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chestnut mousse

Chestnut Mousse Recipe: So Rich, So Good

Chestnuts are wonderful, versatile things, as useful in sweet desserts (like this irresistible chestnut mousse) as they are in savory dishes. Their high starch content makes them softer and creamier than most nuts. (Fun fact: chestnuts contain twice as much starch as potatoes!) In places where chestnuts are a native crop, they’re often used as vegetables rather than nuts. Some of the most delicious chestnuts I’ve eaten were in Greece; they were roasted with onions in a light tomato sauce. Chestnuts are the only nut that contains vitamin C, and unlike most nuts, they contain very little fat, making them a low calorie choice in the foraged nut department. Not that this recipe is low cal. I make no apologies for the cream, egg yolks, rum, and sugar. This is a wonderful dessert for a special occasion, and probably my favorite way to use chestnuts. Read more

hen of the woods

Hen of the Woods: a Great Beginner’s Mushroom

If you’ve ever eaten maitake mushrooms, you’ve eaten Hen of the Woods (aka Grifola frondosa). Whatever you call it, this meaty bracket fungus has excellent taste and substance. Hen of the Woods is a polypore, which means that its undersides have pores, not gills. It usually grows at the base of hardwood trees or from underground tree roots, and is a perennial mushroom. You’re likely to find it growing in the same place, year after year, until it kills the host tree.

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pawpaws on the tree

Pawpaw (aka Asimina triloba): an Exotic Native Fruit

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the United States. It grows all over the central and eastern United States, but pawpaw fruit isn’t easy to come by. First of all, they need to be dead ripe to be delicious. That means soft, squishy, and not well suited to shipping long distances. You may find them at farmers’ markets or pawpaw festivals (yes, there are pawpaw festivals), but don’t count on it. People don’t like to part with their hard-won pawpaws. In the wild you’ll often find pawpaw trees but no fruit. That’s because humans aren’t the only animals who love pawpaws. Also, pawpaw flowers can’t self-pollinate, which cuts down on naturally occurring fruit. Read more

flowering quince fruit

Flowering Quince Fruit (aka Cheanomeles japonica aka Japanese Quince)

Most people grow flowering quince for its gorgeous, early spring blooms, and I can’t really blame them. The flowers are show-stoppers, and may be orange, magenta, pale pink, or red. Unfortunately (at least for us foragers), many modern hybrids are bred to be sterile, and don’t produce fruit. Apparently some people find the fruit to be a nuisance. Let’s not call those people wrong…they’re just misinformed. Clearly they have never tasted flowering quince fruit. Read more

Jerusalem artichoke fritters

Jerusalem Artichoke Fritters: Recipe

Is it a fritter? Is it a pancake? It doesn’t matter! The important thing is that the flavor is superb, and that’s what you’re here for, right? These Jerusalem artichoke fritters combine the silky texture of sunchokes with the unbeatable umami of mushroom powder to make an irresistible side dish. Bonus: it’s low on the glycemic index, and therefore a healthier carb choice for people with blood sugar issues. Read more

acorn baklava

Acorn Baklava (with a dash of Spicebush Berry)

When I was in Wisconsin last month, I taught a Forage to Table weekend with Melissa Price. We made a hortopita, and talked about other foraged foods we could make with phyllo dough. We also worked with acorns that weekend, and Sharon Hahn (thank you, Sharon Hahn!) asked if I’d ever made acorn baklava. “Why no, Sharon, I never thought of that. But that’s a helluva good idea!” I promised Sharon credit for inspiring this recipe, and boy does she deserve it. I’m not sure I ever would have thought of it myself. Read more

wild greens pie

Wild Greens Pie aka Hortopita (it’s Greek, like me!)

If you’ve ever eaten in a Greek diner, you may have eaten spanikopita, a traditional spinach pie made with flakey phyllo dough. But unless you have a yia yia (Greek grandmother) you may not have tasted hortopita: wild greens pie. Wild edibles are part of everyday life in Greece, in fact, you’ll often find wild edibles for sale at village markets. Hortopita is classic, Greek peasant food: hearty, satisfying, and suitable as a side dish or a main course.  Read more