Foraged Foods – Mixed Greens Blog http://mixedgreensblog.com Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Take a Break and Sip Some Hips http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/12/23/seasons-eatings/foraged-foods/take-a-break-and-sip-some-hips/ Mon, 24 Dec 2012 01:00:33 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=17578 Rosehips1 of 1 (2)

It’s time to sit back and take a break from all the holiday activities and have a cup of tea. While you’re at it, you may as well make one filled with plenty of vitamin C, just in case you’ve been pushing yourself a little too hard and need an immunity boost. Rose hips are there for the picking and make a light and flavorful tea. If you harvest your own, just make sure that they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals. The best time for picking is right around the first frost of the year when the hips are fully ripe and the natural sugars are concentrated. I picked mine a few weeks ago from the wild roses that grow on our property on Orcas Island.

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After washing them, I could have put them into a dehydrator or in the oven at a very low temperature but since I wasn’t in a big hurry, I just set them on a plate and let them dry on their own. They fit right in with all the other Christmas decorations and look like lovely little ornaments even as they shrivel and dry.

Rosehips

If you want to make tea, you’ll need to do a little work first. Cut off both ends, split the hip open and you’ll be amazed at how many seeds are packed into each one. There’s also a bunch of hairy fibers you’ll want to remove. I won’t lie, it’s a laborious process so the larger the hip, the faster it goes. I did a little at a time, scraping out the seeds and fibers with my thumb nail. The process seems to be easier when the hip isn’t completely dry. Once I removed the inside, I left the outer shell to dry a little longer. I saw some videos where they dumped the hips into a blender or food processor and then in a fine sieve to remove the fibers. Less work but I have my doubts about how well that would work to remove the seeds.

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Once the shells are completely dry, you can pulse them a few times in a food processor to chop them up and remove even more of the fibers. Then you’re ready to make tea. Boil about 2T of dried hips in a pint of water for about 10 minutes. Pour the brew through a sieve into a cup. You can add sugar or honey to bring out the flowery taste but go easy so  you don’t overpower the unique flavor.

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I hope your holidays are filled with peace and joy!!

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Chanterelle Sauce, Salute to Autumn http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/09/23/seasons-eatings/pantry/chanterelle-sauce-salute-to-autumn/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2012/09/23/seasons-eatings/pantry/chanterelle-sauce-salute-to-autumn/#comments Sun, 23 Sep 2012 23:49:43 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=16892 Another thing that I’ve put off in my life is learning to forage for wild mushrooms without killing myself and my family. Maybe chanterelles I could safely identify, but do they have a menacing cousin? That’s the tricky part. I hope to eventually check this one off my list, but for now I depend on the Farmer’s Market to fill the need for fresh wild shrooms and dried ones for the pantry. I use the dried version as an ingredient in soups and risotto. Their broth is nectar that, as a culinary sidekick, is unbeatable. I’m serious. Nectar of the forest.

In the meantime, fresh mushrooms are available at Farmer’s Markets. Last week I found chanterelles and made a creamy sauce for pasta. Easy and a teensy bit decadent, the mushrooms prevail and it’s perfect autumnal-winter comfort food.

I followed Langdon Cook’s (Fat of the Land) recipe, sort of.  Omitted the bacon and peas – mind you, I love both ingredients, but didn’t have them available – used a different pasta and a little less cream perhaps. No matter. As with many recipes, use it as a guide and then make it your own. I started with the butter and shallots and proceeded from there. This came together quickly and was delicious. Very mushroomy. Thanks Langdon. I think it’s fair to assume that a person could use a variety of fresh mushrooms for this dish.

If you’re interested in local, seasonal, forageable, and then stories and recipes to go with, Fat of the Land is your go to blog. Langdon is an accomplished forager, cook and writer.

Creamy Chanterelle Pasta Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients: 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter/ 4 ounces thick, quality bacon (4 slices), diced/ 1 to 2 shallots, finely chopped/ 1 pound shaped pasta, such as bow-ties/ 1 pound fresh chanterelles, roughly chopped/ Salt and ground pepper to taste/ 1 pint heavy cream (or less)/ 4 ounces garden peas, fresh or frozen/ 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, with more for table.

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the diced bacon. Do not drain the fat. As bacon begins to crisp, add shallots and cook until tender. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat, and add pasta.

Add chanterelles to the skillet and cook several minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have released their water. Season with salt and pepper. While the chanterelles are cooking down, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and half the cream in a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the warm oven.

Slowly add the remaining cream to the skillet and simmer, continuing to stir occasionally while pasta cooks. When pasta is nearly done, add peas to the chanterelle sauce. Remove pasta from heat, drain, and add to warm mixing bowl. Mix the sauce with the additional butter and cream. Add the grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Another of Langdon’s chanterelle recipes, published recently: Steak and Chanterelle Stroganoff. Haven’t tried it. I bet it’s good.

 

 

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Dandelion & Sorrel Salad . . . a bold taste of spring http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/04/10/seasons-eatings/basic-recipes-on-the-local-table/bold-taste-of-spring-dandelion-sorrel-salad/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2011/04/10/seasons-eatings/basic-recipes-on-the-local-table/bold-taste-of-spring-dandelion-sorrel-salad/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2011 01:45:13 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=12830 There’s a cluster of sorrel in the herb garden doing its skyrocketing spring thing, but staying where it belongs. Dandelions, on the other hand, are exploding everywhere without regard to anyone’s boundaries. I’d like to be grateful for this free-spirited perennial which, quite frankly, could learn a lesson from tidy and courteous sorrel.

Not sure if I should feel embarrassed or proud of our dandelion crop, for sure a sign that I need to get to work. If I had a nickel for every dandelion . . . but they’re also great salad stuff this time of year. I thought I’d weed, plus make salad, one stone, two birds. Clean up the garden, feed the compost, feed myself. And it’s not like I won’t have another crop in a day or two.

Dandelion & Sorrel Salad Recipe

Important: Forage only dandelions that are certain to be pesticide free.

A tasty toast to spring, this is a salad with zing, delicious with a piece of grilled fish or chicken, a little goat cheese, or on any sandwich.

Ingredients: A big bunch of dandelion greens, 3 or 4 cups of the smaller tenderest leaves, and about half that amount of sorrel, rinsed and spun dry. I have brassica florets in the backyard – after feeding us all winter long, brassicas have these delicious florets in spring – so I added some along with chives, parsley and a little fresh oregano. Make it your own, but lean toward plenty of dandelion greens and some sorrel. Adjust amount of acidic sorrel to suit your own taste.

Dressing, many possibilities. 1/2 C olive oil/  3 – 4 T raspberry or red wine vinegar / 1 t garlic or 1 T shallots, finely minced/ 2 t honey, 1 t mustard/ Shake it all up, taste it, make adjustments if needed.

Gourmet’s Warm Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Green Goddess Dressing

More sorrel recipes: So Sorrel-y

Taraxacum, Native to North America and Eurasia, is a genus of flowering edible plants including dandelions. Dandelion greens are full of vitamins A, C, E, K and calcium, and are natural detoxifiers known for their antiviral qualities and benefits to digestion .

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Fraiche and Foresty http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/04/25/seasons-eatings/foraged-foods/fraiche-and-foresty/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/04/25/seasons-eatings/foraged-foods/fraiche-and-foresty/#comments Mon, 26 Apr 2010 00:02:46 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=8761 Watercress & Spring Herbs

When I was in college in NC, I managed to talk an old farmer into renting me his family home on forty acres for $50 a month. He had since moved up in the world and retired to a mobile home. The farmhouse was rustic beyond my parent’s belief with no indoor plumbing, no insulation, a wood cookstove — well, you get the picture. Despite the lack of amenities, I was in heaven. I spent hours walking through the woods, finding little streams and searching for wild plants to eat and to use for dyes for my handspun yarn. Every so often my landlord would bring his mother out to visit her old homestead. She had a wealth of knowledge about every useful plant on the property. Over by the chicken coop was the pokeweed and out in the far field grew tiny wild strawberries. Elderberries lined the long gravel driveway, goldenrod and chicory grew along the road into town and in the spring, the woods were filled with trilliums, mayapples and bloodroot. There must not have been watercress growing by those streams because if it had been there, I surely would have found it.

Watercress is one of the oldest known leafy vegetables yet my only memory of it involves little tea sandwiches on white bread, crusts cut off, paired with cream cheese. It’s a peppery and tangy brassica — one of the main little-known ingredients in V-8 juice. It grows in clear, cool water about 2″ to 6″ deep. The trickling water must be neither stagnant nor moving too quickly. Commercially, hydroponic cultivation is the way to go. Claims as to its nutritional value range from fending off cancer to having a strengthening effect on the the thyroid gland. It’s loaded with iron, calcium, folic acid, and vitamins A & C.

Watercress Soup

Every so often, when the restaurants don’t get first dibs, bags of watercress are available at Foraged and Found at the University Farmers Market. If you see it, give it a try but just a warning — don’t cut in line, especially in front on me. A week or two ago when the very first asparagus was available at Alm Hill, I was waiting patiently with my eyes transfixed on a few bunches right at the front of the line. Someone from the end of the line walked around to the front, grabbed a bunch and went back to her place in line. I got pretty riled up but this is Seattle and we’re all supposed to be so polite. I didn’t say anything knowing that the first chance I got, I’d rant about it on the blog. In the end, it all worked out because they had more asparagus to put out by the time it was my turn. I’m just saying — mind your market manners, people.

Asparagus at the Farmers Market

Now that I have that off my chest, back to the watercress. I tried a couple recipes, both from Canal House Cooking. The first is a watercress soup, simple and filled with a foresty flavor that brought me back to my days of wandering through the woods and sitting by the streams. It also gave me an opportunity to make a batch of creme fraiche, which is so easy, yet I haven’t made it for a while.

Watercress Soup

Watercress Soup

2 bunches or one big bag of watercress

4-6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

2 T butter

1 T olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

Salt & pepper

Remove the thick stems from the watercress and add them to the stock. Gently simmer in a medium pot for 15-20 minutes.

Melt the butter and oil in a second pot over medium-low heat. Add shallot and cook until soft. Add the potatoes to the pot.

Strain and discard the stems from the stock. Add stock to shallots & potatoes, cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Finely chop watercress leaves and add to the stock. Simmer for just a moment or two, remove from the heat and season with salt & pepper.

Top with a big dollop of creme fraiche, butter or heavy cream.

In case you’ve forgotten how to make creme fraiche, here’s all there is to it.

Creme Fraiche

Homemade Creme Fraiche

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2-3 T buttermilk

Warm the cream and buttermilk in a small saucepan on the stove until it’s just warm to the touch.

Remove, pour into a bowl and cover with a tea towel.

Let it sit, undisturbed on the counter for at least 24 hours.

Once it’s nice and thick, cover and store in the fridge until you use it.

Here’s another way to use watercress inspired by Canal House Cooking. Be sure to use a mild blue cheese so you don’t over power the watercress flavor.

Watercress Blue Cheese Spread

Watercress and Blue Cheese Spread

1 cup chopped watercress leaves

1/2 cup chopped chives

1/8 lb. crumbled blue cheese

2 T softened butter

Salt & pepper

Mash together watercress, chives, blue cheese and softened butter in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Serve on crackers or crostini.

If you want a smoother spread, mix in a little of your creme fraiche or some mayo.

If you want, you can substitute arugula for watercress in either recipe. It’s similar but different.

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Where the Wild Foods Are http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/11/02/seasons-eatings/where-the-wild-foods-are/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/11/02/seasons-eatings/where-the-wild-foods-are/#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2009 00:24:53 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/11/02/uncategorized/where-the-wild-foods-are/ FOTL_cover.jpg Langdon Cook, local author and blogger, in his new book Fat of the Land, Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, makes you see this land of plenty we call home in a whole new light. His book is delightfully funny and well-written to the point that once you start reading, it’s hard to stop. The characters who accompany Cook into the world of foraging are hilarious, making what could be seen as a perilous journey feel like a wild adventure worthy of recounting again and again. I couldn’t help but wonder where he finds these eccentric people. His writing style reminds me of Southern short stories except that this book is firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest. It’s filled with many ways we can reconnect with nature by foraging for what our land and ocean so generously provide.

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I’ll never be able to look out at the water past the boat docks at Shilshole Bay Marina and not wonder if Lang and Dave are out there somewhere diving and spearfishing for lingcod like wild aquamen. That story alone is worth the price of the book. Then there’s squid jigging at night in the middle of winter on a public pier surrounded by an unlikely crowd of fellow jiggers all speaking different languages. It’s a far cry from the near-by Belltown club scene. These are places we drive by in our cars every day, oblivious to the abundance of food and experiences that are right there for the taking. Not that I’m brave enough to do even half the things Lang does but with a good buddy along, I just might be persuaded.

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You would think with all this great writing the recipes found at the end of each chapter would be only so-so. Not true. The recipes are excellent and are arranged by season. The only thing missing for me is an index. Even though the farmers market is the extent of my foraging these days, this book also gave me a much greater appreciation for our vendors who bring us food from the wild — Loki Fish and Found & Foraged are two of my favorites.

I’m going to share two of Lang’s recipes with you but I encourage you to get the book and try them all. In the meantime, check out his blog, also named Fat of the Land. It’s packed with wonderful recipes, photos and loads of inspiration and knowledge about how to forage in an environmentally conscious way.

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Creamy Chanterelle Pasta

4T (1/2 stick) butter

4 slices thick, quality bacon, diced

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

1 lb shaped pasta (Langdon likes bow ties)

1 lb fresh chanterelles

Salt & freshly ground pepper

1 pint heavy cream (or less)

4 ounces garden peas, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup grated parmesan, with more for the table

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat 2T of the butter over medium heat and add the diced bacon. Don’t drain the fat. As bacon begins to crisp, add shallots and cook until tender, a few minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta.

Add chanterelles to skillet and cook several minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have released their water. Season with salt & pepper.

In a large ovenproof mixing bowl, add remaining 2T butter and half the cream. Place the mixing bowl in warm oven.

Slowly add remaining cream to skillet and simmer, continuing to stir occasionally while pasta cooks. When pasta is nearly done, add peas to chanterelle sauce.

Remove pasta from heat, drain and pour into warmed mixing bowl. Mix in sauce along with grated parmesan and serve immediately.

I made this recipe almost exactly as it was written and got great rave reviews. It’s a wonderful dish for a dinner party and as Lang says, “If you’re worried about all that cream and butter, open an extra bottle of red wine. ” Well said.

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I also tried the Marinade for Grilled Salmon

Place 1lb fillet in a glass dish and brush on 1T hot chili oil or Mongolian fire oil (I used a hot chili garlic sauce that I seem to be addicted to these days) 2T sesame oil and enough soy sauce to bath the fish. Add minced garlic and ginger and turn fish skin side down for a couple of hours in the fridge.

I used some fresh Keta from Loki Fish and pan-fried it instead of grilling. While the fish was finishing off in the oven, I sauteed whole baby bok choy and beet greens in the frying pan with the rest of the marinade. Now I want to cook everything in this marinade. It’s that good.

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Season’s Eatings: A Wild Piece of Cake http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/10/08/seasons-eatings/grains/seasons-eatings-a-wild-piece-of-cake/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/10/08/seasons-eatings/grains/seasons-eatings-a-wild-piece-of-cake/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2009 02:16:26 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=5691  

Who can resist a cake, of any kind? But Farro? That’s a stretch. I got to thinking about cakes and, surprisingly, I didn’t start with the chocolate one, but with crab cakes, then sweet potato cakes, salmon cakes, and eventually I did get to my favorite dessert. wild-mushroomcakes-6

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On the way through this cakes’ daydream I conjured up wild mushroom cakes. A good idea, or a rowdy imagination run amok, no matter, I thought it was worth a try. Not a new invention, there are mushroom burgers out there, but here’s a way to fashion a seasonal ‘cake’ with wild mushrooms and *Farro. Because of its likeness to a crab cake, and how I would like for it to be that good, I’ll optimistically call it a wild mushroom farro cake, which is a mouthful. Not so much amok, these are delicious. wild-mushroomcakes-1

Wild Mushroom & Farro Cakes Recipe

Ingredients:

1/2 C Emmer Farro (Farro expands to 1 C after cooking)

6 T butter (Or, use a combination of olive oil and butter)

2 T finely chopped shallot

1 finely chopped clove of garlic

1 t rosemary & 1 T thyme, finely chopped

1/2 C chopped parsley

2 C finely chopped wild mushrooms, measured after chopping. (Mushrooms reduce to 1 C after cooking.)  Chantrelles, Boletus and other wild mushrooms are available at Farmers Markets now.

1 egg

1/2 C panko bread crumbs, plus additional for coating

2 T cream

1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

Optional: Mix 1 T lemon zest and plenty of black pepper with bread crumbs.

Directions: Cook 1/2 C Farro in 2 1/2 C water with 1 t salt for 45-55 minutes, lid on/ When done after 40 – 45 minutes – I like it with a bit of a bite –  drain thoroughly and set aside to cool. Or, cook 1 C Farro in 5 cups water and have a little extra for later. Bluebird Grains Farm‘s Emmer Farro is grown in Western Washington and is available online, at some local grocers, and now in bulk at PCC markets.

Melt 3 T butter along with a small amount of olive oil in a medium sauté pan/ Add shallots and garlic, stir and cook for 30 seconds/ Add finely chopped mushrooms, salt & pepper to taste, the rosemary and thyme/ Cook on medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes stirring occasionally until juices have almost disappeared/ Set aside to cool.

Beat egg in large bowl with the cream, which can be omitted. The cream adds a nice bit of moisture, but also makes for stickier work in forming the cakes (a little butter or oil on fingers might help)/ After farro and mushroom mixtures have cooled a bit add all remaining ingredients and mix together thoroughly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Scoop 1/2 C of the mushroom-farro mix, compress firmly into a patty and sprinkle one side with panko/ Carefully place patties on a flat plate, panko-side-down/ Now sprinkle top side with panko, pat gently and now both sides are lightly coated with breadcrumbs/ Cakes are tender at this stage, handle with care. 1/2 C patties yield 5 cakes, 1/4 C appetizer size yield 10 – 12.

It felt a little tenuous at this point, and I wondered if cakes would hold together for cooking. They did, and here’s the trick. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, or up to several hours if needed. This is important. Refrigeration results in ingredients setting and creating a viable patty that can be successfully sautéed. And I wonder if forming the cakes would be easier if mixture were refrigerated for a while first. Next time.

wild-mushroomcakes-4 To sauté: Melt 3 T  butter  (or olive oil) in a frying pan until sizzling/ Turning cakes carefully, cook on medium heat for four or five minutes per side until golden brown/ Serve on a bed of lightly dressed fresh or steamed greens.

Wild Mushroom & Farro Cakes can be a meal or an appetizer, on the side with a green salad, topped with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche. I’ll make a batch of small cakes and take bite-sized morsels to a friend’s this weekend. There’s extra farro already cooked and a few more mushrooms – it’ll be a quick fix.

Seasons Eatings.

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*Bluebird Grains Farm : “Our signature grain is an ancient, nutrient dense wheat called Emmer, or Emmer Farro. Our other grains include Hard Red Spring Wheat, Hard Spring White, Soft White Wheat and Northern Fall Rye.Our in house handling of these grains results in berries, cracked cereals, fresh flour and other dry blends such as our flavorful, nutritious whole grain pancake mix.” farro-2

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January’s Healing Nettle Tea http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/01/27/local-living/field-trips/januarys-healing-nettle-tea/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/01/27/local-living/field-trips/januarys-healing-nettle-tea/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2009 21:13:18 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=1437 It is said that the “sting of the nettle is but nothing compared to the pains that it heals”.

Immersed in mid-winter’s landscape, hibernation happening everywhere, I rambled happily through the woods this morning: stumps and boulders blanketed with piles of verdant moss, lichened branches overhead, paths underfoot cushioned with fecund layers of frosted grass and leaves, icicles clinging to branches along the creek.  Shorn of their leaves, bare branched trees are statuesque svelte silhouettes for winter.
I’m on Orcas Island in the San Juans with Poppy, pretending to work for a few days and I’m smitten.  We had sun all day long. The sweet spots, breathless sunny niches, were inviting and when you stood there, face upward in hopeful prayer that you might receive a smidge of warmth, well, you did. Sunny bliss while decked out in gloves, scarves, boots and caps.  Hey, it’s winter. Earlier we’d reminisced about the nettles here in springtime when, with great care, Poppy collects them for her creamed nettles.  You can’t comfortably walk down this path after early spring. Nettles rule. But in winter they’re tiny and easily conquered, or so I thought.  I returned with a bag and gloves and foraged a bunch for a healthy pot of steaming tea.  Cold as the dickens out, but these baby nettles are firm in stature and on their way, harbingers of spring in January.

For me it was a heavenly task scoping out the woodland floor on hands and knees, seeking baby nettles.  I gathered a bagful, but not without stinging fingers. Still tingling as a matter of fact. I touched a single nettle and then put the gloves on. I guess I thought they’re tiny and fresh and couldn’t be that bad. In fact, they may be more potent when they’re small. These guys carry a wallop, thus their name (stinging nettles), which portends a healthy nutritional wallop when transformed into a pot of tea.

And so it is. Nettles are full of wildly healthy nutrients, high levels of minerals, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. They’re a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbed amino acids. They’re ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable. A walk in the woods is a health benefit too.  Dried nettles are available in bulk at most health food stores.  Check out fellow blogger Finspot’s recent Stinging Nettle, Potato & Leek soup, and Poppy’s Creamed Nettles posted last spring.

*To make the tea with freshly picked nettles:
Wearing gloves, wash and rinse nettles.
Wearing gloves, measure about a cupful and place them in a teapot. Now you can take the gloves off. Fill teapot with nearly boiling water and allow to steep for eight minutes. If you have rose hips throw them in too.  Strain and pour into mugs, stir in a teaspoon of honey and a twist of freshly ground pepper. A slice of lemon if you wish.

Toxic sting gone, the tea is imbued with this utterly fresh green flavor, Poppy and I both thought like asparagus.  Mellow and soft as can be.  Not at all bitter, though I was expecting that.  While I sip nettle tea my cells are celebrating osmotic infusions of healthiness.  The woodland experience was the cake,

sipping its tea is the icing.

* One source recommended drinking just a cup a day to let your body adjust to this herbal drink.  Side affects in a few instances can be nasty I’ve read, though I’ve never known that to happen to anyone I know.

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Forage for Flowers http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/22/seasons-eatings/forage-for-flowers/ Wed, 23 Apr 2008 04:38:34 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/22/uncategorized/forage-for-flowers/ violets&pansies6 of 18

When I think of foraging, I think of going out in the woods to gather something exotic like mushrooms. Gathering flowers is more like meandering through the garden, unless it starts hailing, snowing and raining. In that case, a rather fluffy pastime can turn into an extreme sport of running in and out of shelter with camera and tripod in tow. Lucky for me, I have easy access to loads of Viola volunteers close to my house.

The genus Viola includes violets, pansies, johnny-jump-ups and many more. I have 4 of the more common species in my yard and didn’t plant any of them from seed. I did “relocate” one from a parking lot years ago but the rest just showed up and continue to find perfect little spots here and there to take hold.

According to Robert Henderson in the Neighborhood Forager, all Violas are edible. He mentions eating the foliage, either raw or steamed. I have sprinkled the flowers in salads but I wanted to try to crystallize them for decorations on cupcakes. My assistants showed up and I immediately put them to work.

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The first step is to gather the flowers, cutting with decent stems, when you can. Place in small vases of water to keep them fresh while you work. It’s best to pick flowers on a warm, dry day but if you can’t, don’t worry, just blot carefully with a paper towel.

Put one egg white in a bowl and beat it just until it starts to foam. Use a fresh organic egg since you are going to be eating the flower. Don’t use flowers that may have been sprayed with pesticides.

Hold the flower by the stem and carefully paint a light layer of egg white on the front and back with a small paintbrush. Hold the blossom over a plate of superfine sugar. Using a small spoon sprinkle sugar on all sides. When it is coated, shake lightly to remove any excess.

Cut the blossom from the stem and allow it to dry on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper in a cool, dry place. If the flowers get too warm, they will wilt before they dry. Drying takes about 8-12 hours. If you don’t use them all, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

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As for the cupcakes, I found an incredibly easy frosting recipe in Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food.

Warm 3/4 cup heavy cream ( I used creme fraiche instead).

Chop 6 ounces semisweet chocolate.

Remove the cream from the heat, add the chocolate and let it sit until the chocolate melts.

Stir it all together. As it cools, it will thicken.

This is enough for 24 cupcakes plus a few licks for the cook.

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]]> Urban Foraging http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/05/in-the-garden/urban-foraging/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/05/in-the-garden/urban-foraging/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2008 23:00:31 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/05/uncategorized/urban-foraging/  

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Last night everyone in the MixedGreens family was talking about a segment on KUOW on Langdon Cook, aka Finspot, foraging for dandelions and other plants right here in Seattle. He has a great blog, Fat of the Land, with all kinds of info and recipes specific to our area, including the link to yesterday’s show. Check it out.

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Feeling Wild? Forage for Nettles http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/01/seasons-eatings/feeling-wild-forage-for-nettles/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/01/seasons-eatings/feeling-wild-forage-for-nettles/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2008 11:51:59 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2008/04/01/uncategorized/feeling-wild-forage-for-nettles/ nettles57 of 68

Foraging for wild food can turn an ordinary hike into an adventure. While visiting family on Orcas Island, I had the perfect opportunity to forage for nettles. They are free, local, delicious and the new shoots are coming up everywhere. I put on heavy work gloves and brought along a grocery bag. In no time, I had plenty for dinner.

The easiest way to pick nettles is to hold the main stalk with one hand and snap off the newest shoots at the very top of the plant with the other. Always wear gloves, preferably with no holes (as I found out). The tender shoots have a purplish blush. It is okay to get a little stem along with the leaves.

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Once nettles are cooked, they lose their sting but maintain loads of vitamins, minerals and protein. When fresh, they live up to their superfood reputation. You can’t help but feel energized after eating them. Many people just steam or saute with some garlic or onions. You can use them in practically any recipe that calls for spinach as long as they are cooked. I tried this creamed spinach recipe from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook and the results were outstanding.

Creamed Nettles

1/3 of a large grocery bag of Nettle shoots

4 T butter

2 T flour

1 cup whole milk

4 T heavy cream

1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

Place the nettles in a large bowl and cover with cold water. I used tongs to move the nettles since they can still sting you until they are cooked. Rinse and drain to remove any loose dirt or bugs.

To make the cream sauce, melt 2 T of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until it is completely incorporated into the butter. Stir gently and cook for 5 minutes. Don’t let the flour brown. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to a boil, whisking constantly, and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer. The sauce will begin to thicken. Remove from the burner, cover and set aside while you cook the nettles.

In a large skillet, melt 1T butter. Using your tongs, cook the nettles, starting with a lid on the skillet to steam them. Once they have cooked down, remove the lid and continue to cook until the water is gone and they are completely wilted. Better to overcook than undercook. Place in a food processor and pulse to make a coarse puree. (I found it easier to cook the nettles in 2 batches but this may not be necessary if you have a very large skillet).

Add the pureed nettles to the cream sauce. Bring to a simmer and stir in the heavy cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and another dollop of butter. Be prepared to tame your wildness with a comforting bowl of this seasonal green goodness.

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