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

Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

greens pie Gregg picture 450x299 Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

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

Wilted Wild Greens with Lemon & Chive Flower Buds

wilted greens above 450x299 Wilted Wild Greens with Lemon & Chive Flower Buds

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

Tumbleweed Salad

tumblemustard salad ID 450x299 Tumbleweed Salad

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

Orache is Not the Same as Lambs’ Quarters

orache plant2 450x337 Orache is Not the Same as Lambs’ Quarters

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

Wild Edible Notebook—May 2014 Release!

WEN May2014 cover800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—May 2014 Release!The May 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook is finished and ready for download! This edition starts with a new story by Samuel Thayer. Not only is he one of the foremost experts in the foraging field, but a great writer and storyteller too. His piece is many things—a story of land and family; a tale of weed migration and world plant use; and a wild edible discovery. Have you heard of chufa? If not, you might want to read this issue.

The stories I penned for May 2014 include one on orache—a goosefoot relative with salty, arrowhead-shaped leaves—along with a few of its desert-loving, woody cousins. After that I revisit, update, and illustrate a piece I wrote a while back for the blog on cattail hearts—the shoots or cores of cattails, known also as “Cossack asparagus”—which come into season in spring. Last, there is a reflection on what it means to be a weed, including an interview with a local weed sprayer that explores herbicide application practices and their implications for foragers. As always, this issue concludes with a handful of recipe ideas using wild food.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of the page.

Wild Edible Picnic

gregg picnic sm 404x450 Wild Edible Picnic

A stop for a look around by the reservoir on our way home.

The season’s change is upon us, even here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country. The snow has started to melt away, leaving the detritus of last year’s tourist season in its wake—the bottles and bits of paper and crumpled, dirty cloths and tons upon tons of dog leavings. But there are also green things emerging from under the blackened snow drifts; the promise of foraging season is nigh.

We celebrated with a car picnic, which I dreamed up to get Gregg out of the house, as he is now in week four of his mandated six weeks on crutches after his second knee surgery, or our third consecutive knee surgery as a couple, depending how you look at it.

That morning I whizzed around the kitchen to whip up some food to pack along, aiming to use up as many of the wild ingredients, both fresh and preserved, as I had on hand, since I am still, if somewhat lazily, under the spell of spring cleaning. Then we took a happy drive in the sun to the north end of the county, me reading aloud selections from Richard Mabey’s Weeds (2010), Gregg checking out the spring scene around us and announcing each vista one after the other—a kayaker kayaking, a fisherman fishing, a tall eagle’s nest, a person on horseback, baby cows. Then we camped out alongside the river and had a look around at the first signs of spring’s emergence at 8,000 feet—once in a very small, crutched radius, and the second time a longer but faster solo mission by yours truly while my better half napped—before retiring to the Vanagon, whom we call Myrtle after Gregg’s late grandmother, for the honorary unfolding of her picnic table for the first time this season.

Among the dishes I set out was a pasta salad, the piece I worked hardest on, and a wild garlic-onion cream cheese spread, which though super easy I thought I’d messed up, but over which Gregg went absolutely gaga regardless. Read the rest of this entry

Spring Cleaning with Fruit Leather

Concord jelly fruit leather fireplace 450x317 Spring Cleaning with Fruit Leather

Fantastic patterns in fireplace-dried fruit leather.

Every half-empty jar in the refrigerator must be used, I decided when I embarked on spring cleaning last weekend. And that includes the jelly.

My friend Butter, who makes the best plum-and-guajillo-chili fruit leather imaginable, recommends upcycling jams into fruit leather. “All you have to do is mix it 1:3 (jam: apple) with apple puree,” she writes. Then you spread it thin and dehydrate it—either in direct sun, a dehydrator, or the oven set on low heat.

Finding myself in possession of several half-used jars of jelly, and with a sudden bank of time at my disposal, I decided to put her jelly tip to the test. The oven seemed the only feasible option to me—that and the top of the fake fireplace, which we sometimes turn on but otherwise remains warm from the heat of the pilot light.

Instead of apple puree—as I was unable to avail myself of feral apples last year—I used store-bought applesauce. I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t care. This is valuable practice for what I hope will be a stellar apple season, or even crabapple season, as I will be newly armed with a Foley food mill (thanks to my industrious mom who found me one) to separate the skins and seeds from tiny apples once and for all. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—April 2014 Release!

WEN April 2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—April 2014 Release!Here in the offices of the Wild Edible Notebook we are starting to get very excited for spring—for all the wandering and wondering to ensue as the snow melts and the green plants push their way forth once more. The April 2014 issue is special in a number of ways. For one, it’s longer, including four feature stories in place of three, two of which are by fabulous guest authors.

First is a song of almost-spring by none other than Wisconsin forager Samuel Thayer, who begins each season in the sugar woods, tapping maples and hauling buckets of sap through the snow to make syrup. If you take your foraging seriously, you know his books—Nature’s Garden (2010) and The Forager’s Harvest (2006)—and you know that he is not only a master forager and serious scholar, but also a great writer.

Then, because spring happens a little later here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country than it does in parts lower, I decided to focus on a few early plants to be found in Denver and comparable locations. My stories include a tour of some wild mustards as well as an expanded bit on wild lettuces. Members of both groups are found here in the West but also throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Next is a piece on the many edible parts of evening primrose by my BFF (Best Foraging Friend) Wendy Petty, whom you might know as Butter, the blogger behind Hunger & Thirst. Butter penned this story special for the Wild Edible Notebook, on the condition that I hurry up and finish my winter work season so we can get on with our foraging adventures.

As usual, a handful of recipes for wild food cookery round out the magazine.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of the page.

Wild Edible Notebook—March 2014 Release!

March 2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—March 2014 Release!Wild sea vegetables are hard to come by here in the Colorado high country, so for the March 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook I decided to travel through space and time to coastal Connecticut via several jars of seaweed—Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) and sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima)—that I collected last summer and dried in my parents’ house.

While researching the story I was fortunate to tap into the expertise of Dr. Charles Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, who promotes the cultivation of sea vegetables as a means to clean coastal waters while also providing good food for the dinner plate. This edition also includes a lighthearted jaunt into wild jellies and things to make with them besides toast. The issue concludes with a handful of recipes using wild foraged seaweeds, including one by West Coast seaweed purveyor Louise Gaudet, as well as a recipe for serviceberry jelly pork glaze by the awesome cook that is my dad.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, super-squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of the page.

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