Archive for 'yucca'

wild food 030 350x262 Bent on pulverizing Short stemmed Slippery Jack’s bad rap

Wild chicken stew with slippery jack powder.

Lately I’ve been powdering my dried wild mushrooms, batch after batch and species after species, then attempting to use the powders in various kitchen concoctions.

First were the porcini (Boletus edulis), from which I made a divine sauce, followed by not-so-bad hawks wings (Sarcodon imbricatus) venison marinade and cream sauce. Short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) were a logical choice after that—in part because I have so many, and in part because I refuse to believe them inferior despite their reputation.

I went through a phase obsessing about Suillus brevipes this fall.

Said me on the Facebook: “Not to harp on the (short-stemmed) slippery jacks or anything, but I’m growing very fond of these guys. I’m tempted to say they rival Boletus edulis, but I think Butter at Hunger and Thirst might have my head for it.” (This because Butter is such a porcini fanatic as to pass up the short, slippery dudes.) Read the rest of this entry

purple tinged yucca 350x253 Yucca and Memorial Day Weekend Go Together Like

Yucca flowers and wild Allium (garlic) in the pan. Note the purple tinge on the outer petals of these otherwise creamy-white flowers.

On Memorial Day last year we were still snowboarding at A-Basin, the snow drifts in the backyard were up to the life-size metal deer’s neck, and the yuccas down Denver-way waited until late June to bloom. This year, the snow is gone except for a handful of high elevation chutes and the yucca is in full bloom down the hill, a month ahead of last year.

Who can understand nature’s whim? Is her massive schedule change a punishment for our squandering of her resources, or is she just in one of her moods? Either way I figure we might as well take advantage of the yucca bounty now while the plants are in bloom.

Both Yucca and Yuca Are Delicious

Yucca is not the same as yuca or cassava (Manihot esculenta), the delicious and starchy potato-like root popular in Caribbean cultures.

Instead, wild yuccas (Yucca spp.), which cover miles of dry zones throughout the Western United States, have edible flowers, buds, and fruits. They are particularly conspicuous when in bloom, their waxy, bulbous white flowers dangling dense upon tall, upright flower stalks. In our local central-Colorado species, Yucca glauca aka soapweed yucca, there is one flower stalk per plant, and the flowers, while creamy white, often have pinkish/purple outer petals upon them. California Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), on the other hand, have “one flower stalk for each arm,” as Michael Moore explains in Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (2003). Read the rest of this entry

Stir Fry on the Wild Side

wild everything stir fry 350x279 Stir Fry on the Wild Side

A delicious and attractive wild stir fry.

Yesterday I experienced the somewhat unique problem of having too many bags of wild edible plants in my refrigerator and not enough “normal” food with which to make lunch. So I improvised—and it worked out surprisingly well.

When In Doubt, Stir Fry 

My most successful stir fry in recent months, then, involved sautéing finely chopped red onions and fireweed shoots for 10 minutes in olive oil, then adding yucca petals and Mertensia leaves, sautéing for another 5 minutes, and serving with noodles.

Normally I add a sauce to my stir fries, but this time I didn’t season it at all. Yucca was the dominant flavor, followed by the onions and olive oil. The fireweed shoots made for a nice, crispy texture, and although the Mertensia leaves lost the mild oyster-like flavor they have when raw, upon cooking they turned a beautiful bright green that made the dish look fantastic.

Here are some more details on the wild ingredients:  Read the rest of this entry

denver yucca2 262x350 Southwestern Fried Yucca Flowers—Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Colorado yucca flowers at 6,000 feet.

Late last summer, during a whirlwind west-coast visit, I found myself on an unlikely hike through prickly pear cacti up a Malibu mountainside in a private ranch of rented houses to a pool that was clothing-optional on Wednesdays. (Spending time with my friend Reina is always an adventure.) 

En route to the pool I tried to pick a prickly pear from atop a cactus in ill-advised bare-handed fashion, only to find that the spines, unlike those of thistle, for example, are quick to release from their fruity bearings and inject themselves into the unlucky plucker’s skin in great numbers. We’re talking 50 spines, give or take. Then, I made the situation even worse by attempting to remove them from my fingers with my teeth, thereupon transferring dozens of sharp hair-like spines from fingers to lips and tongue. 

This is not an entry about prickly pear (although I’ve had a request and one will follow!). It is simply to set the stage for a latent realization…  Read the rest of this entry

Aurora Yucca and the Recipes I’ve Tried With It

yucca flowers 350x292 Aurora Yucca and the Recipes I’ve Tried With It

Delicious yucca flowers foraged from Aurora Colorado.

The yucca around Denver is in full bloom right now, such that when we went to Gregg’s parents’ house a few days ago on June 18, the hillside in the field across the street was covered with spires of the bulbous white and sometimes purplish flowers. Unfortunately, they were protected from would-be foragers by a network of wire and wooden fences, not to mention a small amount of cow traffic. 

Gregg’s parents live in a 55-and-over “active adult community” in Aurora. Folks are always out and about—walking, running, swimming, playing tennis and golf. But I figured if we got up early in the morning and headed out there we might avoid a few looks as we scaled a fence I’d scoped out, one that got us to a small 10×20-yard patch of yucca that wasn’t encircled by the second, interior, cow-protecting fence. 

The plan worked and we set to harvesting a few yucca flowers from each plant, checking for bugs first and snipping them into our bags while taking care not to get poked by the sharp leaves. In the midst of our foraging, however, an over-55 woman drove up to a town-home on the hillside nearby and demanded to know what we were doing.  Read the rest of this entry