Archive for 'foraging'

Fruiting Forward

wild plums cold morning1 Fruiting Forward

We went for wild plums in the cold, misty morning, gathering them with fingers freezing and lethargic, my feet squishing in icy, wet boots. It was worth enduring the thorny thicket, the musky scent of catnip tall around us, to come home with 20 lbs or so of plums, without making a dent in the patch.

wild plums Denver Fruiting Forward

The wild plum season wasn’t good last year, but this year the plums are going off. Elevation estimate 6,000 feet, North Denver/Front Range adjacent. I have a good friend to lead me to such bounty.

Speaking of which, have you tried her Old Farmhouse Plum Ketchup? Click on through for that recipe, and lots of good info on “ditch plums,” as she likes to call them.

perfect apple Fruiting Forward

In the midst of the thorny plum thicket there were apple trees too, many different varieties so loaded with perfect, plump apples that the branches near touched the ground, the fruits of a long-forgotten orchard overrun by the urban jungle. There were plenty on the ground ready for eating, no need to bother the tree just yet, my friend insisted.

abandoned orchard apples ground horiz Fruiting Forward

And then … can you say pears? Consider yourself lucky to find a tree dropping its fruit. There’s no need to let the pears rot on the ground either. Even the ones with bruises and holes can be quickly cleaned with a knife and dropped into a simple, equal parts sugar-and-water syrup, then refrigerated or counter-fermented, she taught me. We ate days-old zingy pears with a spoon, and poured slightly fermented pear liquid into sparkling seltzer and drank our pear sodas like queens.

pear haul park Denver Fruiting Forward

Later, back at home, I made a baked fruit crumble with mixed plums—not just the wild ones, but also some cultivated, powder-blue Italian plums her friend John invited us to harvest. “Pick the hell out of them,” he said, so we climbed deep into the weedy thicket to get at the difficult-to-reach plums, leaving the easily gathered ones to other hands. They hung plump and perfect under the dark green foliage, plentiful as grapes, their otherworldly color making me feel like I was foraging in a cartoon world of endless wonder.

Italian plums processing Gregg Fruiting Forward

 

The mixed fruit crumble used both types of plums, along with spoonfuls of zingy pears. I whizzed up a quick topping in the food processor, cutting butter with flour, brown sugar, and oats.

(My grandma’s apple crisp recipe, upon which all of my crisps and crumbles are based, says to bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. We tried this in the toaster oven, however, and ended up having to add 20 minutes or so, bump the heat to 400, and broil at the end to brown it. Maybe the actual oven would be easier next time, heh.)

In addition to the crumble and my own giant batch of zingy pears, I have a semi-spicy, Japanese-chile-infused plum sauce in the works, apple slices drying, and a daily diet of super-ripe tiny plums bursting with sweet wonder juice. A heaven of fruit and flavors, gleaned from once lovingly tended, now wild spaces.

drawn green Fruiting Forward

Much of the inspiration and information underlying this piece comes from my good friend, the talented forager and cook Wendy Petty, blogger at Zester Daily, and Hunger & Thirst, where she is known as “Butter” or my moniker “B” for short. She is based on the outskirts of metro Denver and is an excellent resource for Denver and Boulder-area foraging enthusiasts in Colorado.

This piece was helpful to me in learning the differences between crisps, crumbles, cobblers, and buckles: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/crumble-cobbler_n_3455487.html

Gregg Davis took the bottom photo of me processing the Italian plums. They were more of a striking powder-blue on the tree, but alas, my iPhone shots did not come out.

Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

WEN September2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!Last night we had the in-laws-to-be over for dinner and I set out two jars of jam to accompany the chicken, each made from a different species of wild-foraged gooseberries. One was red, mild, and sweet; the other deep purple, tart and tangy. In the fridge we have two more jars—one syrup and one sauce—each made from a different species of wild currants.

There are approximately 200 currants and gooseberries of the genus Ribes in the world, all native to the northern hemisphere, including 55 species in North America, about 15 of which are scattered across the Mountain West, Thomas Elpel explains in his new book, Foraging the Mountain West (2014). Not all have wonderful flavors, and some have sharp spines on the berries themselves, such that gloves are required to process them. But there are five species of currants and gooseberries that I enjoy on a regular basis here in the Colorado high country.

golden currants gregg2 450x299 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

Golden currants along the Blue River, yum.

The September 2014 Notebook, just released, features my photo-illustrated excursion to collect, process, taste, and eat these berries, followed by a similar foray into edible wild mushrooms. Here are some details on this month’s contents:

  • Currants & Gooseberries – This story features five species of currants and gooseberries I enjoy on a regular basis here in the Colorado high country—the spiny, red-berried mountain gooseberry (Ribes montigenum); the spiny, purple-berried whitestem gooseberry (Ribes inerme); the non-spiny wax currant (Ribes cereum); the non-spiny trailing black currant (Ribes laxiflorum), and the non-spiny golden currant (Ribes aureum). I hope you will find the pictures particularly helpful.
  • Coastal Black Gooseberry by T. Abe Lloyd – Then, for you West Coasters, there is a piece by wild-edibles blogger, teacher, and author T. Abe Lloyd, whom you might know as “Arcadian Abe,” on the coastal black gooseberry (Ribes divaricatum).
  • Ribes RecipesRibes recipes in this edition include Gooseberry Syrup and Gooseberry Sorbet, made by wild food writer Hank Shaw from spiky Sierra gooseberries (Ribes roezlii); and another of my dad’s famous marinades and glazes, this one made with wax currants.
  • Mushroom Foray – August was a good month for hunting mushrooms in the Colorado high country, and it looks like we’ll have some fun with fungi in September too, so I also included a mushroom foray in this edition. I undertook this most recent journey with my parents as houseguests, and it was interesting to see how they did in the field identifying and field dressing mushrooms, so they are an integral part of this piece, which aims to introduce new mushroom hunters in particular to four wild mushrooms. The photo essay is a major part of this story, which starts with a quick look at the many species of mushrooms lined up in my fridge and laid out to dry on nearly every surface of my apartment, before diving deep into short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes), Rocky Mountain porcini (Boletus edulis), large and small puffballs of the Calvatia and Lycoperdon groups, and brown-scaly hawk’s wings (Sarcodon imbricatus).
  • Porcini Recipe: The edition concludes with one of my favorite mushroom recipes—Porcini Roasted in Miso Garlic Butter by my favorite wild food cook, the blogger Butter of Hunger & Thirst. The recipe is rich and addictive, just like her writing.
placeit1 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—September 2014 Release!

You can read the Wild Edible Notebook on your iPad/iPhone in Apple’s Newsstand, view a PDF on other devices, or print and fold the magazine into a cool booklet on 8.5×14 paper.

Read this issue by subscribing to the Wild Edible Notebook for $1.99/month

The Wild Edible Notebook is an always-photo-filled monthly magazine available in several formats including Apple’s Newsstand for iPad/iPhone; a screen reading PDF; a tall, skinny, “Android-friendly” PDF; and my favorite, the 8.5×14” PDF print-and-fold booklet. The subscription is $1.99/month through Apple for the Newsstand magazine; or $1.99/month here at the blog for access to all the PDF versions. When you subscribe to either, you get access to 5 or so back issues in addition to the current and future editions. Here’s how to do it:

  • Apple Newsstand magazine – Open the App Store on your iDevice; then search for Wild Edible Notebook. There are several free issues to read, and if you want, you can subscribe for full access to the most recent issue, along with five back issues, and the new ones that come out every month.
  • PDF downloads – Go to the Wild Edible Notebook tab at this website, scroll down, click “Subscribe,” and follow the steps to submit payment and create a username and password you can use to login to the Member Profile & Downloads page and start downloading wild edible content!
  • Free samples - Check out a few free issues by joining the email list (scroll to the very bottom of this page and type your name and email address). You will receive an email with a link to the free download area (check your spam box if you don’t receive the email), where you can get a couple of the past Notebooks for free. If, after you read the free Notebooks, you fall completely in love with them but cannot afford the subscription, I sometimes give offers via email for how to get a free subscription. If you do decide to support my project for $2/month, I send you many blessings and wild edible karma along with the subscription!

Dad’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

porcini bun 2014 Gregg Davis 450x351 Dad’s Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

A porcini bun pushes its way through the duff in a spot everyone doubted but me. Told you so, family!

My early porcini spot finally started fruiting a couple days ago, a full month behind last year’s schedule. My guess is that the mushrooms decided to wait for my parents’ arrival in Colorado. After so many trips to check for them, Gregg doubted I’d find any, but there they were, pushing their beautiful, bun-shaped, brown-red forms through the duff.

Last year, the season seemed almost past when my parents arrived for their annual summer trip, but there were still mushrooms enough for Dad to make his creamy mushroom soup. He made it with porcini (Boletus edulis) along with lesser mushrooms including short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and yellow, blue-staining Suillus tomentosus, noting that for best results, a mix of mushrooms is best.

Later, I adapted the recipe to use strong-flavored hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), both kinds of Suillus, and beef broth, with excellent results.

Hopefully you can enjoy this adaptable recipe with whatever mushrooms flavor your dreams. Read the rest of this entry

Backyard Foraging cover 348x450 Eat Your Ornamentals: Backyard Foraging with Ellen ZachosDid you know that hosta—the large-leaved and oft variegated landscaping plant that the deer love so much—is edible? I had no idea until I picked up Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (Storey Publishing, 2013). Go figure.

The funny thing is that for as long as I can remember, my mom has planted hosta in the rock garden and other places around my childhood home in Connecticut. Every year it’s a battle, because every year the deer eat it. Now Mom will have to protect her hosta from one more pest.

Zachos explains that hostas come in many different colors and cultivars—all edible, though they may vary in flavor. For this reason, she recommends trying a nibble here and there to see which ones you like best, noting that in Japan, the young shoots of Hosta sieboldii are skinned, parboiled, chopped, and served over rice; in northern Japan, H. montana is grown in greenhouses and kept covered to blanch and tenderize the foliage.

“What’s for dinner?” she asks. “Boiled hosta with miso mustard sauce, of course,” she writes, answering her own question.

New, tight shoots are good chopped, stir-fried, and served over pasta or rice, Zachos writes. The mature leaves, on the other hand, should be boiled for 15-20 minutes, then “chopped and sautéed like other greens, in soups or baked in a quiche or pie.” Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—August 2014 Release!

WEN August 2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—August 2014 Release!August’s rains have arrived in the Colorado high country, and with them the mushrooms are starting to flush. I can hardly contain myself. Also recently arrived is—you guessed it—the August 2014 issue of the Wild Edible Notebook! This month’s edition features a travel story to the Rhode Island coastline for clamming, followed by a fungi focus on a couple species of Suillus, a review of New York-based author Dina Falconi’s wild food guide and cookbook, and several recipes to boot.

Subscriptions to the Wild Edible Notebook—a photo-filled glossy available in iPad/iPhone, screen reading PDF, Android-friendly, and print-and-fold booklet form—are just $2 a month. For the first $2 you get access to six issues, including the current one.

Featured in the August 2014 issue:
  • Quahog clams – My family has been clamming for quahogs at the Rhode Island coast for many years; prior to that, my dad and his father clammed in Connecticut. Over the years we devised our own methods, and I am happy to say we are very successful clammers. This story lays bare some of those family secrets, in a photo-documented how-to account.
  • Suillus tomentosus and short-stemmed slippery jack mushrooms – In honor of mushroom season, which has officially arrived in the Colorado high country, I am running my piece on the “Whistling Suillus,” as I like to call the yellow, edible mushrooms that made a lot of noise in my frying pan last year. This piece was originally published here on the blog but has been updated and adorned with many large, informative photographs with captions. I’ve seen a few slippery jacks already this season, and I assume S. tomentosus is not far behind, though those of you in the know might not be all that excited about them… In any case, read up and get ready for a culinary challenge!
  • Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi – This book from Botanical Arts Press (2013) contains labeled full-color botanical illustrations by Wendy Hollender of 50 edible plants, and a cookbook of “master recipes” using wild (and cultivated) plants by Falconi. A wide range of plants can be used in each recipe, meaning that thousands of recipes are possible. The book is a lovingly crafted, healthful celebration of the role wild (and cultivated) foods can play in our lives, as well as a guide on how to do it. Check out my in-depth review in this issue of the Wild Edible Notebook.
  • Recipes – Every issue of the Wild Edible Notebook contains recipes. In this edition, find Mom’s Stuffed Clams and Dad’s Clam Chowder. Also, if you liked the recipes by Dina Falconi that ran last month, there are two more in this issue—one for Herbal Tea Infusions, and another for Wild Grains Salads. I tried the latter with purslane, quinoa, wild bergamot, navy beans, and feta cheese—and found it divine.

Read the rest of this entry

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

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