Archive for 'foraging'

Wild Edible Notebook—June Release!

WEN June2012 640 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook—June Release!And just when you thought it’d never arrive… The June 2012 Wild Edible Notebook is here!

This edition centers on two plants—bluebells of the genus Mertensia followed by field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), a plant that means much to me, though  I’d written little about it prior to this release. Gregg says it’s the best one yet, though he said that last month too.

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.

Mint Madness

wild mint 350x262 Mint Madness

Wild mint, Kittredge, Colorado.

There’s nothing like accompanying your boyfriend to a work meeting expecting to sit idly by and instead being invited to forage the back yard.

“I’ll weed your garden while I wait,” I offered to his new web client, glancing hungrily at the carpet of young goosefoot (Chenopodium sp.) decorating the landscape.

“Oh, you don’t need to weed it,” he told me, “but feel free to graze as much as you like.” Seriously? Hell yeah!

We apparently got there just in time too because the landlord would be coming by shortly to spray the weeds. I found a plentiful and diverse trove of edibles there in Kittredge, Colorado, including several that I have not yet had the opportunity to collect. Among them was an inconspicuous wild mint mixed in among the other weeds on the bank of the creek that abuts the property.

“If it has a square stem and smells like mint, it’s an edible mint,” Cattail Bob Seebeck told me on a recent foraging adventure. Not all squared-stemmed mints smell or taste like mint—for example, wild oregano (Monarda fistulosa) and horehound (Marrubium vulgare)—but  there are a few wild ones that evoke the commercial variety, making them as palatable to the masses as they are to obsessive wild food foragers like yours truly. Read the rest of this entry

purple tinged yucca 350x253 Yucca and Memorial Day Weekend Go Together Like

Yucca flowers and wild Allium (garlic) in the pan. Note the purple tinge on the outer petals of these otherwise creamy-white flowers.

On Memorial Day last year we were still snowboarding at A-Basin, the snow drifts in the backyard were up to the life-size metal deer’s neck, and the yuccas down Denver-way waited until late June to bloom. This year, the snow is gone except for a handful of high elevation chutes and the yucca is in full bloom down the hill, a month ahead of last year.

Who can understand nature’s whim? Is her massive schedule change a punishment for our squandering of her resources, or is she just in one of her moods? Either way I figure we might as well take advantage of the yucca bounty now while the plants are in bloom.

Both Yucca and Yuca Are Delicious

Yucca is not the same as yuca or cassava (Manihot esculenta), the delicious and starchy potato-like root popular in Caribbean cultures.

Instead, wild yuccas (Yucca spp.), which cover miles of dry zones throughout the Western United States, have edible flowers, buds, and fruits. They are particularly conspicuous when in bloom, their waxy, bulbous white flowers dangling dense upon tall, upright flower stalks. In our local central-Colorado species, Yucca glauca aka soapweed yucca, there is one flower stalk per plant, and the flowers, while creamy white, often have pinkish/purple outer petals upon them. California Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), on the other hand, have “one flower stalk for each arm,” as Michael Moore explains in Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (2003). Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—May Release!

WEN May2012 640 225x350 Wild Edible Notebook—May Release!Good news! A new season of the Wild Edible Notebook is here, one full month ahead of the planned start date.

This first-ever May issue of the Wild Edible Notebook features curly dock (Rumex crispus), examined both in light of its edibility and its designation as an invasive species, in a piece I wrote originally for Eat the Invaders website.  Then I interview that site’s creator, conservation biologist Joe Roman, about his invasivore project. Next comes “My Boyfriend, the Liver Fluke,” a lighthearted take on the touchy subject of those creepy crawlies who might be invading your watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) right now. There’s a wild edible poem by correspondent Brad Purcell, a recipe for dock enchiladas by the inimitable Butterpoweredbike, and a handful more cooking ideas for dock and watercress to boot.

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.

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?”

Read the rest of this entry

I Fought the Prickly Pear Cactus and Won

cactusicle 350x281 I Fought the Prickly Pear Cactus and Won

A peeled, sticky cactusicle, almost enticing enough to lick!

Apparently I’m not the only one to have gone about prickly pear cactus the wrong way the first time around. Allow me to relive that fateful day two years ago on a Malibu, California hillside where I endeavored to pick a plump prickly fruit bare-handed only to suffer the instant ejection by said fruit of 30 or so its tiny, nearly invisible glochids into my fingers, after which I made matters worse by trying to pull them out with my teeth and ended up with lips and tongue laden with the pointy buggers.

The glochids are the prickly pear’s secret weapons, for the perennial succulent also hosts larger, more apparent spines meant entirely to deceive you. You’re a sucker if you grab a piece by a supposed non-spiny section because meanwhile the cactus is spearing your unwitting hands 30 times over—or mouth and throat, as in the case of Sam Thayer, who describes his first childhood bite-and-swallow of a glochid-covered prickly pad in Nature’s Garden (2010). Still, Sam did not let it spoil a fabulous weekend seeking snakes and turtles, and neither did I let it spoil my random hike through the Malibu nudist colony that day. Read the rest of this entry

wild flavored venison 350x262 Adding a Wild Zing to Venison with Flavors of the Forest

Venison grill fare: Wild dry-rubbed steaks and kabobs marinated in ginger rosehip vinaigrette.

If wild is a flavor, then venison is it. I can remember days not too distant when the taste of deer was too much for me—too gamey, too foreign, too reminiscent of Bambi’s mother. Enter my brother-in-law, hunter extraordinaire, and suddenly before I know it a hunk of gifted venison is in my freezer, taunting me. How the heck am I supposed to eat that stuff again?

What worked for me back then in Los Angeles works for me still: Bathe the extra gaminess away with one or two days soaking in buttermilk in the refrigerator prior to rinsing, patting dry, and undertaking additional preparations.

Never mind how hypocritical this sounds as I write it, but this time, after painstakingly removing the “wild” from the venison, I then added it back in with the following preparations. Here are the wild things I did with our recently-thawed cache of venison steaks: Read the rest of this entry

Wild Shopping Spree — Denver

musk mustard Colorado 350x262 Wild Shopping Spree    Denver

Don’t eat the grass; eat the musk mustard.

Try as I might to remember, I almost always forget my shopping bags when I go to the grocery store. I rarely forget them, however, when I go into the wild.

It’s a good thing too, because Friday’s foray among the wild former farmlands of Denver’s outskirts was a shopping trip to remember; I found so many awesome “deals” [read: free green food] under the capable guidance of my dear friend, metro-area forager, Butterpoweredbike.

The Mile High City was bursting with plant life, the ground dappled with sunlight streaming through new foliage and flowers on the trees. “Stop. Listen. Do you hear that?” Butter asked. “It’s the sound of the wind through leaves. It wasn’t like that a couple days ago,” she mused happily as we skipped back with our afternoon forage of nettles (Urtica spp.) and musk mustard (Chorispora tenella).

I had managed to sting my injured knee through the hole in my pants while collecting the nettles, but Butter gave me a handful of mallow (and grass) to chew up and spit onto it. After weeding the grass from the handful, I did as instructed, and it seemed to do the trick. Afterwards we were nibbling musk mustard on the side of the trail when two gents walked by and said, “Don’t eat the grass, girls! That’s for the dogs.” Tee hee. Read the rest of this entry

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