Dried wild plants experiment

mountain parsley Colorado 262x350 Dried wild plants experiment

Mountain parsley, or biscuitroot, gathered near 11,000 feet in Fairplay, Colorado last summer.

This summer, I’ll be drying more leaves.

Last season’s nettles were a no-brainer, and they disappeared from my pantry shelves fast—in the form of tea and a much-loved pumpkin nettle beer soup. But what of the other leafy greens I enjoy all summer long? Could they help to tide over a fanatical forager during the long winter months?

Inspired by Maria’s post on Lessons from the Pantry, I piled my few bottles of dried leaves on the counter last night and set to work experimenting in the hopes of determining which dried leaves merited the effort.

Here’s what I came up with:

Salted Bluebell Leaf Chips

A recent insinuation of cheesy kale chips into my life from multiple directions inspired this attempt to recreate leafy green veggie chips from a wild edible angle.

I painted the light-green, dried smooth bluebell leaves (Mertensia spp.) with a thin coat of olive oil—though a spritzer would have been ideal—then sprinkled black Hawaiian lava salt on top in the hopes of drawing out the leaves’ oceany flavor. Then I crisped them on low heat in the toaster oven—actually I crisped them at high heat and a few of them burned before I turned it down—and served to the curious fiancé. Read the rest of this entry

Tiny Mushroom Soup #1

dried Sarcodon 262x350 Tiny Mushroom Soup #1

Dried hawks wings (Sarcodon sp.) slices for the crumbling & reconstitution.

Don’t be deceived. I did not make this soup with tiny mushrooms. Rather, I made but a tiny amount of soup.

“Tiny Mushroom Soup” is my new strategy for making something worthwhile with what remains of my dried wild mushroom bounty from the last two summers. That way, if the soup comes out awful, I haven’t wasted a gallon of mushrooms in the process.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about mushroom cookery. It has taken some serious experimentation to get where I am now, which isn’t very far, and more often than not I find myself completely baffled by icky, gooey mushroom sauces and omelets that are so mushroomy weird that Gregg has to eat them because I’ll hurl if I attempt another bite.

Still, it appears luck was on my side tonight, because this soup came together naturally and turned out to be a hit in our house, the cause of repeated, emphatic utterances of “Mmm!” by the one-day hubbie. Read the rest of this entry

Pine nut shell vodka sauce with pasta

pine nut vodka sauce 350x344 Pine nut shell vodka sauce with pasta

Pine nut vodka sauce over pasta with side salad and small, breaded venison chop.

I wrote perhaps one of my most ridiculous, albeit in-depth, posts — on the subject of pine nuts —  while loopy with pain meds last year after I blew my knee. During that time I made the acquaintance of a colorful character, the purveyor of pine nuts and conservation activist Pinyon Penny, who told me about infusing vodka with pine nuts. Though I can only imagine how good pine nut infused vodka would taste had I left the nuts in there (but of course I had to eat them), the shells worked well for the purpose, resulting in a quite piney vodka a few months later. The pine nut shell vodka is the star ingredient in this vodka tomato sauce. It’s strong, flavorful, and forest-kissed.


  • 4 cups crushed, roasted tomato
  • 1/2-1 cup pine nut shell vodka (or pine nut vodka) to taste
  • Wild oregano (Mondarda fistulosa) or regular oregano to taste
  • Wild garlic (Allium spp.) or regular garlic to taste
  • A splash of olive oil
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 3/4-1 cup Greek yoghurt


Mix everything together except the Greek yoghurt and simmer for a while so the flavors meld. Mix in yoghurt to desired color and taste. Serve over pasta.

Black birch experiment

black birch twigs CT 350x262 Black birch experiment

Black birch twigs can be used for tea. Note the horizontal lenticels that look like dashes, as Steve Brill describes them.

It’s now a week into this month’s wild recipe challenge at Hunger & Thirst for Life, and can I just say, I’ve been out of it for eight months and all of a sudden, this game has gotten way harder.

This month, Wild Things is a “Tree Party,” which, despite the fact that it conjures up happy tree house imagery for me, is not as simple as it sounds, because the following tree parts are disqualified, reserved to grace a later contest on their own merits: leaves, needles, fruits, and nuts. So much for the pine nut vodka I was thinking I’d make into vodka sauce.

Instead we are left with “sap, bark (including cambium), pollen, catkins, and resin,” explains Butterpoweredbike, head cheese of the wild recipe share. She expects to receive monographs or recipes for herbal remedies that use tree bark, and syrup from folks who tap trees, in addition to her own culinary experiments with ponderosa pine bark. Read the rest of this entry

wild food 030 350x262 Bent on pulverizing Short stemmed Slippery Jack’s bad rap

Wild chicken stew with slippery jack powder.

Lately I’ve been powdering my dried wild mushrooms, batch after batch and species after species, then attempting to use the powders in various kitchen concoctions.

First were the porcini (Boletus edulis), from which I made a divine sauce, followed by not-so-bad hawks wings (Sarcodon imbricatus) venison marinade and cream sauce. Short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) were a logical choice after that—in part because I have so many, and in part because I refuse to believe them inferior despite their reputation.

I went through a phase obsessing about Suillus brevipes this fall.

Said me on the Facebook: “Not to harp on the (short-stemmed) slippery jacks or anything, but I’m growing very fond of these guys. I’m tempted to say they rival Boletus edulis, but I think Butter at Hunger and Thirst might have my head for it.” (This because Butter is such a porcini fanatic as to pass up the short, slippery dudes.) Read the rest of this entry

Book look: Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas

Edible Wild Plants 232x350 Book look: Edible Wild Plants by John KallasThere’s a telltale photo of author John Kallas, Ph.D, in his 2010 book, Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate (Gibbs Smith). It’s a faded, 1973 shot of the then long-haired, bearded forager emerging from a swamp wielding cattail vegetables. John Kallas is the real deal. He’s been at the wild edible game a long time; he knows his plants well and has years of experience researching and eating them.

A visually appealing, glossy 400-page book with full-color photographs, Edible Wild Plants is the first in a planned multi-part Wild Food Adventure Series from Kallas, who founded the Portland, Oregon based Institute for the Study of Edible Wild Plants and Other Foragables and its educational branch, Wild Food Adventures (www.wildfoodadventures.com).

The author is a salad lover, judging by all the salad ideas in the book. He also enjoys putting wild edible greens on sandwiches and adding them to myriad other recipes. So it makes sense that Kallas’ first book should centers on greens—specifically, wild leafy greens that love disturbed soil zones.

For readers with farmland, gardens needing weeding or overgrown lots that they hope to forage, Kallas’ book is a superb resource.

In keeping with the current trend among wild edible authors to provide more detailed accounts of less plants (in contrast to traditional identification guides) Edible Wild Plants includes for each plant a detailed and thorough chapter featuring stories of the author’s experience, plant descriptions, photographs of growth stages, and food preparation ideas.

Read the rest of this entry

A sumac and angelica summer cocktail in winter

sumac angelica 265x350 A sumac and angelica summer cocktail in winter

Tangy sumac and angelica liqueur

Just after posting my pinklog, I made something else pink by accident.

“Tangy angelica liqueur,” Gregg called it, and indeed, he guessed correctly because the base of this cocktail is a spicy angelica liqueur we made in the fall. I’ve been drinking it by itself, chilled over ice, and liking it—but not quite loving it, not like I loved the elderberry flower liqueur of this past summer, or the berry liqueurs before that.

Still, wild angelica (Angelica sp.) is a good friend of mine, one I made after much trepidation on account of how it resembles poison hemlock. This particular batch we gathered from approximately 11,000 feet in Colorado in the days just after Gregg proposed to make an honest woman of me.

Tonight, as I cleaned dishes piled in the kitchen from two days ago, I came to a saucepan of dry, abandoned sumac “berries” (Rhus glabra) from which I had extracted tea to use in a tangy butter sauce for fish, and my need for clean dishes inspired the cocktail. So I simmered the sumac leftovers down in a small amount of water to make as tangy a tea as possible, then let it cool and poured it over ice with the vodka-based angelica liqueur. Yum city. Read the rest of this entry

Pretty in wild pink

prickly pear syrup light 350x262 Pretty in wild pink

In the glow of the prickly pear syrup I see…

I don’t know why suddenly all of my wild edible concoctions are coming out hot pink—maybe it’s because pink is the color of love and it’s February? Regardless, here is some pretty-in-pink wild edible fun if you’re game:

Prickly pear & grapefruit syrup

Butter and I foraged these small, wrinkled prickly pears (Opuntia sp.) in the Denver area in fall, and every day of my time-sucking job after that they sat out on the counter, waiting for me to cook with them, until one day they were fully dried out.

Read the rest of this entry

How we ate prairie dog

White tailed prairie dog 2 350x282 How we ate prairie dog

We at prairie dogs, though I’m not certain what species. This is a white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) photographed in Colorado by John J. Mosesso , NBII. Licensed for reuse by Wikimedia Commons.

Allow me to fall from grace a bit and tell you about an unusual project from last summer. Until now I’ve kept mum on the subject, as my take on it ranges from awesome to repulsed, and I played an integral part.

It all started last spring, when, while gimping about in the confinement of our home with my newly repaired ACL, I received a call from the UK—an assistant producer, Richard Grisman, then from Fresh One TV, asking about wild food foraging in Colorado. Where could they bring 16 chefs to survive— hunting, fishing, and foraging—in early June? Were there any concerns that would need to be addressed?

There was only to be one episode (Episode 3: Kill It, Cook It, Eat It) in Chef Race: UK vs. US for BBC America—a reality TV show that would pit a team of eight British chefs against eight American chefs in a series of 10 quasi-cooking-related challenges to take place on a road trip across the US from Southern California to New York. Read the rest of this entry

Creamy powdered wings and blood sauce

wild mushrooms 350x316  Creamy powdered wings and blood sauce

A fall mushroom hunt yielded, clockwise from top left: hawk’s wings (S. imbricatus), porcini (Boletus edulis), Albatrellus confluens, and various puffballs. The sauce in this post is made with hawks wings.

This next mushroom sauce is the stuff of deep, dark forests and shady places, featuring flavors so strong and wild as to cause disquiet to a delicate palate while satiating those of us who desire to delve so deep.

For the second in my mushroom sauce series, then, I present venison soaked in a marinade of hawk’s wings (Sarcodon sp.) and wild red wine vinegar, topped with a Sarcodon cream sauce.

The hawk’s wings came from a two-year-old jar labeled “mature fruiting bodies” that I collected in my early mushroom hunting days. Back then I was more nervous about Vera Stucky Evenson’s advice in Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997): “Only mild, young fruiting bodies should be eaten, as this fungus makes some people slightly ill.”

That year, like I did with many mushrooms, I collected the healthy hawk’s wings specimens I found—including mature fruiting bodies—but then sliced, dried, jarred and labeled them for later use. Read the rest of this entry

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