Archive for 'New Hampshire'

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?”

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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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Two Variations on Marinated Dandelion Salad

marinated dandelion salad asian 350x301 Two Variations on Marinated Dandelion Salad

Marinated dandelion salad option 1 involves soy sauce.

Not to go overboard on the fall dandelions or anything, but last night’s fresh marinated dandelion salads came out so good and were so fast and easy to make that I figured I’d write up a short post about them. The recipes start out the same and then it is simply a matter of picking one sauce or the other depending on the recipe you’re going for. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 cups dandelion greens or thereabouts
  • 1.5 cups red cabbage or thereabouts
  • 1 medium onion
  • Soy sauce (option 1)
  • French dressing (option 2)

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Wild Huckleberry Masterpiece

huckleberries rocky mountains 350x203 Wild Huckleberry Masterpiece

Rocky Mountain huckleberries foraged near Fairplay, Colorado

The high country huckleberry season (Vaccinium species) is winding down now, but it was such a success at its peak that I feel obliged to write about it. This is because not only did we find the berries plentiful (and literally in our very own back yard at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies), but also because Gregg used them to make what was quite possibly the best wild edible dish I’ve had yet to date.

Colorado Huckleberries

I ate huckleberries last fall in New Hampshire that looked and tasted very much like blueberries, but the local huckleberries near Fairplay, Colorado are very different. When plentiful in mid-August, our back yard berries were translucent and ruby red, dangling like tiny gems from the lush, green, low-lying plants that carpet the forested areas behind our house. I tentatively identified them as grouse whortleberries (V. scoparium), which I read about in Wild Berries of the West by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller. Even as of yesterday there were a few ripe patches out there, although the remaining berries seem to be purpler. (Whether that means the reds eventually turn purple or the purples ripen later I couldn’t tell you. Suffice it to say that the fruits range from red to blue-purple in color.)  Read the rest of this entry

Purslane Rescue Mission

purslane 2010 350x262 Purslane Rescue Mission

Pennsylvania purslane

We went to the east coast for two weeks in July, and my sister met me in Maine with small bag full of New Hampshire purslane—that low branching succulent that many American gardeners throw in the yard trimmings without a second thought. She’d rescued it from her garden for me. It was really cool, as my sister is far from a wild food convert. I promptly boiled it up and served it with butter and salt to the extended family. My sister thought it was the perfect topping for the bratwursts. 

Two weeks later, Gregg and I headed to the Philadelphia airport with several pounds of purslane. (I can only imagine what the TSA folks thought when they inspected my baggage and found a cooler bag full of weeds, roots intact.) 

I kept the roots on the plants so that the purslane would travel well, and it worked. Thanks to Bill and Marnie in Ithaca and Gregg’s dad Frank in PA for the purslane bounty; I’m pleased to say that not only did the purslane make it home safe and sound to Colorado and into some delicious dishes, but also that the roots and attached shoots made it safely into the dirt in my makeshift garden off the end of the back yard. Read the rest of this entry