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Quote of the Day: Elderberries

September 7th, 2014

“Once up on a time not so long ago, elderberries were held in extremely high esteem by humans. Elderberry trees feds us. They got us drunk, provided medicine, and protected us from witches. Everybody know elderberry trees. They offered everything from fruit to flutes and cosmetics to weapons.”

Connie Green and Sarah Scott The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes

I only have one small elderberry plant here in my garden in Maine so far, though it’s sending up suckers that will be transplanted when it’s finished producing berries. There aren’t enough berries for me to make anything this year, they will be cut and fed to the chickens. Elderberries are beautiful plants and provide such nutrition.
Elderflower fritters 2
The lacy white flowers can be fried up as fritters, made into wine or syrup for sodas and the berries can be used in all sorts of different ways. When I have elderberry syrup I use it in my tea all winter long, it’s said to boost the immune system. My dad swears by its health promoting ability and doesn’t hardly go a day without consuming elderberries in some form (jelly is his favorite medium). Even if you don’t want to consume the berries or the flowers, they are a wonderful way to provide forage for pollinators and birds of all varieties and are worthwhile to include in the garden for that reason.

Do you have any plants you grow for their medicinal properties?

Quote of the Day: Wild Food

March 16th, 2014

What wild food could be more common than dandelions? We all know what they are. Even children in New York high-rises have probably picked and blown on the feathery white glove of seeds, as children everywhere do. Those ethereal floating seeds land then grow into the tasty and nutritious plant that all gardeners wish a speedy death. It wasn’t always so. European settlers brought dandelions to the New World as a necessity for medicine and food. The young leaves emerge in late winter, providing large doses of vitamins A and C just when they are needed after a winter diet. Traveling with us, dandelions have been brilliant in colonizing every sate. Where’s their habitat? Anywhere we are.

Connie Green and Sarah Scott The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes

Oddly enough, I have a few dandelions in my basement right now. They are growing out of a few of the potted trees I overwinter down there. Now that the grow light is on, the dandelions are lush and green. I’ll be harvesting them this week for a meal.
Even though there’s still snow outside, the wild spring greens will be here before we know it. I know my body is craving the bitterness that they will bring to my plate.

Do you eat dandelions?

Wild Foods of Spring

May 11th, 2013

On a mild day in spring it is pleasant to take a light basket on one’s arm and go for a long walk, garnering whatever the fields, woods and streams offer, the best foraging is probably close to home, around the flower and vegetable gardens, where many early-developing weeds are most abundant and tasty. The fattest finest dandelions will certainly be plentiful there, and violets, and possibly Saint Barbara’s weed. Chickweed will never be far from any recently cultivated ground, and if you have succeeded in keeping jewelweed out of the shadier parts of your garden, we would like to know your secret. But in the garden, other edibles plants will be available, all familiar nuisances, many worth gathering for food.

Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd in Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill
fiddleheads 1
I haven’t had much of a chance to get out foraging yet, but I did score some fiddlehead ferns at the farmers market last week. We enjoyed them sautéed for breakfast with poached eggs on top.
fiddleheads 2
Dandelions have been making their way from the edges of the woodlot to our plates. I’ve been waiting for rain to start searching for mushrooms in earnest. Looks like this will be the perfect week for the that.
wild violets
Wild violets also abound in the lawn, they always find their way into salads to add that special bit of beauty and a ton of vitamin C. There’s nothing quite like finding food that you didn’t have to take the time to cultivate!

Are you enjoying any foraged food at the moment?

Quote of the Day: Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd

April 22nd, 2012

Around Rome, where wild greens have been valued for over two thousand years, sophisticated diners consider themselves cheated if their salad of wild greens, misticanza, does not contain at least twenty-one separate varieties. Do they count them, we wonder, shape by shape and texture by texture and taste by taste?

Still, the point is well taken, for part of the pleasure of any wild salad is composing the dish outdoors, clipping a bit of this or that, a throwing in this texture or flair or color to balance or add variety to al the others. No wild salad ought to be of any one thing, unless, indeed, of dandelions, when one is really hungry for them; rather, it should be a sort of edible bouquet, at once as varied and beautiful as it is salubrious.

Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd in Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill

A lot of you mentioned yesterday that you were enjoying dandelion greens and we are too, though they’re getting big enough that they’ll need cooked now instead of eaten raw in salads. The garlic mustard is also perfect right now, we’ve been eating a lot of it as well. The wild violets are also blooming and we eat the leaves and flowers in salads as well. I also need to start picking the blossoms to dry for winter teas.

Is there anything wild on you plate this season?

The First Wild Salad of the Season

February 25th, 2012

When sugaring season rolls around I start keeping my eyes peeled on the ground as I walk around and gather sap. The same weather that is good for sugaring is good for the earliest of the wild greens like bittercress and garlic mustard. When I was out planting lettuce seeds on Monday, I noticed that the bittercress on the front hillside was ready to harvest. Since this is a south facing slope with rock walls, it’s usually a zone ahead of the rest of the garden. While the ground in the raised beds in the back is still frozen, the earth here has already softened.

I’m not quite sure why bittercress has it’s name, it’s not bitter at all, at least not this early in spring. Typically I like to mix it with more tender lettuces and spinach, but I chose to grow cover crops this past winter instead of overwintered lettuce. Thus our salad was all bittercress.

Bittercress ‘cardamine hirsute’ also known as Pennsylvania Bittercress, Jumping Jesus, Flickweed, Popping Cress, and Common Bittercress. It’s a member of the mustard family, which is evident when it blooms. The reason it’s called flick weed, popping cress and jumping Jesus (my favorite name which I’ll call it from now on) is because the seed pods explode when they’re ripe. I have, on many occasions, had seeds flicked right into my eyes when I unknowingly brushed up against them while weeding

Bittercress is considered a weed, as many edible plants are. You could try to spray it out as many people recommend, but why not just eat it. It’s not as spicy as arugula and has a bit more flavor than lettuce, it does get spicier and tougher as the weather warms. It also has a lot of texture and thus is better when mixed with a variety of greens. The smaller the rosettes are when you pick them the more tender they are. The best way to harvest them is to slice the main root right above the soil line with a knife. Then you can cut the small branches from the main root.

Since bittercress is a member of the mustard family it’s highly nutritious. I couldn’t find nutritionally information for is specifically, but it would be similar to mustard with highly levels of Vitamin K, A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, E, Folate, Manganese, Calcium and so many more wonderful things. For the health benefits of mustard see this article at World’s Healthiest Foods.

I love foraging for food, you certainly can’t beat filling your plate with food you harvested but didn’t have sow or tend.

Have you ever foraged for food? What’s your favorite wild food?

A few of my favorite books about foraging:

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.