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Archive for the ‘Wild Foods’ Category

Last year at this time my little piece of land was being hit by yet another snow flurry.  The many feet of snow that had fallen in December was slowly decreasing yet the whole ground was still blanketed in a thick covering of snow turned ice. Down the valley, towards the Sound the weather was not quite so intense but it was still so cold and the plants were slow growing.  That is why this winter has surprised me with its lack of “wintryness.”  I was able to begin spring harvesting in earnest weeks ago.  I was wandering through the woods down the creek bed towards the river when I saw the first nettle rosettes, the plum tree is heavy with buds about to burst open and early spring salad greens of peppergrass and chickweed are popping up in every bit of bare soil I see.  Last week, when we all harvested together it was shocking to find nettle shoots already up to my knee.  No plant harkens spring or calls in the season of growth and harvest like nettle.  It often one of the first medicinal plants ready to harvest each spring and so perhaps it is not surprising that is is also the plant by which many people are first introduced to herbs and also the plant that has called many wise women to down the path of herbalism.  This plant that sprouts first is the woods often sprouts first in our hearts.  I call nettle the gateway plant 🙂

Blessed with an abundance of nettles in my woods this time of year, we eat them almost daily, along with daily infusions at night we eat them in soups and stews and add nettles to our dinner in anyway possible.  I have included a few of the best recipes I have come up with over the past few weeks.  I apologize for the lack of pictures, I left my camera at Ellen’s,  but know that if I included the recipe here it was definitely worth remaking 🙂

To begin, I made a soup, sweetened by the natural sugars found in organic or home grown acorn squash and made creamy with a “healthy” portion of cultured cream cheese. Topped with roasted squash seeds,  its a savory treat on these chilly early spring nights.

Cream Of Nettle Soup

1 acorn squash- halved and baked-reserve seeds

1 onion-diced

4 cloves garlic

1/2 inch piece of ginger grated

Heaping bowl of young nettle tops

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/8 tsp nutmeg

6 oz cream cheese

water or broth to cover

Begin by baking the squash in a 400 degree oven until it is soft.  In a pot, saute onions garlic and ginger until translucent. Add coriander and nutmeg and cook with the onions for one minute. Wearing gloves, roughly chop nettles and add them to the pot and cook them until they have wilted, this may have to be done in portions as the nettles wilt and create room for more.  Scoop meat out of squash and add to pot, fill with enough water or broth to amply cover all the ingredients and smash up the squash meat, simmer for 20 minutes. Allow the  soup the cool down a bit and add the cultured cream cheese, if you prevent the soup from boiling the active enzymes in the cultured cheese will not die.  With a stick blender blend cheese into soup, serve in bowls, drizzle with olive oil and top with squash seeds

Roasted Squash Seeds

Butter

Squash or Pumpkin Seeds

Salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Clean off all squash remnants from the seeds by soaking in a bowl of water, when clean place all seeds on a single layer on a clean kitchen towel and dry.  Add a tablespoon or so of butter to a cast iron pan and saute with a bit of salt until the seeds are lovely and brown.  Place pan in oven and cook for 15- 20 minute or until seeds are crunchy and delicious, serve on soups, salads or just eat them as is.

Another perrenial favorite is a quiche made with the sweet green tops of early spring nettle, eggs from my hens and deliscious organic cream and cheeses over a seedy crust of flax and sesame, eliminating grains and ensuring it is gluten free.

Nettle Quiche with Flax/Sesame Seed Crust

Crust:

1/2 cup Flax Seed

1/2 cup Sesame Seeds

1 Egg White

1/4 cup Olive Oil

In a well greased pie pan mix ingredients and pat the mixture against the bottom and up the walls of the pie tin.  Cookk in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes remove and then fill

Quiche Filling:

1 cup cheddar or semi-hard cheese of your choice

2 cupped finely chopped nettles

1/4 cup onions

4 eggs plus yolk left over from the pie crust

3/4 cups cream

6 strands of saffron or spices of your choice

Sliced tomatoes

Saute onions and nettles until soft and wilted.  In a bowl whisk cream and eggs and saffron.  In pie crust layer cheese on the bottom cover with nettle/onion mixture and pour the custard over it all.  Arrange tomatoes on the top and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, reduce heat to 350 and bake additional 20 minutes or until the quiche is set.  Serve with a mixed wild green salad.

I have a secret, one that I am often scoffed at for and hear sounds of disgust made by those who know it of me.    I love organ meats! When I was 5 and before my family became vegetarian, we had some old time farmer neighbors in Iowa. They would often serve me up a portion of liver and onions and I relished it.  I later wondered through all those years of vegetarianism why everyone complained about liver when I knew it to be delicious.  My husband does not quite agree with me so I find ways to incorporate it in his meals so he is not too offened by the taste or soft texture. This final dish is an example of how I really do try and add nettle to EVERYTHING this time of year.  It also is a way I am able to incorporate beneficial pastured organ meats into our meals in a way where my husband doesn’t have to choke them down.

Ground Beef and Liver Dolmathes with Nettles

1 pound ground beef

1 medium onion, diced

4 Chicken livers- sauteed and then finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, flat leaf if available

1/4 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled

2 cups of  Nettle- chooped super fine in a food processor

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Salt and pepper

1 jar preserved grape leaves

1/4 cup beef broth or water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl except grape leaves and broth. Using only the best and most intact grape leaves, lay them shiny side down and fill center with approximately 1 tablespoon of filling.  Roll leaves as you would a burrito and lay them seam side down in a large oven proof pan.  Continue until all leaves are stuffed.  Barely cover with broth or water and cook in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  If you have any remaning meat you can simply fry them in a little olive oil and eat like meat balls.  Drizzle with sauce and serve!

This a traditional sauce to serve with dolmathes.  This recipe came from the owner of the house we stayed in while in Santorini on my honeymoon.

Egg & Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono)

2 eggs
Juice of one Lemon

Reserved Broth

Beat eggs well; gradually beat in lemon juice. Pour off about 1 cup of hot broth from dolmathes. Beat the broth into the egg mixture. Remove plate from top of dolmathes. Gradually pour the egg mixture into pan; tipping pan to blend the egg mixture with remaining broth in pan. Cover pan; remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature

So these are some of what I have been doing with this bounty from the forest floor.  I’ve been feeding not only my heart and filling my tummy, but nourishing my adrenals and strengthening my liver and giving this winter-worn body a high dose of absorb-able vitamins and nutrients.  Grab your gloves and if nettles have sprung near you harvest, fill your baskets and and let springs first gift fill your belly and strengthen your soul.

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016The leaves have changed. 

My land is covered in a veil of fallen leaves, remnants of summers prime.  We are entering the darker time, the static withdrawal, the pause before the re-fruiting.  This is the transition time.  The apple trees still have a few ripe fruit clinging to their branches even though the leaves have turned yellow and orange.  Random hawthorn trees are yet covered in bunches of blood red haws.  And in the underbrush, rosehips hang from leafless  bushes like so many cherries.

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Crataegus phaenopyrum- Washington Hawthorn

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Rosa nootka - Nootka Rose

These last remaining fruit beg to be used.  Harvest and dry them.  Mix into tea blends and savor on the cold mornings to come.  Cover them with brandy to flavor and add medicine, mix the infused spirit with hot water and honey and enjoy on fire warmed nights.  Or simmer into sweet preserves that can be enjoyed on the winter days ahead.

Here is my recipe for a fruit butter using this trifecta of fall. Begin with apples and add rosehips, hawthorn berries and a touch of cinnamon, the result is a heart healthy preserve that tastes vaguely of citrus.  Enjoy it through the winter.

022Rosehip, Hawthorn, Apple Butter

4 lbs Apples

2 cups Rosehips- seeds removed

1 1/2 cup Hawthorn Berries

1 cup Cider Vinegar

2 cups Water

2 cups Sugar

Juice of one lemon and rind

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cut apples into pieces leaving seeds and skin.  Add all fruit to a large pot along with cider and water, bring to a boil and simmer for twenty minutes or until all  the fruit is soft.  Put all the fruit through a food mill and discard the skins and seeds.  Return to pot and add remaining ingredients.  Simmer on low heat stirring often until the mixture has significantly thickened.  You can tell when it ready because a spoonful put onto a room temperature plate will thicken and gel.  No pectin is needed as these fruit all have large amounts of pectin.  Pour into half pint jars and can in a water bath for ten minutes.019

Brief Notes On The Heart Healing Properties Of  Each Fruit

Hawthorn- Among other things, the berries or Haws of the the hawthorn tree have been used for centuries as a medicine for the heart and cardiovascular system.   It prevents heart disease, strengthens the  cardiac muscles and promotes circulation.

Rose Hips- Are higher in vitamin C than citrus fruit, however the vitamin C is said to be destroyed with heat, so do not hope to get your daily dose of C from the above preparation. However, rosehips are known to be a beneficial tonic for the heart and other organ systems.

Apples-  Apples are a natural source of iron.  Ingesting apples or fresh apple juice daily has been effective in blood building and treatment of anemia.

Cinnamon- Cinnamon  prevents clotting of the blood.  It therefore acts essentially as a blood thinner, reducing the effects of hardened arteries and decreasing blood pressure.

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elderberry I would consider my “culinary point of view” to be – one of a sneaky cook. My goal is to make dishes that my family will eat, AND that are good for them. As my children get older, at times that is hard to accomplish. Elderberries are an amazing healing food. They taste wonderful. First off, picking them is quite an easy task, a pair of clippers and I think it took me 15 minutes, along with pictures, and smelling the wonders of the woods. I live on the “EAST SIDE” of the cascades, I still have to drive a little to harvest these beauties. What a great reason to take a drive. The fruit harvest is in full swing here, nectarines, peaches, apples, hazelnuts and walnuts are coming on. Fall always fills me with a sense of gratitude for the abundance of this valley.

I will not go into the medicinal use of this plant, as Kate has already done a magnificent article about its use. I will start with a basic syrup recipe; this will keep in the fridge for 3 months. It can also be frozen, or canned, however the enzymes in the honey are destroyed when you can the juice. My old stand by for preserving food is Putting Food By by Janet Greene.

 

pearsElderberry Syrup

3 cups elderberries (blue or black, not red)

2 cups water

 

Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Mash berries, strain, add 1 cup honey, return to pan and simmer 5 minutes. Cool and store in jars in refrigerator.

 

 

This syrup can be used for pure enjoyment, for ice cream, shortcake, smoothies, yogurt…. (Medicinally- eat up to 4 teaspoons a day)

 

From this batch I made:

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Poached Bosc Pears, in Elderberry syrup 

 

 

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Mead Hazelnut encrusted Chicken with Elderberry sauce

 

I also put up canned Peaches with Elderberries and Honey Elderberry Jelly And……..

 

d4zg8cv_6469w5b4gn_bNectarine and Elderberry Cobbler

Base
7 cups fruit
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup sugar (sweeten to taste, sweetener of choice)

 Mix together and place in baking dish. Heat in 400* oven till juices are bubbling around the edges. Then add topping and bake another 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Topping
1 ½ cups unbleached flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbl. Butter (coconut oil, or organic shortening -palm oil)
¾ cup liquid (heavy cream, butter milk, milk, almond milk…)

Mix dry ingredients. If using whole wheat pastry flour, the liquid will absorb differently. Use less liquid. Also, use less liquid if your choice of liquid is a thinner consistency (like almond milk). The dough should look like drop biscuit dough, not too wet. I prefer my dough a little dry. This is my master cobbler recipe; feel free to substitute other fruit.

Enjoy the celebration and harvest of fall! Ann

*Note- Elderberry seeds are considered slightly toxic untill cooked,  so please cook your berries (as in all of these recipes) or strain the juice before using.

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When you live in an area as verdant as I do, it’s easy to keep the calendar by when plants come into bloom and when it is time to harvest all the bounty that surrounds us. Since living here in the Pacific Northwest,  I’ve learned that dandelions flush in May, foxgloves bloom in mid June and they are replaced by purple fireweed in July. In August, furry spikes of hardhack cover the roadsides.  In the early February, Indian plum puts out leaves first and nettles start sprouting in march.

The summer months offer a tasty way of keeping the calendar; around here we are overrun with berries.  Some of these berries are medicinal and some of them only offer medicine for the senses like sweet treats, the colors of faceted gemstones, bright lanterns and robins eggs.  With so many varieties around I’ve learned to keep a careful watch and remember when to start looking for the harvest.  There are yet a few berries remaining from the summer’s glory days, the rest are mostly memories.  But seasons change and next year, just as the one before, the cycle of abundance will begin again.

May- the first delicate berries arrive

salmonberries

Salmon Berry - Rubus spectabilis

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The first on the bushes, watery and slightly sweet, a wild flavor that wets your palate for the coming season.

  

  

June- keep looking,  there is more ripening on the vines 

 
Red Huckleberry - Vaccinium parvifolium

Red Huckleberry - Vaccinium parvifolium

 
Red, gem-like globes. Tart, but they tickle the tongue. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Trailing Blackberry - Rubus ursinus

Trailing Blackberry - Rubus ursinus

  
  Our native, early ripening blackberry. Small and delicate, but sweeter and tastier than it’s invasive cousin.
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

Thimbleberry - Rubus parviflorus

Thimbleberry - Rubus parviflorus

  
  A seedy variety of the raspberry.  Early, ruby colored, soft fleshy fruit.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
July – An exercise in abundance
Blackcap Raspberries - Rubus leucodermis

Blackcap Raspberries - Rubus leucodermis

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If you find these, covet them and tell no one 🙂
Black Huckleberry - Vaccinium membranaceum

Black Huckleberry - Vaccinium membranaceum

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tart, but a treat on the trail.
 
Saskatoon Berry - Amelanchier alnifolia

Saskatoon Berry - Amelanchier alnifolia

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gather these and delight, a subtle sweetness like no other.
Oregon Grape - Mahonia Nervosa

Oregon Grape - Mahonia Nervosa

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bitter eaten off the vine, but a rich and potent deep purple treat when sweetened.
Wild Strawberry - Fragaria virginiana

Wild Strawberry - Fragaria virginiana

 
Look low to the ground, and keep your eyes open, these tiny gems go fast but make farmed strawberries look like food for the fowl.
 
 
 
August- Head to the hills and let your baskets over flow with Blue
 
Low Bush Blueberry - Vaccinium caepitosum

Low Bush Blueberry - Vaccinium caepitosum

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Hikers delight!
Alsakan Blueberry - Vaccinium alaskaense

Alsakan Blueberry - Vaccinium alaskaense

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The juicy basket filler.
Oval Leaved Blueberry- Vaccinium ovalifolium

Oval Leaved Blueberry- Vaccinium ovalifolium

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The taste of late summer.
 
 
 
September-  The brambles give back
Himalayan Blackberry - Rubus discolor

Himalayan Blackberry - Rubus discolor

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The invader is bountiful at the end of summer,  providing a temporary reprieve from is poor reputation.
Cutleaf Evergreen Blackberry - Rubus lacinatus

Cutleaf Evergreen Blackberry - Rubus lacinatus

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Harder to find but it has a  gentler taste than the Himalayan.
Salal - Gaultheria shallon

Salal - Gaultheria shallon

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sweet Salal, a native and forgotten favorite.
 
 
 

The summer offers so many gifts. The amazing thing is that there are MORE berries,  my list stops short to include only the most palatable varieties. Imagine what it means to have too many berries! Perhaps you live in a place where you are not blessed with fruit that falls off of the bushes as we are, but look around.  The planet is a lesson in abundance; wildflowers, rivers, flatlands and deserts all offer their gifts.  Some places have things to be eaten, some places have pure serenity and some have strong medicine.  Some places offer simple living, temperate ecosystems, too much water, too much snow, too much heat or simply too much visual beauty.  Take note of it all, make a list of those things that are abundant,  be thankful and if you can, eat too many berries.

 
Blessings- Kate

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