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.
I collected the rosehips (Rosa sp.) at a parking area near Frisco in March while waiting for a snowboarding colleague to show up. It required tromping through two feet of snow, and I took just a small handful of the wrinkled fruits that were still on the bush from fall, then stored them in an empty bag of Stonewall’s Jerquee and left them on the front seat of my car.
That was almost a month ago.
I must have been sitting on them yesterday, however, because when I jumped up out of my seat a rosehip was rolling around where my butt used to be.
“What’s that?” Gregg asked, as we got out of the car.
“It’s a poop,” I said, without skipping a beat.
But I was glad to rediscover those rosehips, and even gladder when I put my nose deep in the bag of Jerquee and smelled not jerky but a mildly sweet fruit leather.
To make the “raisins” used for the granola, then, I washed the wrinkled fruits vigorously and cut the hips at the two ends to remove the excess plant material, then slit their bellies open to scrape out the seeds with my knife. Then I cut the skins into pieces and voila—rosehip raisins! Bonus that nature handled all the drying for me.
Evening Primrose Seeds
I collected the evening primrose seeds (Cattail Bob Seebeck lists Oenothera villosa, O. elata for our region in his 2012 textbook) in November with Butter. They grew intermingled with cattails at the edge of a pond in Denver’s outskirts, and Butter snapped the spires and stuffed them in my bag, the tiny seeds collecting down below.
“Evening primrose seed oil contains the highest amount of gamma-linolenic acid of any known food substance (Balch and Balch, 1997),” Sam Thayer writes in The Forager’s Harvest (2006).
An omega-6 fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid has health benefits from treatment of ADHD and depression to that of high cholesterol and rheumatoid arthritis, among others, according to WebMD. Hence evening primrose oil is used as a supplement. But “while millions of dollars are spent on evening primrose oil annually, it is very easy to collect the seeds on your own for free,” Thayer writes.
The granola bar recipe from Sue’s grandmother called for nuts and seeds of various kinds, none of which I had in the cupboard. In fact, the only thing I had was the oats, plus the “sauce” ingredients.
The evening primrose seeds—which sat on the shelf since we gathered them in November—were a last minute idea. A good one, too, Gregg opined, assuring me that the pleasantly toasted flavor had to be coming from those seeds because that’s not what toasted oats alone taste like. Works for me.
For the much pared-down recipe I mixed 2 cups oats, 1 tbsp evening primrose seeds, and the rosehip raisins in a baking pan and set in a 350 degree oven. The recipe said to leave them in for 12 to 18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they browned. At 5 minutes, however, my rosehip raisins were starting to turn brown, so I pulled the pan out and meticulously picked them out. I think next time I’ll drop them into the oven mixture for the last 3 minutes of toasting.
Meanwhile, on the stove, I melted 4 tbsp butter with ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup honey, and 2 tsp vanilla, then transferred the toasted oat mixture to a mixing bowl (plus the pre-toasted rosehips) and poured the stuff over it, mixing thoroughly. After that it was into a shallow pan with the sticky lot, which I pressed down with a meat tenderizer as I was lacking baking paper. As it cooled, we cut it into squares and gorged ourselves on nearly half the gooey panful of yum.
The next morning, the bars were firmer, but still chewy. They are such a delight that I can’t keep my hands out of them, even though Gregg hasn’t gotten his equal share and is unlikely to, no matter how much they enthrall him too. I mean, I’m the guy who made them after all.