Archive for 'Rocky Mountains'

Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

wild strawberry gregg davis 450x399 Leaves of Three, Strawberry!

Wild strawberries look like diminutive cultivated strawberries. If you know one, you should be able to recognize the other. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I bolted upright in bed at 2 a.m., awakened by loud, forceful hail pouring down on the roof. It was June 28, just a week into summer. I got up and walked across the dark living room to peek out the sliding glass doors and watch it come down in the pitch black night. Despite the cold, hard nature of those icy pellets, the hail meant a welcome respite from a recent dry spell that had the flowers drooping in the fields and forests, starved for something to drink.

The next day dawned with a thin coat of white on the mountaintops. A patch of calypso orchids bloomed in my friend’s yard. And I found my first wild strawberries of the season.

Ditch Berries

Last year, the wild strawberries surprised me. I had become accustomed to them fruiting in the beginning of August at 11,000 feet where I previously lived in the dry hills of Fairplay, Colorado. Now we live lower at 10,000 feet in Breckenridge, where the breathing’s free and easy and the strawberries ripen sooner, compared to our old mountainside.

It was early July and I had been circling our Peak 8 neighborhood on foot when I nearly tripped over a plentiful fruiting in the road bed atop a ditch near my apartment. Climbing down into the ditch yielded a good perspective up its steep side, and a hidden world of bright red gems hiding under the low foliage. Forget all those hours spent seeking small glimpses of red at our old place. These were the real deal, many tiny handfuls as reward for climbing down into the ditch to get at them. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

greens pie Gregg picture 450x299 Wild Greens & Potato Pie with Kochia

Wild greens and potato pie–great for dinner, even better for breakfast! Contains wild mustards and kochia greens. Photo by Gregg Davis.

I’m having wild greens and potato pie for breakfast again, as I have for the last two mornings. You wouldn’t think greens mixed into mashed potatoes in a pie crust would be all that exciting, but I am definitely smitten.

The inspiration came from Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging (2013), which I spent two hours walking around the neighborhood reading the other afternoon. It’s an easy read with lots of nice, clear pictures—great for gardeners with a penchant for ornamentals, because it includes edibility information for landscaping plants like hosta, spiderwort, bishop’s weed or goutweed, and mountain ash among others, unlike many foraging books that center only on weeds and/or native species.

Zachos writes how her yiayia (her grandmother) grew up in the mountains of central Greece, where wild edibles were an important part of village diets. Specifically, she recommends trying the leaves of the aggressive landscaping plant, bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria), as a filling choice for Greek “pita,” or pie. Her recipe for hortopita, a less well-known cousin to spanakopita, involves an ensemble of phyllo dough, wild greens to replace the spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yoghurt, and eggs. It sounds absolutely divine. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Picnic

gregg picnic sm 404x450 Wild Edible Picnic

A stop for a look around by the reservoir on our way home.

The season’s change is upon us, even here at 10,000 feet in the Colorado high country. The snow has started to melt away, leaving the detritus of last year’s tourist season in its wake—the bottles and bits of paper and crumpled, dirty cloths and tons upon tons of dog leavings. But there are also green things emerging from under the blackened snow drifts; the promise of foraging season is nigh.

We celebrated with a car picnic, which I dreamed up to get Gregg out of the house, as he is now in week four of his mandated six weeks on crutches after his second knee surgery, or our third consecutive knee surgery as a couple, depending how you look at it.

That morning I whizzed around the kitchen to whip up some food to pack along, aiming to use up as many of the wild ingredients, both fresh and preserved, as I had on hand, since I am still, if somewhat lazily, under the spell of spring cleaning. Then we took a happy drive in the sun to the north end of the county, me reading aloud selections from Richard Mabey’s Weeds (2010), Gregg checking out the spring scene around us and announcing each vista one after the other—a kayaker kayaking, a fisherman fishing, a tall eagle’s nest, a person on horseback, baby cows. Then we camped out alongside the river and had a look around at the first signs of spring’s emergence at 8,000 feet—once in a very small, crutched radius, and the second time a longer but faster solo mission by yours truly while my better half napped—before retiring to the Vanagon, whom we call Myrtle after Gregg’s late grandmother, for the honorary unfolding of her picnic table for the first time this season.

Among the dishes I set out was a pasta salad, the piece I worked hardest on, and a wild garlic-onion cream cheese spread, which though super easy I thought I’d messed up, but over which Gregg went absolutely gaga regardless. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—February 2014 Release!

February2014 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—February 2014 Release!Winter marches on here in the Colorado high country, and I find myself more eager than ever to hunt for wild food, so for this month’s edition of the Wild Edible Notebook I decided to venture deep into the snowy forest to fill my pockets with the wind-felled boughs of pine, spruce, and fir, and then try to figure out what to do with them in the kitchen. In the process I have discovered how beautiful it is to view the snowy landscape through a forager’s eyes, finding that even in the heart of winter there is food—albeit primarily in the form of tea and spice—for the taking.

The February 2014 Wild Edible Notebook centers on conifers—first on the needles borne by the tall trees that make up our forests here in the high country, followed by a piece on juniper “berries,” which are not berries at all but instead cones. After that there is a review of Jennifer Hahn’s Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging. This month’s edition concludes with a handful of fun recipes using conifer needles by yours truly as well as the talented culinarian Wendy Petty of Hunger & Thirst.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of the page.

Wild Edible Notebook—January 2014 Release!

January 2013 cover 800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—January 2014 Release!The New Year arrived with more than a foot of fresh snow here in the Colorado high country, where we are under more than four feet and counting. Thus, for the January 2014 edition of the Wild Edible Notebook, I turned to wild seeds—from dock seeds and goosefoot to prickly pear—and the myriad joys of rubbing, winnowing, soaking, sprouting, grinding, and cooking them. Have you ever grown winter sprouts from wild seeds? Very exciting!

After the seed stories, we take a tour of Hank Shaw’s recently released Duck, Duck, Goose, a cookbook devoted entirely to the preparation of waterfowl. Hank was kind enough to donate a recipe to the Wild Edible Notebook, too, so if you can scare up the wild duck, wild duck eggs, bulrushes and hand-foraged wild rice, you might just be up to the challenge of making it. A handful of my own recipes with wild seeds concludes the January 2014 edition, along with one I sneaked in that uses domesticated seeds, but dressed in a rich coat of wild-foraged porcini powder.

The Wild Edible Notebook is an ongoing project, started in 2011. It is now available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand, or in various PDF formats including screen-reading and 8.5×14” print-and-fold versions at www.wildfoodgirl.com/wild-edible-notebook for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides. Big, squeezy, wild hugs to those who have already purchased a subscription in support of this effort.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of the page.

Low Cost Meal—Beans & Dried Dock

dock beans tostadas 450x299 Low Cost Meal—Beans & Dried Dock

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

Stuffballs on the Menu

stuffballs tomato queso 450x332 Stuffballs on the Menu

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

Old Places, New Head Spaces

pock marked porcini 450x392 Old Places, New Head Spaces

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

Whistling Suillus

suillus Breckenridge 337x450 Whistling Suillus

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

Wild Edible Notebook—September release!

September 2013 cover 800 288x450 Wild Edible Notebook—September release!September is well on its way, and with it I am happy to announce the release of another Wild Edible Notebook for your reading pleasure. The September 2013 edition is four pages longer than the last, making it the longest Wild Edible Notebook I’ve created to date.

This issue revisits the low-lying high country huckleberries of the genus Vaccinium, a topic I picked based on reader interest. Next is a journey into the wonderful world of hawk’s wings mushrooms (Sarcodon imbricatus), followed by the story of an even more wonderful culinary journey undertaken in partnership with Chef Bill Greenwood of Beano’s Cabin restaurant in Beaver Creek. This edition also includes a review of The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify and Cook Them (2010) by Virginia-based forager Katie Letcher Lyle. Mushroom recipes dominate the recipe section—a few by me, one from my dad, and a recipe for stewed chanterelles from Lyle. Last but not least is a huckleberry coloring page, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014.

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.

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