Black Greasewood with Tofu Cubes

tofu black greasewood 350x262 Black Greasewood with Tofu Cubes

Pan-fried tofu cubes with black greasewood leaves.

Last night I all but destroyed the kitchen, scurrying about cooking up a wild feast like a person possessed. It felt good to be back home experimenting with wild ingredients again after our recent road trip to parts west, to channel all that inspiration from finding exciting new plants into food while my better half lounged on the couch. And, of course, it was snowing while I did so, here in the last stronghold against spring at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies.

One of the dishes I made uses the leaves of black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus). The sprigs of the desert shrub had been sitting in the refrigerator for the last week and a half or so since we gathered them from a Nevada alkali flat. Not because I’d forgotten about them—rather because I was leery of the odd new plant, and awaiting responses to my recent query in the Edible Wild Plants group on Facebook as to whether anyone had eaten it before. Fortunately Brad VanDyke, based in Utah, responded: “I have eaten it, and like it. However, it does contain oxalates, so be careful,” he wrote. As certain commercial veggies we consume—like spinach—contain oxalates too, I took that to mean: Don’t overeat. As in an entire pound in a sitting. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—May release!

WEN cover 640 224x350 Wild Edible Notebook—May release!

The May flowers have arrived, and with them, another edition of the Wild Edible Notebook! This issue includes a spring foraging report for California’s Eastern Sierra based on a recent foray Gregg and I undertook in the Mammoth Lakes region, though most of the plants featured have a much broader distribution. It includes a reprint of an earlier blog piece on wild asparagus, plus new photos and informative tidbits. There is also a review of Langdon Cook’s Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager. (The book was published in 2009 but it’s worth a read if you haven’t done so already, especially now that Cook is on the verge of releasing a new book.) As always, a handful of wild recipes conclude the Notebook.  

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!

NOTE: The comments about medicinal uses of plantain in this Notebook were corrected on May 17, 2013 and new versions of the Notebook uploaded. Previously the Notebook stated that plantain could be used as a coagulant and antimicrobial. It appears this information may have been taken from an unreliable source. The Notebook has been updated with Michael Moore’s advice for this plant’s use as a topical application for insect bites in place of what was previously stated. Thank you.

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

Ready-made Road Trip Salad

road trip salad 350x258 Ready made Road Trip Salad

Ready-made road trip salad–my favorite of all the road meals on our inaugural trip with Myrtle the van.

We embarked on a road trip through Colorado, Utah, and Nevada to California’s Eastern Sierra last week. I had a lot of delicious wild greens on hand that I’d collected in Denver immediately prior, and I wanted to eat fresh salad for the duration of our journey through the deserts, so this is what I came up with.

The cabbage was a lazy last minute choice as a base to temper the bitter and pungent wild greens, as we had no store-bought lettuce in the house and I didn’t feel like going out to buy some. I packaged it all up in a big bag, and the dressing in a recycled salad dressing bottle, and served it nearly every day of the trip.

Surprisingly Gregg—who is not much of a salad eater—asked for it every time, and touted my culinary prowess. Score! Read the rest of this entry

Denver Mustard Mania

musk mustard path 249x350 Denver Mustard Mania

A carpet of musk mustard along Cherry Creek Trail in Parker. Look, but don’t pick, at this spot.

I’m just back from a two-day spring foray in Denver, where I visited old places with old friends and new places with new friends, along with a few solo missions—looking for wild edible plants, of course.

How nice it is to see spring springing up down low (around 5,000 feet), to hear birds chirping and see people out walking, enjoying the sun. Swaths of green decorate expanses of earth where not long ago it was white with snow or brown and dry.

Among the plants I observed and collected on this trip, wild mustards made a strong showing. These are often overlooked or passed over for sexier wild fare, but wild mustards are plentiful and accessible throughout Denver area right now—making them a good choice for a late April, early May foray.

About Mustards

Mustards are in the Brassicaceae family, which includes both wild and cultivated plants. Brassicaceae family members you can buy at the grocery store include such ubiquitous veggies as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horseradish, collard greens, and kale.

Brassicaceae family members you can gather for free in the Denver area right now include musk mustard (Chorispora tenella), tansy mustard (Descurainia sophia), field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), and watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) if you’re brave. Other wild mustards in the U.S. and beyond include field mustard (Brassica rapa), wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), and shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), all of which are covered in the “pungent greens” section of John Kallas’ (2010) book, Edible Wild Plants. Read the rest of this entry

Chicken and Nettle Gnocchi Soup—Reflection & Recipe

nettle gnocchi chicken soup 350x284 Chicken and Nettle Gnocchi Soup—Reflection & Recipe

Chicken soup flavored with stinging nettle spice and accented with stinging nettle gnocchi dumplings.

This always happens to me. I come into some wild food and then I get a wild hair to make something genius with it in the kitchen. So I dedicate myself with so much time and energy that I overextend myself, producing mediocre results. Then since I’ve committed so much heart to it, I can’t stand to let the meal go unhonored or the story untold, so I produce such entries as Suillus Sludge Soup, and Everything Gnocchi without Moderation. The latter, from two days ago, recounts my fit of inexperienced potato gnocchi-making with a $1 markdown bag of potatoes that I swore I’d find a use for. Clearly I was overstimulated, unreasonable. And then of course afterward I’m drained, and less than satisfied with the results—so much work for what seems like so little gained.

I always forget to realize that the true prize comes later. A moment of genius strikes, a reward after so much hard work. If you honor it, and go with it, often some minute genius will result—like this recipe for chicken and nettle gnocchi soup. It’s really just a dumb little soup I threw together haphazardly while doing laundry and dishes and cleaning the house. I was making a chicken-carcass-rescue soup, and decided to throw in some of those pretty, green, dried nettle flakes leftover from the other night, as well as the nettle gnocchis. Read the rest of this entry

My turn to do wild edible gnocchi

stinging nettles in pot 350x233 My turn to do wild edible gnocchi

In Langdon Cook’s instructions, you boil the nettles briefly to remove the stingers. Photo by Gregg Davis.

It’s markdown season at the grocery store, now that the tourists are in absentia for a while, joined by the locals who migrate to parts warmer during mud season too. So it’s time for the good deals—such as the $1 bag of slightly soft “Red Skin Yellow Flesh Colorado Sunrise” potatoes that Gregg and I argued over in the grocery store last week.

“They’ll go bad,” he said.

“I’ll use them all once,” I countered, throwing them into the cart.

Everything gnocchi without moderation

A few days later, as the universe would have it, I came into a wealth of dried nettles and porcini. I won’t say how I came by them, but you can probably guess. So it was logical that I should decide to make nettle gnocchi. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—April release!

WEN April 2013 640 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook—April release!Good news! After nearly a year on hiatus, the Wild Edible Notebook is back!

This first-time April edition centers on everybody’s favorite wild food—dandelions. Though snow still covers the ground here in the Colorado high country, the dandies have been up in Denver for a while now, and it seemed a safe bet for foragers in other locations too. I also included a piece I wrote on spring foraging in the Denver area last year. Although the season’s change is taking its time this spring (thank goodness), my hope is that this will at least get you thinking about all the delicious wild food that awaits. There’s a review of first-time author Rebecca Lerner’s recently released book, Dandelion Hunter, a wild edible poem from correspondent Brad Purcell, and a handful of recipes to boot.

I’m not going to lie to you—this issue contains recycled blog content, so if you’re an avid reader of this site, some of the text may strike you as familiar. Still, I included a bunch of as-yet-unseen photos to sweeten the deal while I wait for my own local wild food to sprout.

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.

Granola Bars with Rosehip Raisins & Wild Seed

rosehip granola bars 350x262 Granola Bars with Rosehip Raisins & Wild Seed

A nummy granola bar square made with oats, rosehips, and evening primrose seeds

For two years I bugged my friend for her grandmother’s granola bar recipe. “Erica! I finally found my granola recipe!” she emailed one day, and that was two years ago.

So last night, approximately four years after the idea’s inception, my long-hewn plans finally came to fruition when I recreated the bars—with much adaptation due to the lack of traditional foods in the house, and a couple of new wild ingredients added in, of course.

These chewy wild granola bars have some stuff in them that’s real good for you, and other stuff that’s not so much good for you—but they make a ridiculously delicious pocket snack. And of course they can be adapted for all manner of wild seeds, fruits, and nuts.

Read the rest of this entry

Ode to the Dandelion Hunter

Dandelion Hunter cover 240x350 Ode to the Dandelion HunterThere’s a young woman who hunts dandelions and sundry other edible and medicinal wild plants out of an apartment in Portland, Oregon, relishing reconnecting with nature after a several-years-long stint sequestered indoors, surrounded by a plantless outdoors, working for a New Jersey newspaper.

We happen to share the same name—a similar moniker, anyway, her being Wild Girl, purveyor of the popular wild edible internet weblog, www.firstways.com, and me being Wild Food Girl, purveyor of the internet weblog you are holding in your hands right now.

I got really excited about Rebecca Lerner’s recently released Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness (Globe Pequot Press, 2013) after reading Sam Thayer’s early review: “Rebecca Lerner proves that foraging in today’s urban landscape is not only possible, but remarkably productive. In this charismatic and delightfully unpredictable book, she shares her experiences and insights in a way that touches upon the profound without being preachy.”

“Delightfully unpredictable” sounded right up my alley, not to mention “touches on the profound”—and I found both to be true.

Read the rest of this entry

Pumpkin, nettles and beer, oh my!

acorn squash nettle beer soup2 350x316 Pumpkin, nettles and beer, oh my!

Acorn squash, nettle, and beer soup, perfect for warming up after a wet spring snowstorm. I won’t be putting the seeds on top again, however, because they lost all their crunch in an instant.

I’ve had a request so I hereby present two squash nettle soups, both made with ingredients that are out of season here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country.

The first—a pumpkin, nettle, and beer soup—I made in November after receiving the gift of a pumpkin on our doorstep after a friend in possession of one needed to unload the big squash so as not to leave it in his car while he flew out of town. I am certainly not one to kick a tall pumpkin fairy in the mouth.

The idea of pairing stinging nettles (Urtica sp.) with squash came to me originally from Rebecca Marshman, the youngest chef on BBC America’s Chef’s Race, whose acquaintance I made during the filming of the third episode. She made a divine nettle minestrone with nettles gathered by her teammate, Sophie Michell. To make something like it, she told me to start by sautéeing onions and garlic, then to add small chunks of pumpkin to the pan for “a beautiful color,” and to put all that into the soup along with chicken bouillon, chopped potatoes, carrots, and some kind of beans.

So my recipe borrows from Rebecca’s idea, but is a creamy soup, with Parmesan cheese and a few brewskies to boot. It is an adaptation of an adaptation of a Moosewood Cookbook recipe followed by another one from the internet. I thought the nettles would make a good substitute for chicken broth. Read the rest of this entry

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