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.

 

Edible Plant Hike Saturday June 8 in Summit County

sweet clover CO 350x233 Edible Plant Hike Saturday June 8 in Summit County

Last fall, we looked at about 20 edible plants in the Colorado high country. Let’s see what we can find in Summit County on June 8.

I’ll be offering a series of edible wild plant hikes in Summit County, Colorado, as noncredit courses (Continuing Education) through Colorado Mountain College this summer. There are still  slots open for the first hike on Saturday, June 8, to take place on the River Trail in Breckenridge from 9-11 am.

We’ll be identifying local edible wild plants and plant parts in the high country, with discussion on safe practices for identification, collection, and consumption, both for individual plants and edible wild plants as a whole. We will also discuss foraging topics including collection policies for public lands and how to forage responsibly so that plants can regenerate. There will be some opportunities for taste-testing, but we will not be foraging food in quantity.

The walks are limited to 12 participants and cost $20, with signups taking place through the college. Fill out the Registration Form and submit payment, either online at http://www.coloradomtn.edu (go to Classes>Register for Classes) or in person at CMC Breckenridge (107 Denison Placer Road; 970-453-6757) or Dillon (333 Fiedler Avenue; 970-468-5989). Folks who have taken a CMC class in the past 10 months can phone or fax in the Registration Form.

All walks take place from 9-11 a.m. on the following dates: Read the rest of this entry

More Whitetop Kitchen Experiments

whitetop tops 450x360 More Whitetop Kitchen Experiments

Whitetop flower bud clusters, used as a substitute for broccoli.

The one nice thing about invasive, edible plant species is that there are more than enough specimens available for kitchen tests, and you don’t feel like you’re dishonoring nature’s gifts when something goes wrong.

Like in my recent countertop honey infused with whitetop flowers (Cardaria spp., Lepidium draba or related Lepidium sp.), which I was hoping would make for a nice, spicy honey mustard condiment. Instead I got icky, pungent, planty goo that Gregg says is smelling up the house.

Fortunately, a few of my other experiments came out pretty good, which is nice considering that I jumped on the whitetop bandwagon a little late this year, collecting one batch in Fort Collins at its prime, pre-flowering, broccoli-like state before the pickings were no longer quite so good. Still, we got a few more meals out of the plant after that, and as the green continues to emerge up here in the high country, there might be another opportunity.

Read the rest of this entry

Pine Nut Dessert Extravaganza

pine nut dulce leche cookies 450x337 Pine Nut Dessert Extravaganza

Sugar cookies topped with homemade dulce de leche caramel and wild foraged pine nuts. Note the color variations in the seeds. Also note my one attempt at making a pine nut covered candy. It turned out flimsy.

Everything I’ve ever read says that pinyon nuts (Pinus edulis) are ready for harvest in late summer and fall. So you can imagine my surprise a couple weeks ago, while passing through Utah’s Great Basin on our recent road trip, to find fallen pine nuts with the nutseeds intact, ripe and ready to eat.

Throughout the trip I’d been absentmindedly pinching fallen pinyon nuts whenever I saw them, but always getting air. Then one day during a bathroom stop I got out of the car and looked up to see the most cone-laden pinyon tree I’d ever seen. All of the cones were dangling open, so I looked down to see a litter of pine nuts in the duff underneath. I picked one up and pinched it only to find a firm, white-tan seed inside! Incredulous, I popped it in my mouth, and was further astounded by the flavor.

When Gregg got out of the bathroom I asked him to climb under the tree with me to collect pine nuts. (In case you’re wondering, these are the same pine nuts that can be purchased in the grocery store—except that usually the pine nuts you buy at the store are imported from overseas, despite the fact that pinyon trees grow wild in large swaths across the western United States and Mexico.) Read the rest of this entry

Whitetop—A Wild Invasive Substitute for Broccoli

whitetop Fort Collins 450x337 Whitetop—A Wild Invasive Substitute for Broccoli

Whitetop is a listed invasive species, targeted for eradication in areas of Colorado and other regions.

I’ve been meaning to try eating whitetop, aka hoary cress (Cardaria spp., Lepidium draba or related Lepidium sp.)—an invasive plant targeted for eradication in parts of the Colorado high country and undoubtedly other locations too. It saddens me to see whitetop taking over entire fields; I always wonder what plants might grow there if that whorey mustard hadn’t so asserted itself.

Last summer, when Colorado wild edible plants expert Cattail Bob Seebeck gave me my first taste of whitetop flowers in a farm field in Mesa, it nearly burned my tongue off—a seriously spicy mustard. Which is why I was so surprised that my friend Butter found it to be pleasant and mild prepared in the style of broccoli rabe. She harvested the tops before the flowers opened, including a small portion of stem and leaves, then blanched and sautéed the hoary cress with salt, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar. Read the rest of this entry

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