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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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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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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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April Walk Through Schenley Park

General Posts, Identification
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I took a little walk through the woods of Schenley Park today. Here’s what I saw:

Bunch of Garlic Mustard

Bunch of Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard Getting Ready to Bolt and Flower

Garlic Mustard Getting Ready to Bolt and Flower

Burdock

Burdock

Burdock with Ground Eroded Away, Exposing Taproot

Burdock with Ground Eroded Away, Exposing Taproot

Burdock with Taproot

Baby Burdock with Taproot

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion Leaves

Flowering Dandelion

Flowering Dandelion

Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Row of Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Row of Japanese Knotweed Shoots

Motherwort (medicinal)

Motherwort (medicinal)

Forsythia (medicinal)

Forsythia (medicinal)

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock

Tomorrow I’m going to Frick…I will bring my camera and let you know what I find!

Be sure to join us on our upcoming walks, scheduled for April 19 and May 3 (Morel Hunt + wild walk!)

For more pictures of April wild edibles, including nettles and chickweed, see my April Showers blog post.

Festive Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski

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April Showers Bring Mushrooms, Edible Weeds and Flowers!

General Posts, Identification
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I love April!

This is the month - here in the Northeast anyway - when the earth really wakes up.

Last month was deliciously full of maple sap (which I added as the liquid in my smoothies), and here and there things were coming up: garlic mustard, onion grass, nettles, deadnettles, and chickweed.

But this month - wow! By the end of the month we’ll be grilling morel mushrooms and making dandelion wine.

I just went out for a quick tour around my tiny, north-facing slope of a backyard and here is what I found:

Onion Grass

Onion Grass

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius

Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta

Hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta

Creeping Charlie, Glechoma hederacea

Creeping Charlie, Glechoma hederacea

Day Lilies

Daylily, Hemerocallis

wild carrot, Daucus carota

Wild carrot, Daucus carota, which I recommend skipping because there is too much poison hemlock around, which is a look-alike to wild carrot, and that is not a mistake you want to make!

catnip, Nepta cataria

catnip, Nepeta cataria

white clover

white clover, Trifolium repens

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica

Stinging nettles, Urtica dioica

Curly - or yellow - dock, Rumex crispus

Curly - or yellow - dock, Rumex crispus

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Now is an excellent time to get those dandelion greens - the flowers haven’t bloomed yet so the leaves aren’t as bitter as they will be. It’s also a great time to harvest the roots for tincture, tea, or coffee substitute. All parts of dandelion are edible and it is very good for the liver.

Before the month is through we will see Japanese Knotweed, Dryad Saddle Mushroom and Morel Mushroom. The garlic mustard will be flowering, as will the violets. Cleavers is sprouting up now and we might even see lambsquarters by April 30. It’s a fun month for foragers!

So dig out your foraging basket and get out there!

We have walks scheduled at Frick Park’s Earth Day on Sunday April 19, and a Morel Hunt in early May - we hope to see you there! Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter (upper right part of the website, in the green box) for more details!

But take care out there as well! Though I put a picture up of wild carrot, there is also poison hemlock out there - and it is taking over! So avoid the wild carrot because mistaking it for hemlock is not a mistake you want to make!

Forage well and safely,

Melissa

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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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