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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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Paw Paw Slushie

Look-Alikes, Raw, Recipes, video
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As promised, here is the recipe for the delicious paw paw slushie I made with the amazing stash of paw paws harvested from the trees I found in our neighborhood (with the owner’s permission, I should add!)

Collection of Ripe Paw Paws

Collection of Ripe Paw Paws

First, I peeled about four or five paw paws with a regular vegetable peeler, and put them in a colander (yes, one of them does have a bite out of it! I couldn’t resist.):

peeled paw paws

peeled paw paws

These paw paws were so ripe and soft, I just began to mash them by hand (the ultimate aim is to separate the seeds (which you should not eat - they may be toxic) from the fruit:

mashing up the paw paws in colander

mashing up the paw paws in colander

Here’s how they look all mashed up:

mashed paw paws with seeds

mashed paw paws with seeds

I had the colander in a larger bowl (both the colander and bowl are actually part of a salad spinner…I did not use the top to spin it, just mashed the fruit through the holes by hand):

separating the seeds from fruit with colander and bowl (of a salad spinner)

separating the seeds from fruit with colander and bowl (of a salad spinner)

I put the mashed paw paw fruit in a blender (I used our vitamix) with a bit of water and a lot of ice. It was actually very rich, like an icy pudding, so I added more water to my taste…I was in the mood for something to drink. You can experiment and see what you like:

Paw Paw Slushie

Paw Paw Slushie

It made a lot…I saved the extra in a glass jar in the fridge, and then added it to my smoothie the next morning…I had a green smoothie with bananas, paw paws, frozen mangoes, collard greens, spirulina, water and ice. You can watch here as I make a similar green smoothie using wild lamb’s quarters from our garden.

I hope you enjoy! Please let us know your experience with paw paws by commenting to this post!

Also, if you enjoy these type of posts, please make sure you sign up for our free newsletter (you’ll find the sign up box in the right margin, it’s a green box with blue feet.) You’ll get five free ebooks, detailing five different wild edible plants, with great pictures and information on how to identify, harvest and use some very common plants, complete with recipes! Please sign up now…thank you!!

~ Melissa

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Old Man of the Woods

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Another edible mushroom we found on our hike with the Western Pa Mushroom Club was a bolete called Old Man of the Woods.

The Old Man of the Woods

The Old Man of the Woods

Boletes are mushrooms that grow up from the ground, and the underside has pores instead of gills. The Old Man of the Woods has characteristic black bumps along the top and stalk and has white to gray pores underneath. When bruised or cut, the mushroom eventually turns black. (Beware of boletes which bruise blue quickly, these are often poisonous.)

This mushroom was positively identified for us by members of the club, and we carefully wrapped it in wax paper and placed it in our bag with our other edible mushrooms (the chanterelles).

We’d heard the Old Man is a tasty mushroom, as long as you don’t mind it turning everything black as it cooks. In the books, though, we found it was “edible” but not worth eating. We decided to try it.

We sliced the Old Man when we got home

sliced Old Man of the Woods

sliced Old Man of the Woods

and sauteed it in olive oil, red onions and salt.

Old Man of the Woods sauteed it in olive oil, red onions and salt

Old Man of the Woods sauteed it in olive oil, red onions and salt

It did turn black. It is a meaty mushroom, though had a bit of slimy-ness to it. All in all, it was very good, reminiscent of portebellos.

A couple good mushroom guide books are National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides), and Mushrooms Demystified
), which is especially good for those on the west coast.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan has a wonderful chapter about mushrooms in it as well, be sure to check that out.

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The very tasty chanterelle

General Posts, Identification, Look-Alikes, Poisonous or Toxic, Recipes
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the chanterelle

the chanterelle

On our first hike with the Western PA Mushroom Club we found many many mushrooms, including edible chanterelles!

a basket full of chanterelles

a basket full of chanterelles

Chanterelles are delicious mushrooms that in the east grow in the summertime (in the west,  they are a fall/winter mushroom.)

Chanterelles are trumpet-shaped and have ridges or folds instead of gills (a gilled look-alike is the Jack O’Lantern, which is indigestible to us and will make people very sick.) The smooth chanterelle barely have ridges at all and instead have smooth sides.

the orange mushrooms are the poisonous Jack O'Lanterns

both plates of orange mushrooms are the poisonous Jack O

Chanterelle smell vaguely of apricots. They also grow alone or possibly in twos or threes, but never in a whole bunch, as the Jack O’Lanterns often do. The Jack O’Lanterns (which glow in the dark) grow from dead wood (however this can be tricky, as they could be growing from a dead root underground) whereas the chanterelles grow from the soil (but can be right next to dead wood). They both grow in the woods, look for the egg-yolk colored chanterelles under the dead leaves lying on the ground. Finally, according to the book Mushrooms Demystified (amazon link), Jack O’Lanterns will never have white flesh.

It is often recommended to dry-saute the chanterelle first to let it release the water, then adding butter and a small amount of shallot (so as not to overwhelm the delicate taste of the chanterelle.)

We dry-fried once, but the other time we sauteed it in olive oil (it released it’s water fine), added some salt and garlic, and added back a bit of water as it cooked so the pan did not dry out. Delicious!

Chanterelles sauteed it in olive oil with some salt and garlic.

Chanterelles sauteed it in olive oil with some salt and garlic.

Chanterelles (like many wild mushrooms) need to be cooked at least 15 minutes to detoxify the mushroom, making it safe and digestible.

We learned not to refrigerate extra chanterelles – keep them in paper bags outside of refrigeration and they should last a couple weeks. When refrigerated, they will turn dark and slimy, releasing water into the bag.

We dehydrated chanterelles for future use. We sliced them thinly and laid them on the dehydrator tray (or you can put them in the oven at a low temperature.) We were told they reconstitute nicely.

dehydrated chanterelles on a dehydrator tray

dehydrated chanterelles on a dehydrator tray

Finally, we’ve heard you can preserve them in whiskey or scotch, soaking them in a jar with the alcohol for a month or so, then get rid of the chanterelle and the whiskey will become chanterelle-flavored. You can do this in vodka or wine as well, and then can add to cooking to infuse the dish with a chanterelle flavor.

Here is a recipe for the chanterelle omelet we made for Ella (she ate the whole thing!)

  • One egg – cracked into a bowl and beaten with a splash of water
  • 1 Tbsp red onion
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp grated pepper jack cheese
  • 2 Tbsp sauteed (as above) chanterelles
  • In a small pan over medium high heat, saute the onion in olive oil with salt about 5 minutes.
  • Pour egg so it spreads over the bottom of pan and let it cook through until bubbles appear and it is no longer runny.
  • Add the cheese and mushrooms to one half the egg, and fold the egg over in half, omelet style.
  • Enjoy immediately.
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Seasons Change To Summer…

General Posts, Herb, Identification, Look-Alikes, Medicinal, Poisonous or Toxic, Tincture
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I just love watching what happens to the plants around me as the seasons change!

Here in Pittsburgh, it is getting HOT, summer is here.

With it bring a whole new crop of wild edibles, herbal remedies, and poisonous plants to watch:

Here is the St. John’s Wort, (Hypericum perforatum) now if full bloom. In the picture I am demonstrating that if you crush a bud in your fingers, you get a dark red pigment, which is the Hypericin - one of the active ingredients in St. John’s Wort.

st. john's wort

st. john's wort

Now is the time to harvest St. John’s Wort to make oils or tinctures. The oil is great to soothe sore muscles, ease jangled nerves, and treat sunburns. The tincture of St. John’s wort is used as an anti-viral, and also an anti-depressant. In fact, in European countries like Germany, St. John’s wort is used to treat depression more commonly than the prescribed medications like Prosac, which are used more in this country.

Here is Queen Anne’s Lace, or Wild Carrot:

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

Even though the greens of carrots are full of nutrition, and the root of this plant has a distinctly carrot-like smell, we do not eat this plant at all! That is because it so closely resembles the deadly poisonous Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock, that we do not feel it is worth the risk of making a mistake. We tell everyone who comes on our walks that it is our policy NOT TO EAT wild carrot, and we strongly suggest they do the same.

Here is a poison plant: Pokeweed. It’s berries are not fully ripe yet, they will get dark purple/black when ripe. Pokeweed is eaten (mostly down south) when it is just shooting from the ground in early spring. Now it is TOXIC, and the berries are highly poisonous. It is used, however, as a dye:

pokeweed

pokeweed

Here is one of our favorites, yummy plantain (Plantago major). We love to use the green leaves of this plant in smoothies, chopped in salads, and marinated and dehydrated into yummy crisps. Here you see the stalks. In the fall (once they turn brown) we will collect the seeds of plantain and use them just like psyllium seeds (which is from another Plantago: Plantago psyllium and Plantago ovata, both of which grown in the middle east.)

Plantain

Plantain

We’ll use these seeds just as we would use psyllium seeds: as a thickener for puddings and sauces, and also added to oatmeals and breads. In Chinese medicine, the seeds are used to treat urinary tract infections.

We’ll have more on our virtual summer wild edible walk tomorrow…please stay tuned!!

~ Melissa

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Poison: Water Hemlock

General Posts, Identification, Look-Alikes, Poisonous or Toxic
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Or should I say: Extremely Poison: Water Hemlock.

poison: water hemlock

poison: water hemlock

Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) literally has me trembling. This (and it’s cousin, Poison Hemlock, or Conium maculatum) are the reason we advise all on our walks (especially children) NOT to eat the edible Wild Carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). Look how much the flower looks like Queen Anne’s Lace:

poison: water hemlock flower

poison: water hemlock flower

Wild Carrot Flower and Leaves, picture from Wiki, Gnu Free Licensing

Wild Carrot Flower and Leaves, picture from Wiki, Gnu Free Licensing


Water Hemlock is DEADLY
and the risk of confusing the two is just not worth it.

We found Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) growing all through Schenely Park in Pittsburgh. The leaves are quite different from that of Wild Carrot:

poison: water hemlock leaves

poison: water hemlock leaves

…so they are not impossible to tell apart. Still, if one were just learning, or not paying attention, or didn’t know something deadly so closely resembled something edible, they might make a mistake.

So again, this is why we advise people not to eat Wild Carrots (it’s too risky a mistake), and why we don’t eat them ourselves.

Hemlocks don’t smell like carrots the way wild carrots do, and that is another way to tell them apart. Again, it’s not that they look/are exactly the same, it’s just they are close enough, and grow in overlapping places and the risk is just too high.

According to the book Edible Wild Plants, this plant’s toxic alkaloids can cause nervousness, trembling (it causes me trembling just to look at it!), reduced heartbeat, coma, and respiratory failure/death.

Have fun and please stay safe,
~ Melissa
Food Under Foot

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Poison! Foxglove

General Posts, Identification, Look-Alikes, Poisonous or Toxic
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My walk around Pittsburgh led me to this beautiful, but highly poisonous plant:

foxglove

foxglove

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is a highly toxic plant which can be deadly. It is used today in the pharmaceutical industry, to make Digitalis, a medication that treats heart disease. The plant contains high levels of glycosides, which effect the heart, but can also be deadly. (Source: Peterson Field Guides; Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants.)

foxglove

foxglove

Foxglove is usually a cultivated ornamental, but can escape from gardens and be found growing in the wild. It is a biennial plant, and the first year it is just a basal rosette of leaves, which have been mistaken for comfrey (Symphytum officinale), and that is when deadly mistakes have been made:

foxglove leaves

foxglove leaves

comfrey leaves

comfrey leaves

The flowers of foxglove and comfrey are quite different. Once it flowers, it is much easier to distinguish the plants:

foxglove flowers

foxglove flowers

comfry flowers

comfrey flowers

Have fun, stay safe!

~ Melissa

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Wild Edible Walk, In Pictures

General Posts, Herb, Identification, Look-Alikes, Medicinal
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We had such a nice time on our wild edible walk last Sunday! Thanks to everyone who came. What a great group of interested people who had so much to contribute.

Here are the Black Locust Flowers that we sampled (taste like honey):

Black Locust Flowers

Black Locust Flowers

The mulberry trees are filled with mulberries. They are still green, but by June should be purple, juicy and sweet:

Early Mulberries

Early Mulberries

Last fall we made sumac lemonade for our wild edible walk (you can see the post about it on our Birch Center blog here.) Here are the early staghorn sumacs (still green):

Early Staghorn Sumac (will turn red in the fall)

Early Staghorn Sumac (will turn red in the fall)

The flowering garlic mustard (which is resurging, another crop of green heart shaped leaves are sprouting up just like it’s early spring again!) This is classified as an invasive weed, and many parks spend days pulling it up. So if you want to make pesto with it, I’m sure no one would mind. (Here is an article I wrote for Natural News about Garlic Mustard, it has the pesto recipe at the end.) You’ll also be able to harvest garlic mustard with us and make vinegar for yourself and sample pesto at our Wild Edible Workshop, coming up Saturday, May 30. Check out Wild Events for more information.

Flowering Garlic Mustard

Flowering Garlic Mustard

Here’s the soft furry mullein. The leaves are used medicinally to strengthen the lungs:

Mullein Leaves

Mullein Leaves

Here’s one of my favorite herbs, mugwort, already a couple feet tall:

Mugwort

Mugwort

Here is a crown vetch flower. This one is white, and looks a bit like white clover (but this is much bigger.) The purplish variety is the same color as red clover (we’ll post pictures as they flower.) The crown vetch is poisonous, so be careful not to confuse them. The leaves are very different (see picture below):

Flowers:

White Crown Vetch (Poison)

White Crown Vetch (Poison)

Crown Vetch Leaves:

Crown Vetch Leaves (Poison)

Crown Vetch Leaves (Poison)

Compare to Clover Flowers and Leaves:

Red and White Clover, Leaves and Flowers (Edible)

Red and White Clover, Leaves and Flowers (Edible)

Finally, here is the Japanese Knotweed. What a difference one month makes! We still found some shoots, though, and were able to sample it. One of our participants shared that he steamed them like asparagus in the early spring and found them to be tender and delicious. He also mentioned that raw foodie David Wolfe says that Japanese Knotweed is the number one source of anti-oxidant reversatrol. David Wolfe also suggests that the reason Japanese Knotweed is so invasive right now is because it is so good for us. He mentions it as a possible treatment to Lyme Disease.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Question: Have you tried any new wild edibles yet? (Or any tried and true ones you’d like to share?) Please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks!

~ Melissa

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