Archive for 'east coast'

Wild Edible Notebook—March 2014 Release!

March 2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—March 2014 Release!Wild sea vegetables are hard to come by here in the Colorado high country, so for the March 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook I decided to travel through space and time to coastal Connecticut via several jars of seaweed—Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) and sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima)—that I collected last summer and dried in my parents’ house.

While researching the story I was fortunate to tap into the expertise of Dr. Charles Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, who promotes the cultivation of sea vegetables as a means to clean coastal waters while also providing good food for the dinner plate. This edition also includes a lighthearted jaunt into wild jellies and things to make with them besides toast. The issue concludes with a handful of recipes using wild foraged seaweeds, including one by West Coast seaweed purveyor Louise Gaudet, as well as a recipe for serviceberry jelly pork glaze by the awesome cook that is my dad.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, super-squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

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.

Warn Your Mother Before She Handles Black Walnuts for You

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—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.

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.

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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

New England Foraging Adventure – Part III

chickweed on wood 350x278 New England Foraging Adventure – Part III

Might think about trimming the chickweed better next time.

If I don’t get the rest of this New England story out soon I’ll be permanently stopped up in the blog-hole, though perhaps it’s something a large dose of chickweed (Stellaria sp.) could solve.

I already wrote about chickweed in Part I of this series, I know, but I just read an amusing account in Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (1985), wherein he first spends an entire hot and humid day prostrate in a chickweed patch gorging himself on the stuff before suffering “the worse case of diarrhea [he has] had to this day,” followed later by his idea to make an extremely strong chickweed tea for a constipated friend—only to discover that it worked so well his friend was stricken with the shits for days.

When I made chickweed for my parents, I snipped it far down the stems, found it too tough and chewy for my liking, and then wrote about it in Part I of this series. Meanwhile I’ve got Sam Thayer (2006) in the back of my head saying, “The deplorable state of information on edible wild plants can be cleared up over time if those who write on the topic exhibit professionalism and follow a few simple guidelines,” one of which is to “not condemn a plant based on limited experience with it.” Read the rest of this entry

New England Foraging Adventure – Part II

poison ivy CT 350x272 New England Foraging Adventure – Part II

Seemingly innocent poison ivy lies in wait, plotting your extreme discomfort.

One of the things I noticed about foraging in New England that does not present a problem here at 11,000 feet in the Colorado High Country is the seeming ever-presence of poison ivy (Toxicondendron radicans). One morning, overjoyed to find false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum sp.) growing in abundance in the forest around my parents’ Connecticut house, I borrowed a trowel and headed out to dig up some rhizomes, only to find each and every plant intricately intertwined with poison ivy.

Poison ivy is not edible. And, unless you are one of the lucky few not (yet) allergic to T. radicans, coming in contact with it can instigate a blistering, itchy rash. I know first-hand how potent the roots can be, having developed a nasty case after a day digging in the not-yet-leafing-out plants as an archaeology student in college. My hands and arms were so bad that the Health Services department insisted I had contracted scabies. Inhaling fumes is a thousand times worse—the unlucky sap who accidentally burns it in a campfire and then huffs the stuff should be rushed to the hospital immediately, as the rash can develop internally throughout the body as well. Read the rest of this entry

New England Foraging Adventure – Part I

garlic mustard CT 262x350 New England Foraging Adventure – Part I

Garlic mustard, busy invading

“There’s a reason why the pre-Columbian population of Colorado was low,” wild plants author Sam Thayer once wrote me, referring to the relative lack of edible wild plants in this semi-arid land compared to lusher parts of the country. How dare he? I recall thinking—though truth be told, here at 11,000 feet in the Colorado High Country, the new spring growth is still less than an inch tall; meanwhile the rest of the country is happily chatting it up about their bountiful spring forage, whether dock and dandies, redbud flowers and milkweed shoots, chickweed and sorrel, and so forth.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure I could handle the abundance.

Take my recent New England trip for example. I arrived in Connecticut mid-April, just as the trees were newly leafing out. One walk with mom down our old country road renders me speechless. There are so many plants I want to try—plants I recognize from my books, plants that nearly every other forager knows well and uses often, plants that I have not had opportunity to try since Wild Food Girl was born.

I conclude that I need a few years out east, not two weeks interspersed with family visits, to get down and dirty with all these wild plants. Especially when my 7-year-old niece purportedly complained to her mother: “With all the wonderful plants in New Hampshire, how will I be able to get enough time to play with Aunt Erica since she loves plants so much?”

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Wild Beach Pea Stir Fry with Dandy Flowers

Lathyrus japonicus 350x262 Wild Beach Pea Stir Fry with Dandy Flowers

Lathyrus japonicus on the shore in Old Lyme CT.

I ran into an old high school friend at the beach in Connecticut the other day. She was busy chasing around her two toddlers who kept trying to pick the pretty purple flowers in bloom amidst the dunes. “Don’t pick those flowers,” she admonished. “Don’t go in the grass. We need to keep the dunes healthy.” She was right, of course—because sand dunes and the plants therein often play an important role in protecting the land against storm surges—but at the time I was glad she hadn’t seen me picking pea pods from those same dunes just a few hours earlier! 

The purple-flowering plant that captured the children’s attention was also the one that had captured mine—Lathyrus japonicus, the wild beach pea. Lee Allen Peterson (1977) puts the range of this plant as the east coast of the United States south to New Jersey, in addition to the shores of the Great Lakes, Oneida Lake, and Lake Champlain. Plants for a Future, the U.K. based “resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants,” expands the range to include sandy coasts from Alaska to northern California, western and eastern Europe, and eastern Asia/China.  Read the rest of this entry

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