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.
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 at
Whitetop is a listed invasive species, targeted for eradication in areas of Colorado and other regions.
I’ve been meaning to try eating whitetop, aka hoary cress (Cardaria spp., Lepidium draba or related Lepidium sp.)—an invasive plant targeted for eradication in parts of the Colorado high country and undoubtedly other locations too. It saddens me to see whitetop taking over entire fields; I always wonder what plants might grow there if that whorey mustard hadn’t so asserted itself.
Last summer, when Colorado wild edible plants expert Cattail Bob Seebeck gave me my first taste of whitetop flowers in a farm field in Mesa, it nearly burned my tongue off—a seriously spicy mustard. Which is why I was so surprised that my friend Butter found it to be pleasant and mild prepared in the style of broccoli rabe. She harvested the tops before the flowers opened, including a small portion of stem and leaves, then blanched and sautéed the hoary cress with salt, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, May 19th, 2013 at
Pan-fried tofu cubes with black greasewood leaves.
Last night I all but destroyed the kitchen, scurrying about cooking up a wild feast like a person possessed. It felt good to be back home experimenting with wild ingredients again after our recent road trip to parts west, to channel all that inspiration from finding exciting new plants into food while my better half lounged on the couch. And, of course, it was snowing while I did so, here in the last stronghold against spring at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies.
One of the dishes I made uses the leaves of black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus). The sprigs of the desert shrub had been sitting in the refrigerator for the last week and a half or so since we gathered them from a Nevada alkali flat. Not because I’d forgotten about them—rather because I was leery of the odd new plant, and awaiting responses to my recent query in the Edible Wild Plants group on Facebook as to whether anyone had eaten it before. Fortunately Brad VanDyke, based in Utah, responded: “I have eaten it, and like it. However, it does contain oxalates, so be careful,” he wrote. As certain commercial veggies we consume—like spinach—contain oxalates too, I took that to mean: Don’t overeat. As in an entire pound in a sitting. Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at
Chicken soup flavored with stinging nettle spice and accented with stinging nettle gnocchi dumplings.
This always happens to me. I come into some wild food and then I get a wild hair to make something genius with it in the kitchen. So I dedicate myself with so much time and energy that I overextend myself, producing mediocre results. Then since I’ve committed so much heart to it, I can’t stand to let the meal go unhonored or the story untold, so I produce such entries as Suillus Sludge Soup, and Everything Gnocchi without Moderation. The latter, from two days ago, recounts my fit of inexperienced potato gnocchi-making with a $1 markdown bag of potatoes that I swore I’d find a use for. Clearly I was overstimulated, unreasonable. And then of course afterward I’m drained, and less than satisfied with the results—so much work for what seems like so little gained.
I always forget to realize that the true prize comes later. A moment of genius strikes, a reward after so much hard work. If you honor it, and go with it, often some minute genius will result—like this recipe for chicken and nettle gnocchi soup. It’s really just a dumb little soup I threw together haphazardly while doing laundry and dishes and cleaning the house. I was making a chicken-carcass-rescue soup, and decided to throw in some of those pretty, green, dried nettle flakes leftover from the other night, as well as the nettle gnocchis. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, April 14th, 2013 at
Good news! After nearly a year on hiatus, the Wild Edible Notebook is back!
This first-time April edition centers on everybody’s favorite wild food—dandelions. Though snow still covers the ground here in the Colorado high country, the dandies have been up in Denver for a while now, and it seemed a safe bet for foragers in other locations too. I also included a piece I wrote on spring foraging in the Denver area last year. Although the season’s change is taking its time this spring (thank goodness), my hope is that this will at least get you thinking about all the delicious wild food that awaits. There’s a review of first-time author Rebecca Lerner’s recently released book, Dandelion Hunter, a wild edible poem from correspondent Brad Purcell, and a handful of recipes to boot.
I’m not going to lie to you—this issue contains recycled blog content, so if you’re an avid reader of this site, some of the text may strike you as familiar. Still, I included a bunch of as-yet-unseen photos to sweeten the deal while I wait for my own local wild food to sprout.
As with all other Wild Edible Notebooks, if you want to read it, you have to download it—and that means joining the list if you haven’t already.
How to Join the List
If you go through the process to join the list you will receive one (at most two) emails from me a month. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. To join, scroll to the bottom of this page and fill in your info. You’ll receive an email asking you to click on a confirmation link, and after doing that, you’ll get another email with the download link for the latest issue of the Wild Edible Notebook—in your choice of either a handy print-and-fold booklet or a file you can breeze through onscreen or print out one-sided. You’ll be able to access a few prior notebooks as well. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, April 11th, 2013 at
A nummy granola bar square made with oats, rosehips, and evening primrose seeds
For two years I bugged my friend for her grandmother’s granola bar recipe. “Erica! I finally found my granola recipe!” she emailed one day, and that was two years ago.
So last night, approximately four years after the idea’s inception, my long-hewn plans finally came to fruition when I recreated the bars—with much adaptation due to the lack of traditional foods in the house, and a couple of new wild ingredients added in, of course.
These chewy wild granola bars have some stuff in them that’s real good for you, and other stuff that’s not so much good for you—but they make a ridiculously delicious pocket snack. And of course they can be adapted for all manner of wild seeds, fruits, and nuts.
Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 at
Acorn squash, nettle, and beer soup, perfect for warming up after a wet spring snowstorm. I won’t be putting the seeds on top again, however, because they lost all their crunch in an instant.
I’ve had a request so I hereby present two squash nettle soups, both made with ingredients that are out of season here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country.
The first—a pumpkin, nettle, and beer soup—I made in November after receiving the gift of a pumpkin on our doorstep after a friend in possession of one needed to unload the big squash so as not to leave it in his car while he flew out of town. I am certainly not one to kick a tall pumpkin fairy in the mouth.
The idea of pairing stinging nettles (Urtica sp.) with squash came to me originally from Rebecca Marshman, the youngest chef on BBC America’s Chef’s Race, whose acquaintance I made during the filming of the third episode. She made a divine nettle minestrone with nettles gathered by her teammate, Sophie Michell. To make something like it, she told me to start by sautéeing onions and garlic, then to add small chunks of pumpkin to the pan for “a beautiful color,” and to put all that into the soup along with chicken bouillon, chopped potatoes, carrots, and some kind of beans.
So my recipe borrows from Rebecca’s idea, but is a creamy soup, with Parmesan cheese and a few brewskies to boot. It is an adaptation of an adaptation of a Moosewood Cookbook recipe followed by another one from the internet. I thought the nettles would make a good substitute for chicken broth. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 at
Mountain parsley, or biscuitroot, gathered near 11,000 feet in Fairplay, Colorado last summer.
This summer, I’ll be drying more leaves.
Last season’s nettles were a no-brainer, and they disappeared from my pantry shelves fast—in the form of tea and a much-loved pumpkin nettle beer soup. But what of the other leafy greens I enjoy all summer long? Could they help to tide over a fanatical forager during the long winter months?
Inspired by Maria’s post on Lessons from the Pantry, I piled my few bottles of dried leaves on the counter last night and set to work experimenting in the hopes of determining which dried leaves merited the effort.
Here’s what I came up with:
Salted Bluebell Leaf Chips
A recent insinuation of cheesy kale chips into my life from multiple directions inspired this attempt to recreate leafy green veggie chips from a wild edible angle.
I painted the light-green, dried smooth bluebell leaves (Mertensia spp.) with a thin coat of olive oil—though a spritzer would have been ideal—then sprinkled black Hawaiian lava salt on top in the hopes of drawing out the leaves’ oceany flavor. Then I crisped them on low heat in the toaster oven—actually I crisped them at high heat and a few of them burned before I turned it down—and served to the curious fiancé. Read the rest of this entry