Browsing the archives for the Raw category.


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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The Wild Pantry: Sumac Seasoning

Raw, Recipes
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Tangy staghorn sumac seasoning is perfect for this Middle Eastern salad

Tangy staghorn sumac seasoning is perfect for this Middle Eastern salad

It’s fun dipping into the wild pantry to add zest and flavor to dishes. For this middle Eastern tabouli recipe, I dipped into the pantry not once, but twice. In addition to this tangy sumac seasoning, I stripped some dried mint leaves off a bundle I have hanging in my kitchen and crumbled those in. (Though it will be up soon, mint has not yet appeared in my neck of the woods - Western PA.)

The fun thing about sumac is that even if you missed harvesting it last fall, it’s available all winter. As long as you can find those red bundles on the otherwise bare trees, you can harvest and use sumac, which tastes fresh and lemony and is high in vitamin C.

Sifting Dried Staghorn Sumac

Sifting Dried Staghorn Sumac

Last fall I dried some sumac clusters, broke them up in the food processor, then sifted out the hard seeds through a strainer. This makes a sour seasoning that is perfect to add to dishes like fatoush, tabouli and hummus.

Today I made raw tabouli salad (without grains), but you could easily add a cup of cooked quinoa, cracked wheat or cous cous to the salad to turn it into a more traditional tabouli. For fatoush, simply add small pieces of toasted pita into the salad.

Raw Tabouli Salad

  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, seeds removed (and saved for smoothies or juices), chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp dried sumac seasoning
  • bunch of parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried mint, crumbled and added
  • 1 Tbsp (or more, to taste) onion, chopped very small
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • drizzle olive oil (about 1 Tbsp)

Middle Eastern Salad

Raw Tabouli Salad

Mix all ingredients and enjoy.

Think happy thoughts….it’s March 1 and spring is sure to be upon us soon. To those of you who have access to maple trees: now is the time to tap them for their wonderful sap. Soon another wild year will be upon us!

Festive foraging,

~ Melissa Sokulski

Stay in touch! Make sure you sign up for our free newsletter (green box in the upper right margin.) Also, visit our sister blog at Birch Center for information on acupuncture, natural wellness and more great healthy recipes.

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Raw and Wild: Indian Nettle Curry

Raw, Recipes
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It usually hits me mid April. But even though it was a warm spring, my unstoppable desire to “go raw” again didn’t hit me until last week. So here I am, mid May, morel season is over (thank goodness: wild mushrooms must be cooked!) and I have “gone raw.”

By raw I mean I am eating only raw fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds. So lots of green smoothies, fresh juices, and yummy wild salads. But sometimes I do crave something…more. More savory and tasty than a smoothie or even a salad (though I have some delicious dressings that get me out combing my yard and neighborhood for wild delights!)

Yesterday I found a recipe in Brigitte Mars’s book, Rawsome, for Palak, which is a curried spinach dish. I substituted raw nettles for the spinach, changed a few other things and I can not even begin to convey its deliciousness.

Raw Curried Nettles with Flax Crackers

Raw Curried Nettles with Flax Crackers

Raw and Wild Recipe: Indian Nettle Curry

inspired by Palak, from Rawsome by Brigitte Mars
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 cups fresh nettles
  • 1 Tbsp chopped onion
  • salt, tumeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and puree.

I made the flax crackers as well, although those these can be purchased at food coops or health food stores (or even health food sections of regular grocery stores.) If not eating all raw, this dish would go well on rice or pasta, or even spread on sandwiches (or pizza!) Raw veggies would be excellent dipped in it.

Hope you are enjoying spring!

Love and nettle stings,

~ Melissa

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Week 6 Wild Food CSA

CSF Newsletters, Raw, Recipes
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In your share this week:

  • plantain leaves
  • burdock roots and stalks
  • red clover flowers
  • nettles
  • violet leaves
  • lemon balm
  • creeping charlie

Plantain leaves are excellent to eat (raw in salad or in soups or stir-fried). I also love to coat them with a special dressing and dehydrate them a la kale chips. If you get our newsletter you have seen this recipe for plantain crisps, but I will also include it below.

Plantain is also a wonderful medicinal plant. The leaves are used fresh from the yard, crushed and applied to bee stings, nettle stings, or bug bites. You can also make an oil by chopping the leaves (or cutting into small pieces with scissors) and covering them with olive oil. Let it steep for a couple weeks then strain the leaves out saving the oil. This oil is excellent to take the itch away from bug/misquito bites and even poison ivy! It is safe to use on children and animals as well. To make the oil faster, place chopped plantain and oil in the blender and blend well, strain and it is ready to use. You can also gently heat the plantain and oil in a crock pot (on low) or oven with a pilot light for a couple days. Sometimes leaving the plantain in the oil too long will cause mold, so I like the faster methods of blending or lightly heating!

To make a salve, just take the strained plantain oil, gently heat on the stove (double boiler) or in a crock pot) and add some grated beeswax. Stir until beeswax melts, remove from heat and pour into a container with a wide mouth (so you can reach into it.) I also like to add lavender essential oil as it cools. Lavender is also helpful to take away redness and itching. When it cools it will become harder. Depending on how much beeswax you add is how hard it will get. I usually just add a little so it’s not too hard. (I like to scoop it up and apply liberally to poison ivy rashes!)

Recipe: Plantain Crisps:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaking makes them softer
  • water to cover cashew, use sparingly in blender and add more as needed. You want a fairly thick sauce.
  • onion, 1 Tbsp, chopped
  • garlic, 1 clove
  • lemon, juiced or 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • tamari, 2 Tbsp or salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

In a blender place cashews, water, onion, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, tamari or salt, and nutritional yeast (optional.) Blend until creamy.  Pour over plantain leaves (or kale leaves) and massage until fully covered. Place on dehydrator tray and dehydrate on 115 until crispy (about 6 hours.) If you don’t have a dehydrator you can use your oven on a low temperature until dried and crispy. It will probably take less than an hour in the oven.

Burdock Root, also known as Wild Gobo

Burdock root is a very popular vegetable in Japan, where it is known as gobo.  If you get the newsletter you’ll have received an entire ebook on Burdock! (If you don’t get the newsletter just sign up in the green box on the right, it’s free and filled with awesome information!) Burdock root is a tonic which brings great strength. The roots can be juiced, eaten raw, cooked in soups or stews, or sliced and dried for tea or roasted (and then ground) for a coffee substitute.

Here are some links to this blog for things I have done with burdock:

Recipe: Burdock Juice

Zesty, Lemony Burdock Juice (recipe below)

Zesty, Lemony Burdock Juice

Ingredients:

juiceingredients

  • 3 apples
  • 3 inches burdock root
  • 1/4 lemon, including peel
  • ginger root

Run all ingredients through a juicer and enjoy!

Here is a recipe for Kinpira Gobo, a traditional Japanese dish.  In this dish, you peel and cut the burdock root into strips, and saute it (often with carrot cut similarly), and season with tamari, mirin (a sweet Japanese wine), sake and sesame seeds.

Last week I battered and friend the red clover blossom, and it was delicious! To keep it dairy and gluten-free, I used an egg, coconut milk and buckwheat flour for the batter. I simply dipped clover blossoms (and dandelion blossoms) in, and fried in olive oil. Then I drizzled the fritters with maple syrup and enjoyed!

Red clover blossom and dandelion fritters

Red clover blossom and dandelion fritters

I have been using the violet greens and flowers in salads and on sandwiches.

This week I plan to dry some nettles to have as tea, and also I’ve been enjoying the nettles in a simple potato soup:

Recipe: Red Lentil, Potato, Nettle Soup

Red lentil, potato, nettle soup

Red lentil, potato, nettle soup

  • potatoes, chopped
  • nettles, blanched (in the soup water) and chopped, then re-added to soup at end
  • onions, chopped
  • garlic, chopped
  • red lentils
  • salt
  • pepper
  • water

Heat the water until boiling and add nettles to blanch (removes sting). Remove nettles and chop, saving the broth for the soup.

Add red lentils, potatoes, onions, garlic and boil until potatoes and lentils are soft.

Add salt and pepper, return chopped nettles to soup.

Ideas for lemon balm:

  • Add to smoothie
  • dry for tea
  • steep in honey for a delicious flavored honey

Creeping Charlie makes its return from week one. This is a mint found commonly in yards and gardens. It has a refreshing sharp minty taste. It can be dried for use as tea, added to smoothies or added to dishes (like tabouli) or rice for a minty bite.

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Frick Park Walk

General Posts, Herb, Identification, Poisonous or Toxic, Raw, Tincture
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Our first walk of the year was so much fun! We had great weather and lots of enthusiastic people. We identified at least 12 wild edibles (including Dryad’s Saddle, an edible mushroom that everyone got to take home.) Unfortunately we didn’t find morels…but join us on Saturday for our Earth Day walks and who knows what we’ll find!

discussing wild edibles at a wild edibles walk in Frick Park

discussing wild edibles at a wild edibles walk in Frick Park

We found and discussed:

Dandelion

dandelion flowers

dandelion flowers

Plantain

Plantain

Plantain

Chickweed

close up of chickweed

close up of chickweed

Japanese knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Dryad’s Saddle

Dryad's Saddle

Dryad's Saddle

Purple Archangel (Purple deadnettle)

Lamium purpureum, purple deadnettle

Lamium purpureum, purple deadnettle

Violet

violet

violet

Broad Leaf Dock
Burdock

Burdock

Burdock

Nettles

stinging nettles

stinging nettles

Cleavers
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

May Apple

We discussed making:

Our next walks are this Saturday at the Frick Park Environmental Center for their family-friendly, free, Earth Day Celebration! The festival is Saturday April 21, 2012  from 11:30 to 4, and we will lead two walks at 1 pm and 2 pm.

Hope to see you there!

~ Melissa

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We’re back! CSF, Walks and Wild Ally

General Posts, Herb, Poisonous or Toxic, Raw, Tincture
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nettles

nettles

We’re back!

As you probably noticed, we have not posted in a while…even though spring has come so early and wild edibles have been bursting forth from the ground! That’s because our computer broke (boo!) and then when we finally got a new one it would not let me do blog posts (I finally realized I had to upload and work through Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, though I have no idea why.)

So now we’re back and like spring we are bursting with excitement and lots of information!

First: our CSF (Community Supported Foraging) is about to get up and running! Our first pickup will be Thursday April 5, ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! How exciting! We realized if we waited until May to begin we would probably miss morels, fiddleheads and all sorts of early spring treats.

Don’t fret if you missed the boat on the CSF for this year (we only offered 10 shares for our flagship year)…we are still offering wild produce locally through Green Circle Farm’s weekly produce list. (And we may even offer our very own “list” soon, we’ll see how it goes with the CSF and Green Circle Farm.)

Our friend Erika at Green Circle Farm offers a weekly abundance of all sorts of things: raw milk, raw butter, grass fed beef and other sustainably raised animals, free range eggs, produce from the Pittsburgh Public Market, she even had wild ramps this week available (and not even from us!) Visit her website to be added to her list (you get a weekly email, place your order by a certain date and then pick up at one of various locations around Pittsburgh.)

Also, we will have a weekly newsletter for the CSF-ers with info about the wild plants and recipes, and we will post those newsletters here on our blog. So you’ll get lots of yummy recipes and tidbits of info of what to do with all the amazing food and medicine popping up right under your feet all season long.

Second: WALKS!

We have heard you loud and clear: you want walks and more walks this year. We are working on our schedule, and it even includes a MOREL HUNTING WALK this year!! Oh yes we did! I hope you will all join us. The full schedule will be up soon but I will let you know this: we will be offering two walks again at Frick Park’s Earth Day celebration this year. The date is Saturday, April 21, 2012 and our walks are at 1 pm and 2 pm. Be there!! This is a super fun, free, family-friendly celebration of nature at the Frick Environmental Center on Beechwood Blvd in Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh) PA. The festival itself is from 11:30 to 4. You will be overwhelmed (in a good way) with fun and music and arts and crafts and food and walks and more!

Third, now is the best time of year to get started on a Wild Ally!!! Did you do one last year? Pick another one for this year! An ally is a wild edible plant that you study, learn from and enjoy intensely over the course of the season. I have created a workbook of exercises for you to do with your ally. I really find this is the best way to get to know (and love) wild edible plants (and medicines!) Our workbook is STILL pay-what-you-choose, so make sure you grab one today!

As you have probably noticed, wild plants are up early and in great abundance this year! I was out yesterday and in addition to all the nettles, deadnettle, garlic mustard, onion grass, wintercress, chickweed, and dandelion that are out, I saw fiddleheads, Japanese knotweed shoots, burdock and have heard the murmurs of early morel mushrooms in the wind.

Let’s get this party started!

Coming up in this blog (I have so much for you…trying to get caught up!)

  • What to do with all this (yummy) Japanese Knotweed
  • CSF Newsletter “0″: making a Ginger Bug starter for wild sodas
  • Walk schedule, including our all new Morel Hunting Walk
  • “I smelled ‘em before I saw ‘em….Nettles”
  • And so much more!! So stay tuned my friends!

Walk with care and don’t forget to look up sometimes; there are some amazing birds out there!

Love and nettle stings,

Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot

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Book Review: The Wild Table

General Posts, Raw
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I’ve been reading a lot of wild edible foraging and recipe books lately, and I figured I’d share them with you.

Most recently I have been reading The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes by Connie Green and Sarah Scott. Although some of the recipes in this book aren’t a gluten-free vegan’s cup of tea (Stir fried dandelion greens with duck fat and garlic), the descriptions of the wild edibles and the stories she tells about them are fabulous.

In fact, just her introduction alone is worth the read: how Ms. Green got into foraging foods for restaurants. Ms. Green explains that in the 1980s it was hard to sell anything foraged to any restaurants: the only two chefs who acknowledged her chanterelles were French - one denied they could even be chanterelles because he felt they didn’t grow in this country, the other preferred his tinned chanterelles from France, feeling they were superior to fresh American chanterelles.

I love Ms. Green’s and Ms. Scott’s out of the box thinking when it comes to using the wild edibles such infusing vodka with evergreen needles and the incredible sounding: “Connie’s Favorite Persimmon Pudding with Brandy Hard Sauce.”

Many of the recipes are certainly from and for gourmet kitchens…and I have a few friends who I know would love to get their hands on these recipes and work their culinary magic!

For me - who loves simple plant-based cooking and wild edibles foraging - there is plenty for me in this book. I can’t wait to try the basket-grilled morels over a fire this spring - a simple recipe of butter, garlic, salt and pepper which Ms. Green describes as “simply the best way to cook morels” and the Fresh Mulberry Ice Cream, though I will adapt the recipe replacing the sugar with a natural sweetener like agave or maple syrup, and the half and half with home-made cashew milk, though I have no doubt her original recipe is divine.

The pictures in the book, both of the wild edibles and the recipes, are gorgeous. Full page spreads of morels roasting over a fire, freshly picked lobster mushrooms, huckleberries flowing out of the bag and onto a plate.

I can’t get enough of this book: reading about her experiences and what she has to say about the plants, drinking in the color pictures, ruminating over the recipes.

This is definitely a great one to have on the bookshelf!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa

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Food Under Foot Taps Maple Trees!

General Posts, Raw
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We love collecting wild foods in the city. One thing our little house with it’s 20 by 60 foot property does not afford us, though, are maple trees.

Fortunately we have friends with land that live nearby and this year they have invited us to tap their trees to collect maple sap and make syrup! We are so grateful and super excited!

We got up bright and early this morning and collected some sticks from staghorn sumac trees. The hole in the tree will be 1/2 inch diameter, so we tried to find sticks that were just a little bigger. Sumac trees have a soft pith inside which is easy to push out with metal coat hanger. Then we widdled one end down to less than 1/2 inch, this is the side we will hammer into the tree (after drilling a 1/2″ diameter hole about 2-3 inches into the tree, see our next post which tells exactly what we did.)

100_0586

tapered ends

tapered ends

This is how a staghorn sumac looks during the summer, just in case you are wondering which tree I am talking about:

Sumac tree in bloom with foliage - not how it looks right now!

Sumac tree in bloom with foliage - not how it looks right now!

Now there are no leaves, but the old red berry clusters are still on them, which makes them very easy to identify. The staghorn sumac has velvety branches, but you can use any red berried sumac. Poisonous sumac has white berries, so as long as you see trees with clusters of these red berries (which may not be as vibrant red now, but they will still look red) you have the right tree to use. I believe elderberry trees also have a soft pith that can be pushed out, so if you happen to know of an elderberry tree you can use those instead.

We put 11 spiles into 8 trees and have been collecting sap and boiling it down into syrup for 3 days now! We’ve made delicious maple syrup and delectible maple candies. I’ll share more later…with pictures and maybe even a video or two!

Enjoy mud season! It’s also maple syrup season!
~ Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot

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