Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 at
Hello, you giant hawk’s wing. I think I’ll make you into soup.
I find and eat a lot of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus) in the Colorado high country, and they have already started flushing this year. I’ve eaten them marinated and grilled, dried and reconstituted and sauteed with sauerkraut like my Polish grandmother used to do with her dried mushroom assortments, and best yet in my dad’s creamy mushroom soup, with beef broth and hawks wings combining to create a rich, deep flavor.
Many people, however, experience hawk’s wings to be bitter and inedible. It seems likely, however, that not all hawk’s wings are created equal.
For one, you have to take a look at what trees they are fruiting under. Are they fruiting under lodgepole pines? Do they have a green stain at the base of the stalk? In that case, you might not be looking at Sarcodon imbricatus at all, but rather a related species.
Vera Stucky Evenson, author of Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997), told me last year that you have to be very careful to read the description and make sure you have the right species within the genus, and to steer clear of bitter Sarcodons. In her book she writes that members of the related Sarcodon scabrosus group (described by David Arora in Mushrooms Demystified, 1986, to be “unequivocally and indisputably inedible due to the awful taste”)—have “chestnut brown, less scaly caps; distinctive olive-black to dark bluish green coloration in the stalk bases; and a bitter taste.” Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at
August’s rains have arrived in the Colorado high country, and with them the mushrooms are starting to flush. I can hardly contain myself. Also recently arrived is—you guessed it—the August 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook! This month’s edition features a travel story to the Rhode Island coastline for clamming, followed by a fungi focus on a couple species of Suillus, a review of New York-based author Dina Falconi’s wild food guide and cookbook, and several recipes to boot.
Subscriptions to the Wild Edible Notebook—a photo-filled glossy available in iPad/iPhone, screen reading PDF, Android-friendly, and print-and-fold booklet form—are just $2 a month. For the first $2 you get access to six issues, including the current one.
Featured in the August 2014 issue:
- Quahog clams – My family has been clamming for quahogs at the Rhode Island coast for many years; prior to that, my dad and his father clammed in Connecticut. Over the years we devised our own methods, and I am happy to say we are very successful clammers. This story lays bare some of those family secrets, in a photo-documented how-to account.
- Suillus tomentosus and short-stemmed slippery jack mushrooms – In honor of mushroom season, which has officially arrived in the Colorado high country, I am running my piece on the “Whistling Suillus,” as I like to call the yellow, edible mushrooms that made a lot of noise in my frying pan last year. This piece was originally published here on the blog but has been updated and adorned with many large, informative photographs with captions. I’ve seen a few slippery jacks already this season, and I assume S. tomentosus is not far behind, though those of you in the know might not be all that excited about them… In any case, read up and get ready for a culinary challenge!
- Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi – This book from Botanical Arts Press (2013) contains labeled full-color botanical illustrations by Wendy Hollender of 50 edible plants, and a cookbook of “master recipes” using wild (and cultivated) plants by Falconi. A wide range of plants can be used in each recipe, meaning that thousands of recipes are possible. The book is a lovingly crafted, healthful celebration of the role wild (and cultivated) foods can play in our lives, as well as a guide on how to do it. Check out my in-depth review in this issue of the Wild Edible Notebook.
- Recipes – Every issue of the Wild Edible Notebook contains recipes. In this edition, find Mom’s Stuffed Clams and Dad’s Clam Chowder. Also, if you liked the recipes by Dina Falconi that ran last month, there are two more in this issue—one for Herbal Tea Infusions, and another for Wild Grains Salads. I tried the latter with purslane, quinoa, wild bergamot, navy beans, and feta cheese—and found it divine.
Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 at
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.
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
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 at
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!
Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, June 1st, 2014 at
Fireweed is the featured edible flora of the June 2014 Wild Edible Notebook!
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. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, May 25th, 2014 at
Where they grow in enough abundance, bluebells can be eaten.
Any idea what this high country vegetable is? We just had it for supper.
Just a heads up to interested parties–I will be teaching an intensive 3-week section of Survival Plants in Summer at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge from 6/9/14 to 6/28/14. The course covers edible, medicinal, and toolcraft uses of local wild plants, with a practical emphasis on edibles. Most sessions will be held in the field.
After a successful first class last summer, I have a lot of creative hands-on ideas in store for this second go-around, so I hope very much you’ll join us for what at present seems to be a relatively small group of eager plant enthusiasts.
Class sessions take place from 4-6:50 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week, at the college and at different meeting places throughout the county. There will also be two full-day Saturday field sessions that run from 8 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. on 6/21 and 6/28.
This course was created by Cattail Bob Seebeck, who teaches seasonal sections at several Front Range community colleges. In Summit we are offering just this one section, and it will cover plants in season during the class, in Summit County as well as at field trip locations to be determined.
The class can be taken for college credit or just audited. CMC’s prices are among the most affordable in the country, especially considering the number of hours in the field you get for your money. The course code is OUT-156-BK01 and registration is through the college: http://coloradomtn.edu/campuses/breckenridge_dillon/class_schedule.
Please sign up by June 2. I will be in communication about the textbook and plans. Hope to hear from you!
-Erica aka WFG
Saturday, May 24th, 2014 at
Wild greens and potato pie–great for dinner, even better for breakfast! Contains wild mustards and kochia greens. Photo by Gregg Davis.
I’m having wild greens and potato pie for breakfast again, as I have for the last two mornings. You wouldn’t think greens mixed into mashed potatoes in a pie crust would be all that exciting, but I am definitely smitten.
The inspiration came from Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging (2013), which I spent two hours walking around the neighborhood reading the other afternoon. It’s an easy read with lots of nice, clear pictures—great for gardeners with a penchant for ornamentals, because it includes edibility information for landscaping plants like hosta, spiderwort, bishop’s weed or goutweed, and mountain ash among others, unlike many foraging books that center only on weeds and/or native species.
Zachos writes how her yiayia (her grandmother) grew up in the mountains of central Greece, where wild edibles were an important part of village diets. Specifically, she recommends trying the leaves of the aggressive landscaping plant, bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria), as a filling choice for Greek “pita,” or pie. Her recipe for hortopita, a less well-known cousin to spanakopita, involves an ensemble of phyllo dough, wild greens to replace the spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt, and eggs. It sounds absolutely divine. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at
Wilted wild greens with lemon juice and sweet wine, mmm.
A simple plate of wilted greens, kissed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a dash of sweet wine—doesn’t that sound wonderful? I daresay this one came out just right, judged a winner not only by my taste buds but the better half’s astonished declaration: “These are gourmet,” he enthused, his surprise only thinly veiled.
Whereas in the past I have often kept my various wild-foraged veggies separate so as to bring out each one’s individual flavor, here I think I nailed a good combination of strong-flavored wild greens.
First, I used chive flowers and buds. Chive flowers aren’t exactly wild, but in my book, feral, garden-escaped chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are as much a score as native wild onions and garlics. They certainly might be more sustainable. I figure if you can get your hands on some escaped chives, you might as well grab them and call it “foraging.” That’s what I did—except the chives in question had not actually succeeded in becoming feral, due to the pruning efforts of Gregg’s step-dad Jim. The chives used in this recipe, therefore, were rescue-foraged from Jim’s garden, where their budding and flowering tops were soon to go the way of the weeds in the compost bin. I figure they make good practice for wild cookery anyway, since the flowers are so unique. And, this way, when the chives come up of their own accord at the historic site down the street, I’ll be ready. I imagine you could substitute the flowers, buds, or other parts of a variety of wild onions/garlic/leeks (Allium spp.) for equally good results. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 at
A close-up look at wild salad.
Just when I think I know everything there is to know about wild mustards, I find another one to eat and then do happy kicks about. This time, I am excited about tumblemustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), which you might know better as tumbleweed, because at maturity when it dries out it detaches from its stem and tumbles on the wind, spreading its seed about.
There are numerous species of plants that do this and are referred to collectively as tumbleweed, so don’t just go eating any old tumbleweed just because I said I like it in salad. Tumblemustard (S. altissimum) is a mustard family member, related to broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and other mustards. It starts from a spirally basal rosette of long, many-lobed leaves that are quite different in appearance from the frilly, smaller leaves that appear higher up when the plant bolts. They are mustards so the flowers, generally lemon yellow, are four-petaled. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, May 4th, 2014 at
Orache looks a lot like lambs’ quarters, to which it is related. But, it’s a different plant.
One of my absolute favorite wild veggies is orache, an herbaceous, annual member of the genus Atriplex that grows in the alkaline soil of Denver, Colorado and surrounding areas. Oraches are salt-loving plants, so in addition to salt playas in landlocked regions, species can also be found along coastlines and even along roadsides where the soil or sand is saline.
Orache looks a lot like the edible wild spinach “goosefoot” or “lambs’ quarters” (Chenopodium album and related), so much so that when I posted a Facebook picture of the orache I was eating, along with a caption that said “orache,” more than one person commented how much they liked lambs’ quarters!
Both orache and lambs’ quarters have green to greenish-blue leaves that are covered, particularly on the underside and growing tips, with a white, mealy substance upon which water balls up and runs off. Like those of the goosefoots, the flowers that come later don’t look much like flowers at all, but rather small clumps clustered on the upper parts of the stems.
Read the rest of this entry