Archive for 'flowers'

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.

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EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

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

Sweet Pickling Succulents

roseroot 350x262 Sweet Pickling Succulents

Roseroot with blood-red flower buds.

Succulents are juicy plants that store water in their leaves, stems, and roots, an adaptation which helps them survive in arid climates or soil conditions. Aloe, agave, sedums and purslane are some examples. 

Although “dry” is not a word I’d use to describe the high country right now, it often is dry, and so the timeless succulents are there, now sucking up this season’s water bounty and growing like crazy like everything else. 

Two edible succulent plants I collect at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies are stonecrop and roseroot / rosecrown (the latter in fact being two related plants that look similar and grow in proximity to one another.) 

All of these plants are thriving right now—although I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

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Stalking the Wild Artichoke

thistle back yard 350x262 Stalking the Wild Artichoke

One of the back yard thistles we ate.

Don’t get too excited. There isn’t a “wild artichoke” that I know of per se. But there is a pretty good substitute for it, if you don’t mind the risk of getting prickled and are willing to put in a bit of work to get at it.

Weed Demolition Discovery

A week and a half ago Gregg and I were offered the opportunity to clear our beloved weeds from a very productive bed that his parents, who co-own the house, decided to cover with weed barrier fabric and mulch so they could have “at least one thing that’s perfect,” in the back yard, as Nancy explained it to me.

Ensuing depression aside, I headed out there at 5:30 am on the appointed weed destruction day and dug three non-stalk-producing thistle rosettes, taproots and all. I’d been meaning to try thistle roots, though after a few failed experiences both with thistle leaf midribs and taproots (in both cases I’d harvested them at the wrong time of year and from plants that were far too mature), they’d landed themselves near the end of my list.

In this case, however, the baby thistles were going to die anyway, so I dug them up and shoved them in the refrigerator, where I proceeded to ignore them for several days with the exception of the occasional prickly mishap from reaching into the veggie drawer too hastily.

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The Last of the Dandelions

dandelion flower stalks 350x262 The Last of the Dandelions

Surely dandelion flower stalks are good for something..

The last of this batch, that is, in the refrigerator.

And it’s not just dandelions, either; I’ve run out of my entire fresh bounty of wild edible plants, having spent my Fourth of July weekend embroiled in other pursuits—a tandem, costumed A-Basin snowboarding pond-skim with Gregg being one of the highlights—plus entertaining old friends-turned-gypsies who rolled into town in their beat-up RV as well as working an intensive new summer job writing A&E stories for our local paper, The Summit Daily, the noon deadline for which I have one story to go but can no longer resist taking a break to draft this short piece about dandelions.

So as I was saying, I ran out of wild edible plants—and to some extent, things to say and words with which to say them, so I’ll try to use just a few words now.

This exciting entry is about what we had for dinner last night, which was turkey burgers, oven-fried red potatoes with finely chopped dandelions, and “dandelion noodles.”

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Dock and Dandelions Are My New Staples

whole dandelions 350x296 Dock and Dandelions Are My New Staples

I steamed these beautiful dandelion specimens whole.

Collecting dock and dandelions has become almost second nature to me this season. I use ‘em up and then when I’m out walking the dogs I notice a dandelion here or a dock patch there, snip or pull and voila—they’re in my bag and back to the house at the ready for whenever I need them. This season there’ve been few gaps in the dock and dandelion provenance. Many thanks to mother earth for these free, organic staples.*

Dock in Alfredo Sauce with Pasta

“Every time we eat dock for dinner, we’re saving $3 on a bag of spinach,” I tell Gregg, who sautéed and served a good-sized batch with Alfredo sauce over pasta the other day. “Not to mention there’s less likelihood of getting salmonella!”

“I love dock,” Gregg responded. (As we have seen, however, pretty much anything in cream sauce seems to do the trick.)

The western, large-leafed dock (tentative ID: Rumex occidentalis) that grows in wet areas near our house makes an excellent vegetable. It takes only a few minutes to collect a decent amount from a good patch, and it’s easy to wash. Just chop it up and it cooks real nice!  

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denver yucca2 262x350 Southwestern Fried Yucca Flowers—Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Colorado yucca flowers at 6,000 feet.

Late last summer, during a whirlwind west-coast visit, I found myself on an unlikely hike through prickly pear cacti up a Malibu mountainside in a private ranch of rented houses to a pool that was clothing-optional on Wednesdays. (Spending time with my friend Reina is always an adventure.) 

En route to the pool I tried to pick a prickly pear from atop a cactus in ill-advised bare-handed fashion, only to find that the spines, unlike those of thistle, for example, are quick to release from their fruity bearings and inject themselves into the unlucky plucker’s skin in great numbers. We’re talking 50 spines, give or take. Then, I made the situation even worse by attempting to remove them from my fingers with my teeth, thereupon transferring dozens of sharp hair-like spines from fingers to lips and tongue. 

This is not an entry about prickly pear (although I’ve had a request and one will follow!). It is simply to set the stage for a latent realization…  Read the rest of this entry

Aurora Yucca and the Recipes I’ve Tried With It

yucca flowers 350x292 Aurora Yucca and the Recipes I’ve Tried With It

Delicious yucca flowers foraged from Aurora Colorado.

The yucca around Denver is in full bloom right now, such that when we went to Gregg’s parents’ house a few days ago on June 18, the hillside in the field across the street was covered with spires of the bulbous white and sometimes purplish flowers. Unfortunately, they were protected from would-be foragers by a network of wire and wooden fences, not to mention a small amount of cow traffic. 

Gregg’s parents live in a 55-and-over “active adult community” in Aurora. Folks are always out and about—walking, running, swimming, playing tennis and golf. But I figured if we got up early in the morning and headed out there we might avoid a few looks as we scaled a fence I’d scoped out, one that got us to a small 10×20-yard patch of yucca that wasn’t encircled by the second, interior, cow-protecting fence. 

The plan worked and we set to harvesting a few yucca flowers from each plant, checking for bugs first and snipping them into our bags while taking care not to get poked by the sharp leaves. In the midst of our foraging, however, an over-55 woman drove up to a town-home on the hillside nearby and demanded to know what we were doing.  Read the rest of this entry

Whole Spring Dandelions Delight

dandelion shoot tangle 350x332 Whole Spring Dandelions Delight

A whole spring dandelion dug from the Denver dirt.

Yesterday another foot of snow fell at the house, which lies at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. So much for the few hints of green that were beginning to poke out of the dirt. Fortunately, Gregg and I scored some small spring dandelions last weekend at his parents’ house, which lies much lower at 6,100 feet in Aurora, on the outskirts of Denver.   

Weeding Dandelions with Love  

Gregg’s step-dad Jim was kind enough to let me weed dandelions from the part of the back yard where he doesn’t spray poison due to its proximity to the fish pond. We have a symbiotic relationship in that way—he needs edible weeds removed from his carefully tended landscape, and I want to eat them.   

Have you ever weeded dandelions out of a lawn by hand? It’s not so bad if the soil is soft. Between the soft soil and the long metal hand weeding tool Jim supplied me, it was simply a matter of carefully extracting the dandelions—taproots, leaf stalks, leaves, buds, and all.  Read the rest of this entry

dandelion clover spinach salad 350x262 Dandelion Spinach Salad with Red Cabbage and Clover Petals

Dandelion spinach salad with red clover petals and red cabbage, delicious!

Ok, I can’t stop myself—I must boast about yet another rousing success with these delicious fall dandelions I keep finding up on the mountainside. Whereas I served the last batch finely chopped in a yummy marinated salad, I served these latest dandelion greens chopped coarsely and fresh-tossed with baby spinach, red cabbage, red clovers, and a delicious soy-based homemade dressing. Gregg was very impressed.  

Without further ado, then, here is the recipe: 

Salad Ingredients:

  • Baby spinach greens
  • Dandelion greens and leaf stems, coarsely chopped
  • Red cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • Red clover flowers, finely chopped

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