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Jerusalem Artichokes

Identification
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Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes

Did anyone happen to catch the One Food Five Ways feature in the November 2013 issue of Vegetarian Times? Jerusalem Artichokes! Doesn’t Oven-Baked Sunchoke Chips with Garlic and Smoked Paprika sound good? It does to me! As do the Shaved Sunchokes with Grapefruit and Avocado. Yum! I can’t wait to go out tomorrow and dig up some Jerusalem Artichoke tubers.

This native American plant is better known and more used in Europe than it is here. It was a staple of the diet of Native Americans and early settlers that has now been mostly forgotten. It is a member of the sunflower family; it’s botanical name is Helianthus tuberosus (tuber-bearing sunflower.) The name “Jerusalem” most likely came from the Spanish word for sunflower: “Girasol.” Another popular name for this gorgeous plant is Sunchoke.

Blooming Jerusalem Artichokes, October

Blooming Jerusalem Artichokes, October

You can also find recipes for Jerusalem Artichokes in my new book, Winter Foraging Holiday Feasting, which is priced at just $9.95 so check it out! Visit the link and you’ll find a link to download a free sample of the book, including its table of contents so you can see all the amazing recipes and winter edibles included.

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I hope you are finding a lot of stuff out there! Today was nearly 60 degrees in Pittsburgh…found many many dandelions in bloom as well as tons of greens which looked great: broad leaved dock, garlic mustard, burdock, dandelion. I am really looking forward to foraging through this entire winter, I hope you are too.

~ Warmth and Sunchoke Sunshine,

Melissa and the folks at Food Under Foot.

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Morel Season 2013 Begins

Identification
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Morel season is finally upon us!  The official start of my 2013 mushrooming season began when I found these tiny gray/white morels last weekend:

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Or did it start even before that, when I signed up to participate in the 5th annual Morel Recipe Challenge and I received my 2 oz of dried morels in the mail:

Dried morels and instructions from Marx Foods

Dried morels and instructions from Marx Foods

I am still working on my recipe for this challenge…it must be something baked and I do have some ideas….it is due by Sunday so stay tuned!

In the meantime I have found a few early morels (in addition to the tiny white ones) and had a very scrumptious dish of sauteed morels, fiddleheads, and nettles with onions and rice.

Sauteing morels and fiddleheads with onions

Sauteing morels and fiddleheads with onions

And remember, if you are looking for morels for the first time, there are a couple of tricky mushrooms out there: false morels. The two main Genuses are Gyrometria and Verpa. The Verpa - especially the Verpa bohemica (or wrinkled thimble cap) - disguise themselves as half free morels so be careful.

Gyrometria, one kind of false morel, not edible

Gyrometria, one kind of false morel, not edible

True morels are:

  1. 100% hollow inside, all the way from top through the stem. There will be NO cottony stuff in the inside, no folds or chambers, just completely 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 almost at its bottom, not at the tip top.

  1. Morels do NOT attach only at the top of the stem like Verpas. The tops (spongy-looking part) of the morel attach to the stem at its base; you can’t pull the spongy part of the mushroom easily off. Even half-free morels attach halfway down the top, not at the tip top like the Verpas.

(I’m sorry I do not have a picture of a verpa, but you can search the web and find some. Here is a good picture from mushroomexpert.com)

Morels must be cooked before eating! This is a general rule for all wild mushrooms.

Enjoy the spring! There is a lot out there in addition to morels right now:

  • fiddleheads (please harvest responsibly!!! Preferably from someone who grows them. Only take one or two from each plant, they are so easily destroyed.)
  • spring beauty
  • garlic mustard
  • Japanese knotweed
  • stinging nettles
  • deadnettles
  • dandelion
  • chickweed
  • onion grass
  • ramps
  • violets
  • wintercress
  • cleavers
  • burdock
  • broad leaf dock
  • curly/yellow dock
  • ground ivy/creeping charlie

We had a great time on our Frick Park Earth Day walks, by the way. Thanks for coming out to walk with us!

Talk to you soon…and soon there will be a new morel recipe up!

Happy, safe and responsible harvesting to all,

~ Melissa

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Delicious Kousa Dogwood

General Posts, Identification
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Kousa Dogwood, an edible ornamental tree

Kousa Dogwood, an edible ornamental tree

If you live in a city, now is the time to walk carefully around the beautiful neighborhoods of your town. People may have planted Kousa dogwood, a gorgeous ornamental tree planted for its long blooming white flowers. The flowers now gone, the Kousa Dogwood  is now sporting its delicious edible fruit.

Kousa Dogwood Fruit

Kousa Dogwood Fruit

It will be red and soft when ripe. Once ripe it is a sweet and creamy gold color inside. The unripe fruit is astringent, but like persimmon once the fruit is soft and ripe it loses all astringency and becomes sweet. There are some hard seeds to avoid, but other than that this is a delightful treat. I don’t eat the skin; I simply pull the fruit open and eat out the gold creamy inside. It is kid approved as well - we found these at the church of my daughter’s brownie troop meeting and she gave them the thumbs up!

Other ornamental trees dropping fruit and nuts these days include American paw paw, black walnut, and hickory, which can all be found in the wild as well.

Happy hunting!

~ Melissa

Food Under Foot

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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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Wild Brunch: Knotweed Juice with Nettle/Garlic Mustard Potato Pancakes

General Posts, Herb, Look-Alikes, Medicinal, Recipes
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Japanese knotweed juice with garlic mustard/nettle potato pancakes

Japanese knotweed juice with garlic mustard/nettle potato pancakes

Happy April!

I feel like spring is really here with the abundance of wild edibles around.

The juice above is Japanese knotweed stalks, cucumber and apple (juiced in a Jack Lalanne Juicer)

Japanese knotweed stalks, leaves stripped off

Japanese knotweed stalks, leaves stripped off

So delicious and super nutritious: Japanese knotweed has the highest natural concentration of resveratrol, an anti-oxidant which is good for the heart and brain, is anti-aging and anti-cancer. Supplement companies used to use grape skin to make resveratrol supplements…no more! Now they use Japanese knotweed (usually the root). What a great way to use this terribly invasive weed.

Japanese knotweed’s newest use is as prevention and treatment for the symptoms of Lyme disease, which is why I may drink this juice every day that the stalks are available. I am in the woods a lot and am often pulling ticks off me (yuck!) I’m also going to tincture the root soon (it’s best to do when the plant is not flowering, so early spring and fall): I will dig up the roots (which are orange/yellow in color), clean them, chop them and add them to a glass jar that I fill with 100 proof vodka, which is 50% alcohol. I will take pictures and post what I do step by step. For more information on treating Lyme disease with Japanese knotweed and other natural remedies, see Stephen Buhner’s book Healing Lyme: Natural Healing And Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis And Its Coinfections

By the way, the above juice is truly yummy: sweet and tart and incredibly thirst-quenching!

The potato pancakes are a bit more decadent:

1 large potato, peeled, grated
1/4 onion, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup flour (I use gluten free flour such as buckwheat or rice flour)
handful garlic mustard chopped - use more if you want!
large gloved handful of stinging nettles, blanched to remove sting and then chopped - use more if you want!
1/4 cup grated spicy Jack cheese (optional, yummy)
salt
pepper
olive oil for cooking

Mix all ingredients in large bowl.
Lightly coat frying pan with olive oil (rather than deep frying, you can also bake these at 375 til browned, 30+ minutes)
Spread a tablespoon of batter into pan (fits about 3 at a time in my cast iron pan).
Cook on medium high (turning down if oil begins to smoke) for about 3-4 minutes until browned, flip and cook another couple minutes.

Can serve with applesauce and sour cream or just enjoy as is…so tasty!

CSF-ers can look forward to all the wild ingredients in this weeks share, and others can find these ingredients in plentiful amounts these days…at least here in Western PA!

Love and nettle stings,

Melissa

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Chicken Mushrooms

General Posts, Identification, Recipes
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Chicken Mushrooms

Chicken Mushrooms


I have been so lax about posting here…I am so sorry! If you haven’t joined us on Facebook, please do so! It’s a bit easier to be active in little blurbs, and there’s a lot of action over there.

But there’s actually a lot going on here as well, just behind the scenes. I’ll make a commitment to put it up in the forefront…I’ll try to get more posts up here!

We’ve been having a fun fall, gathering and cooking acorns, finding black walnuts, and today was glorious when we found a Chicken Mushroom! (Also known as Sulphur Shelf or Laetiporus sulphureus).

I didn’t have my camera on me at the time, but you’ll notice the unmistakable orange/yellow color. They grow on dead wood like old stumps of trees and the underside has very tiny pores (NOT gills.)

Chicken Mushroom top (orange) and underside (pale yellow).

Chicken Mushroom top (orange) and underside (pale yellow).

Like almost all wild mushrooms, these need to be cooked before eating, so I sliced some up and sauteed them in olive oil:

Chicken mushroom slices sauteing in olive oil

Chicken mushroom slices sauteing in olive oil

Then in a hot wok, I sauteed red onion, garlic, scallion, zucchini, and pumpkin seeds, adding the cooked chicken mushroom at the end. I seasoned with tamari and mirin.

Chicken mushroom sauteed with veggies

Chicken mushroom sauteed with veggies

Finally I served it over brown rice.

Chicken mushroom and veggie stir fry over brown rice

Chicken mushroom and veggie stir fry over brown rice

It was very good!

Do you have any favorite ways to prepare chicken mushroom? Any favorite recipes you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear!

Thanks,

Melissa Sokulski
Food Under Foot

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Springing out of Winter: Garlic Mustard

General Posts, Identification, Recipes
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Walking around some Pittsburgh parks today after a beautiful stretch of warm days…and we indeed see signs of spring!

We saw some garlic mustard rosettes bursting from the ground:

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant, brought to America as a culinary herb in the 1860’s. In Pittsburgh, many parks have volunteer days spent pulling this invasive herb out. By all means pull it up from your garden…but don’t be so quick to throw it in the compost! This is a delicious plant and early spring is when its flavor is at its best.

The leaves become bitter as the weather gets hot, so they are best collected in early spring and summer. Leaves can be collected either from the ground rosettes (pictured above) or from the stalk. Garlic Mustard leaves become more triangular when the plant bolts, and the leaves come up the flower stalk of this small four-petaled flower (unlike dandelion, whose leaves stay on the ground as the flower stalk is sent up).

Here's how garlic mustard looks later in the season, once it "bolts", or sends up its flower stalk.

Flowers and chopped leaves can be added to salads for a nice pungent garlic flavor.

Now is the time to collect the roots, when no flower stalks are present. These are very spicy and taste like horseradish. The root can be chopped and steeped in apple cider vinegar for a spicy condiment.

garlic mustard roots: spicy like horseradish

garlic mustard roots: spicy like horseradish

In the fall the seeds, which have a mustard flavor, can be collected and eaten.

I love to make pesto using the garlic mustard leaves:

Raw Garlic Mustard Pesto

1 1/2 cups garlic mustard leaves
1 1/2 cups spinach leaves
juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon (to taste)
1 clove garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
salt or tamari to taste

Blend above ingredients in food processor or blender and enjoy.

Here is a copy of my article on Garlic Mustard, published last year in Natural News.

Enjoy the spring!!

Melissa Sokulski, herbalist, acupuncturist
Food Under Foot
Birch Center

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It’s Walnut Season!

General Posts, Identification
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If you’re hiking in the woods, and you come upon what looks, at first, like a tennis ball, look more closely, because you may have found one of my favorite wild edibles: black walnuts!

Black Walnut (In Its Green Hull)

Black Walnut (In Its Green Hull)

Black Walnuts are a delicious relative of the English Walnut, which is the kind we buy in the store. The Black Walnut has a distinctive taste, however, that sets it apart.

Collect them when they are on the ground, still green, and hull them immediately. We take the green hull off by stepping on it, and pressing our foot down. The hull is easy to remove, but it’s best to be wearing gloves because the yellow stain you see will turn black and will stain your fingers!

Foot Pressing Down On Walnut Hull

Using a bag as a make-shift glove to gather hulled walnuts

Then let the nut dry - I just lay them out, but inside the house so the squirrels don’t get them! They will turn black because of the dye, but once it dries it won’t stain your fingers anymore.

The green hulls can be collected, too. They are used as a remedy against parasites. You can tincture them by covering them in a jar with alcohol such as 100 proof vodka for 6 weeks. The liquid will turn black. It is usually taken with wormwood tincture and cloves tincture to destroy parasites. (Wormwood can be dangerous taken internally, so be careful and follow the suggested dosages on the bottle.) Please talk to a health care practitioner or visit a local health food store for more info!

Below is a picture taken looking up at a Black Walnut Tree. You can still see some walnuts growing in the branches, and can get a good look at the leaves.

Black Walnuts Still Up In The Tree

Black Walnuts Still Up In The Tree

In this recent post, you can watch a video I made last year about how to crack open the walnuts once they are dry. We use a hammer or a rock, with the nut on concrete. They are not easy to get into!

Enjoy!

~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

Food Under Foot
(and Birch Center for Health)

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