I almost always prefer to accentuate the positive, but when I come across a technique that doesn’t work, I feel like it’s my duty to save you the time and aggravation of figuring it out for yourself. After reading several recipes that recommended using whole autumn olive fruit (aka silverberries aka Eleagnus umbellata) I decided to see for myself whether this was a good idea. I was pretty sure it wasn’t, but the authors of those recipes claimed that cooking softened the seeds enough to make them palatable. I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t! Don’t waste your autumn olive fruit or your time. Read more
Many foragers are also gardeners, and as one such forager/gardener, I only grow plants I can also eat. Most passers-by wouldn’t recognize my garden as edible, and that adds to the fun: I have a secret only other foragers would understand. I love seeking out ornamental edible plants that feed both body and soul. It’s also a practical decision since my garden is so teeny, it would be impossible to have separate spaces for food and for beauty. So let me introduce you to the chokeberry, aka Aronia melanocarpa, the newest addition to my edible garden. Read more
If I were a farmer I might curse this invasive plant. But as a forager, I look forward to its generous annual fall crop of fruit. Autumn olive was brought to the U.S from Japan in the 19th century, and it did so well here that in the mid-1900s the U.S. Soil Conservation Service recommended it as a windbreak and for erosion control. Oops! Read more
Drying is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to preserve your herbs, fruits, and mushrooms. Dried harvests are easy to store (no freezer space required!) and don’t heat up your kitchen in the middle of summer, like canning does. So if this has been a banner year for wild garlic or blueberries or porcini, why not fill your pantry with beautiful jars of dried, wild produce?
There are multiple species of wild asparagus that grow worldwide, but in the United States, you’ll forage for Asparagus officinalis, the exact same asparagus you pay big bucks for at the grocery store. Technically it’s a feral species. Animals eat and spread asparagus seed, helping the plant escape cultivation. Whether cultivated or feral, asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. Read more
Winter isn’t the most productive time to forage where I live. On a February visit to NH, I was able to score some fresh wintergreen, which I brought home and turned into an extract. I love the flavor of wintergreen (think teaberry gum) but it isn’t always easy to use in food and drink. I thought ice cream would be the perfect vehicle for the wintergreen flavor, and I was right, but boy it took a long time to nail this one down. The extract had a strong flavor and fragrance on its own, but my first ice cream attempt was a miserable failure. The eggs in the custard base completely overwhelmed the wintergreen flavor. My second attempt was only slightly more successful. I used a corn starch base, which let the wintergreen flavor come through, but it was far too faint for my taste. Third time was the charm. With triple the original amount of wintergreen extract, I had a delicious, perfectly textured wintergreen ice cream. This recipe is a keeper. Read more
Spring is just around the corner. Actually, it started yesterday, but I woke up to freezing temperatures this morning so it doesn’t feel very spring-like. Nonetheless, this time of year I start thinking about Japanese knotweed, one of my favorite wild edibles. Its pink color and tart flavor make it the perfect ingredient for a foraged twist on a whiskey sour. I named this cocktail The Samurai Sour because originally I used Japanese knotweed and Japanese whisky*. But Japanese whisky can be expensive, so feel free to use any whiskey (blend or single malt) you have on hand. Read more
I’m always looking for jam and jelly recipes that don’t call for the addition of commercial pectin. Why? Because commercial pectin requires extra sugar to balance its bitterness and I’d just as soon keep my sugar consumption down (within reason!). With marmalades, the citrus pith and seeds give you all the natural pectin you need to get a perfect jell. No worries about ending up with syrup or fruit cheese, just sweet, tart, spreadable marmalade…every time. And since Meyer lemons are pretty much my favorite citrus, Meyer lemon marmalade is pretty much my favorite marmalade.
When I’m wondering how to make a plain meal more interesting, I pull out a jar of preserved lemons. If I need a hostess gift, I bring a jar of preserved lemons. Simple to make, preserved lemons are lovely to look at and jazz up everything you add them to. Most recipes that include preserved lemons say to use only the rind, but I can’t bring myself to throw away the salty, squishy pulp. It tastes far too good to waste, so I use it along with the rinds in salads, pasta, and tagines. You can preserve other types of lemons, but the thinner skin and relative sweetness of the Meyer lemon makes them my first choice.