Every year for my birthday, my pal Cayce sends me a box of Meyer lemons, foraged from her Bay Area neighborhood. What a great gift! This year I’ve been using them to perfect a lemon bar recipe. But it’s no ordinary lemon bar. This lemon bar has lavender baked into the shortbread crust. Read more
I realize I’ve been less active here lately, but it’s just a temporary setback, I promise. My winter project is a big one, and it’s almost ready to launch. For now, check out the photo for a behind the scenes peek at The Backyard Forager.
I’m not sure how to categorize this recipe. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit savory, it’s the size of a muffin and the texture of a sponge cake, it’s moist, it’s herbal, it’s terrific dunked in coffee or tea. Mugwort steamed buns can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and any snacking opportunity in between. Read more
When Michael was diagnosed with diabetes, we started eating a low carb diet and these crustless, mini wild greens quiches have become a favorite. I like to make a big batch, then freeze a bunch to have on hand. A quick zap in the microwave gives you a high protein breakfast, or you can pair them with a salad for an easy lunch or dinner. I’ve even brought them to a neighborhood potluck. No one knew exactly what they were eating, but those quiches disappeared pretty darned fast, so I took that as a compliment. Read more
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
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.
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
As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, my thoughts turn to comfort food. I look forward to a hot cup of tea at the end of a long day and when I have a piece of toasted silverberry quick bread to go with that tea, I don’t even mind that it’s dark at 4 pm. Well, I mind less. Read more
When I lived in PA I was surrounded by black walnut trees. I love the ripe nuts in brownies, pies, and pesto, and the unripe walnuts make one of my favorite foraged beverages: nocino. But after multiple attempts at making pickled black walnuts (a British pub staple), I’m calling it quits. Here’s why you might want to do the same. Read more
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