Archive for 'foraging'

Venison meatloaf with sock berry glaze

venison highbush cranberry meatloaf 350x262 Venison meatloaf with sock berry glaze

Venison meatloaf glazed with an ornamental highbush cranberry tomato glaze.

Call me a “bitter-plant apologist,” but I’m pretty pleased with myself for this, my first foray into cooking with Viburnum opulus, the highbush cranberry that is the escaped ornamental cousin of the much-celebrated native species.

Says Sam Thayer in my go-to guide, The Forager’s Harvest (2006):  “The two native highbush cranberry species, Viburnum edule and V. trilobum, are generally highly esteemed for their flavor, while the introduced European V. opulus has terrible fruit.” And this: “The European species is extremely bitter, accentuated by other bad flavors, while the native type tastes very much like cranberries. In fact, European highbush cranberries are so terrible that I don’t even consider them edible, despite the claims of some bitter-plant apologists—and frost emphatically does not improve their flavor.”

That said, my friend Butter—who coined the term “stinky sock berries” to describe the stinky, foul-tasting V. opulus— is a convert, having once discovered their abundant, ripe fruit near-glowing on its branches when most everything else nearby had turned brown with the change of seasons. She’s collected them ever since. Read the rest of this entry

Late November foraging in the Denver low country

highbush cranberry CO 350x262 Late November foraging in the Denver low country

The stinkier of the highbush cranberries, these guys are turning into sauce whether I stink my fiance out of the house or not, by golly.

Well, Denver’s not low country exactly — Mile High City and all— and the part where my friend B and I like to forage is one of the higher points in said low country, but it’s still low compared to the upper reaches of Colorado where I live, even though we moved down from 11,000 feet to 9,800-feet or so this summer.

Still, it’s supposed to be winter up here now, and most of the plants think it is, so it’s not ideal for food foraging aside from cold weather finds like pine needles for tea and flavoring or willow bark to sooth the ever-present, new-job-related headache from which I suffer.

You’ll understand why I’m so excited, then, that—after hightailing it from work to Denver for Thanksgiving and driving home to Summit County the next day only to discover I left my computer behind and had to go back to the fiancé’s parents’ house for it —I had opportunity to visit and forage food with Butter B, wildcrafter extraordinaire, and wound up going home with sacks upon sacks of wild stuff to eat.

That’s right: It’s November, and foraging season down Denver way is still kicking. Below is what I came home with yesterday. It’s stuff you might be able to spot, right now—and, upon absolute positive identification (of course), get busy with in the kitchen yourself:

Read the rest of this entry

Pennycress Honey Mustard recipe at long last

pennycress honey mustard venison 350x333 Pennycress Honey Mustard recipe at long last

Wild pennycress honey mustard on crackers with venison summer sausage.

I’ve done it, Igor! I’ve created a recipe to deal with that monster who’s been pounding down my door for one. Namely, my mom. My mom is a pennycress honey mustard-seeking monster.

My idea for pennycress honey mustard was born first of an attempt to make normal pennycress mustard—if there is such a thing—which comes out tasting okay but not altogether great, I opine. Pennycress has a strong, some say garlicky— though I say distinctly pennycress—flavor. It was the addition of honey, however, that sealed the deal between me and pennycress forever.

I love gathering the pennycress seeds—first spotting the dry, light tan stalks and seedpods that mean it’s ripe for  harvest, then stripping the seeds and chaff into a collecting container. Afterwards walking while directing short, strong puffs of breath into the container, blowing chaff from seeds, albeit into my nostrils and eyelashes. No matter, for a precious prize remains at the bottom, like colors separated from black sands at the bottom of a gold pan—pennycress seeds! Read the rest of this entry

Is Rocky Mountain Porcini Season Over?

porcini bounty 2012 233x350 Is Rocky Mountain Porcini Season Over?

A small porcini bounty, found mid-August around 11,500 feet in the Colorado Rockies.

Since late July, my dear friend Butterpoweredbike has been emailing me about finding pounds upon pounds of porcini.

Meanwhile, in the last month and a half, I moved to a new home and a new job while trying to finish up my old jobs, working 100 hours per week or more, ad infinitum. What a change from the fancy-free wild food forager I formerly was!

So I lived vicarously through her finds, and this year, Butter did it right—she figured out the favorite forest conditions of the Rockies’ prize fungus, then consulted her maps and with a little help descended upon prime locations that rendered unto her a porcini windfall of staggering proportions. (This is in great contrast to the awkward fumbling we both did last year in the early days of our mushroom hunting obsessions, which were, coincidentally, the early days of our friendship.)

Still, despite being embroiled in a staggering amount of work at my new job, I made a point to search my spots when time permitted, generally one morning per week—but came up empty handed each time.

That was until two weeks ago, when Gregg and I found seven or eight young kings at our favorite porcini place.

Interestingly, the timing coincided with Butter’s pronouncement that porcini season was over. Read the rest of this entry

Chilaquiles Con Verdolagas

purslane chilaquiles 350x318 Chilaquiles Con Verdolagas

Purslane chilaquiles cooking into yumminess.

Chilaquiles are “casserole dishes of varying ingredients” made of leftover tortillas or chips. According to Sunset Mexican Cookbook, a 1969 publication I picked up for 50 cents at the Fairplay Library book sale last summer, they are sometimes called “Poor Man’s Dish” for this reason.

The same cookbook explains that Mexican cuisine occasionally utilizes the “strange” vegetable, “verdolagas,” which is Spanish for purslane! If you don’t know purslane (Portulaca oleracea) already, you should. This garden weed is extremely nutritious raw, supposedly containing more omega 3 fatty acids than some fish oils. It is so ubiquitous that people weed it out of their gardens and toss it into the compost heap without a second thought. Purslane’s fleshy leaves are also common alongside sidewalks, where the plant can often be found growing in abundance.

Since purslane is about to be the wild ingredient of the month at Hunger & Thirst’s July recipe round up, and since my life is about to take a very busy twist, I figured I’d better throw some purslane into my chilaquiles right quick and bang out a recipe before I start going completely insane. Read the rest of this entry

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

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