabric and mulch so they could have “at least one thing that’s perfect,” in the back yard, as Nancy explained it to me.
Ensuing depression aside, I headed out there at 5:30 am on the appointed weed destruction day and dug three non-stalk-producing thistle rosettes, taproots and all. I’d been meaning to try thistle roots, though after a few failed experiences both with thistle leaf midribs and taproots (in both cases I’d harvested them at the wrong time of year and from plants that were far too mature), they’d landed themselves near the end of my list.
In this case, however, the baby thistles were going to die anyway, so I dug them up and shoved them in the refrigerator, where I proceeded to ignore them for several days with the exception of the occasional prickly mishap from reaching into the veggie drawer too hastily.
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Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at
Surely dandelion flower stalks are good for something..
The last of this batch, that is, in the refrigerator.
And it’s not just dandelions, either; I’ve run out of my entire fresh bounty of wild edible plants, having spent my Fourth of July weekend embroiled in other pursuits—a tandem, costumed A-Basin snowboarding pond-skim with Gregg being one of the highlights—plus entertaining old friends-turned-gypsies who rolled into town in their beat-up RV as well as working an intensive new summer job writing A&E stories for our local paper, The Summit Daily, the noon deadline for which I have one story to go but can no longer resist taking a break to draft this short piece about dandelions.
So as I was saying, I ran out of wild edible plants—and to some extent, things to say and words with which to say them, so I’ll try to use just a few words now.
This exciting entry is about what we had for dinner last night, which was turkey burgers, oven-fried red potatoes with finely chopped dandelions, and “dandelion noodles.”
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Saturday, July 2nd, 2011 at
Green curry with elkslip and dandelion flowers.
Thai curries are among my absolute favorites, but until last night I’ve had very little success with them. What a wonderful coincidence that the same night I decided to sacrifice my latest batch of elkslip (Calthus leptosepala) for an experiment with a normally-unsuccessful-dish (especially because Gregg made me promise while gathering the elkslip leaves that we’d make then into dip) that it would turn out so remarkably well.
I can’t take credit for the green curry paste, which is manufactured in Thailand by Namprik Mersri Ltd. We picked up a can of it last summer at Bangkok Asian Market in Fort Collins, Colorado. That stuff is extremely spicy, so I mixed spoonfuls of it with a can of coconut milk until it was to my liking—which ended up being fairly spicy with just under half a can of curry added.
My recipe also calls for a handful of finely chopped dandelion flowers. These were a last minute decision and it would probably be just fine without them, however, I really liked the way they added a hint of golden yellow to the otherwise green curry. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, July 1st, 2011 at
I steamed these beautiful dandelion specimens whole.
Collecting dock and dandelions has become almost second nature to me this season. I use ‘em up and then when I’m out walking the dogs I notice a dandelion here or a dock patch there, snip or pull and voila—they’re in my bag and back to the house at the ready for whenever I need them. This season there’ve been few gaps in the dock and dandelion provenance. Many thanks to mother earth for these free, organic staples.*
Dock in Alfredo Sauce with Pasta
“Every time we eat dock for dinner, we’re saving $3 on a bag of spinach,” I tell Gregg, who sautéed and served a good-sized batch with Alfredo sauce over pasta the other day. “Not to mention there’s less likelihood of getting salmonella!”
“I love dock,” Gregg responded. (As we have seen, however, pretty much anything in cream sauce seems to do the trick.)
The western, large-leafed dock (tentative ID: Rumex occidentalis) that grows in wet areas near our house makes an excellent vegetable. It takes only a few minutes to collect a decent amount from a good patch, and it’s easy to wash. Just chop it up and it cooks real nice!
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Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 at
A delicious and attractive wild stir fry.
Yesterday I experienced the somewhat unique problem of having too many bags of wild edible plants in my refrigerator and not enough “normal” food with which to make lunch. So I improvised—and it worked out surprisingly well.
When In Doubt, Stir Fry
My most successful stir fry in recent months, then, involved sautéing finely chopped red onions and fireweed shoots for 10 minutes in olive oil, then adding yucca petals and Mertensia leaves, sautéing for another 5 minutes, and serving with noodles.
Normally I add a sauce to my stir fries, but this time I didn’t season it at all. Yucca was the dominant flavor, followed by the onions and olive oil. The fireweed shoots made for a nice, crispy texture, and although the Mertensia leaves lost the mild oyster-like flavor they have when raw, upon cooking they turned a beautiful bright green that made the dish look fantastic.
Here are some more details on the wild ingredients: Read the rest of this entry
Monday, June 27th, 2011 at
Large conspicuous cow parsnip leaves.
We foraged another batch of cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) the other day. It is very plentiful where it’s plentiful, showing up in large bunches amidst the willows alongside the stream at approximately 10,500 feet where we go. Again, I reach in and snip the new, unfurling or still rolled-up leaves, petioles (leaf stalks) and all, one or two per plant.
I love the scent of cow parsnip, although both the smell and the taste are acquired—such that some authors, like H.D. Harrington, called cow parsnip “rank-smelling,” and after trying it indicated in Edible and Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains (1967) that “the taste was fair but a suggestion of the rank and unpleasant (to us) odor still lingered.”
If you’ve never tried cow parsnip before, I recommend a dish like the Kathryn G. and Andrew L. March’s (1979) tried-and-true boiled cow parsnip with raw onions, butter, and soy sauce. Even with these added flavors, you get a good sense for what cow parsnip tastes like, because it certainly does have a strong taste. Unique, wild and woolly, strange, and interesting are among the adjectives that come to mind. Gregg himself was uncertain about cow parsnip for a while, but has since embraced it. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, June 26th, 2011 at
Colorado yucca flowers at 6,000 feet.
Late last summer, during a whirlwind west-coast visit, I found myself on an unlikely hike through prickly pear cacti up a Malibu mountainside in a private ranch of rented houses to a pool that was clothing-optional on Wednesdays. (Spending time with my friend Reina is always an adventure.)
En route to the pool I tried to pick a prickly pear from atop a cactus in ill-advised bare-handed fashion, only to find that the spines, unlike those of thistle, for example, are quick to release from their fruity bearings and inject themselves into the unlucky plucker’s skin in great numbers. We’re talking 50 spines, give or take. Then, I made the situation even worse by attempting to remove them from my fingers with my teeth, thereupon transferring dozens of sharp hair-like spines from fingers to lips and tongue.
This is not an entry about prickly pear (although I’ve had a request and one will follow!). It is simply to set the stage for a latent realization… Read the rest of this entry
Friday, June 24th, 2011 at
Mullein processing station.
No matter which way I turn, mullein (Verbascum thapsis) seems to insert its fuzzy leaves into my life.
First there was the requested rescue mission to Aurora (on June 18), where Jim and Nancy invited me to weed out all of their mullein. Much to my excitement, there were about 20 big, healthy rosettes—a far cry from last year’s 10,000 tiny ones. This time I gathered enough mullein that when washed and laid out to dry, it covered three cookie sheets with a small mound of leaves on each one.
Of course, this brought to mind the need to do something with last year’s dried mullein leaves, of which I still have a medium-size box full. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 at
Delicious Elkslip Dip on a cracker.
This story starts with Part I of the Great Elkslip Experiment, so if you haven’t read that entry yet I suggest you do so before proceeding.
Part II – Creamed Elkslip
What I am calling Part II of my experiment actually involved eating the elkslip, so after reading several reports on marsh marigolds (Calthus spp.)—both about our local elkslip in the Colorado Rockies (Calthus leptosepala) and the eastern variety, commonly called cowslip (Calthus palustris), I settled on creamed elkslip for our first culinary trial.
Keep in mind that after a successful lip test (zero irritation), Gregg and I consumed only about 25 small elkslip leaves between the two of us, and they boiled down to next to nothing in 20 minutes. Some sources say to change the water several times and boil marsh marigolds for as long as 60 minutes to remove the bitterness, but ours were not very bitter. They turned the water an amazingly bright green. Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 at
Calthus leptosepala the western marsh marigold.
There is a new wild edible plant in my refrigerator, one I have yet to try, and about which there is some debate as to its edibility. That plant is elkslip, aka mountain marsh marigold (Calthus leptosepala), and today I will conduct Part I of my experiment eating it.
Don’t Slip on the Mountain Marsh Marigold, You Elks!
I found the elkslip growing in and around wet areas in the forest near our house (at approximately 10,500 ft in the Rocky Mountains outside of Fairplay, Colorado).
I first read about this plant, which is also referred to as “Western marsh marigold,” in wild edible plants guru, Euell Gibbons’ 1973 book, Stalking the Faraway Places and Some Thoughts on the Best Way to Live. (Man, what a title!) Read the rest of this entry