Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 at
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
Friday, May 4th, 2012 at
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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Sunday, February 12th, 2012 at
Probably not enough dried willow bark for pain relief.
This is great—not only did I jump off a bush (on my snowboard) in an attempt to skip over some rocks to a mogul that turned out to be solid ice and hear my knee go “crunch,” such that I am suddenly confined to home awaiting an MRI, but I am also coming down with a cold, sore throat and cough and all.
But, please, don’t read “This is great” as sarcasm. I honestly feel blessed by the universe—for now, jobless once more, I have opportunity to test my wild medications upon myself, not to mention the free time to write about it.
I figure I’ll start with the cold today and save the knee for next week. After all, it seems a little foolish to mend bones and ligaments until one is certain they are arranged in the right place. At present my right knee cannot straighten to save my life (though in landing that leap three days ago it did flex very much in order to do so). Read the rest of this entry
Monday, May 30th, 2011 at
Cook stinging nettles before consuming lest you get stung in the mouth.
Accounts of stinging nettles are far from uncommon in the wild foods literature; likewise, stinging nettle soup is sold in more than a few restaurants—such that some wild foods neophytes like Gregg’s little sister Caity have more experience with the plant than I do, isolated as I am in high-mountain Colorado. For me, then, finding a small colony of nettles growing out of a culvert in Woodstock, New York last week was cause for great celebration.
I tried nettles on one other occasion three years ago, when, at the end of my cross-country journey to Colorado, I found myself alone and foodless save for a grocery bag full of nettles (which miraculously made it four days without refrigeration in the back seat of my car from State College, PA where it was gifted to me by a friend). This was before my newfound obsession with wild edible plants, and I worried about getting sick as I stripped and boiled the prickly leaves in the unfamiliar kitchen that has since become my own. (Everything turned out fine, though I can’t honestly say I relished the nettles at that moment. Funny what fear can do to the taste buds!) Read the rest of this entry
Friday, May 27th, 2011 at
Wild foraged fiddleheads and morels purchased from a health food store.
It’s been a number of years since I made it out east in the spring—and what a spring it is! Apparently it’s been raining more than usual, such that the outdoors is carpeted in lush new green growth the likes of which I seldom see. Coming from the Colorado high country, where snow still covers the forest floor, I have to admit I’m not sure where to begin.
Gregg and I headed first to Woodstock, New York, to visit my friend Aurora. The Hudson River Valley where Woodstock is located is truly an Eden of wild foods, a fact that she pointed out has been the case for thousands of years—and the reason so many native people relied upon this area for hunting and gathering. Granted, many of the plants that now flourish in these parts were imported by early settlers, but I am overwhelmed by the abundance of wild edibles I have an encountered.
In the Hudson River Valley we found the following plants ripe for the picking (in addition to many other that are not in season): stinging nettles, garlic mustard, mint, clovers, cleavers, goosefoot, mallow, burdock, several varieties of dock, a few late fern fiddleheads, sorrel, wild carrot, dandelion, plantain, and milkweed shoots. I helped Aurora weed some of these plants out of her garden and ended up with a cooler bag full of wild edibles. Later, on the forested grounds of my Alma Mater, Bard College, we found wild ginger, mayapples not yet fruiting, spicebush, and sweet cicely. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, October 1st, 2010 at
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:
- Baby spinach greens
- Dandelion greens and leaf stems, coarsely chopped
- Red cabbage, coarsely chopped
- Red clover flowers, finely chopped
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Monday, September 27th, 2010 at
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.
- 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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