LEMON BALM MEDICINE MOMENT Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a perennial of the mint family (Lamiaceae) with an aromatic, pleasant, floral, lemon-like flavor that is cooling, calming, uplifting, and mildly astringent. It is used in formulas for bellyaches, anxiety, hyperthyroid, colds and viruses. FYI, if you don't have a wild patch growing nearby, it is quite easy to grow, and very worthwhile.Read More
SPICEBUSH = WELCOME AROMATIC FRIEND WHO BLOOMS IN EARLY SPRING BEFORE LEAFRead More
COLTSFOOT FLOWERS, ONE OF THE FIRST FLOWERS OF THE SEASON
These are not dandelion flowers, but one of its cousins that belong to the same family, the Asteraceae family. Scientifically referred to as Tussilago farfara, translation: cough dispeller. It blooms before its leaves appear.Read More
HAPPY SPRING, HELLO CHICKWEED!
Today brings the vernal equinox (for us in the northern hemisphere) where daylight starts to outshine the dark night. Pulsing green into the landscape, our wild edible friends start poking out of winter hibernation, and guess who’s there waiting for us: CHICKWEED!
NETTLE IS UP = YES! This fiery wild edible, scientifically referred to as Urtica dioica, is a perennial of the Urticaceae family. It is a delicious wild food and potent herbal medicine — a prime example of where food and medicine meet.Read More
Mint Lassi Master Recipe
Makes 16 oz
Enjoy a traditional East Indian drink that is refreshing, cooling, tart, and slightly salty. It’s also full of hydrating electrolytes. On hot summer days when I work in the gardens and sweat profusely, nothing feels more replenishing.Read More
Nettle love is when you can't get enough of this newly emerged, freshly cooked, wild vegetable. This perennial plant of the Urticaceae family is one of the first to show up once spring arrives. And it's so easy to prepare: just saute or steam it. Or substitute nettle for kale or spinach in your favorite cooked recipes. I love to make frittatas, and nettle frittatas are one of my favorites (see recipe below).
Nettle leaf has a rich, hearty (meaty), deep-green flavor. It is a blood-building, vitamin- and mineral-rich tonic food, especially high in calcium, magnesium and iron. Nettle is fiery. Use it to support circulation and resolve wet cold conditions in the respiratory system. It supports kidney and adrenal function and is used for improving skin, hair, joints, allergies and arthritic conditions. In addition to all these gifts, let's not forget the place nettle has as a gourmet vegetable to be eaten with breakfast, lunch or dinner. However, keep in mind that too much can be irritating/ stimulating to some enthusiastic nettle eaters (myself included). One serving a day hasn't caused any harm yet.
To help with identification and harvest, here is our Spring Nettle Plant Map from our book Foraging & Feasting. Remember to wear gloves when handling nettle to protect yourself from its sting — unless you want to (be clear about this) engage in urtication therapy, considered a topical treatment for congested, stiff muscles and joints.
Frittata Master Recipe
Frittatas offer another great way to feature wild flavors while making a wholesome delicious meal. Serve them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — or any time of day. A dish somewhere between an omelet and a crustless quiche, frittatas are simple to prepare. This basic recipe allows you to combine various wild greens, aromatic herbs, and cheeses to create satisfying frittatas with the seasonal offerings from fields, gardens, and farmers’’s markets.
- 5 tablespoons fat of choice: butter, olive oil, lard, bacon drippings, etc.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 cups of wild vegetable of choice*, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons strongly flavored aromatic fresh herb, finely chopped, or 2 teaspoons if the herb is dried: wild bergamot, oregano, hardy marjoram, thyme, savory, etc.
- 6 large eggs, preferably organic and pasture raised
- 1/3 cup heavy cream, crème fraichefraîche, or whole milk, preferably organic and grassfed
- 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar or Colby type cheeses weigh about 3½ oz), preferably organic and grassfed
- 3 pinches salt to equal 1/4 teaspoon, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
* Some scrumptious wild choices: leaves and tender stems of nettle, yellow or broad-leaf dock, lamb’s quarter, amaranth, dame’s rocket, purple dead nettle, mallow; day lily shoots; and wild mushrooms.
- In an ovenproof, heavy bottomed, 9 inch pan, such as a cast iron pan, heat 3 tablespoons of fat over medium-low heat.
- Add onion and vegetable and sauté until tender, stirring occasionally; put the lid on the pan if needed to keep the vegetables from drying out.
- Once the vegetables are tender, add the strongly flavored aromatic herbs and 1 pinch of salt, and sauté for 1–2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix eggs with cream or milk, 2 pinches of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
- Stir sautéed vegetable mixture into egg mixture.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan, add the egg-vegetable mixture, and cook over medium-low heat for about five minutes, until the bottom of the frittata is cooked.
- Turn oven on to broil, sprinkle the cheese over the top of the frittata, and place in the oven about 4 inches away from the broiling flame. Broil the frittata until it puffs up and browns, about 5–7 minutes.
- Serve straight from the oven. Cold leftovers are delicious too.
Golden Eggs From Pastured Hens: While all eggs provide a good source of complete protein, all eggs are not equal. Taking the effort to buy the best eggs available — ideally from pastured hens given free range to eat grass, weeds and bugs outside in the sunshine, and fed naturally grown, non-genetically modified grain — is well worth the effort. These eggs are truly nutritious, full of vitamins A, D, E, and K2, and contain a balanced fatty acid profile (omegas in the right ratios). So getting to know who has the best eggs in the neighborhood is worthwhile knowledge indeed.
Elderberry Syrup Master Recipe Makes about 20 oz
Flavorful and sweet, elderberry syrup can be added to smoothies, herbal teas, mixed drinks, and fermented sodas, or diluted into hot water or cold sparkling water. For a visually appealing and tasty treat, drizzle this dark magenta syrup onto yogurt, ice cream, custard or cheesecake. It also tastes great spread on pancakes and waffles, or used as cookie fillings.
Elderberry syrup can also be taken straight by the tablespoonful for nutritional and therapeutic support. Elderberries are rich in iron and bioflavonoids, and are an immune system tonic. They are helpful in preventing infections such as colds and flus; however, if already infected, they help us move through the illness.
To help with proper identification and harvest, please see our illustration below.
4 cups fully ripe elderberries, stems removed (weighs about 23 oz). When fresh elderberries are not available, I use frozen ones.
1½ cups maple syrup or honey (I prefer maple syrup as I usually don’t cook honey.)
Add one or a combination of the following freshly ground, dried spices: 1 teaspoon aniseed, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, or 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 lime, zest and juice
Mix elderberry, sweetener and optional ingredients in a nonreactive 2–3 quart pot, cover, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove lid from pot and gently simmer mixture for 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat and purée mixture with a hand-held immersion blender or food processor.
If you would like the syrup to be smooth and seed-free (which I recommended), strain it through a fine-mesh sieve.
Use right away. Or, to store, pour hot syrup into very clean glass jars, cap with tight fitting lids, label, leave out at room temperature to cool, then store in the refrigerator where they should keep for at least three months. For longer storage, freeze the syrup or seal in a hot-water bath.
Recipe excerpt from our Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by (me) Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender. Book link: http://bit.ly/1Auh44Q
Bitters speak to these upcoming days of feasting. They help us digest our food, especially when eating large quantities of rich fare. Bitters also tone and support liver function which makes many things work well in our lives (the liver is responsible for over 500 metabolic functions). As a flavor enhancer, drops are often added to mixed drinks. When poured into an attractive glass bottle featuring a homemade label, these make great gifts. Why not create your own? I am excited to share my Therapeutic Spirits Master Recipe and Variations that will empower you to do so. Many of the weedy wild plants that are bitter and/ or aromatic can be used for making this therapeutic elixir. At this time of year the roots are particularly potent and great for making bitters. Think: roots of dandelion, yellow dock, burdock, and sweet cicely. Happy bitter-making!
The best time to dig burdock root is when it is in basal rosette stage, as illustrated above.
Wondering which wild edible to eat right now? = Dandelion. She seems to always be available, offering superior nourishment throughout the growing season. In this mid-fall moment, I like to gather her leaves and add them to salads, adding just enough; too much and the salad becomes too bitter. I also make sure to mince the leaves up, dispersing them well into the milder-tasting greens. This perennial of the Asteraceae, originally from Eurasia, is one of our most common weeds that boasts profound nutrient density: high in beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium and iron. The bitterness, while often not enjoyable to many palates, is quite healthful as a digestive aid and liver tonic. Remember when we support our digestion and our liver — many, many, good things happen.
To help with identification, harvest and use please, look below at the Dandelion Plant Map from my book Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender.
The aromatic sweet seeds of Myrrhis odorata can be used in place of aniseed or fennel seed for flavoring beverages and dishes. Note the seeds are most flavorful when fully formed but still green; see image below. Now in early fall, the seeds of sweet cicely are dark brown and lack flavor. At this point the seeds are good for planting — sweet cicely seeds need to be planted soon after the plant produces them as older seeds won't germinate.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) of the Boraginaceae family offers many gifts, ranging from food and medicine for us humans (if we dare, please see cautionary note below); as fodder for animals; and as a soil enricher referred to in permaculture as a dynamic accumulator. Right now this perennial plant flourishes, lush, vibrant and green in the landscape, making it a perfect time to gather its nutrient dense leaves for food and medicine. Dry the leaves for a mineral rich, soothing tea or use to make a topical healing oil. The smaller, younger leaves can be eaten as a cooked vegetable aka potherb: tasty in soup, quiche, frittata, etc. Or feed the leaves to your compost pile; brew them into a green manure tea for feeding plants; or if you have goats, feed some to them— they will love it.
Click for more on pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
The time of year has arrived for harvesting nettle seeds (Urtica dioica). The seeds of this perennial are considered a super food with adaptogenic properties. This means they help the body handle stress... all kinds of stress, by supporting adrenal function. Dosage: 1/2–1 teaspoon of fresh or dried seeds sprinkled into salads, soups, stews, etc. The seeds taste mild with a crunchy texture and can be easily added to dishes. Amazingly, some herbalist are finding the seeds help heal damaged kidneys — wow! Here is to a wild, invasive, highly useful medicinal food. FYI, may be very stimulating/energizing to some folks, so best to eat earlier in the day. Enjoy! Image from our book Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook. Check this link for more info on nettle seed.
Now is the time for harvesting and processing black walnut (Juglans nigra of the Juglandaceae family). The green hull will go into organic cold pressed olive for a therapeutic anti-fungal oil-come-salve and the musky-flavored nut meat will go into our mouths. Prized for its wood in furniture-making, this large, native Eastern North American tree can be found growing in USDA zones 4-9. Now is the time for gathering these fallen fruits. Free Food & Free Medicine!
#WildBergamot blooming beautifully= food for the #Pollinators and for us. Right now it's time to indulge in those lovely, light lavender #EdibleFlowers full of spicy sweetness. Sprinkle them onto salads; blend them into softened butter; use them as a flavorful garnish throughout. This wild American native, aka #Mondarda fistulosa, is a perennial of the Lamiaceae family. Look for it in meadows, clearings, prairies, thickets and gardens. Harvest the flowering tops to brew into a strong flavorful tea with a spicy, pungent, oregano-like flavor; has cleansing and digestive promoting qualities.
#RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense) graces the landscape — time to gather the blossoms for food and medicine = medicinal food. Break up the flower heads and sprinkle the individual blossoms into salads, onto cakes, and as a garnish to beautify any dish. Dry the blossoms for a health-promoting tea; often used for supporting skin and lung health. Flavor is mild with a sweet pea-like taste.
Looking forward to righteous #violet (Viola sororia) arriving back in the landscape. Eat the mild leaves & flowers raw; super high in #vitaminC — flower surprisingly more than leaf. Decorate dishes, even cakes with the blossoms. Toss leaves into soup at the end of the cooking process, blend into pesto with more pungent greens or in Wild Green Goddess Dressing. Violet's soothing, cooling qualities help with inflammation in the gut and respiratory systems, as well as topically on the skin. Some say that these wild, free, and abundant violets are #antineoplastic, read anticancer!!!