Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 at
Tostadas with jalapenos, dock & beans. I did the tostadas in the oven–broiling, flipping, and broiling again before adding the topping for the final broil. Next time, I need to brush the tortillas with oil; what was I thinking?
My fiance and I are seasonal workers. Most of our income comes from a winter job that lasts 6 months. It offers health insurance for that time period, so we jump on it each winter. In December I can finally get my cavities filled, and he can upgrade his glasses and contact lenses.
But summer is always harder on us financially. Health insurance costs skyrocket to $350-400 per month (each) if we choose to extend our benefits with COBRA. We work a lot of jobs and barely make ends meet. By the time December rolls around again, we are emptying pockets and jars and every other nook and cranny trying to cover bills while fixing up the old cars and ourselves and getting ready for another season’s work.
I’m not saying this to complain. We chose this life—up high in a winter paradise where well-heeled tourists own second homes and we would be lucky to one day afford a decrepit miner’s cabin because prices are so inflated. We chose to chase our passions and to work outdoors, instead of spending a lifetime of recurring 60-hour weeks in a cubicle—so in that respect, this is very much the good life. But the financial struggle is ever present. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, September 20th, 2013 at
Stuffed puffballs with onion & bread stuffing, tomato bits, and queso fresco.
This has been quite a season for puffballs—both large and small—in the Colorado high country. Though the season for giant puffballs is upon us, I wanted to first share a preparation we’ve been enjoying with small puffballs, which are still out there fruiting like crazy too. I like to call it “stuffballs.”
For the stuffballs I’ve been using puffballs of the genus Lycoperdon. Up here we have gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), which when young and fresh have what Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) describes as “conelike spines” covering the top that can be rubbed off. The puffballs are “almost spherical with a tapered base,” she writes, adding that they can be “abruptly tapered at the base.” In my experience the tapered bases can come together gradually, or seem like miniature fat stems. I often find L. perlatum growing deep in conifer forests, in soil on the forest floor.
We also have the related pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme, per Evenson), which are pear-shaped, as the name suggests—also roughly spherical with an elongated base. Michael Kuo at MushroomExpert.com writes that L. pyriforme is a very recent synonym for Morganella pyriformis, and that the pear-shaped puffballs are one of the few puffballs that grow on wood (or lignin-rich soil, Arora, 1984). The mushroom’s surface starts out smooth, Evenson writes, developing coarse granules later so as to appear rough. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, September 19th, 2013 at
Pock-marked Fairplay porcini, their colors ranging from red to light.
Yesterday we revisited one of our old, favorite hikes on the shoulder of Pennsylvania Mountain above Fairplay, Colorado. We must have done a variation of that hike—sometimes ducking into the forest on game trails to encounter still-open mine holes and long-abandoned cabins, others taking the old road high above treeline only to descend via questionable routes down dry, crumbling couloirs—more than 100 times in the 4 years we lived over there.Those were the days when slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) were the most exciting things ever, back during my big life change when this latent wild edible food obsession was reawakening.
In all those years hiking there, I found only one porcini (Boletus edulis).
But yesterday, as we were driving the long dirt road to our old spot, a familiar feeling came upon me. So while Gregg parked the car and took his sweet time organizing this and that into his backpack, I ducked into the trees for a look around, only to emerge a minute later with a medium-sized porcini button I spotted poking out of the duff. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, September 13th, 2013 at
Here you could try singing “Just another Suillus party” to the tune of “Gangsta Party” by 2pac.
For years I steered clear of the edible mushroom Suillus tomentosus—not because it was difficult to identify, but because it wasn’t supposed to be very good.
“Suillus tomentosus has a reputation for being a second-class edible and is best when very young,” Vera Stucky Evenson writes of the blue-staining, yellow-brown mushroom with fibrillose cap and cinnamon brown spongy pore mass in her book, Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997).
But the thing is, the forest has been covered with these yellow Suillus for the past couple weeks where I live at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, and throughout the region. My good friend Butter at Hunger and Thirst told me some folks call certain Suillus (I found reference to Suillus americanus) “chicken fat” mushrooms because of their color and texture—and I agree that S. tomentosus also looks like lumps of chicken fat on the forest floor.
“And those darn Suillus everywhere!” Valerie commented at the Wild Food Girl Facebook page. She hunts yellow-gold chanterelles, and the Suillus have been doing everything in their power this year to stand up and scream “look at me, look at me” while pretending to be chanterelles from a distance.
But one day, while stepping over perhaps my 100th Suillus tomentosus to get to other mushrooms, it occurred to me I might be looking a gift horse in the mouth—that I might be passing judgment on the horse based on his teeth, though I knew not the quality of that horse, and above and beyond that, he was a gift.
Here God had been tossing me all these Suillus, and I couldn’t see them for the trees. Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, August 17th, 2013 at
What’s that? It’s time again for another issue of the Wild Edible Notebook? It sure is! I am pleased to announce that August 2013 is now finished and ready for download.
This month I found a little more free time to scout new spots and play with plants in the wilds of the Colorado high country, so the August 2013 issue has more in the way of first-hand accounts than past editions. First is an adventure with serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) discovered in abundance at the north end of Summit County, from the happy rain-kissed picking to the many kitchen experiments inspired by it. Then I get busy with pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea), again undertaking one culinary experiment after the next—some successful, some less so. After that comes the story of a lovely mushroom hunt one rainy afternoon where somehow every mushroom we found was larger than life. There are a few porcini (Boletus edulis) recipes from yours truly, along with one from Butter at Hunger & Thirst, and of course a coloring page in case you’re bored and need something to do. Happy reading/foraging/eating/coloring!
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EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at
“Honey, can you clean the kitchen? I made dinner.”
Kitchen experiments take time, a luxury I didn’t have this past month until yesterday. I forgot how good it feels to get on one of my kitchen tangents and go wild cookery crazy. Plus I had a plethora of wild plants in the fridge that needed using. So I tried a couple things, some successful, some less so. This is what we dined on last night:
Italian-style Puffball Casserole
I have to laugh when I think about how many of my successful meals are the results of mistakes, and my ongoing obstinacy in learning anything proper in the kitchen. The casserole was originally supposed to be puffball parmigiana, an idea I got from Butter that in my kitchen involves slicing and breading big puffballs (Calvatia, or oversized Lycoperdon, or both in this case) with egg and breadcrumbs, frying in oil, removing to a casserole dish, topping with tomato sauce and mozzarella and baking until the cheese melts.
But I didn’t have any eggs and I didn’t know what to use to stick the fresh breadcrumbs (made from leftover bread in the food processor, mixed with dried crumbles of the wild oregano Mondarda fistulosa) to the puffball slices. After several online searches I found “eggs, buttermilk, or other liquid” as potential breadcrumb-sticking agents. But I guess olive oil doesn’t count as a liquid because all the breadcrumbs fell off after I tossed the oil-coated and breaded slices in the cooking oil. I should have known. Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, June 8th, 2013 at
Egg on toast with wild asparagus and creamy green yogurt sauce made with blended spruce tips and dill.
Everybody seems so into spruce tips—those soft, light-green new tips that grow on spruce (Picea spp.) in spring. I’m still sleuthing about trying to find out where that idea on the culinary use of spruce tips came from. Maybe the cookbook Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by Chef Rene Redzepi, from the restaurant that all the chefs are raving about? Or, I just read in Ava Chin’s article—an informative read, BTW—that there is a chapter on conifer tips in The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes (2010) by Connie Green, so that book is now on my wild edible wish list too.
I couldn’t find many references as to the edibility of spruce tips aside from tea in my own book collection, but in Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies (2000), Kershaw warns: “Always use evergreen teas in moderation. Do not eat the needles or drink the teas in high concentrations or with great frequency,” though she does not say why. Also she indicates that as an emergency food, “tender young shoots, stripped of their needles, can be boiled.” Later she writes that evergreen needle teas are not advised for pregnant women. Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, June 1st, 2013 at
Last fall, we looked at about 20 edible plants in the Colorado high country. Let’s see what we can find in Summit County on June 8.
I’ll be offering a series of edible wild plant hikes in Summit County, Colorado, as noncredit courses (Continuing Education) through Colorado Mountain College this summer. There are still slots open for the first hike on Saturday, June 8, to take place on the River Trail in Breckenridge from 9-11 am.
We’ll be identifying local edible wild plants and plant parts in the high country, with discussion on safe practices for identification, collection, and consumption, both for individual plants and edible wild plants as a whole. We will also discuss foraging topics including collection policies for public lands and how to forage responsibly so that plants can regenerate. There will be some opportunities for taste-testing, but we will not be foraging food in quantity.
The walks are limited to 12 participants and cost $20, with signups taking place through the college. Fill out the Registration Form and submit payment, either online at http://www.coloradomtn.edu (go to Classes>Register for Classes) or in person at CMC Breckenridge (107 Denison Placer Road; 970-453-6757) or Dillon (333 Fiedler Avenue; 970-468-5989). Folks who have taken a CMC class in the past 10 months can phone or fax in the Registration Form.
All walks take place from 9-11 a.m. on the following dates: Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, May 30th, 2013 at
Whitetop flower bud clusters, used as a substitute for broccoli.
The one nice thing about invasive, edible plant species is that there are more than enough specimens available for kitchen tests, and you don’t feel like you’re dishonoring nature’s gifts when something goes wrong.
Like in my recent countertop honey infused with whitetop flowers (Cardaria spp., Lepidium draba or related Lepidium sp.), which I was hoping would make for a nice, spicy honey mustard condiment. Instead I got icky, pungent, planty goo that Gregg says is smelling up the house.
Fortunately, a few of my other experiments came out pretty good, which is nice considering that I jumped on the whitetop bandwagon a little late this year, collecting one batch in Fort Collins at its prime, pre-flowering, broccoli-like state before the pickings were no longer quite so good. Still, we got a few more meals out of the plant after that, and as the green continues to emerge up here in the high country, there might be another opportunity.