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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?

Morels Can’t be Trusted

April 15th, 2012

Morels can’t be trusted. They’ll be nowhere in sight when conditions are just perfect. You’ll hunt in the ideal places and end up scorned with nothing but an empty basket. Then another day they’ll throw themselves at your feet, carpeting the ground before you. They are fickle, wily tricksters. But, God help us, we’re totally shameless if our passionate pursuit of these little dimples darlings.

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

I’m wondering if we’ll have a morel season this year here at Chiot’s Run. I found three small mushrooms in the garden a few weeks ago, but no more have been spotted. I think the hot dry spell we had a few weeks ago may have made the mushrooms decide to take a year off.

Only time will tell if the morels will be up this year, they’re elusive that’s for sure, which is what makes them so great. I won’t write them off until mid-May, if I don’t have any by then I’ll know they’re taking the year off.

Have you ever eaten morels? Do you hunt them in your area?

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:

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?

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.