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Learning More About Wild Food

January 12th, 2011

“People simply fall in love with wild foods. Lord knows these wild things swept me away. Folks want to be seduced by their mystery, their freedom from the bonds of agriculture. Our human civilization, based on agriculture, has struggled for millennia to no longer depend on foraging in the wild. But here at the start of the twenty-first century, the old hunter-gatherer luring in all of us just won’t let go.”

Connie Green
(The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes)

I’m really enjoying reading through this book right now. Every year I try to learn a little more about wild edible food that I can forage for, they’re delicious and super healthy (and free).

We hunt for morels every spring and enjoy those thoroughly, I’d love to learn about more edible mushrooms in my area. I also harvest wild plants like plantain for salves along with dandelions, garlic mustard and wild violets for salads. We have a plentiful supply of wild blackberries close by that we freeze and enjoy all winter long.

Winter time is when I focus on learning about more wild foods that I can find in the woods around our home. I haven’t decided what new wild foods I’m going to be searching for this year, any suggestions?

Do you eat any wild foods? Where do you learn about them?

Everywhere We Go

September 18th, 2010

“Everywhere we go we end up foraging something” said Mr Chiots yesterday as we were picking up chestnuts at the family cabin.

Several years ago when we harvested them it was a huge pain, literally. The spiny husks weren’t easy to open and we were constantly yelling “OUCH” as we were picking them up. I donned leather gloves and removed the nuts of most of the ones we gathered. They nuts were rather small, not nearly as nice as the ones we picked yesterday. It was a great year for chestnuts, they’re all nice and plump and 99% of the husks were already popped open on the ground, no yelling involved.

Several years ago we roasted some at the family Thanksgiving meal, but none of us were really huge fans, except one of our nieces who enjoyed them. I’m never one to check something off until I’ve tried it many times and in a variety of forms. So, I’m hoping to roast some and I will try my hand at making some chestnut flour to use for pasta, pancakes and maybe some gnocchi.

We ended up with about a half a bushel of chestnuts, they’ll need some attention here in the next couple days. I think I’m going to try a variety of preservation methods from drying, storing in the fridge, freezing the roasted ones, and boiling a few to freeze as well and of course roasting some, drying them and grinding them into flour.

They’re a healthy treat, not technically a nut, they’re classified as vegetables since they’re a starch. They contain fiber, potassium, iron, zinc and manganese. Hopefully we can learn to love this classic healthy food, especially since we can get it every year for free.

Any experienced chestnut eaters out there?
Any recommendations for ways to eat or store them?

The Elusive Morel

April 26th, 2010

Several years ago Mr Chiots and I found our first morel. We’ve been gathering them and eating them or giving them away ever since. It’s always great when you can harvest from the wild that you don’t have to grow yourself, especially when it’s something as expensive as morels.

Last year the morels came out the day before we went on vacation, so we gave our harvest to my grandpa, who is a huge mushroom hunter. He’s even take vacations specifically for hunting mushrooms. Needless to say he was thrilled when we showed up with a pound and a half of them for free, no hunting involved on his part!

It’s kind of funny because so many people we know have secret morel hunting ground. They won’t reveal their spot to anyone. We’re lucky because we don’t have to go much farther than our backyard for our mushroom hunting adventures.

This past week was the week for morels here in our neck of the woods. We got a fairly good harvest, around a pound. I never pick them all, I always feel like I should leave a few for propagation. I also carry my harvest in a mesh bag, I’ve read this is the proper way to harvest mushrooms because then you disperse the spores when you walk around.

The morels paired perfectly with a venison roast and all those tiny onions from my garden (which happen to roast up perfectly when left whole). I roasted the venison and mushrooms with a good marsala wine, some homemade butter and homegrown garlic. You just can’t get any more delicious for a foraged meal! My parents joined us because a good meal is always better when shared with company, and my dad’s the one that took Mr Chiots hunting for the first time last year.

One of the things I’d love to learn more about is mushroom gardening. I love all kinds of mushrooms and would be a happy gardener if I could pick oyster, shiitake and lion’s mane mushrooms in my own back yard!

Do you hunt/grow mushrooms?

The Art Weeds and Salad

April 24th, 2010

This time of year salads are the vegetable of choice from the garden. Lettuce is particularly delicious since it loves the coolness of spring. Many of the wild spring greens are still tender and sweet and they can be added for more taste and texture. We’ve been eating our share of salads from the garden, although many of the greens that make them up I didn’t plant. Our salads include wild garlic mustard, and invasive weed that has is great in salads. We’ve also been adding some dandelion greens, some cardamine and a few wild violet leaves. I also love to add herbs to our salads, they not only add a wonderful flavor, but they add even more nutrition.

Wild flowers have been added as well, they add beauty and extra vitamins & minerals. Who wouldn’t want to eat a salad so lovely? These wild violets add extra vitamin C (for more info on the nutritional benefits of wild violets read this)

This salad included: mache (corn salad), garlic mustard, overwintered lettuce, lemon balm, blue stocking bergamot. The dressing was made with fresh chives from the garden, some white balsamic, a spoonful of dijon mustard, a spoonful of honey, olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. We topped the salad with wild violet blooms, which are very plentiful in our front lawn.

Dandelion greens can also be eaten, I’ve seen them for sale at Whole Foods for around $4/pound. Pricey considering most of us have them growing in our gardens. The blossoms can also be harvested and used for many things; muffins, jelly, wine and of course eaten raw on salads (make sure to remove green stem and bits, they can be bitter). For more info on the health benefits of dandelions check out this article.

With all these lovely healthy weeds thrown in, who wouldn’t want to eat these lovely salads? There are also many other edible flowers that you can add to salads, we like the starry white arugula blooms, nasturtiums add a slight peppery tang, pansies can be eaten as can many other flowering herbs. Any of these would be a perfect addition to cupcakes or tiny shortbreads as well. I’m thinking for my next tea party with my nieces I’ll have to make some wild violet cookies.

Do you ever harvest flowers and wild plants for your salad plate?

Bunches of Blackberries

August 6th, 2008

The wild blackberries are in full swing right now.

Mr Chiots and I have been picking almost every day. Some days we end up with a 2 bags, on Friday we picked 5 quarts in one day!

Picking berries has it’s own challenges, the thorns on blackberry bushes are wicked. I have so many scrapes on my hands, arms & legs (and I’m even wearing long sleeves, heavy pants & boots).

It’s not for those afraid of bugs either. I almost stuck my face in this guy one day (and he’s pretty big too, about 2 inches around).

Even the Chiots likes to head out with us. She enjoys running around in the weeds & eating grass while we pick. She gets an occasional berry as a treat as well.

So what have I been doing with all these blackberries? Making pies & cobblers and freezing the rest for winter enjoyment.

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.