I can never seem to get enough stuffed curly dock leaves—my riff on my Polish grandmother’s golumpkies. There are many recipes to choose from, whether for golumpkies or the similar sarma or dolmas. Usually they involve a filling of meat, grain, and seasonings, a sauce poured overtop, and long-baking. In our family the sauce is tomato-based, with green apples, brown sugar, and whatever cabbage (dock) you didn’t use for a wrapper.
I will admit to an obsession with wild mustard seeds. One of my favorites is field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) because the size of the seeds makes them worth foraging. Often we just eat ground pennycress seeds as a seasoning, although I like to make mustard condiments with them too. For recipes and instructions, see my blog post: Three pennycress mustards
Wild jelly candies
I’ve been experimenting a lot with wild jelly candies, made from the concentrated juice of various wild berries including Oregon grape (Mahonia repens), wild grape (Vitis riparia) and chokecherries (Prunus virginiana). These can be made with gelatin but I was going for a vegan version, so I used agar agar. These could not be simpler! For ingredient quantities and notes, see: Wild jelly candies
Navajo tea color change
I am always so taken with the color transformation Navajo tea makes when you brew it. Also called cota, this tea is made from plants in the genus Thelesperma, found in the desert Southwest and Western grasslands. I used Thelesperma megapotamicum, which has disk flowers and no ray flowers (petals). In eastern Colorado I often find this species growing side-by-side with T. filifolium, which has petals and is used similarly.
Sometimes foraging is as simple as finding a forgotten apple tree. I’ve been on a crusade against sugar, so this year I am giving out apples. Happy Halloween! Update: I am so tickled at how well these apples went over. I had kids are running to the house saying they’d heard about the apples. I had parents running to the house for apples. Maybe because we don’t get a lot of fresh fruit up here at 10,000 feet…
Wild seed drink
Believe it or not, chia is not the only wild seed that can be used to make a beverage. For this, I used the peppergrass species Lepidium ramossisimum, and it is likely the seeds of other peppergrasses—particularly the native species L. virginicum and L. densiflorum—can be used similarly. Just like garden cress (L. sativum) seeds, which are used for the purpose in India and the Middle East, these seeds swell to a beautiful mucilaginous texture after soaking. The drink is quite mild and can be enjoyed as is or sweet and light for a scrumptious dessert. For more information and instructions, check out my blog post: Wild seed drink.
Oregon grape (Mahonia reopens) is one of a handful of wild medicines I use. Compounds in the roots are active against a broad range of microbes, including various fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses. They also have hypoglycemic properties. For this reason, my naturopath prescribed a supplement of berberine (the principal constituent of Oregon grape roots) as part of my strategy to prevent a breast cancer recurrence. The supplements are getting expensive, so I decided to make my own.
Wild chewing gum
Did you know that plant resins are the original chewing gum? I am addicted to chewing the hardened resin of ponderosa, lodgepole, and pinyon pines. I didn’t mention it in the video, but as you are chewing, don’t be afraid to spit as you go. Chewing gum from tree resins is a tradition that spans the globe—from the mastic gums or chios tears of the Mediterranean region, made from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus); to the soft chicle of the Mayans from sapodilla (Manilkara zapote); to the once-popular spruce gum of the northeastern United States and Canada, made from black spruce (Picea mariana). For more, see my blog post: Wild chewing gum.
Eating my aloe
I have been having fun foraging my Aloe vera plant, since it needed to be pruned anyway. The gel is edible and nutritious once the bitter aloin is drained out. There is more than one way to skin an aloe, but here’s what I do: Cut leaves at the base and set in a glass to drain of yellow aloin for 20 minutes. Trim off edges and attached spines; filet flat side with a sharp knife, getting all the green skin bits off; scoop out interior with a spoon (not super close to the skin); and soak in clean water another 10-20 minutes for extra measure. Eat gel as is or blended into a smoothie.
Fall is a great time to gather the season’s last greens to dry for green powder. Here in the arid West, drying greens is as easy as spreading them out in a basket and leaving them on the countertop for a few weeks. For wetter regions, check out Dina Falconi’s herb-drying tips. Green powder is a mineral-rich addition to smoothies and hot cereals. It’s a great way to get more greens into your diet!
Today I discovered how good rosehips are in biscotti. The hairs attached to the seeds are supposed to irritate the digestive tract, so you can see in the video how I removed both. There are plenty of good biscotti recipes, but I used a low-carb, low-fat one from Sugar Free Londoner as my base, subbing almonds and walnuts, vanilla, and rosehips. The rosehips added a lovely flavor and a nice chewy texture!
Learning plants by family is a great way to break down the wide world of green into a manageable number of groupings. The Mustard Family is one of my favorites. Cultivated members include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and kale. There are also many edible wild mustards. Find your mustards now, and you’ll be ready to collect the young greens come spring.