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Successful May Morel Forage!

General Posts, Identification
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Thanks so much to everyone who joined us for our May Morel Forage today! And my sincerest heartfelt apologies to those who tried to come out and got stuck in marathon traffic. (And congratulations to all the runners out there who ran the Pittsburgh marathon and half marathon!!)

Happy Morel Hunters with Morels

Happy Morel Hunters with Morels

We had an awesome day, everyone found morels (Morchella semilibera). We also found some very young tender Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) which should also be very tasty!

Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera

Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera

The inside of the half-free, just like that of other true morels (black, gray and yellow) will be hollow:

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached almost at its bottom, not at the tip top.

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached partway down, leaving a "skirt" and giving it its common name: "half-free."

The stalk of this morel is much more tender and delicate than that of the other morels (which can be tough and rubbery), and is great chopped up and sauteed along with the cap, making for quite a meaty meal.

We identified lots of other wild edibles on our way to the morels, including our first sighting of Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) of the year.

Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album

Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album

In addition to the Lambsquarters, Morels and Dryad’s Saddle, other edibles we saw and discussed included:

  • Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata
  • Onion Grass
  • Burdock, Arctium
  • Broad-Leaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  • Plantain, Plantago major
  • Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum
  • Chickweed, Stellari media
  • Purple Violet, Viola
  • Yellow Wood Violet, Viola biflora
  • Mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum
  • Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Thanks so much to everyone who came! Get out there and look for morels…they are just coming up in Western Pa! The yellow morels follow the half-free, so we should have at least 3 more weeks of happy hunting!

yellow morel mushroom

yellow morel mushroom

More local information about mushrooms can be found with the Western PA Mushroom Club. You can attend a monthly meeting or go on one of their weekly hikes…if you are interested in learning more about mushrooms this is a great place!

And make sure to do a thorough “tick check” when you come out of the woods…there seem to be an abundance of ticks this year!

Happy hunting, stay safe,

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Two Weeds Emerged In My Backyard Wood

General Posts
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Two Weeds Emerged In My Backyard Wood

by Melissa Sokulski

(adapted from Robert Frost)

Two weeds emerged in my backyard wood

I wondered if I should pull up both

And be one gardener long I stood

And looked at one as deep as I could

And found true beauty in its colorful growth.

violet

violet

Then looked at the other, though not as rare;

It had a yellow bright as as flame,

And such a brilliant and dashing flare;

Though as for that the two weeds there

Had found my backyard just the same.

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

And so that morning I let them stay

In leaves no step had trodden black

Oh, I let them grow for another day!

Yet knowing how seeds go on their way

I doubted I’d ever pull them back.

dandelionflowers

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two weeds emerged in a wood, and I —

I let them grow, let their seeds fly,

And that has made all the difference.

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Ode On An Unsprayed Lawn

General Posts
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Ode On An Unsprayed Lawn

by Melissa Sokulski

(with due respect to John Keats)

mulberries-300x225

Thou still unravish’d by chemical weed killer

Thou love child of Silence and slow Time

Natural historian, who canst thus express

The dandelions grow more sweetly than plain grass.

What leaf-draped tree drops its purple fruit?

Of fairies and robins, or of both,

The monarch flies, laying eggs on wild milkweed.

What weeds or flowers are these? What lovely purple?

What thorny vine? What delicious fruit?

What leaves and flowers? What wild butterfly?

butterfly

Sole bumblebees are sweet, but hives of honeybees

Are sweeter, therefore, ye wild flowers bloom on,

Not for my hungry eyes alone, but, more fully

Bloom for the bees and butterflies who need your pollen.

Plump groundhog, beneath the trees, thou canst graze

On berries and fruit, not even can thou graze them bare;

Bold waxwing, always always canst thou eat

The Juneberries near the very tops of trees

They cannot fade, though thou may eat thy fill

So many they will bear, and have fruit to share!

waxwing

Ah, happy, happy boughs! That always shed

Your leaves, when bidding summer adieu,

And happy seeds, unwearied,

Floating in the wind for ever new,

More happy love! More happy happy love!

For ever planting, and for ever sprouting,

All spreading wild flowers from above,

That leaves a heart merry and over joyed,

A blaze of colors, and thirsts are quenched.

img_1691

Who are these coming to sacrifice?

To what spun altar, O eight-legged priestess,

Lead’st that insect from the skies

And to her silken web with dew drops drest?

What little town by river or sea-shore,

Or mountain, built with peaceful citadel,

Is filled with folk, who love the natural world?

And little town, thy streets for evermore

Will buzzing be, filled with birdsong

Why thou art bountiful, full of life.

Honey Bee on  Dandelion Flower

O colorful yard! Fair expanse! With breeds

Of butterflies and hummingbirds overwrought

With forest branches and the glorious weed,

Thou, vibrant form! Delight us in this sight

As dance eternity: Living Pasture!

When Round-Up shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to folk, to whom thou say’st

‘Beauty is weeds, weeds beauty, - that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know!’

Redbud Flowers

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Happy May Day!

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Screen-Free Week: 11 Ways To Get Out and Enjoy Nature!

General Posts
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It’s almost  Screen-Free Week and here in Western PA it couldn’t have come at a better time! It’s FINALLY getting warm, morels are just popping up, cheery dandelions are everywhere, and bird migration is getting into full swing - tons of songbirds are making their way back to and through the area! Here are Food Under Foot’s outdoorsy, nature-oriented suggestions for keeping you so busy you won’t even miss your tv/computer/social media!

screenfree2015

Here are sojme ideas for ways to spend your screen free week from Food Under Foot. It’s what we’ll be doing this week!

1. Go Camping

We absolutely LOVE camping here at Food Under Foot - especially during morel (and dryad’s saddle) season! Last year we stayed in a yurt at Keystone State Park, where in addition to roasting morels over the fire we watched an osprey catch a fish in the lake, watched a hawk catch its dinner on land (both birds of prey flew their catches up into a tree just feet from the yurt to eat!), saw lots of colorful migrating songbirds flitting around in the woods, watched the gazillions of frogs and even took a dip in the lake!

Dryad's Saddle, An Edible Polypore Mushroom

Dryad's Saddle, An Edible Polypore Mushroom

2. Forage for Mushrooms/Hike with a local mushroom group

It’s morel season! If you are not sure how to identify this mushroom, look into going on a hike with your local mushroom group. If you live in Western PA, you are lucky enough to have the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Group nearby, if you don’t, check the North American Mycological Association for a group near you.

morel mushroom

morel mushroom

3. Have an Afternoon Tea, with Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelions are easy to come by this time of year! Pick lots of the flowers from an unsprayed area away from the roadside, and follow this recipe for delicious Dandelion Tea Cake.

Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelion Tea Cake

4. Go for a Bike Ride

Bike trails are great ways to see the country side! Here in Pittsburgh we are lucky enough to have the Great Allegheny Passage Rails for Trails, which goes along rivers and cuts through woods and countrysides, weaving through bike towns.  Bring your camera to photograph all the lovely native wildflowers, such as trillium, which are in bloom right now.

Native Wildflower - White Trillium

Native Wildflower - White Trillium

5. Go Birding

Bird migration is in full swing! Check out your local Audubon, they are likely having weekly bird walks these days! Or just grab some binoculars and a bird guide book and head out to the river or the woods (or the feeder in your yard!) If you don’t have a bird feeder in your yard, you can make one out of pinecones, peanut butter and seeds, or use an old milk container.

Robin Making A Nest

Robin Making A Nest

6. Nature Journaling

Foraging is fun, but sometimes I like to head out with a sketchbook and pencils or watercolors and capture my experience on paper. This is a great way to hone your observation and identification skills, and get to know plants, mushrooms and animals a lot better. You don’t have to be an artist, just brave and adventurous!

Watercolor of Morels

Watercolor Morels

7. Write…about Nature

Write a handwritten letter to someone, write a story, write a journal entry and if you need a prompt: write about the nature you have been observing this week, and your experience of being screen-free.

comic

8. Read a book with great nature writing.

goneaway

Some of my favorite include:

Elizabeth Enright: Gone Away Lake, Return to Gone Away Lake, The Four Story Mistake, And Then There Were Five….well, just anything by Elizabeth Enright!

The Penderwicks in Spring, Jeanne Birdsall

Walden Pond, Thoreau

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey

Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury

Red Tails in Love, Marie Winn

9. Cartoon Chronicle Your Experience of Screen Free Week

hiatus

10. Go Foraging, of course!

Here are some things that are up right now where we are:

dandelion flowers

dandelion flowers

  • dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
  • morel mushrooms, Morchella
  • dryad’s saddle mushrooms, Polyporus squamosus
  • garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  • onion grass/wild chives
  • deadnettles, Lamium purpureum
  • stinging nettles, Urtica dioica
  • ground ivy, (Glechoma hederacea)
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum, or Fallopia japonica)
  • fiddleheads (please harvest sustainably!!)
  • ramps (sustainably, please!)
  • wild ginger (sustainably!)
  • burdock, Arctium
  • mullein (medicinal)
  • motherwort (medicinal)
  • catnip (medicinal) (Nepita cataria)
  • broad-leaf dock
  • yellow dock, (Rumex crispus)
  • violet, (Viola)
  • wild asparagus
  • winter cress (yellow rocket), Barbarea
  • chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • plantain (Plantago major and P. lanceolatata)
  • cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • Redbud Flowers (Cercis canadensis)

Redbud Flowers

Redbud Flowers

11.  Make Dandelion Wine

dandelionwine

Why not? There are plenty of dandelions out there. You can use our Dandelion Wine recipe. And while you’re at it, read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. If you’re not into wine, you can try your hand at Dandelion Fritters, served with maple syrup.

These suggestions should keep you busy and happy and not even missing the tv or computer screen!

Have fun, and if you have other suggestions please post them below.

See you on the flip side!

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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Dandelion Tea Cake

Recipes
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Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelion Tea Cake

Originally called “Dandelion Bread,” I changed the name of the recipe to Dandelion Tea Cake, because this is much more cake-like than bread-like (think Zucchini Bread.)

The original recipe from the Food Storage and Survival Blog is here.

I altered it a bit to make it gluten-free, dairy-free and practically oil-free.

Dandelion Petals, Green Parts Removed

Dandelion Petals, Green Parts Removed

First you’ll need to gather a lot of dandelion flowers, which shouldn’t be too hard this time of year! Then pinch off the green underpart and toss the yellow petals into a bowl. It’s ok if there is a bit of green here and there, but the greens are bitter, so the more you can remove the better.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour (I ground buckwheat grouts in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dandelion petals
  • 1 mashed banana with drizzle olive oil (I used in place of 1/4 c veg oil)
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup cashew milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix dry ingredients, including dandelion petals, into bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl, then combine with dry ingredients.
  4. Pour into oiled loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, then turn down heat to 350 and bake 20 more minutes.

Delicious served warm with tea. I boiled the extra dandelion flowers (greens and all) into a tea, to which I added a little honey.

I ate it plain, but it is also good topped with honey or butter.

A Slice Of Dandelion Tea Cake Topped With Honey

A Slice Of Dandelion Tea Cake Topped With Honey

Tea Time!!!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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Coltsfoot or Dandelion?

Identification, Medicinal
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Coltsfoot Flowers

Coltsfoot Flowers

The earth is finally waking up here in the Northeast, and you are probably going to notice a lot of yellow flowers: forsythia, witch hazel, daffodils (not wild), dandelion and coltsfoot.

Many people when they come across coltsfoot assume they are dandelions. The flowers look very similar, but here is some information that will help you tell them apart (very important when using wild plants for food or medicine!)

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) actually flower slightly before dandelion in general, but there is so much overlap that that in itself isn’t a very helpful way to distinguish. What is interesting is that coltsfoot sends up its flowers BEFORE its leaves come out, while dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves appear first. The leaves of the two plants are very different.

Coltsfoot flowers appear before their leaves

Coltsfoot flowers appear before their leaves

Dandelion leaves appear in a rosette before the flower.

Dandelion leaves appear in a rosette before the flower.

Dandelion flowers have a smooth stem, while coltsfoot flowers have scales on their flower stem.

Note the scaled flower stem of the coltsfoot flower

Note the scaled stem of the coltsfoot flower

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Once the coltsfoot leaves appear, it is easy to see the difference. Coltsfoot leaves are rounded or heart shapes, while dandelion has a rosette of toothed leaves (”dandelion” is French for lion’s teeth).

Here you can clearly see the round/heart shaped leaves of coltsfoot.

Here you can clearly see the round/heart shaped leaves of coltsfoot.

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Dandelions have smooth flower stems

Medicinally, they have very different uses.

Dandelion is known to be good for the liver. Some take it as a liver tonic in the spring. The flowers, leaves and roots are all used. In Chinese Medicine dandelion is known as Pu Gong Ying and clears “heat toxicity,” used to treat infections. In both eastern and western herbology, dandelion is known to help breastmilk supply.

Coltsfoot is used to treat cough, all kinds of cough. It’s botanical name: Tussilago reflects its medicinal usage, as “tussis” means cough in Latin. (Think of words like “pertussis” and “Robitussin.”) In Chinese Medicine, coltsfoot flowers are called Kuan Dong Hua, and are used similarly to treat cough. In Western botanical medicine both the leaves and flowers are used. Read my article Coltsfoot Cures Cough Naturally for more information.

Finally, take a look at this, can you tell me which it is?

TRICK QUESTION! These are coltsfoot flowers growing among dandelion leaves.

TRICK QUESTION! These are coltsfoot flowers growing among dandelion leaves.

It was a trick question! Look carefully, those are coltsfoot flowers growing among dandelion leaves. If you got it right, you get EXTRA CREDIT!!!

More information:

Coltsfoot Cures Cough Naturally

East and West Dandelion is Best

Rejuvenate Your Liver This Spring With Dandelion

Happy Spring!

~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

Food Under Foot

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A Walk Through Frick Park

General Posts
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img_1523

Getting ready for our walk this Sunday at Frick Park Earth Day, I decided to check out the area where the walk is scheduled.

This year Earth Day is in a NEW location, Lower Frick Parking Lot.

Sign in near the parking lot a half hour before the walk, and you will be directed to our walks which begin at Falls Ravine Trail at 1 pm and 3 pm.

img_1520

I saw lots of amazing plants and animals today walking around there…we are sure to have an amazing walk on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Mayapple, Podophyllum

Mayapple, Podophyllum

Plantain, Plantago major - just coming up

Plantain, Plantago major - just coming up

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Violet, Viola

Violet Leaves, Viola

Violet Flower, Viola

Violet Flower, Viola

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Cutleaf Toothwort

Cutleaf Toothwort

Dutchman's Britches

Dutchman's Britches

Trout Lily

Trout Lily

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Burdock

Burdock

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris

And many many more (edible) plants! It is going to be a great walk - plenty to discuss!!

And as if plant life isn’t abundant enough, check out  some of the animals we saw today:

Big Black Rat Snake

Big Black Rat Snake

Red Winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

Robins: the male's head is darker than his back, the female's head and back are the same.

Robins: the male's head is darker than his back, the female's head and back are the same.

There are all kinds of walks to choose from, on the hour from 12 to 4 (last walk at 3.) Our wild edibles walks are at 1 and 3.  Get there early to sign up! The full list of walks is here.  Our walks at 1 and 3  are called Wild Edibles Walk, there’s another wild walk at 12 and 2 called Foraged Flavors, which I’m sure will be lovely as well.

If you can’t make it this Sunday we will be going again in two weeks - on a two hour excursion through the park identifying wild edibles and looking for morels! Find out more about that walk here.

See you soon!

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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More April Edibles

General Posts, Identification
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Today I walked around Frick Park (getting ready for next weekend’s walks for Frick Park Earth Day!) I also snapped a few more pictures of plants in the neighborhood; lots of great stuff coming up!

Last year's crab apples with this year's new leaves

Last year's crabapples (Malus) with this year's new leaves

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Mullein, Verbascum

Mullein, Verbascum

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum

Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum

Japanese knotweed, Fallopia japonica also Polygonum cuspidatum

Japanese knotweed, Fallopia japonica also Polygonum cuspidatum

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca

So much coming up!

Now is a great time to start with a wild plant ally.  If you haven’t gotten your wild ally workbook yet, NOW is the time! It is still pay-what-you-choose, and it is a great time to start the process of observing and learning.

As new plant life emerges every day, I encourage you to choose an abundant local weed - like dandelion, nettles, plantain, violet, or burdock - and study it throughout the year.

The workbook guides you through exercises, gives you suggestions and space to explore your plant ally, and in the process learn deeply about wild edibles, healing, and the natural world.

Once you have your workbook, you can use it year after year, exploring new edible plants as you like. A great tool for homeschoolers, nature explorers and learners of all ages! This is how I began learning about wild edibles (dandelion was my first wild ally).

I would love to hear what you choose as a wild ally! Comment below or send me an email.

Visit our previous posts to see what else is around:

Festive Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot



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