Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My Giant Poke Plant

I wanted to show off how big my poke plant had become. We had plenty of rain in the late spring and wild plants responded with some of the healthiest and a large growth I've ever seen.

This is a picture of my giant poke plant by the driveway. It was becoming a menace as the berries were beginning to ripen. They'll stain your clothes or feet, bright, purple, and nearly permanent. We had to cut it down so people could walk to the house without encountering the staining juice.

Large Adult Pokeweed

The reason this extraordinary growth is so amazing is because it started this spring as the tiny little shoot pictured below.

A Young and Tender Poke Shoot

Okay, not so amazing if you've watched how poke makes its phenomenal growth every year. This one IS bigger than normal though. When we cut it down the hollow, purple stem was nearly 3 inches in diameter at the base.

The temperature is going to be in the 100s this coming week or so here in northern Missouri. That pretty hot for many wild greens, but the blackberries and wild grapes will be ripening soon to take up the slack. There's always something to eat out there!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The New Cicada Crop

I rescued a cicada this morning. He had emerged from his casing, but the casing had fallen on to the porch, leaving the cicada on his back. He was trying to climb, but the empty casing was just rolling in his grasp.

The wings were still soft and folded up. I picked him up and let him climb up a post. He sat with his wings pulsing occasionally as they dried. Here he is fresh and new, with beautiful blue lines around his wingtips and a lime green wing base.

A Newly Emerged Cicada

Sorry for not posting so much lately. I injured my wrists a little doing too much painting at once, and haven't been on the computer. Oh, and I probably got off topic with this post, since you don't eat cicadas. My dog used to, but I don't.

The plan is to move this blog to gardenwild.com. Along with the move comes a broadened focus. This gives me a lot more latitude to post about insects or plant dyes or medicinal herbs, not just wild foods you can eat.

Not sure when the actual move is going to happen, but hopefully it'll be soon. Until then, keep eating those cicadas! [jk]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mouthwatering Mulberries

On this magnificent morning I've been out nibbling luscious mulberries. Okay, I've actually been doing it every day this past week. It's mulberry season in northwest Missouri, the time of year to slow down and savor one of the delights of the edible outdoors.

A Ripe Mulberry

Mulberries are the perfect berry. They're wonderfully sweet, with no seeds to get stuck in your teeth. No sour surprises if you pick them carefully. If you're like me and don't like tart berries, only pick berries that release easily from the tree. The best ones will practically fall into your hand.

Raspberries are also ripe this time of year. With raspberries, choose only the darkest berries for the sweetest flavor. Raspberries do have seeds, but they are smaller and softer than the seeds of the blackberry.

Carefully selecting the berries you want to eat is a contemplative activity, almost a form of meditation. As you put each morsel into your mouth, the flavor explodes. Close your eyes, and really taste the sweet nectar of life.

A Bug Eating a Mulberry

The mulberries bring deer into the yard. They love mulberries! I'm sure a lot of other little animals come at night when I don't see them. What I do see is the occasional insect enjoying a sweet feast.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Salmon-Stuffed Daylily Blossoms

The daylilies are blooming like mad and I got to make one of my favorite wild dishes. These blooms always provoke a lot of questions when I take them to a dinner. They're a great first introduction to wild foods.

Salmon-Stuffed Daylily Blossoms

To make these simply remove the stamens from the center of the flower and stuff any kind of tasty filling into the hollow. I usually use long pieces of wild onions or chives to simulate the stamens, but this time I've used the flowers from some Lady's Thumb for decoration.

My salmon salad recipe is basically 1 can of pink salmon drained and with the bones removed. Chop up one apple and add it to the salmon, along with a couple of dollops of mayonnaise to taste.

That's it! You'll be surprised at how good this simple recipe tastes. You really don't need anything else. Use this salmon salad to stuff into the Daylily flowers or just on a sandwich.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Goosegrass Harvest

Here is a picture of my final goosegrass harvest. I also snipped some wild onion tops, and the tender upper portions of nettles. There were many dandelions in flower, so I got about a cup of those.

Nettles, Goosegrass and Dandelion Flowers

I ended up making a sauté from these greens. Next time, I would just leave out the goosegrass because it is coarse and flavorless at this point. The dandelion flowers lost their yellow color, but were mild and good in this sauté.

Again, I'm relying on past pictures. It is raining now and has been for awhile. I just don't get the urge to pick wet plants during the rainy spells. I harvested this about a month ago. The goosegrass has gone to seed now.

If you want goosegrass for its medicinal properties (lymphatic cleanser) the best way to do it is to harvest the goosegrass as it's flowering and make a tincture.

You can do this by watering down vodka and covering a packed jar of herb with the mixture. Shake it every day or so and strain it out after about two weeks. Tinctures can stay good for a couple of years.

Oh, here's a picture of some wild edibles that my sister saved for me while working in her garden. There's a nice poke sprout and a lamb's quarter plant.

Pokeweed and Lambsquarter

Lamb's quarter is another wild plant that is very nutritious. It is an especially rich source of vitamins A and C. I boiled this young poke with some dandelion greens in one change of water. Then I added the lambs quarter and some other greens. We had THESE greens with cornbread.

It sure seems like all this stuff turns into greens of one kind or another. I'll just have to be more creative in my cooking.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wild Harvest Soup

Let me tell you about the soup that I made after Harvest Day. Okay, that was about a month ago. I didn't wait a month to make the soup, I only waited a month to tell you about it.

At the time I harvested several gallons of various plants. I made a soup from about 6 cups of chickweed, a cup of violet leaves and a few dandelion leaves.

I made the soup by sautéing some onion, carrot and celery for a few minutes. I don't know why, but onion seems to taste so much better if you sauté it before you boil it. Another thing that I like to sauté a bit is fresh cracked black pepper. I've never been a big pepper fan, but frying gives it a rich, mellow taste.

To the vegetables. I added the chopped greens and wilted them. Then I added some chicken broth to deglaze the pan and transferred the whole thing into a stock pot.

After that, I just added a little more chicken broth, water, and a can of diced tomatoes. I seasoned the soup with salt and garlic, then a big handful of fresh sage from my garden, and some dried herbs like basil and thyme. I added some leftover rice and let it simmer for maybe 20 minutes (cooking the rice that long made it open up like a butterfly).

Chickweed and Wild Greens Soup

We had the soup garnished with some dillweed. It was good! A little weird, since the chickweed stems had a different texture than most "store bought" vegetables. They were crunchy and tender though, and mild. In the soup they looked like little green noodles.

Stephanie has a post on Lady's Thumb in her garden (and out of her garden). This is a wild edible that I haven't tried much yet! Check it out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sunset and Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

I had a great surprise a couple of nights ago. There was a beautiful sunset, so I went out into the road to get a picture.


There at the base of our big elm tree was a huge mound of shaggy mane mushrooms. It was nearly dark, but I got a picture of them anyway.

Shaggy Mane Mushrooms in the Twilight
Shaggy Manes in the Twilight

I was really excited that we found them at that stage. The recent heavy rain and hot temperatures that followed brought them up thick and meaty. Shaggy manes are inky cap mushrooms. Inky caps disintegrate quickly into black liquid, so they're really only good to eat for a short time after they come up.

Shaggy Mane Mushrooms Ready for Cooking
Shaggy Mane Mushrooms Ready for Cooking

We sliced about a quart of mushrooms from the center of the mound. Just enough for two people (there's a lot of shrinkage), and plenty of mushrooms left to produce spores.

We tossed them in flour and fried them (what else? It was nine o'clock at night). They have so much moisture in them that we had to cook the first side for a good 10 minutes or more for it to crisp. The second side cooked faster, since most of the water had already evaporated.

No pictures of the finished product since we consumed them almost as soon as they came out of the pan! I burnt my mouth just like I always do in that situation. You'd think I would learn.

I think shaggy manes would be good in a recipe with cream sauce. You just have to be ready to make your recipe when you find them. I'm not sure they can be stored for any length of time.

Has anyone else had any success storing shaggy mane mushrooms?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Plantain Polenta

Remember when I said I was going to cook the plantain in some new and exciting way? The new way that I picked (not very exciting though) was to make plantain polenta. I'm talking about plantain the wild plant (plantago), NOT plantain the banana like fruit.

Here is the polenta recipe. I sautéed a diced onion and added it to 3 cups of boiling water along with about a cup of thinly sliced plantain. I mixed 1 cup of cornmeal with 1 cup of cold water, and about a teaspoon of salt. After the onion and plantain had boiled for a few minutes I added the cornmeal and water mixture.

Next, you stir constantly until it thickens up and begins to boil, then cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Let it simmer for about five minutes and remove from heat. After it's cooled a bit, pour it out onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper or parchment. Roll the polenta into a log and chill.

This made a huge log about a foot long and 4 inches in diameter. Well actually, I had let it cool a little too long before I formed the log, and it later became a polenta pile. Here's a picture of some polenta patties that I fried up when it was fresh.

Plantain Polenta
Plantain Polenta

This turned out pretty good. It needed more salt but that was about it. It probably could have handled more plantain as well. Next time (if there is a next time) I'll use 2 cups instead of one. This morning I scrambled some with my eggs.

This recipe made a LOT of polenta. HB didn't think much of it, so it looks like I'll end up having it all myself. It helps that I'm avoiding wheat. That means no bread and no pasta. Potatoes, polenta and rice are my new carbs. I just might make it through that 3 pound polenta pile after all. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Morel Mushrooms and Dandelion Greens

I've tried Morel mushrooms a lot of different ways. They're good scrambled with eggs or added to a casserole or any other way that you can think of. The thing is that they're never as good as when they're cooked by themselves. Everything else that you add just drags them down.

They're like nettles that way, every time I try nettles with anything, I figure it would have tasted better if I'd just cooked the nettles by themselves.

To some people, frying something this delicate (and expensive) is a sacrilege.

I found two morels today, and HB found one. Add the one from yesterday, and we have a perfect little mushroom snack.

Fresh Morel Mushroom
Fresh Morel Mushroom

Day Old Morel Mushroom
Day Old Morel Mushroom

We're having them tonight with a big bunch of dandelion greens that I picked on harvest day. These were dandelions that had already flowered and gone to seed, so I figured they'd be a little bit strong. I boiled them in two changes of water, then I added sautéed onion and garlic to the final boil (not a lot of water), along with a vegetable bouillon cube.

It was pretty good with vinegar. We tried balsamic vinegar and a vinegar flavored with red peppers. I think the sweet vinegar was better, but that's just me.

Soaked and Split Morels Ready for Cooking
Soaked and Split Morels Ready for Cooking

To prepare the mushrooms, I split them and soaked them in salted water for about an hour to drive out the bugs. Then I rinsed and dried them all and wrapped them in paper towels. I put the bundle in a plastic bag (leaving an opening to breathe) in the refrigerator.

Here's my Morel mushroom recipe. Beat 1 egg with about a tablespoon of water and some salt and garlic. Pour a mound of flour onto a plate. Salt and pepper this and stir it up with a fork. Heat some oil in a skillet at medium heat. You want about a quarter inch depth. Dip the clean and dried mushroom halves into the egg wash then into the flour. Fry them until they're golden brown on both sides.

Enjoy it, because you only get these once a year. If you live in an area where you can get a lot of Morel mushrooms, you might like to try to preserve them by drying them. They likely won't end up tasting much like the fresh ones, but it's worth a try if you've just got too many to eat right away (yeah, like that's going to happen).

If you want to try them another way, here's a recipe for Cavatelli Pasta with Morel and Asparagus Cream Sauce. It looks and sounds fantastic, despite my earlier ranting.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Harvest Day in the Yard

The wild plants are in peril of being mown down, so I harvested a lot of greens from the yard today. The bowl in the picture is about 16" across, so I got a pretty good amount, don't you think?

The plantain was big and healthy. Still no sign of a flower spike, so it should still be nice and tender.

Plantain, Chickweed and Violet leaves
Plantain, Chickweed and Violet leaves

I separated the plantain leaves from the rest of the harvest. I'm going to cook these by themselves in some new and exciting way. I'll let you know how it goes. There were enough to fill a quart zipper bag.

There was also a good amount of violet leaves. I probably got about a cup.

Most of the dandelions have gone to seed, but there were a few that hadn't flowered yet. I picked about 10 leaves.

I also picked about a gallon of lanky chickweed. There was a lot of plant material but not a lot of leaves. the stems are still tender and crunchy though, so I'll see how they work out in a soup with the violet and the dandelion.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pokeweed - the Fountain of Youth?

Pokeweed has a folk reputation as a youth restorative. It is also said to be toxic. So, is it okay to eat pokeweed or not? It depends on who you listen to.

There's no doubt that pokeweed contains toxins. Our ancestors boiled the shoots in several changes of water to remove the toxins and make the greens safe to eat. People still cook pokeweed this way. Only you can decide whether to eat pokeweed or not. If you're pregnant though or are nursing a baby, you shouldn't eat it. And don't give it to very young children.

Pokeroot is very toxic. If you do harvest pokeweed, be very careful not to get any root. Fortunately that's easy to avoid, since you'll be harvesting the tips of the young shoots.

Traditionally, pokeweed is used as a spring tonic. My grandma used to cook up pokeweed every spring. She'd boil it in three changes of water to remove any toxins. Her mother taught her to cook it this way, just like generations before her. A lot of mountain folks attribute their longevity to having their spring kettle of pokeweed.

And it doesn't have to be only in the spring. You can enjoy pokeweed all year if you decide to can or freeze some. Poke's abundance makes this easy. Most of the shoots come up in a two week period or so. If you find a big patch, you could get a bushel of greens without too much trouble. And even though you boil it for a long time, it doesn't shrink a whole lot.

When you harvest poke shoots, only take the tender tips. In the kitchen, cut out the stems and discard. You want to have young leaves only with little or no purple (yes, purple!).

Wash the leaves and boil for about 20 minutes in plenty of water. Pour through a colander and boil again in fresh water for about 10 minutes. Drain it a second time and put it in the third water to boil. This time, add any seasonings like onions and garlic, spices, salt, etc. You could also add a ham bone or something if you'd like.

Cook at for at least 10 minutes or as long as you need to cook the other ingredients Voilà! You've got a lip smackin' mess of poke grandma would be proud of.

And what does it taste like? Even after all that boiling, poke tastes strong. It has a bold, acrid flavor. Some people love it, while it's a little strong for others. Serve it with cornbread, whose natural sweetness complements the hearty flavor.

Poke plants are striking, 5 or 6 feet tall and up to 5 feet wide. They are a handsome yard addition and birds love the berries too, according to Severson Dells Nature Center. There's a nice description of the poke plant here as well.

There's an interesting post on poisonous plants in the garden over at the Garden Rant blog. Some fine ranting indeed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Solving the Waybread Mystery

Some diligent Internet research by a friend has revealed an answer. Plantain may have been called "Way Broad" because the leaves were wide (broad), and it grew by the road (way or wayside). Over time, "Way Broad" became Waybread. This explanation was offered on several websites, most notably in the glossary on Beowulf Online.

Plantain with Dandelion Seed Heads
Plantain with Dandelion Seed Heads

Plantain does often grow in rocky road side soil. It out competes fussier plants by being tough. This is one of the plants you will find growing up in cracks in the sidewalk. I'm actually going to transplant some to my garden to see just how big they'll get.

But for now, I'm taking advantage of the fact that our lawnmower is broken down. The wild foods are growing lush and tender with that threat removed for a couple of days, and I've got a magnificent crop of dandelions going to seed. Luckily, my neighbors have a natural lawn too, or they might holler!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Plantain, a Tasty Healing Herb

Plantain (plantago) carries the old label of waybread. This term usually refers to a hard bread that you can take traveling. It keeps for a long time and will sustain you on a journey.

Very Young Common Plantain
Very Young Common Plantain

Now where plantain fits into this definition, I don't know. I did find mention of an herb that you could eat that would sustain you for 12 days. That begins to make some sense, because plantain is a very nutritious and medicinal herb.

Plantain is very edible, though a little strong. It is best before flowering since the leaves begin to get really tough after that. I still use it throughout the year; just slice the leaves across the fibers and cook well. It has an interesting and hearty taste, and it's very good for you, with lots of calcium and vitamin C and a good amount of vitamin A. The flower shoots can also be eaten when tender and provide you with some B1 (thiamine).

It is thought to have been a European herb originally, but nowadays, it can be found growing throughout the world. Plantain seeds have even been found in Egyptian tombs, so you know it's been around a LONG time.

Once, a friend of my daughter was bitten by a brown recluse spider. After several trips to the doctor and a referral to a surgeon, he put some macerated plantain (plantago majora) leaves on the bite. That night, a lot of black liquid came out. The plantain seemed to have drawn the poison.

The next morning the bite was much improved and he could actually walk. When he went back to the surgeon later that day, there was just a deep hole where the bite had been. There's something really gratifying about seeing the surprised look on a doctor's face when he doesn't understand what has happened.

Pliny the Elder once said that you could put plantain into a pot with pieces of flesh, and the pieces would join back together. This herb is well-known as a natural remedy for wounds and bites. See this post on the Herbal Healing blog for some usage tips.

Did you know that legislation is coming up in the United States and that would make the use of herbs illegal? So what, chewing some plantain leaves and putting the paste on an insect bite will be a criminal act? Who would this benefit? Not me or you for sure.

Sign the petition HERE. Comments are due April 30th, 2007.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Frosted Wild Veggies

We've had several hard freezes in a row, and tied a record low at 20° this Easter morning. Some wild plants were knocked down by the cold, while others did just fine.

Frosted Plantain, Dandelion and Clover
Frosted Plantain, Dandelion and Clover

Two days before the temperature drop, a poke shoot came up next to the house where it was protected from the westerly winds. Here are some before and after pictures of the effect of freezing on the poke shoots.

Tender Young Poke Shoot
Tender Young Poke Shoot

The Same Poke Shoot after Freezing Temperatures for Five Nights
The Same Poke Shoot after Freezing Temperatures for Five Nights

The chickweed didn't handle the cold very courageously. Great masses of it lay down in surrender the first cold night. The strategy seemed to protect them from further damage by getting them down next to the ground heat. Some of them which were growing up against my garden bed didn't lie down because of the protection they were already getting from being next to the wood and earth.

Frost Effect on Chickweed, The Ones against the Board were Not Laid Over
Frost Effect on Chickweed, The Ones against the Board were Not Laid Over

The Daylily shoots were frozen badly, and the tops fell over to protect the heart of the shoot. I'm hoping to see new growth come from these old shoots, because right now it looks like someone dumped an entire bushel basket of wilted produce by the driveway.

Daylilies Decimated by Frost
Decimated Daylilies

Freeze Damage on Nettles
Freeze Damage on Nettles

Most of the nettles were barely damaged by freezing,. Today I gratefully harvested some undamaged nettle tops (about the top three leaf joints) and cut off the leaves and very tops of the shoots (and threw away the stems). I cut the leaves up with scissors, and added snipped wild onion tops.

These were sautéed in butter (with a few drops of olive oil to prevent scorching) for a few minutes, and I added some salt and a sprinkle of granulated garlic. The nettles and onions were then steamed by adding a few tablespoons of water to the skillet and covering it. A couple more minutes, and they were ready to serve.

I'm happy to report that the nettles still taste really great, and this turned out to be a good recipe. I'll try harvesting quite a few of the nettle tops this way. It will be interesting to see if two new tender shoots sprout from each cut stem for another harvest.

Don't forget that nettles will sting you, so wear gloves to harvest and handle them.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Salad with Spring Flowers

There are several edible flowers blooming now. Yellow and purple go really well together, don't you think? So maybe Redbud and Forsythia flowers together would look nice on a salad.

Some people have described Redbud flowers as tasting spicy, but I couldn't detect that flavor. They're just incredibly sweet and yummy. The Forsythia flowers didn't have much flavor, but they were necessary for the color scheme to work.

Chickweed Salad with Forsythia and Redbud Blossoms

Actually, the taste of the flowers got lost in the taste of the stronger greens. I think I'll try the Redbud flowers on ice cream instead. That way the flavor won't be overwhelmed and they'll still look really pretty.

A Young Thistle

If you've ever tried artichokes then you've eaten a thistle. Wild thistles can be eaten as well. This one isn't to that stage yet, but when it flowers (if it can dodge the mower) it will have a flower spike that can be harvested at a foot or two high. Peel it and you've got a tender vegetable that you can steam or eat raw. It's really pretty good, kind of like celery.

I suppose you could eat the leaf bases as well, as long as they were peeled. Haven't tried that yet though. There may not be enough tender flesh to bother.

The Nettles Are Getting Lanky

I'm going to pick the tender tops of these nettles. They may be getting a little old so I'll let you know how they turn out. It's getting ready to freeze and I don't know how cold hardy these plants are. I guess we'll find out!

Once nettles get tough and flavorless, you can still use them to make a great hair rinse. I suppose that an infusion steeped from the older leaves would also be full of vitamins and minerals. Nettles are a nutritional powerhouse.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wild Ancestors of Garden Plants

You can find the ancestors of many common garden plants growing wild in yards and fields. Yesterday I found large amounts of wild mustard in an abandoned barnyard. There are several varieties of wild mustard and its relatives (like cress). I don't know what kind of this is, maybe field cress, but there's a lot of it. The young leaves are spicy and have that distinctive mustard green flavor.

Wild Mustard
The Mustard Family

There's so much mustard in this lot that I'm going to try freezing some. The time when many of these wild greens are abundant and tender is short, so freezing or canning some seems like a good strategy. Then the other 10 months of the year when you can't find goosegrass or succulent chickweed, you can still get the unique tastes and nutritional profile of some of these plants.

Wild Lettuce
Young Wild Lettuce

The wild lettuce is also up and coming. Wild lettuce produces a milky latex when you break off a leaf. It tastes bitter even when young. That's why I like to cook it instead of having it raw in salads. It blends in well with the mustard greens, so a mix of these two cooked together can be pretty good.

Oh! While weeding my mom's flower beds, I dug up a six-inch thick bundle of wild onions. This is the best way to get wild greens, since the weeding has to be done anyway. The extra food is just a side benefit. It's a bountiful harvest without having had to plant or cultivate, my favorite kind of gardening.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Violet Leaf Tea

[The following post was written yesterday, March 21, 2007]

The springtime air smells moist and fertile on this first full day of spring. The earth is like a damp sponge and more rains are forecast for the next five days. The spring rains and the sunshine that should follow next week are all that's needed to send the early plants on an uncontrolled growing spurt. This is great news for wild foods enthusiasts, but also means the grass will need mowing!

One of the early plants that have been making an appearance is the violet. Here's a picture of violets as they make their way out of the ground. I took this about a week ago and you can see how the leaves come up rolled into little tubes before they open. These are less then 1/2" tall.

Violets Emerging from the Rocky Soil
Violets Emerging from the Rocky Soil

In the next picture the violets have begun to open up. You can see the heart-shaped leaf form of the mature plant. The leaves have doubled in height.

Violets One Week Later
Violets One Week Later

You should make sure that violets are identified properly before you decide to try any. The most surefire way to do this is to identify them while they're flowering. That won't be going on for at least another month, so if in doubt, don't pick any of these until you can be positive that they are violets. There are both yellow and purple flowered varieties.

As they get older, violet leaves can be harvested and used in salads or cooked with other greens, but they may be at their best brewed into a tea. The leaves should be dried first to produce the proper flavor. It makes a nice hot drink for chilly spring evenings.

How are the rest of the greens coming along? Well, here's a picture taken beside a garden bed. It shows chickweed and goosegrass growing several inches tall. The goosegrass is the one with the star shaped leaf whorls radiating out from the stem. The chickweed has small teardrop shaped leaves. I've been having both of these plants regularly in salads, and whatever else I can throw them into.

Young Goosegrass and Chickweed

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nettles, Eggs and Chicken Legs

Nettles and scrambled eggs go great together. I think it's even better than spinach, because the nettles don't impose their flavor on the eggs. The two tastes are more complementary.

A Mess of Greens

There really weren't enough nettles to make a decent stir-fry last night so this morning I picked some nettles and daylily shoots with a few little tender tops of chickweed. I also picked four or five young dandelion leaves and a few sage leaves from my garden.

I sliced the dandelion and sage leaves fine because they're both pretty strong flavored. The other greens got sliced into 5/8" long pieces (the chickweed was so small it didn't need to be sliced).

The greens were sautéed in olive oil for a few minutes then I added the eggs. Since there were only three eggs (whoops), I added the meat of half a chicken leg and melted in a slice of cream cheese. Seasoned with salt, garlic and dill, it was perfect for Saturday morning brunch with toast and potatoes.

I did get a nettle sting. I only had a glove on my left hand, and was using the scissors with my unprotected right. Inevitably, I slid my knuckles across some small unnoticed nettle plants. I rubbed on a dock leaf, but it took about 15 minutes for the irritation to go away.

Hey I just noticed what day it is. For me, planting potatoes on St. Patrick's Day is a family tradition. Around this time we also planted cabbage and broccoli plants, as well as sowing lettuce and radish seeds.

We won't be planting an early garden this year because we're moving our raised beds. Guess I'll just have to enjoy the wild greens.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Stinging Nettles - Good Eating!

It sure seems like the nettles are up early this year. Usually you have to wait till around Easter to get a good pot of nettles. It has been unusually warm the last couple of weeks. Tonight is supposed to be around 30°, so I'm going to harvest a few of these in case they get knocked down by the cold.

Stinging nettles are one of the tastiest
of the spring greens.

Nettles do sting, so use gloves to harvest them. After you cook nettles they no longer sting. Then there's the technique of grabbing a nettle hard, breaking the tiny stinging hairs at their base instead of brushing the tips were they can sting you. What's that old rhyme?

Touch the nettle gently and it stings you for your pains;
but grasp it like a man of mettle and it soft as silk remains.

I have tried this and it works. The formic acid is at the tips of the hairs, and breaking them off at the base seems prevent the sting. But it's hard to grab the nettle without some errant leaf brushing the back of your hand and giving you a sting anyway, so I usually just use gloves.

Nettle stings aren't too bad if you know what to do about them. Just grab a dock leaf and rub it on vigorously. The sting will go away pretty quick (and no, it’s not just because you’re distracted!).

It was hard to believe, but the daylily shoot in front of the rock from my last post had just about doubled in size by the next day. The growth rate on these things is amazing. I'm going to have to post every day just to keep up.

For now, I'm just going to harvest some young nettles for supper tonight. I think I'll stir-fry them with some wild onions and garlic. I love these sweet and mild greens, which are also an excellent source of boron and vitamin A. Boron and calcium work together for bone strength. It's a neglected bone nutrient, and one of the richest sources is free in my backyard. Plus, it tastes great. Bonus!

You can see more nettle pictures on my Wild Foods Page.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Daylily Shoots and Goosegrass

What a beautiful morning! The wild plants are popping up like weeds. Oh I forgot, most of these ARE weeds according to the mainstream, and they're not even wild. At least half of the plants that I harvest every spring and summer are not native to North America.

Daylilies are old-fashioned flowers that are common around older houses. You also see their orange flowers on roadsides and in fields, where they might mark an old homesite. Daylilies are more than just decoration, they are edible in all stages of growth. You can plant these in your backyard, say in an abandoned corner, and you'll have an emergency food supply. Not only can you eat the young shoots, but you can also eat the flower buds, the open flowers, and the underground tubers. You'll still find these offered in seed catalogs today.

Here's a picture I took yesterday of young daylily shoots. At this stage they're just perfect for salads

Goosegrass is also known as cleavers and has been called bedstraw in the past. I did find some, but they were too small to mess with for eating. Another week and they'll be ready to start harvesting. Like many spring greens, these are great for cleansing the system after the long inactive winter. They're a good lymphatic cleanser, to help clear out those winter cold and flu leftovers.

Young goosegrass only a couple of inches high

In just the last week, dock has sprouted up in my garden and is ready to harvest. These young shoots are tangy and crisp. Today I'll harvest these and some day lily shoots for a salad. I'll add chickweed and some tiny dandelion leaves that I found here. Sure beats that bagged salad in every way. Nutritionally it has to be about 1000% better for me.

Dock Plant

I found a great blog called Free Man's Table. The author (Wild Man) talks about eating dock like okra. The stems are succulent and slimy. In later stages, dock produces huge amounts of vegetation, but it tends to become more bitter as it gets older. Chop up the whole young plant, and then batter and fry like okra. Dock can also be used to help thicken soups.

I wasn't raised "southern" so okra and dock, or eating anything slimy for that matter, seems strange to me. Dad was the only one who liked okra, but heck, somebody had to eat it with him. Probably the only reason I still eat that stuff is because I used to eat it with my dad. He liked it made into patties with egg and cornmeal, then fried. Okay, I guess I kinda like it that way.

Wild T

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Young Dock and Chickweed

I get a little antsy this time of year and have to go out and check how the wild greens are coming. Today I found chickweed that was just a few inches high. You could nibble these, but I prefer to just admire them and wait until there's enough to harvest. Besides, I don't like getting my face down in the leaves;)

Here's a picture of some tiny chickweed that I took about an hour ago.

Chickweed, about 2 inches high
(click for larger pictures)

I ran across some little dock sprouts too. I was just walking along and the little burgundy leaves in the brown grass caught my eye. What a nice surprise!

A tiny dock leaf unfurling

In front of the same leaf, you can see
the next tiny sprout still tightly furled

The only thing I have to worry about with dock is the high oxalic acid content. You're probably pretty safe as long as you don't eat buckets of it, and you could nibble a bunch of these little sprouts no problem (I’m not a doctor or anything, do your own due diligence). Other foods high in oxalic acid include carrots and sorrels.

Stay tuned next week when I'll try to find some goose grass (I know, you can hardly wait:).

Wild T

PS. Ever wonder what a Grand Canyon mule ride might be like? Click:
Mule Ride in the Grand Canyon

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Spring is Coming!

It's the first of March! Soon, little green plants will be poking their tiny heads up through the soil. Already, I see chickweed sprouts that didn't quite die back this winter. In another week or so, the fresh green growth will be ready to start harvesting. Chickweed has diuretic and astringent properties, and is great for clearing out those winter toxins. It's even used in some weight loss remedies.

Dandelions too will be coming up soon. These are a real spring tonic, also known as "poor man's ginseng". Filled with vitamins A and C, and with excellent cleansing properties, dandelion is especially good for your liver.

One way to get the benefits of dandelion for your liver, without eating a lot of dandelions, is to drink coffee with chicory in it. Chicory is related to the dandelion and its root is used as a coffee substitute. You may not get a medicinal dose of chicory, but if you're a drinker you may like the extra assurance of having a liver tonic the morning after.

Try Café du Monde coffee blend. There may be other brands available as well. Roasted chicory root has a nutty flavor. Since I love this smooth taste of Colombian coffee, I usually mix the coffee blends half-and-half with 100% Colombian. Of course this dilutes the chicory even further, but in my opinion, some is better than none!

Have a look at my Wild Edibles page to see some wild plants.
Wild Foods

I've added some other pages to my website, Milky Way Publishing. These are all free information pages. If it looks interesting, check it out.

Natural Skin Care has recipes to make your own, plus info on dangerous ingredients.
Emergency Preparedness focuses on nuclear preparedness.
Free Books and Software
Free online VCR cleaning book

Thanks for reading. Until next time...