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
These immature samaras I hold in my hand are perfect for eating, offering a sweet pea-like flavor. (Samara is the term used for a winged fruit containing one seed, also seen on Ash and Maple trees.) A native tree of eastern North America, American elms (aka Ulmus americana of the Ulmaceae family) are doing well in NYC’s Central Park. They seem to be protected from the fatal Dutch elm disease, a fungal pathogen that kills most elms before they reach maturity. It’s always a treat to walk among the grand old elm trees in this park.
Do you eat elm samaras? If yes, in addition to eating them fresh out of hand, do you have an elm samara recipe to share?
Grateful to the elms!
TODAY’S WILD EDIBLE HARVEST BASKET
Contains violet leaf and flower (Viola sororia), nipplewort ……Read More
SPICEBUSH = WELCOME AROMATIC FRIEND WHO BLOOMS IN EARLY SPRING BEFORE LEAFRead 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!
WILDNESS ON THE THANKSGIVING TABLE WITH CRANBERRY BLACKBERRY RASPBERRY RELISHRead More
OSTRICH FERN = FIDDLEHEADS Here I hold the dry and spent fertile frond of the ostrich fern, the delectable fiddlehead we gather in early spring. Scientifically named Matteuccia struthiopteris, this native American perennial sprouts two kinds of fronds, the non-edible spore producing one I hold here, and the luxurious (though sterile and now gone) green one that can reach five feet in height, and whose new spring growth produces the fiddleheads we gather.Read More
Callaloo = Amaranth: Just passed a store in Astoria Queens, NY where callaloo was for sale among other fresh produce. Love seeing wild greens as part of the food offerings in urban settings.Read More
WILD GREEN GODDESS IN THE SPRINGRead More
I find it extremely satisfying to blend up my own mayonnaise and I especially love to include the seasonal flavors of the field. Today's version is made with 3 tablespoons of wild bergamot leaves and 3 field garlic bulbets that have just emerged, making it even more delicious! I use whole eggs in this batch resulting in a lighter, thinner mayo. I am excited to share my master recipe here with you and hope that it will unleash your mayo-making talent. Please let me know how your mayonnaise turns out in the comments.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
Wild Green Pesto — Oh So Tasty: Or What to Do With All Those Weeds!Read More
There's an exciting bounty to be had in turning wild grape leaves into delicious, nutritious food. Typically used for wrapping around savory rice fillings, with or without ground meat, grape leaves can also be wrapped around other foods such as fish, meatloaf, and more. In our area we are lucky to have an abundance of wild grape vines that appreciate pruning, and in return they reward us with a substantial supply of leaves. Cultivated grapes grown without chemicals provide another great source for leaves; perhaps a grape grower in your area will kindly share some leaves from mid spring through early summer pruning (usually they throw these away). Cook them up fresh and preserve some by marinating, dry canning, freezing, or lacto-fermenting so you can enjoy them throughout the year. You'll find detailed instructions below.
Grape leaves fall into the category of “wrap cookery,” along with cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and other wild leaves. Essentially any leaf that is tasty and tender yet strong enough to wrap around food falls into this category.
Harvesting Tips for Grape Leaves
- The best time to harvest grape leaves is from mid spring through early summer, when leaves are not too tough and leathery but large enough to effectively wrap around food.
- Look for newer leaves that are lighter green and tender, found towards the tip of the vine.
- The best size leaf to harvest is about the size of an average lady’s open hand, roughly measuring 5–6 inches wide; any smaller and they are too difficult to stuff; any larger and they tend to be too tough for eating. Also, choose intact leaves, minimizing ones with bug damage.
- Remove the leaf stem completely or it can puncture the leaf when rolling or while in storage.
- Store fresh grapes leaves as you would other leafy greens, such as kale or lettuce, by putting them into a plastic bag placed in the refrigerator, where they will keep for at least two weeks.
- 1 lb of fresh grape leaves, appropriate for stuffing, equals approximately 200–225 leaves.]
How to Stuff Grape Leaves
1. Spread grape leaf flat on a plate, unfolding any wrinkles. Face shiny side (the upper side of the leaf) down, with the stem remnant (leaf base) closest to you, and leaf tip pointing away from you. When using frozen or dry canned leaves, sprinkle them with a little water if they seem dry and brittle.
2. Place stuffing onto the lower center of the leaf, about an inch away from the leaf base.
· If using a raw grain stuffing, use a heaping teaspoon per leaf.
· If using a raw grain and meat stuffing, use a heaping teaspoon per leaf.
· If using a raw meat stuffing, use a heaping tablespoon per leaf.
· If using a cooked stuffing, use a heaping tablespoon per leaf.
3. Fold the leaf base (the edge closest to you) up over the stuffing and then fold the leaf sides toward the center, encasing the stuffing. Continue to roll toward the leaf tip, tucking the leaf sides into the center as you turn, rolling until the leaf tip is incorporated into the final cylindrical shape.
4. Stuffed grape leaves made with marinated leaves and a precooked filling may be eaten right away; ones made with raw filling and leaves need to be cooked and should be placed seam-side down in the cooking vessel to prevent them from unraveling.
Spread out on the plate is a marinated leaf I picked and preserved in spring. It awaits a precooked filling. Below is the jar the leaf was pulled out of. I placed a 100 or so grape leaves in this wide-mouth pint mason jar and covered them with a marinade made of olive oil, vinegar, and sea salt. FYI, leaves were first blanched before marinating. The jar, tightly covered, was kept in my refrigerator. I can't say for how long since I forgot to label the jar. Was it last spring or two springs ago? Note to self: label all concoctions. In any case the leaves are still in excellent condition and ready to be filled.
To stuff marinated grape leaves, choose a precooked stuffing such as the Grain Salads (p. 136), Grain Pilaf Variations (p. 138), or Bean Salads (p. 139). Naturally, part of the fun is to experiment and invent fillings to suit your fancy. Fill each grape leaf with a heaping tablespoon of stuffing and, if needed, refer to How to Stuff Grape Leaves above. Note: 3 cups of cooked stuffing fills about 32 grape leaves. The stuffing I made yesterday (pictured in the photo below) is a winter variation made with brown rice (soaked and cooked), parsley, almonds (soaked, dried, and lightly roasted), raisins, scallions, dried peppermint, olive oil, vinegar, sea salt and pepper.
Grape leaf with a heaping tablespoon of filling placed onto the lower center of the leaf, about an inch away from the leaf base, ready to be rolled.
All rolled up!
A plate full of stuffed grape leaves ready for the Valentine's day party. More will be served today at the neighborhood seed-sharing gathering.
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.
Hooray, CHICKWEED (Stellaria media), a weedy super food — free, abundant, and available — is back in full swing. This lovely little friend is so nutritious: high in Vit. C, beta carotene, iron, calcium, etc. She is mild and tasty. Perfect for salad, in wild green pesto, lightly steamed, or added to soup during the last few minutes of cooking. She likes moist rich soil and will grown in full sun to part shade. Look for her in gardens, lawns, meadows, woodland edges, and waste places. The image of chickweed below is a "plant map" from our book from my book Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender. Hopefully it will help you to identify chickweed accurately throughout the growing season. Good luck!