Dad’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

porcini bun 2014 Gregg Davis 450x351 Dad’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

A porcini bun pushes its way through the duff in a spot everyone doubted but me. Told you so, family!

My early porcini spot finally started fruiting a couple days ago, a full month behind last year’s schedule. My guess is that the mushrooms decided to wait for my parents’ arrival in Colorado. After so many trips to check for them, Gregg doubted I’d find any, but there they were, pushing their beautiful, bun-shaped, brown-red forms through the duff.

Last year, the season seemed almost past when my parents arrived for their annual summer trip, but there were still mushrooms enough for Dad to make his creamy mushroom soup. He made it with porcini (Boletus edulis) along with lesser mushrooms including short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and yellow, blue-staining Suillus tomentosus, noting that for best results, a mix of mushrooms is best.

Later, I adapted the recipe to use strong-flavored hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), both kinds of Suillus, and beef broth, with excellent results.

Hopefully you can enjoy this adaptable recipe with whatever mushrooms flavor your dreams. Read the rest of this entry

Lambs’ Quarters Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

lambs quarter Breckenridge 450x319 Lambs’ Quarters Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

Flowers and leaves of this common weed, lambs’ quarters, are edible. It is now in season in some Breckenridge locales. Seek weeds and you shall find.

The other day we tore ourselves away from our computers and headed out into the forest in the fading light to sneak in a brisk walk before bed. I have mushrooms on the brain, always, these days, so I was hoping to find some.

Our neighborhood at 10,000 feet on the mountainside at the base of a ski resort is crisscrossed with trails through the forest—some single-track, others wide enough for two to walk abreast—and most abutting gigantic micro-mansions that I think could make for stellar eco-villages come the apocalypse. But that’s beside the point.

We descended on a footpath first, then turned on a wider path across a bluff. The light was fading fast so I was eager to gain the road, but in that twilight, we were fortunate to come upon two frolicking fox pups. We watched them for a bit before I noticed the lambs’ quarters growing lush near some blue spruce trees, which must have been planted somewhat recently. The lambs’ quarters plants were happily escaping the property of the big house for which the spruces were planted to provide buffer. Read the rest of this entry

Colorado High Country Blueberries are a Go

grouseberries Vail 450x337 Colorado High Country Blueberries are a Go

Wild blueberries, genus Vaccinium, collected in Colorado on hands and knees in early August around 9,000 feet.

If you’re looking for blueberries like the kind you buy in the grocery store, look elsewhere. The Colorado high country “blueberries” I’m talking about are not those, but several related species of Vacciniums that are smaller, and grow not on a bush but in the groundcover under your feet in the high country. Whereas cultivated blueberries have round depressions surrounded by a crown, our small high country wild blueberries have a round stamp in the berry, but no crown. They can be red, maroon, dark blue, powder blue, purple-blue, to almost black, and they range from translucent to opaque.

I generally refer to these high country blueberries as “huckleberries.” There are quite a few names that people use for the wild Vacciniums up here— grouseberries, whortleberries, bilberries, huckleberries, and blueberries among them. But just the other day as I was trying for maybe the hundredth time to disambiguate a couple of our local species (having not, on hand, a best friend who is a local botanist though I would appreciate one very much), I read in Weber & Wittmann’s Flora of Colorado (2012 ed.) that it is not correct to call them huckleberries, and that “blueberry” is the correct common name. So I thought I’d try that name for this post and see how it felt. Read the rest of this entry

Backyard Foraging cover 348x450 Eat Your Ornamentals: Backyard Foraging with Ellen ZachosDid you know that hosta—the large-leaved and oft variegated landscaping plant that the deer love so much—is edible? I had no idea until I picked up Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (Storey Publishing, 2013). Go figure.

The funny thing is that for as long as I can remember, my mom has planted hosta in the rock garden and other places around my childhood home in Connecticut. Every year it’s a battle, because every year the deer eat it. Now Mom will have to protect her hosta from one more pest.

Zachos explains that hostas come in many different colors and cultivars—all edible, though they may vary in flavor. For this reason, she recommends trying a nibble here and there to see which ones you like best, noting that in Japan, the young shoots of Hosta sieboldii are skinned, parboiled, chopped, and served over rice; in northern Japan, H. montana is grown in greenhouses and kept covered to blanch and tenderize the foliage.

“What’s for dinner?” she asks. “Boiled hosta with miso mustard sauce, of course,” she writes, answering her own question.

New, tight shoots are good chopped, stir-fried, and served over pasta or rice, Zachos writes. The mature leaves, on the other hand, should be boiled for 15-20 minutes, then “chopped and sautéed like other greens, in soups or baked in a quiche or pie.” Read the rest of this entry

Hawks Wings Mushrooms – Free Download

wild food 162 450x337 Hawks Wings Mushrooms   Free Download

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

Wild Edible Notebook—August 2014 Release!

WEN August 2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—August 2014 Release!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

Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

wild strawberry gregg davis 450x399 Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

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.

Ditch Berries

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

Wild Edible Notebook—July 2014 Release!

July2014 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—July 2014 Release!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

Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!

Fireweed flower 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!

Fireweed is the featured edible flora of the June 2014 Wild Edible Notebook!

June2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—June 2014 Release!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

edible summit county wildflowers 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Where they grow in enough abundance, bluebells can be eaten.

cow parsnip furled 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

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

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