Old Places, New Head Spaces

pock marked porcini 450x392 Old Places, New Head Spaces

Pock-marked Fairplay porcini, their colors ranging from red to light.

Yesterday we revisited one of our old, favorite hikes on the shoulder of Pennsylvania Mountain above Fairplay, Colorado. We must have done a variation of that hike—sometimes ducking into the forest on game trails to encounter still-open mine holes and long-abandoned cabins, others taking the old road high above treeline only to descend via questionable routes down dry, crumbling couloirs—more than 100 times in the 4 years we lived over there.Those were the days when slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) were the most exciting things ever, back during my big life change when this latent wild edible food obsession was reawakening.

In all those years hiking there, I found only one porcini (Boletus edulis).

But yesterday, as we were driving the long dirt road to our old spot, a familiar feeling came upon me. So while Gregg parked the car and took his sweet time organizing this and that into his backpack, I ducked into the trees for a look around, only to emerge a minute later with a medium-sized porcini button I spotted poking out of the duff. Read the rest of this entry

Whistling Suillus

suillus Breckenridge 337x450 Whistling Suillus

Here you could try singing “Just another Suillus party” to the tune of “Gangsta Party” by 2pac.

For years I steered clear of the edible mushroom Suillus tomentosus—not because it was difficult to identify, but because it wasn’t supposed to be very good.

Suillus tomentosus has a reputation for being a second-class edible and is best when very young,” Vera Stucky Evenson writes of the blue-staining, yellow-brown mushroom with fibrillose cap and cinnamon brown spongy pore mass in her book, Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997).

But the thing is, the forest has been covered with these yellow Suillus for the past couple weeks where I live at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, and throughout the region. My good friend Butter at Hunger and Thirst told me some folks call certain Suillus (I found reference to Suillus americanus) “chicken fat” mushrooms because of their color and texture—and I agree that S. tomentosus also looks like lumps of chicken fat on the forest floor.

“And those darn Suillus everywhere!” Valerie commented at the Wild Food Girl Facebook page. She hunts yellow-gold chanterelles, and the Suillus have been doing everything in their power this year to stand up and scream “look at me, look at me” while pretending to be chanterelles from a distance.

But one day, while stepping over perhaps my 100th Suillus tomentosus to get to other mushrooms, it occurred to me I might be looking a gift horse in the mouth—that I might be passing judgment on the horse based on his teeth, though I knew not the quality of that horse, and above and beyond that, he was a gift.

Here God had been tossing me all these Suillus, and I couldn’t see them for the trees. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—September release!

September 2013 cover 800 288x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September release!September is well on its way, and with it I am happy to announce the release of another Wild Edible Notebook for your reading pleasure. The September 2013 edition is four pages longer than the last, making it the longest Wild Edible Notebook I’ve created to date.

This issue revisits the low-lying high country huckleberries of the genus Vaccinium, a topic I picked based on reader interest. Next is a journey into the wonderful world of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), followed by the story of an even more wonderful culinary journey undertaken in partnership with Chef Bill Greenwood of Beano’s Cabin restaurant in Beaver Creek. This edition also includes a review of The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify and Cook Them (2010) by Virginia-based forager Katie Letcher Lyle. Mushroom recipes dominate the recipe section—a few by me, one from my dad, and a recipe for stewed chanterelles from Lyle. Last but not least is a huckleberry coloring page, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014.

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

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

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

Antelope Liver Pâtés

antelope liver pate 450x337 Antelope Liver Pâtés

Our first antelope liver pâté came out surprisingly good.

I never saw myself eating antelope, let alone antelope liver. I was a GenXer who went to a weirdo college once dubbed “the little red whorehouse on the Hudson,” where I shaved my head and flirted with vegetarianism before traveling cross country on missions of self-discovery that continue to this day.

But what would you do if a giant, smelly antelope liver landed in your lap?

My dad, who has become a hunter over the last few years thanks to my brother-in-law, and who always cooks up the giblets and other pieces-parts come turkey time, saw fit to grab the neglected antelope liver when John took a buck on a recent bow hunt in Wyoming—and then he brought it to my apartment.

When he pulled it out of the bag to cook up for special dinner night, the stench hit us immediately. Who knew it was going to be so smelly, and so big, for that matter? “Whoa, that’s strong,” Dad said, before sending Gregg to the store for buttermilk. We pushed dinner back two hours so he could soak a few slices, and the rest went into my freezer. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—August release!

WEN cover Aug2013 800 289x450 Wild Edible Notebook—August release!What’s that? It’s time again for another issue of the Wild Edible Notebook? It sure is! I am pleased to announce that August 2013 is now finished and ready for download.

This month I found a little more free time to scout new spots and play with plants in the wilds of the Colorado high country, so the August 2013 issue has more in the way of first-hand accounts than past editions. First is an adventure with serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) discovered in abundance at the north end of Summit County, from the happy rain-kissed picking to the many kitchen experiments inspired by it. Then I get busy with pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea), again undertaking one culinary experiment after the next—some successful, some less so. After that comes the story of a lovely mushroom hunt one rainy afternoon where somehow every mushroom we found was larger than life. There are a few porcini (Boletus edulis) recipes from yours truly, along with one from Butter at Hunger & Thirst, and of course a coloring page in case you’re bored and need something to do. Happy reading/foraging/eating/coloring!

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

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

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

 

Last Night’s Wild Dinner

kitchen nightmare 450x337 Last Night’s Wild Dinner

“Honey, can you clean the kitchen? I made dinner.”

Kitchen experiments take time, a luxury I didn’t have this past month until yesterday. I forgot how good it feels to get on one of my kitchen tangents and go wild cookery crazy. Plus I had a plethora of wild plants in the fridge that needed using. So I tried a couple things, some successful, some less so. This is what we dined on last night:

Italian-style Puffball Casserole

I have to laugh when I think about how many of my successful meals are the results of mistakes, and my ongoing obstinacy in learning anything proper in the kitchen. The casserole was originally supposed to be puffball parmigiana, an idea I got from Butter that in my kitchen involves slicing and breading big puffballs (Calvatia, or oversized Lycoperdon, or both in this case) with egg and breadcrumbs, frying in oil, removing to a casserole dish, topping with tomato sauce and mozzarella and baking until the cheese melts.

But I didn’t have any eggs and I didn’t know what to use to stick the fresh breadcrumbs (made from leftover bread in the food processor, mixed with dried crumbles of the wild oregano Mondarda fistulosa) to the puffball slices. After several online searches I found “eggs, buttermilk, or other liquid” as potential breadcrumb-sticking agents. But I guess olive oil doesn’t count as a liquid because all the breadcrumbs fell off after I tossed the oil-coated and breaded slices in the cooking oil. I should have known. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—July release!!

July2013 640 289x450 Wild Edible Notebook—July release!!Well, I made it. Just barely. But today I am pleased as punch to wipe my brow and cross this off my list as I present to you, a few days shy of the end of the month, this hard-fought July issue of the Wild Edible Notebook!

The July 2013 issue is about milkweed, milkweed, and more milkweed (Asclepias speciosa, A. syriaca). It starts off with a story of a road trip east punctuated by milkweed adventures, followed by an in depth look at collecting, preparing, and eating milkweed buds by my dear friend Butter at Hunger & Thirst. Next, monarch butterfly expert Lincoln Brower, who spoke with NPR about declining monarch populations in April, weighs in on implications for milkweed foragers. Then there’s a review of Wildman Steve Brill’s Wild Edibles iPad app, along with an interview with the famous New York City area forager. Last, you’ll find a few simple recipes from yours truly—one that uses milkweed buds, one with strawberry blite (Chenopodium capitatum), and one for spruce tips, which can still be found fresh and green at higher elevations in Colorado. And of course there are always the coloring pages.

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

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

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

Cold-hearted Cattail Salads

young cattails Ithaca NY 337x450 Cold hearted Cattail Salads

Cattail shoots ready for harvest outside Ithaca, NY, June 2013. After tugging a few from the pond, I went for the easier-to-harvest shoots in a dry area on the pond’s edge.

The renowned forager and writer Euell Gibbons called cattails “the supermarket of the swamps,” and from that moniker other nicknames have emerged, among them “the Walmart of the swamps.” Although evoking Walmart doesn’t help me to connect with my joy for wild plants, the sobriquets are so given because of all the different plant food cattails (Typha spp.) yield—from the shoots (aka hearts or leaf cores) and flower spikes* to cattail pollen as flour, along with several underground parts, among which the rhizomes require a bit of processing to separate the edible starches. It is also often the case that cattails are quite plentiful where they occur, making them a good choice for a sustainable wild harvest.

Perhaps easiest to collect and process are the shoots or hearts, also known as “Cossack asparagus.” These are best harvested in spring and early summer, prior to the development of the flower stalk (Thayer, 2006), by giving a mellow yanking to the inner leaves near the base of the plant until the soft, white core releases, bringing the attached long green leaves with it. I usually cut the long green leaves off in the field, keeping just the bottom portion to finish cleaning in the kitchen.

The Heart: To Cook or Not to Cook?

Since cattail hearts are described as tasting like cucumbers, I decided to use the comparison to come up with a recipe for Hunger & Thirst’s June recipe share. But the recipe idea I came up with requires raw cucumbers, not cooked ones.

Numerous sources say to eat cattail hearts raw or cooked, though in The Forager’s Harvest (2006), Sam Thayer complains of getting “an itchy, irritated feeling” in the back of his throat when he eats them raw, so he prefers to cook them. I get a little of this sensation but it is not uncomfortable, just a bit strange.

Read the rest of this entry

Creamy Green Yogurt Sauce with Spruce Tips & Dill

spruce sauce eggs asparagus 450x378 Creamy Green Yogurt Sauce with Spruce Tips & Dill

Egg on toast with wild asparagus and creamy green yogurt sauce made with blended spruce tips and dill.

Everybody seems so into spruce tips—those soft, light-green new tips that grow on spruce (Picea spp.) in spring. I’m still sleuthing about trying to find out where that idea on the culinary use of spruce tips came from. Maybe the cookbook Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by Chef Rene Redzepi, from the restaurant that all the chefs are raving about? Or, I just read in Ava Chin’s article—an informative read, BTW—that there is a chapter on conifer tips in The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes (2010) by Connie Green, so that book is now on my wild edible wish list too.

I couldn’t find many references as to the edibility of spruce tips aside from tea in my own book collection, but in Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies (2000), Kershaw warns: “Always use evergreen teas in moderation. Do not eat the needles or drink the teas in high concentrations or with great frequency,” though she does not say why. Also she indicates that as an emergency food, “tender young shoots, stripped of their needles, can be boiled.” Later she writes that evergreen needle teas are not advised for pregnant women. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—June release!

WEN cover 640 288x450 Wild Edible Notebook—June release!Time flies. Before you know it, it’s time again for another issue of the Wild Edible Notebook!

The June 2013 issue starts off with an introspective diatribe on stinging nettles (Urtica spp.), followed by a look at the western high country edible, mountain marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala), which is related to and shares edibility characteristics with the eastern marsh marigold (Caltha palustris). There is a review of John Kallas’ book, Edible Wild Plants (2010), along with a short interview with the author. Inside you’ll also find a few recipes, two by the inimitable Butter at Hunger & Thirst, and a coloring page, which I think is just going to have to be an ongoing feature. Some of the content repeats from my blog (but with updates), and some is brand spankin’ new, with plenty of as-yet-unseen pictures throughout the booklet to boot.

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

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

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

 

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