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.