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Great Walks This Weekend!

CSF Newsletters

We had wonderful walks this past Saturday and Sunday at Frick Park in Pittsburgh - thanks to everyone who attended!

Although we did not find morels, we found plenty of Dryad Saddle (also called Pheasant Back):

Dryad Saddle Mushroom, An Edible Polypore

Dryad Saddle Mushroom, An Edible Polypore

We also identified and discussed many wild edible and medicinal plants over the past two days including:

  • Wild Carrot/Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota
  • Mugwort, Artemesia vulgaris
  • Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca
  • Mulberry, Morus
  • Lamb’s Quarters, Chenopodium alba
  • Garlic Mustard, Alliaria pettiolata
  • Onion Grass
  • Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis
  • Violet, Viola
  • Chickweed, Stellaria media
  • Nettles, Urtica dioica
  • Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea
  • Cleavers, Galium aparine
  • Plantain, Plantago major
  • Burdock, Arctium lappa
  • Broad-leaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  • Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum biflorum



We identified some poisonous plants:

  • Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  • Poison Ivy, Rhus radicans

We also discussed how to find and identify elm and tulip poplar trees (which helps in searching for morels.)

We are working on the dates for more 2014 walks and workshops…they will be posted soon.

Hope to see you!

~ Melissa and David Sokulski

Food Under Foot


List of Wild Foods CSF Members Enjoyed This Year

CSF Newsletters, General Posts

Here is the unbelievable list of 70 different wild edibles that the share members enjoyed this year, from the beginning of April through the end of August.

The list includes 8 different kinds of mushrooms (yellow morels, half free morels, dryad’s saddle, reishi, oyster, giant puffball, chicken mushroom and chanterelles) and many fruits and berries including mulberries, serviceberry, black raspberry, cornelian cherries, elderberries and hawthorns.

What an amazing experience it was not only for all of us to be eating these incredible wild foods every week, but for us to find and gather the edibles for this small group of peoples to enjoy was an unforgettable experience. I thank each and every one of the members, and also YOU the readers, for keeping us on track in this journey. When I missed a week of blogging it was not the members who asked where the newsletter was, but you readers, who followed week by week what sorts of edibles we were finding and what recipes we were sharing. So thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

List of wild edibles, including pictures


Week 20: Final CSF Share

CSF Newsletters, General Posts, Recipes

wild food share week 20

wild food share week 20

I cannot believe this is the final week of the share! These 20 weeks have expanded my horizons so much, I have to thank each and every one of you for participating. I hope you’ve enjoyed the edibles and newsletters, and had fun preparing meals with such common/uncommon foods!!

In this week’s share you will find:

  • chicken mushroom (lots and lots of young mushrooms! Cook before eating and enjoy!!)
  • oyster mushroom (cook before eating)
  • spicebush berries * NEW - these are best used as seasoning or flavoring. Some people dry them and use in place of nutmeg. You can also preserve them by flavoring alcohol - like vodka - with them
  • sumac
  • hawthorn
  • crabapples *NEW
  • quickweed

Spice bush berries

spice bush berries

spice bush berries

Spice bush berries are used for flavoring. They are often dried (they will turn brown) and used in place of nutmeg. Their flavor can also be preserved in alcohol, but putting them in a jar with vodka. This is my first time using them. I have some in the dehydrator and some in the fridge which I think I will boil into a tea and perhaps ferment into a soda. I will keep you posted, of course!

Making the sumac into a spice: air dry the sumac for about a week. Strip the “seeds” from the stem and pulse in food processor. Push through sieve to separate out the hard seeds.

straining dried sumac powder from seeds

straining dried sumac powder from seeds

This makes a delicious lemony spice. You can use this as is or to make a middle eastern spice blend known as za’atar.

To make za’atar combine some of the sumac spice with sesame seeds, salt, oregano and thyme. There are many variations out there so you can search the web (or your cabinets) and experiment!

chicken mushroom, Laetiporus sulfureus

chicken mushroom, Laetiporus sulfureus

Share member Trish made some delicious Buffalo style “chicken wings” with the chicken mushrooms. She sliced the chicken mushroom into strips, breaded and fried it, and then used the secret recipe I shared with her (from my high school days at working at a popular fried chicken chain…this secret recipe is legit!)

Mild sauce: 3 parts butter to 1 part tobasco

Medium sauce: 2 parts butter to 2 parts tobasco

Hot sauce: 1 part butter : 3 parts tobasco

The fried chicken establishment used to mix up the sauce in a big plastic tub, put the cooked wings in and shake to coat. Sooooo gooooood.

So Trish used the secret sauce for her own chicken mushroom hot strips and she reports…..YUM!

I cannot wait to try it.

crab apples

crab apples

Crab Apples and Hawthorns: they don’t look the best but, oh, I’ve made some of the yummiest things with them!

Do you have any “ginger bug” left for making fermented sodas? If so, get it out, wake it up (by leaving it out overnight covered with cloth, and feeding with a bit of sugar and ginger), and make this wonderful hawthorn crab apple soda! (If not you may want to make a ginger but! Put 3 cups water in a glass jar and add 2 Tbsp chopped ginger with skin and 2 Tbsp sugar. Cover and leave on counter for a day or two. After that add 2 tsp chopped ginger with skin and 2 tsp sugar every day, stirring 2 -3x day for 5 - 7 days until it’s fizzy and tastes like ginger ale. Now it’s ready to use! If you don’t use it right away put a lid on it and store in fridge until ready.

ginger bug

ginger bug

I put crabapples and hawthorns in a pot with about 1/2 gallon (a bit less) of water and about 1/2 cup or so of sugar and boiled about 20 minutes. Strain, saving the fruit as well as the juice, but separately. When the juice cools to room temp add a cup of the ginger bug (It’s ok if ginger gets in.) Cover with cloth and let it sit out overnight up to a day or two. It will get fizzy and delicious! Store in glass bottles in fridge but be careful: it will keep fermenting even in the fridge and will build up pressure in the bottle. I use plastic corks which get blown off every now and then in the fridge (better that then the bottle exploding, to be sure!)

brewing crab apple hawthorn soda with a ginger bug

brewing crab apple hawthorn soda with a ginger bug

Now to the cooked fruit: I mashed that through a sieve to separate out the seeds (which you don’t want to eat) and skins. I added a little more sugar to taste and some pumpkin pie spice and reheated. Then I put it in canning jars. It makes the most delicious “apple butter” ever!! The hawthorns and crab apples have so much natural pectin that it really sets up nicely.

hawthorn crab apple "butter" (or jam)


And thanks again, so much. Tomorrow I’ll be posting the list of all 70 wild edibles we enjoyed this spring and summer! Please stay tuned!

To see all 20 of the CSF newsletters, just follow the link.

Love and all things wild,

Melissa and Dave


Week 19: New This week: Hawthorn Berries and Dandelion Greens

CSF Newsletters

This week’s share includes:

  • Hawthorn berries, or Haws * NEW
  • Dandelion Greens *NEW
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Lady’s Thumb
  • Quickweed
  • Lambs Quarters

hawthorn berries, or haws

hawthorn berries, or haws

There are a few things about hawthorn berries (haws)

  1. They are delicious, you can eat them raw
  2. Do NOT eat the seeds! They contain cyanide plus a sugar which in your digestive tract combine and can be very toxic
  3. They contain a lot of pectin naturally, so much so that people say you do not need to add pectin when making  jelly (I have not yet been successful at making  jelly of any sort, mainly because I can’t bring myself to add so much sugar, so I am just passing along info)
  4. They are very good for the heart (when considered medicinally.) You can dry the berries (seeds and all) and for later use as a tea (just strain the seeds/hawthorns before drinking, of course.)

Dandelion greens - I can not believe we have not yet included these! But we haven’t, so here they are. They are quite bitter, but they were big and beautiful and irresistible.

You can dry the greens for later use as a tea. The bitterness of the tea is good for digestion, and as always, dandelions are very beneficial for the liver. If you want to eat them fresh, I do have a recipe for you, Taming the Lion.  Basically you toss dandelion greens, walnuts and strawberries with maple syrup or agave (as the dressing.) It is delicious.

Dandelion Greens and Strawberry Salad

Dandelion Greens, Strawberry and Walnut Salad

If you decide to make hawthorn jelly, as I may, instead of using regular water I am going to use staghorn sumac water, which will give the hawthorn berries a much needed tart bite. This is what I did when I cooked the elderberries from last share and it was delicious. You make the sumac water but adding sumac to water and mixing it with a wooden spoon, pressing into the sumac as you do to release the sourness into the water. Then strain this water over the haws and bring to a boil. Boil about half an hour, adding sugar or sweetener. This alone makes a delicious drink. If you add enough sugar you can make jelly.

If, instead of using water altogether (sumac or otherwise) you use vinegar as the base, you can make a shrub. Shrubs are old-timey drinks made by boiling fruit and sugar in vinegar. It is a way to preserve fruit and was drunk medicinally or for pleasure, usually by mixing with soda water/seltzer, water or alcohol. I think I am going to try that with either the haws or some crabapples. I will report back.

Lady’s thumb, quickweed and lambsquarters are greens with different pleasant (not bitter) tastes and textures. Give them a try and see what you might do with them. Salads, soups, or subbing for spinach are all good. You can blanch and freeze extra greens or dry and use them later in the year. Here is an article about the nutritional boost drying greens into your own veggie powder for later use.

Enjoy this week’s share!!!




Week 18: New This Week: Elderberries and Spicebush

CSF Newsletters

Welcome to week 18!

We have some fun things for you this week:

  • elderberries **NEW
  • staghorn sumac
  • spice bush twigs and leaves **NEW
  • chicken mushroom
  • purslane
  • lambsquarters
  • wood sorrel

I tried to make an elderberry jelly yesterday, but having never made jelly before I was not so lucky and it didn’t gel. However I got a delicious syrup which I mixed with seltzer and enjoyed over ice which made me thing of….SHRUBS!  This is what I wish I had made with the elderberries! Shrubs are vinegar/fruit/sugar decoctions which were used in the “olden” days, sometimes medicinally. They are usually mixed with carbonated water (or even alcohol) and served over ice. Here is a simple recipe for a elderberry shrub.

You will need to strip the elderberries off the clusters before using them. Try to avoid any stems and ripe berries, as these are somewhat toxic (can make you sick to your stomach.) I didn’t do it for you because I didn’t want to mush the berries and I think they will last longer for you like this, letting you strip them as you are ready to use them. They don’t have the best flavor raw/on their own, but apparently they are better dried so I left a tray in the sun to dry today (now it is in the dehydrator, finishing the drying process.) Euell Gibbons has a great chapter about elderberries in Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

elderberries drying in the sun

elderberries drying in the sun

When I was making my jelly, I used 3/4 quart elderberries, and 1/2 quart underripe grapes (you can use under-ripe wild grapes.) The grapes were supposed to have given it pectin. I only added 1/2 cup sugar though…it was SO delicious like this I couldn’t bring myself to add more. I wish I had just had it as a juice! Elderberries lack tartness so recipes recommend adding lemon, but I added sumac-ade instead of water (recommended by Gibbons) and it was very good. I boiled the elderberries and grapes with a couple cups sumac ade for 10 mins, mashed the fruit and simmered 10 minutes more, strained through jelly bags and added the 1/2 cup sugar (heat til sugar was dissolved.) This made an amazing juice! Unfortunately I didn’t stop there…I boiled down to 1 cup of syrup. I’m sure you’ll all do better!

Remember to cook your mushroom! Lots of chicken mushroom this week! Ways to store the chicken mushroom: They freeze well after cooking, so you can saute and freeze. You can also freeze before cooking…just cut it into pieces first and freeze, but then don’t thaw before using, just throw it right into the pot (or pan) of whatever you decide to cook it into. You can make soups or other dishes with it and freeze those, too. You can also dry this mushroom for later use.

The spice bush twigs (and leaves) can be boiled into tea (similar to the sassafras.) Who knows, maybe you can add sugar and pectin to this and turn that into jelly!  I saw online (Raccoon Creek facebook page) a sassafras jelly made by a wild edibles workshop at Raccoon Creek state park recently (which I wish I had known about!) Try making the tea with and without the leaves (just twigs) to see if one tastes better to you. You can also dry the leaves and twigs for later use.

Enjoy your share this week!

Remember, we are away next week so there is no share on Thursday, August 16. We’ll return for the final two weeks of the csf on August 23 and August 30.

See you in a couple weeks!


Week 17: Three Kinds of Mushrooms!

CSF Newsletters

Today is week 17 of the CSF!

In the share this week:

  • puffball mushroom *NEW
  • chanterelle mushroom *NEW
  • chicken mushroom
  • wood sorrel
  • quickweed
  • wild grape leaves

This week we have 3 kinds of edible mushrooms for you to sample: puffball, chanterelles and the chicken mushroom (which you’ve had before.)

Now that it is been raining all kinds of mushrooms are coming up!

Be sure to use caution with wild mushrooms: always cook them first, of course. But beyond that, some people have trouble digesting mushrooms, even well cooked edible ones. So if it’s your first time eating something, just eat a little at first and wait a day to make sure it doesn’t have a bad effect on you.

I would also recommend not mixing the mushrooms if it’s your first time eating any of them. Cook and sample them separately and note any effects.

We also changed up the greens this week just in case you were getting tired of purslane.

This week we have wood sorrel (aka sour grass), which is best to avoid in large quantities if you have kidney stone issues due to it’s higher content of oxalic acid. If you have no issues enjoy this green in salads or as garnish on dishes. It’s tart and delicious.

We also have quickweed, which is an abundant green right now. It has a bit of an earthy taste. You can enjoy it fresh or cooked, see what you like. Use it as you would any green, like spinach.

Finally we have more grape leaves. We tried to pick nice tender ones for you today! Cook them first before using: boil/simmer them at least 15 minutes to soften. Then they will roll nicely and become less chewy. To preserve, place in salted water (I did not cook the ones I am preserving, but you can blanche them first) and keep them in the water in the fridge.

Thanks and enjoy!!



Week 16: Chicken Mushroom!

CSF Newsletters

chicken mushroom, Laetiporus sulfureus

chicken mushroom, Laetiporus sulfureus

This week it finally rained! So we scoured the woods and found enough chicken mushroom for all of us to have a wonderful meal! (This plus another bloom about this size.) Hip hip hooray! It is always so nice to find edible wild mushrooms to share.

Chicken mushroom is considered a safe mushroom, in that there are no poison look alikes…but you need to know what you are looking for! It is a polypore, which means it is a “shelf” mushroom (looks more like a shelf than an umbrella - the “classic” mushroom shape), it grows from wood (often dead wood), and it does NOT have gills on the underside, instead it has tiny pores (hence the name, “polypore”.) Chicken mushroom is bright yellow/orange, and the underside of Laetiporus sulfureus is yellow. There is another variety of chicken mushroom - Laetiporus cinncinatus - whose underside is white. This *IS* another bright yellow mushroom which grows on wood, but it has GILLS on the underside: The Jack O’Lantern. The Jack O’Lantern is poisonous (it makes you sick, though is not usually deadly). So make sure if you’re out in the woods you check the underside: NO GILLS!

Chicken mushrooms must be cooked before eating!!

You have so much this week you can really experiment. I like it sliced and sauteed in butter. I usually add water as well so it doesn’t dry out. After that…it’s up to you! I just eat it, maybe put it on top of a salad or eat as a side dish. you can use the cooked chicken mushroom in place of cooked chicken in chicken salad. Here is what Steve Brill writes about chicken mushroom, including links to a few recipes at the bottom of the page. My Vegan Chicken-Mushroom Fricassee was delicious if you wanted to try that!

Here is what is in your share this week:

  • chicken mushroom
  • cornelian cherries
  • purslane
  • sumac
  • wild grape leaves (we had a request for more of these! They are really fun to work with!)
  • peppermint - thanks to massage therapist extraordinaire and CSF member Claire who donated mint to the share this week!! Thank you Claire!!

Some of our share laid out this week: staghorn sumac, chicken mushroom, wild grape leaves

Some of our share laid out this week: staghorn sumac, chicken mushroom, wild grape leaves

Did you enjoy the cornelian cherries last week? Did you let them get ripe (soft and sweet?) As with last week they should ripen within a day or two. They ripen off the tree, so keep them out of the fridge and they should soften right up. Once ripe go ahead and put them in the fridge (keeps the fruit flies away! I have a cloth over mine as they ripen on the counter.) They can be eaten plain, raw (which is what our family did), or you can make something yummy with them, like a cornelian cherry and apple cobbler! Here’s a great page with info on the cornelian cherry (which is not really a cherry at all, but a member of the dogwood family.) Remember to be careful of the hard pit inside the fruit.

cornelian cherries

cornelian cherries

We had a request for more grape leaves, so more you got! Have you been making stuffed grape leaves? (The tutorial on rolling grape leaves.) Last time I made them I steamed them instead of sauteeing…very good as well!

If you want to do something with the sumac besides sumac lemonade, you can dry it and make a lemony spice from it. Strip the berries off the central stalk and lay them out on a tray. If you have a dehydrator you can use it, or you can air dry it (or put it in the stove on low heat until dry.) Once it’s dry grind it in a blender or coffee grinder and store in glass jars. Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend used on veggies and meats. The main ingredient is sumac. Here is a recipe for za’atar.

Thanks again Claire for the mint!!!

Enjoy your share this week!!!

Love and chicken mushrooms,



CSF Week 15

CSF Newsletters

Cornelian Cherries

Cornelian Cherries

Qu’est-ce une semaine excitante! Aujourd’hui, nous avons deux nouvelles gourmandises: cerises cornaline et pleurotes.

Oops, was I speaking French? (A trick brought to you by google translate!)

We have a great week of treats for you!


This week your share contains oyster mushrooms and they must be cooked before eating.

  • Cornelian Cherries (Cornus Mas) *NEW
  • Oyster mushrooms *NEW *****MAKE SURE TO COOK BEFORE EATING!!!!!*****
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Purslane
  • Lambs Quarters
  • Wild Grape Leaves

First: Cornelian Cherries

Cornelian Cherry Tree...which isn't a cherry tree at all! It is actually a type of dogwood.

Cornelian Cherry Tree...which isn't a cherry tree at all! It is actually a type of dogwood.

If you taste these when they are still hard you are likely to get all puckered up and you’ll say something like, “Holy moly, these things are TART!!!” And they are. And super astringent. They need to ripen off the tree. Once they are soft they will become sweet, juicy and delicious.

Like other wild mushrooms, the oyster mushrooms must be cooked before eating. You may be familiar with these wild mushrooms because they do often sell these at health food stores or gourmet grocery stores. Simply slice and saute…you can use them in place of button mushrooms in any cooked recipe.

Enjoy your share this week!!

~ Melissa

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