Archive for 'foraging'

Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

wild strawberry gregg davis 450x399 Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

Wild strawberries look like diminutive cultivated strawberries. If you know one, you should be able to recognize the other. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I bolted upright in bed at 2 a.m., awakened by loud, forceful hail pouring down on the roof. It was June 28, just a week into summer. I got up and walked across the dark living room to peek out the sliding glass doors and watch it come down in the pitch black night. Despite the cold, hard nature of those icy pellets, the hail meant a welcome respite from a recent dry spell that had the flowers drooping in the fields and forests, starved for something to drink.

The next day dawned with a thin coat of white on the mountaintops. A patch of calypso orchids bloomed in my friend’s yard. And I found my first wild strawberries of the season.

Ditch Berries

Last year, the wild strawberries surprised me. I had become accustomed to them fruiting in the beginning of August at 11,000 feet where I previously lived in the dry hills of Fairplay, Colorado. Now we live lower at 10,000 feet in Breckenridge, where the breathing’s free and easy and the strawberries ripen sooner, compared to our old mountainside.

It was early July and I had been circling our Peak 8 neighborhood on foot when I nearly tripped over a plentiful fruiting in the road bed atop a ditch near my apartment. Climbing down into the ditch yielded a good perspective up its steep side, and a hidden world of bright red gems hiding under the low foliage. Forget all those hours spent seeking small glimpses of red at our old place. These were the real deal, many tiny handfuls as reward for climbing down into the ditch to get at them. Read the rest of this entry

edible summit county wildflowers 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Where they grow in enough abundance, bluebells can be eaten.

cow parsnip furled 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Any idea what this high country vegetable is? We just had it for supper.

Just a heads up to interested parties–I will be teaching an intensive 3-week section of Survival Plants in Summer at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge from 6/9/14 to 6/28/14. The course covers edible, medicinal, and toolcraft uses of local wild plants, with a practical emphasis on edibles. Most sessions will be held in the field.

After a successful first class last summer, I have a lot of creative hands-on ideas in store for this second go-around, so I hope very much you’ll join us for what at present seems to be a relatively small group of eager plant enthusiasts.

Class sessions take place from 4-6:50 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week, at the college and at different meeting places throughout the county. There will also be two full-day Saturday field sessions that run from 8 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. on 6/21 and 6/28.

This course was created by Cattail Bob Seebeck, who teaches seasonal sections at several Front Range community colleges. In Summit we are offering just this one section, and it will cover plants in season during the class, in Summit County as well as at field trip locations to be determined.

The class can be taken for college credit or just audited. CMC’s prices are among the most affordable in the country, especially considering the number of hours in the field you get for your money. The course code is OUT-156-BK01 and registration is through the college: http://coloradomtn.edu/campuses/breckenridge_dillon/class_schedule.

Please sign up by June 2. I will be in communication about the textbook and plans. Hope to hear from you!

-Erica aka WFG

Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

greens pie Gregg picture 450x299 Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

Wild greens and potato pie–great for dinner, even better for breakfast! Contains wild mustards and kochia greens. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I’m having wild greens and potato pie for breakfast again, as I have for the last two mornings. You wouldn’t think greens mixed into mashed potatoes in a pie crust would be all that exciting, but I am definitely smitten.

The inspiration came from Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging (2013), which I spent two hours walking around the neighborhood reading the other afternoon. It’s an easy read with lots of nice, clear pictures—great for gardeners with a penchant for ornamentals, because it includes edibility information for landscaping plants like hosta, spiderwort, bishop’s weed or goutweed, and mountain ash among others, unlike many foraging books that center only on weeds and/or native species.

Zachos writes how her yiayia (her grandmother) grew up in the mountains of central Greece, where wild edibles were an important part of village diets. Specifically, she recommends trying the leaves of the aggressive landscaping plant, bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria), as a filling choice for Greek “pita,” or pie. Her recipe for hortopita, a less well-known cousin to spanakopita, involves an ensemble of phyllo dough, wild greens to replace the spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt, and eggs. It sounds absolutely divine. Read the rest of this entry

Wilted Wild Greens with Lemon & Chive Flower Buds

wilted greens above 450x299 Wilted Wild Greens with Lemon & Chive Flower Buds

Wilted wild greens with lemon juice and sweet wine, mmm.

A simple plate of wilted greens, kissed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a dash of sweet wine—doesn’t that sound wonderful? I daresay this one came out just right, judged a winner not only by my taste buds but the better half’s astonished declaration: “These are gourmet,” he enthused, his surprise only thinly veiled.

Whereas in the past I have often kept my various wild-foraged veggies separate so as to bring out each one’s individual flavor, here I think I nailed a good combination of strong-flavored wild greens.

First, I used chive flowers and buds. Chive flowers aren’t exactly wild, but in my book, feral, garden-escaped chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are as much a score as native wild onions and garlics. They certainly might be more sustainable. I figure if you can get your hands on some escaped chives, you might as well grab them and call it “foraging.” That’s what I did—except the chives in question had not actually succeeded in becoming feral, due to the pruning efforts of Gregg’s step-dad Jim. The chives used in this recipe, therefore, were rescue-foraged from Jim’s garden, where their budding and flowering tops were soon to go the way of the weeds in the compost bin. I figure they make good practice for wild cookery anyway, since the flowers are so unique. And, this way, when the chives come up of their own accord at the historic site down the street, I’ll be ready. I imagine you could substitute the flowers, buds, or other parts of a variety of wild onions/garlic/leeks (Allium spp.) for equally good results. Read the rest of this entry

Tumbleweed Salad

tumblemustard salad ID 450x299 Tumbleweed Salad

A close-up look at wild salad.

Just when I think I know everything there is to know about wild mustards, I find another one to eat and then do happy kicks about. This time, I am excited about tumblemustard (Sisymbrium altissimum), which you might know better as tumbleweed, because at maturity when it dries out it detaches from its stem and tumbles on the wind, spreading its seed about.

There are numerous species of plants that do this and are referred to collectively as tumbleweed, so don’t just go eating any old tumbleweed just because I said I like it in salad. Tumblemustard (S. altissimum) is a mustard family member, related to broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and other mustards. It starts from a spirally basal rosette of long, many-lobed leaves that are quite different in appearance from the frilly, smaller leaves that appear higher up when the plant bolts. They are mustards so the flowers, generally lemon yellow, are four-petaled. Read the rest of this entry

Orache is Not the Same as Lambs’ Quarters

orache plant2 450x337 Orache is Not the Same as Lambs’ Quarters

Orache looks a lot like lambs’ quarters, to which it is related. But, it’s a different plant.

One of my absolute favorite wild veggies is orache, an herbaceous, annual member of the genus Atriplex that grows in the alkaline soil of Denver, Colorado and surrounding areas. Oraches are salt-loving plants, so in addition to salt playas in landlocked regions, species can also be found along coastlines and even along roadsides where the soil or sand is saline.

Orache looks a lot like the edible wild spinach “goosefoot” or “lambs’ quarters” (Chenopodium album and related), so much so that when I posted a Facebook picture of the orache I was eating, along with a caption that said “orache,” more than one person commented how much they liked lambs’ quarters!

Both orache and lambs’ quarters have green to greenish-blue leaves that are covered, particularly on the underside and growing tips, with a white, mealy substance upon which water balls up and runs off. Like those of the goosefoots, the flowers that come later don’t look much like flowers at all, but rather small clumps clustered on the upper parts of the stems.

Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Picnic

gregg picnic sm 404x450 Wild Edible Picnic

A stop for a look around by the reservoir on our way home.

The season’s change is upon us, even here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country. The snow has started to melt away, leaving the detritus of last year’s tourist season in its wake—the bottles and bits of paper and crumpled, dirty cloths and tons upon tons of dog leavings. But there are also green things emerging from under the blackened snow drifts; the promise of foraging season is nigh.

We celebrated with a car picnic, which I dreamed up to get Gregg out of the house, as he is now in week four of his mandated six weeks on crutches after his second knee surgery, or our third consecutive knee surgery as a couple, depending how you look at it.

That morning I whizzed around the kitchen to whip up some food to pack along, aiming to use up as many of the wild ingredients, both fresh and preserved, as I had on hand, since I am still, if somewhat lazily, under the spell of spring cleaning. Then we took a happy drive in the sun to the north end of the county, me reading aloud selections from Richard Mabey’s Weeds (2010), Gregg checking out the spring scene around us and announcing each vista one after the other—a kayaker kayaking, a fisherman fishing, a tall eagle’s nest, a person on horseback, baby cows. Then we camped out alongside the river and had a look around at the first signs of spring’s emergence at 8,000 feet—once in a very small, crutched radius, and the second time a longer but faster solo mission by yours truly while my better half napped—before retiring to the Vanagon, whom we call Myrtle after Gregg’s late grandmother, for the honorary unfolding of her picnic table for the first time this season.

Among the dishes I set out was a pasta salad, the piece I worked hardest on, and a wild garlic-onion cream cheese spread, which though super easy I thought I’d messed up, but over which Gregg went absolutely gaga regardless. Read the rest of this entry

Florida Herbal Conference Starts February 28

Florida Herbal Conference live oaks 442x450 Florida Herbal Conference Starts February 28

Workshops at the Florida Herbal Conference take place lakeside in the shade of majestic live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Photo by Ralph Giunta.

Florida herbalist Emily Ruff grew a love for plants at an early age. Her father was a botanist, and her grandfather an urban farmer. At age 18, she traveled to Guatemala to work with medicinal herbs and to learn the traditions of what she describes, broadly speaking, as “our herbal ancestors.” Later, she studied under the late George D’Arcy, founder of the Florida School of Holistic Living for which Ruff now serves as director, as well as Rosemary Gladstar at Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center in central Vermont.

Although she spent nearly a decade as a practicing herbalist in Orlando, traveling to New England or North Carolina, as she put it, “to get my fix of the brother and sisterhood of the green people,” Ruff said she couldn’t help but feel isolated. “The Florida herbal community for a long time was largely disconnected,” she explained. But then Gladstar encouraged her to seek out other Florida herbalists.

“I started to poke around in the rocks and gardens and realized that in most of the major communities in Florida there was at least one practicing herbalist,” Ruff said. This realization became the impetus behind the Florida Herbal Conference, now in its third year.

Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—February 2014 Release!

February2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—February 2014 Release!Winter marches on here in the Colorado high country, and I find myself more eager than ever to hunt for wild food, so for this month’s edition of the Wild Edible Notebook I decided to venture deep into the snowy forest to fill my pockets with the wind-felled boughs of pine, spruce, and fir, and then try to figure out what to do with them in the kitchen. In the process I have discovered how beautiful it is to view the snowy landscape through a forager’s eyes, finding that even in the heart of winter there is food—albeit primarily in the form of tea and spice—for the taking.

The February 2014 Wild Edible Notebook centers on conifers—first on the needles borne by the tall trees that make up our forests here in the high country, followed by a piece on juniper “berries,” which are not berries at all but instead cones. After that there is a review of Jennifer Hahn’s Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging. This month’s edition concludes with a handful of fun recipes using conifer needles by yours truly as well as the talented culinarian Wendy Petty of Hunger & Thirst.

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, 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.

Wild Edible Notebook—January 2014 Release!

January 2013 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—January 2014 Release!The New Year arrived with more than a foot of fresh snow here in the Colorado high country, where we are under more than four feet and counting. Thus, for the January 2014 edition of the Wild Edible Notebook, I turned to wild seeds—from dock seeds and goosefoot to prickly pear—and the myriad joys of rubbing, winnowing, soaking, sprouting, grinding, and cooking them. Have you ever grown winter sprouts from wild seeds? Very exciting!

After the seed stories, we take a tour of Hank Shaw’s recently released Duck, Duck, Goose, a cookbook devoted entirely to the preparation of waterfowl. Hank was kind enough to donate a recipe to the Wild Edible Notebook, too, so if you can scare up the wild duck, wild duck eggs, bulrushes and hand-foraged wild rice, you might just be up to the challenge of making it. A handful of my own recipes with wild seeds concludes the January 2014 edition, along with one I sneaked in that uses domesticated seeds, but dressed in a rich coat of wild-foraged porcini powder.

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, 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.

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