Low Cost Meal—Beans & Dried Dock

dock beans tostadas 450x299 Low Cost Meal—Beans & Dried Dock

Tostadas with jalapenos, dock & beans. I did the tostadas in the oven–broiling, flipping, and broiling again before adding the topping for the final broil. Next time, I need to brush the tortillas with oil; what was I thinking?

My fiance and I are seasonal workers. Most of our income comes from a winter job that lasts 6 months. It offers health insurance for that time period, so we jump on it each winter. In December I can finally get my cavities filled, and he can upgrade his glasses and contact lenses.

But summer is always harder on us financially. Health insurance costs skyrocket to $350-400 per month (each) if we choose to extend our benefits with COBRA. We work a lot of jobs and barely make ends meet. By the time December rolls around again, we are emptying pockets and jars and every other nook and cranny trying to cover bills while fixing up the old cars and ourselves and getting ready for another season’s work.

I’m not saying this to complain. We chose this life—up high in a winter paradise where well-heeled tourists own second homes and we would be lucky to one day afford a decrepit miner’s cabin because prices are so inflated. We chose to chase our passions and to work outdoors, instead of spending a lifetime of recurring 60-hour weeks in a cubicle—so in that respect, this is very much the good life. But the financial struggle is ever present. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—November Release!

WEN cover Nov 2013 800 338x450 Wild Edible Notebook—November Release!Surprise! The November 2013 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook is here, just three weeks after last month’s release. This issue is 10 pages longer than last month’s, with new sections including an editor’s letter, a clickable table of contents, and a collection of letters, notes, and quotes.

In this issue, we invite you to stare into a washbasin of slow-leaching acorn meal as we peruse the literature and consult with experts, including East Coast forager Arthur Haines, on how best to process acorns for consumption. Next comes an extended take on black walnuts, a journey inspired by my mother’s not-so-successful experience processing black walnuts in Connecticut and culminating in a Boulder, Colorado-area farm field. There’s a review of a new Falcon Guide to edible wild plants in the Rocky Mountains, and a handful of acorn and black walnut recipes from yours truly and my good friend and foraging partner in crime, Butter.

Past Notebooks have focused primarily on edible wild plants high in the Colorado Rockies, often at 10,000 feet and above. This issue, however, spans a wider range, in response to requests from a recent reader survey.

About the Wild Edible Notebook

The Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. In the last two months it underwent a major overhaul and is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including a screen-reader, a tall & skinny Android-optimized PDF, and 8.5×14” print-and-fold booklet.

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.

I cannot overstate how thankful I am for those of you who already purchased a subscription in support of this effort. Maybe all caps will do the trick: THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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.


Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress

pract herbs front 350x450 Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress

Practical Herbs by Finland-based herbal teacher Henriette Kress is ideal for beginning herbalists and available in English, Swedish, and Finnish. It is soon to be followed by a sequel, Practical Herbs 2.

Plant lovers who like free online info might already know the voice of Henriette Kress, an herbalist and herbal teacher based in Finland who has hosted the multilingual website, Henriette’s Herbal, since 1995. It is one of the oldest—and quite possibly the largest—of the herbal websites out there.

A person can get lost reading at Henriette’s Herbal, with essay after essay by Kress and others. The herbal and culinary FAQs alone are troves of useful information, collaborated upon by many, and succinctly delivered. Whenever Kress makes an appearance, there is that distinctive voice with its “gentle wit,” as one writer described it, signed simply, “Henriette.”

For those willing to get lost for days—or months—the tech savvy Kress offers the entire site (a 2.3 GB data disk including 80,102 files) in DVD form for $25.

But for everybody else there is Practical Herbs—her 150-page full-color guide to using medicinal plants, available in English, Swedish, and Finnish, now with a Japanese translation under consideration.

Practical Herbs is ideal for the entry-level herbalist. It starts with an ample how-to section that’s easily read and navigated, covering “The Basics” such as picking herbs, drying herbs, making and using herbal teas, herbal oils and salves, tinctures, herbal vinegar, and herbal syrups.

Safety and sustainability are also addressed in this section, with simple tips like:

“Don’t pick large quantities of an herb you’ve finally located after years of searching. Instead pluck a twig, a flower, and a leaf, and take those home with you. Then double-check what you wanted the plant for, and which part of the plant you should gather for that purpose. Once you’ve identified a plant in the wild, you’ll spot it more easily in the future.” Read the rest of this entry

walnut fingers bandage 450x348 Warn Your Mother Before She Handles Black Walnuts for You

Mom came down with an extreme case of “walnut hands,” replete with blisters.

Mom called the other day to tell me the nuts were falling in Connecticut, and to ask me if I wanted her to get me any. Well, geez, I thought, I would be remiss to look a gift horse in the mouth, now wouldn’t I?

“Sure Mom, that’d be great—how about acorns, hickory nuts, and black walnuts?”

The hickories are a pain in the ass to shell, but I’ll take ‘em and do it anyway. And I like processing small batches of acorns on the countertop after Mom has dried them for me, to leach out the tannins and make flour for yummy acorn pancakes.

Black walnuts (Juglans nigra), however, I’ve used exactly once.

As a young woman growing up in Connecticut I always saw them—the nuts encased in thick, round green husks, making them look like tennis balls, and hanging from tropical-looking pinnately compound leaves—but I didn’t figure out what they were until I was living on the other side of the country. Now that I don’t live close to black walnuts anymore, I’m of course all the more curious. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—October release!

WEN October 2013 cover800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—October release!The leaves are a’changing and the cool winds have begun to blow. Still, foraging season continues into October, and with it, a new-and-improved Wild Edible Notebook blows into town.

October 2013 brings many exciting changes to the Notebook, including a new look-and-feel with an improved cover and 2-column layout, designed to look better overall and also to improve viewing on smart phone devices. And, October 2013 and all future issues are available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand! Improvements to the PDF versions include a wider screen reading PDF, a new 2-sided print-and-fold PDF designed to print on legal (8.5” x 14”) paper, and an Android-formatted PDF.

The October 2013 issue dives deep into rosehips, the fruits that develop at the bases of wild and domesticated roses. Not only are rosehips an excellent source of vitamin C, but they also lend themselves to numerous culinary preparations. Next is the tale of my mission to dry dandelion leaves for winter, inspired by the idea to make a nutritious green powder described by Colorado forager Katrina Blair of Turtle Lake Refuge. This edition also includes a review of Practical Herbs, a medicinal plant how-to by renowned Finland-based herbalist Henriette Kress, which will soon be followed by the book’s sequel, Practical Herbs 2. There are a handful of rosehip recipes by yours truly as well as my Colorado-based partner in crime, Butter. There’s a rosehip coloring page on the print version, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014, in all of them.

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 the website. Thanks!

Wild Edible Notebook available on iPad

ipad screenshot2 Wild Edible Notebook web 450x358 Wild Edible Notebook available on iPad

The Wild Edible Notebook is now available for iPad, can you believe it? You could drink coffee while reading it, or better yet, try some chicory, dandelion, or chaga…

Great news! The Wild Edible Notebook is now available on iPad, in the form of an online magazine in the Apple Newsstand.

The Wild Edible Notebook is the publication I’ve been doing seasonally since 2010. It contains first-hand, informative, and sometimes silly edible plant accounts interwoven with research, book reviews, forager spotlights, and recipes. Captioned photos of plants and cookery help to paint the full picture.

This year, in response to popular demand, the Notebook is going year-round for the first time ever.

If you have an iPad and want to check out the magazine, click on Wild Edible Notebook, or go to the Newsstand app on your iPad (it looks like bookshelves with magazines on it) and search for “Wild Edible Notebook.”

The way it works is this:

  1. You download the Wild Edible Notebook app for free. (The Notebook is optimized for iOS6, with the iOS7 optimization pending, so if you are on an old operating system, it’s time to do your update. Go to Settings>General>Software Update and make sure you have your Apple ID and Password ready.)
  2. Then you can access the previously released August 2013 issue for free. It has been newly formatted to fit the dimensions of the iPad display. This should make the process much easier for those who have iPads. Also, the photos are so much nicer in high def!
  3. The paid subscription, which currently includes the reformatted September 2013 issue and monthly issues after that, costs $1.99/month. Read the rest of this entry

Stuffballs on the Menu

stuffballs tomato queso 450x332 Stuffballs on the Menu

Stuffed puffballs with onion & bread stuffing, tomato bits, and queso fresco.

This has been quite a season for puffballs—both large and small—in the Colorado high country. Though the season for giant puffballs is upon us, I wanted to first share a preparation we’ve been enjoying with small puffballs, which are still out there fruiting like crazy too. I like to call it “stuffballs.”

For the stuffballs I’ve been using puffballs of the genus Lycoperdon. Up here we have gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), which when young and fresh have what Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) describes as “conelike spines” covering the top that can be rubbed off. The puffballs are “almost spherical with a tapered base,” she writes, adding that they can be “abruptly tapered at the base.” In my experience the tapered bases can come together gradually, or seem like miniature fat stems. I often find L. perlatum growing deep in conifer forests, in soil on the forest floor.

We also have the related pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme, per Evenson), which are pear-shaped, as the name suggests—also roughly spherical with an elongated base. Michael Kuo at MushroomExpert.com writes that L. pyriforme is a very recent synonym for Morganella pyriformis, and that the pear-shaped puffballs are one of the few puffballs that grow on wood (or lignin-rich soil, Arora, 1984). The mushroom’s surface starts out smooth, Evenson writes, developing coarse granules later so as to appear rough. Read the rest of this entry

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.

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