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Nettle Infusion

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Recipes
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Next month the bright green nettles will burst from the ground. Spring will arrive and the abundant world of wild edibles will begin anew.

Early Spring Nettles

Early Spring Nettles

Until then, I have stores of dried plants and herbs to use up. One of my favorite winter drinks is nettle infusion.

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Tea, Infusion, Decoction - what’s the difference?

When we think of tea we probably think of a tea bag which turns hot water brown and delicious. In fact, “tea” is a term properly used only when making the tea from one plant, the tea plant, or Camellia sinensis. Depending on how it is prepared, if it is wilted and how long it is oxidized or fermented, depends on whether it will be white, green, oolong or black tea.

Today we also drink herbal tea, which though technically is not “tea” since it is made with plants other than Camellia sinensis, is still plants steeped in water, which imparts flavor and medicinal properties into the drink.

Infusions and Decoctions are stronger medicinal drinks. They take a bit more work to make and are deeply healing.

Infusions: boiling water is poured over plant matter - usually leaves and flowers. It is then covered and left to steep at least four hours if not overnight.

Decoctions: plant matter - often roots, sticks and seeds - is simmered in water on the stove for at least 30 minutes.  Chinese medicinal tea is usually cooked as a decoction, with any aromatic elements - like mint leaves - added at the very end, when the stove is turned off.

Nettle Infusion - Urtica dioica

  • Take a quart jar and cover the bottom with about 1/2 inch of dried nettles.
  • Pour boiled water over the nettles to fill the jar
  • Place the flat part of the lid over the top. I don’t screw the ring on, but I do cover the jar.
  • Let steep four hours to overnight.
  • Strain and enjoy, either heated or at room temperature.
  • Will keep for 3 days stored in refrigerator.

Add 1/2 inch dried nettles to the bottom of a jar

Add 1/2 inch dried nettles to the bottom of a jar

Add boiling water

Add boiling water

After a few hours the infusion becomes dark and the nettles have expanded

After a few hours the infusion becomes dark and the nettles have expanded

Nettles is a fantastic herb for overall health. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. I have heard herbalist call nettle infusion “green milk.” It is particularly great for pregnant and nursing women, though pregnant women should start in small amounts and may want to consult with their midwife first.

Nettles is also known to influence the kidneys. When there is low back pain, knee pain, weakness, infertility, ringing in the ears, graying hair due to kidney energy deficiency, nettles is a great herb to take.

In Chinese medicine the kidney meridian influences reproduction, development, bones, brain, teeth. It is responsible for the emotions of fear, resolve, will and wisdom. The kidneys also govern pre and post natal jing, which is the energy you inherit from your parents and pass on to your children: your genes and dna.

Food Under Foot’s David Sokulski recently met a man from North Africa living in America. He was in his 20s when he got very sick. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is the type you are born with. This used to be referred to as Juvenile Diabetes (but now thanks to our awful diets of processed foods and sugar kids are getting Type 2 Diabetes - which used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes.) Type 1 means your body does not make insulin. Only 5% of diabetes today is Type 1, and it is thought that diet does not influence Type 1 the way it influences Type 2.

He was put on insulin. His mother sent him dried nettles from North Africa and told him to drink a daily infusion of it. When he ran out he bought more here.  Soon his doctor needed to lower his insulin, then take him off completely. His Type 1 diabetes - thought to be incurable - was no longer showing up.

He continues to drink the nettle infusion. He worked up to three cups a day but developed a rash, so he backed off back to one cup a day.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT medical advice! Please do not remove or adjust ANY medications without consulting a doctor! It is simply an interesting true story about nettles I wanted to relay to you.

You can also add nettle infusion as a base for smoothies, soups, and risotto.

I also like to add dried nettles to soup and smoothies.

Enjoy your wild pantry! The sun is out today…I can tell spring is in the air!

~ Melissa of Food Under Foot

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Morel Mushroom Risotto

General Posts, Recipes
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The other day my daughter was taking a winter survival class. The other two adults and I were standing around, talking wild edibles. I wondered aloud what I might do with the last of my dried morels. The leader of the course answered without hesitation: “Morel Risotto.”

He was right.

Dried Morels

Dried Morels

The key to this delicious vegan dish was using the broth made from reconstituting the morels.

Morel Mushroom Broth Used In The Risotto

Morel Mushroom Broth Used In The Risotto

Morel Risotto - vegan, gluten-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice, rinced
  • handful dried morels, soaked in one cup very hot water. Save the broth.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup cashew milk, watered down with 1 cup water
  • 2+ cups water as needed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: pine nuts for garnish

Soak the Morels in Boiled Water - and SAVE the Broth!

Soak the Morels in Boiled Water - and SAVE the Broth!

To reconstitute the morels:

  • Place dried morels in bowl.
  • Boil water
  • Pour at least a cup of water over morels.
  • Cover and let steep
  • Save broth
  • Take morels out when soft (about 1/2 hour), squeezing broth into bowl. You are saving the broth to use in the risotto.

Chopped reconstituted morels, morel broth, onions, mushrooms, garlic, cashew milk

Chopped reconstituted morels, morel broth, onions, mushrooms, garlic, cashew milk, olive oil

Directions:

Risotto is made by cooking the rice slowly in liquid, added liquid in small amounts and letting the rice absorb it before adding more. This imparts great richness and flavor into the dish.

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in pan.
  2. Saute onion til soft, about 3-5 minutes, adding a bit of salt to help onion release its juices.
  3. Add fresh mushrooms, cook 3 minutes more.
  4. Add garlic and dried morels. Toss and saute a minute or so.
  5. Add the rinsed rice to the pan and stir to coat rice with the oil.
  6. Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until rice dish has absorbed it.
  7. Once the broth is used, add watered down cashew milk (the cashew milk will thicken if you add it without watering.)
  8. Continue to add milk and water.
  9. Add liquid, stir, and cover to let the rice absorb liquid. You can also begin to add a little salt and pepper. You may have to add up to 2 more cups of water until rice is soft…I did!
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add garnish of pine nuts if desired. Enjoy!

This dish was AMAZING! I served it with salad and roasted sweet potatoes. I’m glad I still have one more handful of dried morels left!

Morel Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Morel Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Rainbow Salad: cucumber, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, beets over a bed of chopped spinach and Romaine

Rainbow Salad: cucumber, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, beets over a bed of chopped spinach and Romaine

Now I’m anxiously awaiting morel season…still over 3 months away!

Enjoy the winter and your stores of dried edibles!

~ Melissa of Food Under Foot

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Wild Highlights of 2014

General Posts
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As 2014 draws to a close, it’s fun to look back at all the fun we had with wild edibles this past year here at Food Under Foot.

The year started, as they always do, in the midst of winter, but we were far from being done with wild edibles! Last January we found ourselves enjoying Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchoke Tubers, which we dug every chance we got. We enjoyed them raw, roasted and in soup.

Sunchoke Tubers

Melissa also put out the first book of the year that winter: Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting, which was a fun celebration of wild edibles found in winter! From roots and tubers to cold weather loving greens like chickweed and deadnettles, this book is a great resource for winter edibles and delicious recipes for any table!

Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting

As we neared the spring equinox, we took to the road, traveling west to Tuscon, AZ where we got to learn about edible cacti, including the barrel cactus which was fruiting when we arrived! We found candies made of prickly pear cactus in all the gift shops, and were reminded of Jason’s delicious Prickly Pear Sorbet.

Prickly Pear Granita

We returned to Pittsburgh, PA in time for Morel Season!

morel mushroom

We also had great walks this year, including our Frick Park Earth Day walk, a morel mushroom walk, and a walk around Schenley oval in the summer.

Wild Edibles Walk Schenley Park, August, 2014. Photo credit: Jennifer Verala

Summer brought lots of wild fun to Food Under Foot, including a trip back to the Blueberry Bog at Black Moshannon State park, and chanterelles at Cooks Forest.

Blueberry picking in the bog (ranger-led program)

chanterelles

Of course we made lots of yummy wild recipes all year long here at Food Under Foot. We also did fun things to preserve our wild harvest, like putting up wild honey and making smudges and moxibustion (used in acupuncture treatments at our Birch Center for Acupuncture in Pittsburgh) from wild mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris.)

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Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Melissa also put out a new book, Wild Edibles 101, in response to many people requesting a beginning recipe book with common wild edibles.

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This fall Food Under Foot’s Melissa Sokulski was featured in a newspaper article about acorns, Pittsburgh-area Foragers Go Nuts for Acorns. You can find links to all recent newspaper articles about us here.

Acorns in a White Oak Tree

And to end this year and start the new one fresh, you can still pick up a copy of the Wild Plant Ally Workbook for whatever price you choose, as low as 99 cents! What a great way to start 2015: by choosing a wild plant ally and studying all year, January to December!

Wild Plant Ally Workbook Cover

What is the first date you find your ally sprouting? What does your ally look like month to month? What are the best ways to harvest and use it? This workbook will take you through all that and by the end of the year you will know one plant so well it will be your go-to for everything: from ailments to dinner dishes, and it will open the way for you to deeply learn about the world of wild edibles! Please, as our gift to you, download this book for just 99 cents and start the year with a new wild ally!

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and we are looking forward to so much more wild fun with you in 2015!!!

Festive Foraging!

Melissa, Dave and Jason

The Folks at Food Under Foot

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Wild Recipes for the Holidays

General Posts, Recipes
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Sunchoke Tubers

Sunchoke Tubers

One of my favorite winter wild edibles is Jerusalem Artichoke - or Sunchoke - tubers.

Jerusalem Artichoke is actually native to America, and is in the sunflower (not artichoke) family. Its botanical name is Helianthus tuberosus. - the sunflower known for its edible tuber.

Sunchoke Flowers

Sunchoke Flowers

The flowers bloom in the late fall, usually September and October. All through the winter, as long as the ground is not frozen solid, the tubers can be dug up and eaten - and they are delicious! They can be enjoyed raw (I like to grate them into salad) or cooked (I love to roast them in the oven.) They have a wonderful unique flavor that I crave during the winter!

Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be used in any recipe in place of potatoes, but be warned they have a slightly different consistency when cooked than potatoes, they are a little more watery. This is because the starch is different. Jerusalem artichokes contain the starch inulin, which actually helps regulate blood sugar making it an excellent food for diabetics, or anyone with blood sugar issues.

Other than roasting it with other root vegetables, my favorite recipe is Sunchoke Soup (sometimes called “Palestine Soup”, a play on the name “Jerusalem.”)

This is a simple yet delightful recipe that is superb on the holiday table!

Sunchoke Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 - 7 tubers Jersalem Artichokes, washed well, peeled half-heartedly (don’t worry about getting all the peel off), and chopped
  • water or stock to cover vegetables
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, good if not using vegetable stock)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

onions and sunchokes

onions and sunchokes

  1. Saute onion in olive oil.
  2. Add Jerusalem artichoke and continue to saute, adding some salt, to bring out flavors.
  3. Cover with water or stock and let simmer until sunchokes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Place in blender with cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt and pepper. Whizz til smooth.
  5. Reheat and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

This soup is simple and delicious!!!

You can find other amazing holiday recipes in my book, “Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting; Delicious Recipes for the Holidays or Anyday.”

You can get it directly from our website, and it is also available on Amazon Kindle.

I hope you are staying warm and enjoying some winter wild edibles! It can be fun to make the holiday table WILD with some great winter edibles!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa from Food Under Foot

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Have You Ever Wondered If You Can Use All Those Acorns?

General Posts
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Have you ever wondered if you can use all those acorns? It is a common question we get on our walks. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if all those millions (billions? trillions?) of acorns that drop to the ground every fall were useful? Edible even?

Good news: they are edible! And though usually quite bitter when eaten straight away, they are easily processed and made into a food that was a staple for many Native Americans and Settlers.

Recently an article in a local paper came out about acorns: Pittsburgh Area Foragers Go Nuts For Acorns in Their Diet. You can read all about what local wild food experts (including me!) have to say about them.

Acorns in a White Oak Tree

Acorns in a White Oak Tree

Interested in reading and hearing more from Food Under Foot in the media? Below is a list of links to many interviews and articles about us! Enjoy!

  • Listen here as Melissa and David Sokulski of Food Under Foot are interviewed on Hooked on Raw with Rhio. It originally aired in June, 2009 on NY Talk Radio.
  • Read about Food Under Foot in Pittsburgh’s City Paper
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Some Wild Things in November

General Posts
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It’s November and surprisingly there are still a lot of wild edibles around in Western PA! Yesterday in Pittsburgh I saw a vacant lot which had chicory, dandelion and red clover - all in bloom!

Yesterday I enjoyed a fresh juice which contained fresh nettles, fresh lemon balm and fresh mint as well as pineapple and apples.

Green Juice with Fresh Nettles

Green Juice with Fresh Nettles

We harvested, dried, and bundled wild mugwort into smudges:

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Smudges Made of Wild Dried Mugwort, used to cleanse energy

Smudges Made of Wild Dried Mugwort, used to cleanse energy

We also made our own moxabustion out of the leaves of mugwort which we use as loose moxa in cone form, and we also made our first moxa pole from our own mugwort! To read more about how we did that, check out our sister blog Birch Center.

Burning Moxa Cone, Used In Acupuncture Treatments

Burning Moxa Cone, Used In Acupuncture Treatments

As the season goes into winter it may be tempting to hang up our foraging basket…but there is plenty to harvest now and throughout the winter! Check out my book Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting, available to download from our website or on Amazon for your Kindle!

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Today I plan to harvest burdock root and lemon balm.

Let’s all keep on foraging right through winter.  Next thing we know, there will be morels popping up, heralding the spring!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot

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Mid October Foraging Finds!

General Posts
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I  love the fall! So many wonderful edibles around!

Paw paws are ripe and falling off the trees. Nuts such as black walnut (my favorite!) are also falling to the ground. Wild grapes are sweet, juicy and abundant. Kousa dogwood are ripe on the trees. And you’ll find greens such as nettles, dandelion, deadnettles, and chickweed coming back up in the cooler weather. Not to mention all the wild mushrooms: chicken, hen, puffballs, blewitts, and aborted entoloma!

Kousa Dogwood, an edible ornamental tree

Kousa Dogwood, an edible ornamental tree

Giant puffball: sliced and breaded in preparation for Puffball Parmesan

Giant puffball: sliced and breaded in preparation for Puffball Parmesan

Paw Paw Fruits

Paw Paw Fruits

abortive entoloma (edible)

aborted entoloma (edible)

Blewit, edible

Blewit, edible

Even as we enter winter it is not time to hang up your gathering basket! There are great edibles around all winter long - definitely enough to work into all your holiday meals! Make sure you check out my book, Winter Foraging Wild Edibles Feasting to find recipes, pictures and ID info on over 20 common edibles you’ll find all winter long. You can get the book at our website or from Amazon, to download directly to your device!

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Have you been out foraging? What are you finding in your neck of the woods?

Remember to wear bright orange out in the woods this time of year! (hunting season.)

Be safe, festive foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot

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Make Your Own Herb Infused Honey

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Raw, Recipes
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Honey is amazing. There’s a lot of buzz going on right now (pun intended) about how bad sugar is, to which I heartily agree. Added sugar is in way to much of our “food” (processed food), things you wouldn’t even expect such as spinach dip or tomato sauce have oodles of added sugar. This is terrible for one’s health. And don’t even get me started on corn syrup.

However, true to form in our Western way of thinking, a carb equals a carb equals a carb. A fat equals a fat. To most Western trained dieticians, fat from an avocado is the same as fat from prime rib. It counts as fat. And sugar counts as maple syrup counts as honey counts as corn syrup.  It’s all added sugar, it’s all carbs, it’s all the same right? I disagree.

Way back in the nineties a WHOLE big chain of health FOODS stores would not sell anything with sugar. It was awesome! I could go to their bakery and things were honey sweetened, maple syrup sweetened, brown rice syrup sweetened. It was great! But then along came new sugar crystal products. Suddenly there were signs up in the store (literally!) about how honey is just the same for you health-wise as sugar, how a carb is a carb, and they realize how close-minded and out-dated their belief system is and BOOM, from then on the shelves were FILLED with cereals and other  foods with sugar. Now at the bakery if you try to find something with only maple syrup or honey, well, good luck.

Honey, especially raw honey, contains living enzymes as well as vitamins and minerals, includiing  B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

Honey has been used by herbalists for thousands of years. Honey has anti-bacterial properties, anti-tumer properties, energy boosting properties (well, ok, duh, sugar.) Herbalists have used honey to treat sore throats, coughs, nausea, all sorts of things.  And believe me, when you make your own baked goods or foods with a little honey or maple syrup, there is literally a little honey  or maple syrup. You are being mindful and conscious and getting way less sugar than the loads you get hidden in the products at the grocery store.

Honey is also a great way to incorporate healing herbs and wild edible plants into your diet. I love making things like infused honeys, vinegars, jams and butters that I actually use. It’s nice to make a tincture every once in a while, but those tend to sit on my shelf for years. The other things I use daily.  (I also love drying plants to use as teas, I use these all the time, too!)

Herbal and wild flower infused honeys are so amazing. I add them to tea, spread them on toast or rice cakes or drizzle them over homemade scones. And they are wonderfully easy to make. First get yourself some high quality (which usually means local) raw honey. Then find some empty jars. Now find your favorite herbs or wild flowers and you are in business. In general here is what I do:

  • Fill the jar halfway with fresh plants. Good ones to use for honeys include: violet flowers, calendula flowers, any kind of mint, sage, basil, anise hyssop, ginger, fennel.
  • Next pour honey over the herbs to fill the jar. Use a chopstick to tamp down and release air bubbles.
  • Cover and let sit in a warm place (the sun works well!) for at least 10 days before use. The honey will keep a long time, just keep the herbs right in there. They won’t mold, honey will act as a preservative. And the herbs are yummy to eat when spread on bread!
  • Label! Label as you would everything: the plant or plants, the medium (honey) and the date, including the year.

Herbal Infused Honeys and Sun Tea

Herbal Infused Honeys and Sun Tea

Above are three honeys I made recently:  calendula and chocolate mint, lemon balm leaves and lemon peel, the third is sage leaves. On the left is chocolate mint sun tea. All you do to make sun tea is fill a jar with fresh herbs, cover with water, put the lid on and set it in the sun for at least 6 hours, but that is another post!

Enjoy!

~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac

Food Under Foot

Birch Center for Health

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