Right now these majestic native American ferns, scientifically called Matteucia struthiopteris, are unfurling in the landscape and perfect for harvesting. HOWEVER, SUSTAINABLE HARVESTING IS A MUST!!! As a rule, pick from ferns with at least 4 fronds emerging and take no more than a 1/3 of the emerging fronds. Make sure you have ostrich fern fiddleheads: look for ……Read More
OH MY — THE WILD SALAD IS POPPING!
So many tender, flavorful, edible feral friends emerging into the spring sunlight right now. Taking a quick inventory: chickweed (both Stellaria pubera, and S. media), wild lettuce (Lactuca canadensis), purple dead nettle….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
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.
Wild Salads are back in full swing!Read More
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
Here is a perfect craft cocktail that is cooling and refreshing for these late summer, fresh mint-filled days. If you are into Mint Juleps this version really heightens the mint flavor in a satisfying way.
Mint Bourbon–Julep Wild Style
Makes 16 oz, serves 4–6
This lightly sweetened liqueur captures the essence of fresh mint. To achieve good flavor, purée the plants, then steep the mixture for a bit of time. Serve at social gatherings, or pour them into attractive bottles and give them away as gifts. The alcohol content of this drink ranges from 25% when using 80 proof to 31% when using 100 proof.
• 10 oz 80–100 proof bourbon
• 2 large handfuls fresh leaves or flowering tops of apple mint, peppermint, and spearmint (stripped off main stalk). I like this mint combo, but if you only have one kind of mint, by all means use it.
• 4 oz water
• 3–4 tablespoons maple syrup
Purée ingredients in a blender, pour into a glass jar, cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave out for about an hour, or for up to four weeks at room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, and squeeze the plant material to remove as much liquid as possible. If you would like to remove all plant particles, line the sieve with a thin linen cloth before straining. Serve over crushed ice and garnish each glass with a fresh mint leaf, if available. To store, pour into a glass bottle, cap tightly and keep in a cool, dark place. This Mint Bourbon keeps for at least a year, and although it won’t rot due to the alcohol content, the aromatic flavors decrease with time.
Recipe excerpt and mint identification pages 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
Wild Green Pesto — Oh So Tasty: Or What to Do With All Those Weeds!Read More