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A Walk Through Frick Park

General Posts
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Getting ready for our walk this Sunday at Frick Park Earth Day, I decided to check out the area where the walk is scheduled.

This year Earth Day is in a NEW location, Lower Frick Parking Lot.

Sign in near the parking lot a half hour before the walk, and you will be directed to our walks which begin at Falls Ravine Trail at 1 pm and 3 pm.

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I saw lots of amazing plants and animals today walking around there…we are sure to have an amazing walk on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Mayapple, Podophyllum

Mayapple, Podophyllum

Plantain, Plantago major - just coming up

Plantain, Plantago major - just coming up

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Cleavers, Galium aparine

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Violet, Viola

Violet Leaves, Viola

Violet Flower, Viola

Violet Flower, Viola

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

Cutleaf Toothwort

Cutleaf Toothwort

Dutchman's Britches

Dutchman's Britches

Trout Lily

Trout Lily

Broad Leaf Dock

Broad Leaf Dock

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Burdock

Burdock

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris

And many many more (edible) plants! It is going to be a great walk - plenty to discuss!!

And as if plant life isn’t abundant enough, check out  some of the animals we saw today:

Big Black Rat Snake

Big Black Rat Snake

Red Winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

Robins: the male's head is darker than his back, the female's head and back are the same.

Robins: the male's head is darker than his back, the female's head and back are the same.

There are all kinds of walks to choose from, on the hour from 12 to 4 (last walk at 3.) Our wild edibles walks are at 1 and 3.  Get there early to sign up! The full list of walks is here.  Our walks at 1 and 3  are called Wild Edibles Walk, there’s another wild walk at 12 and 2 called Foraged Flavors, which I’m sure will be lovely as well.

If you can’t make it this Sunday we will be going again in two weeks - on a two hour excursion through the park identifying wild edibles and looking for morels! Find out more about that walk here.

See you soon!

~ Melissa Sokulski

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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Wild Walks and Mushroom Foray scheduled!

General Posts
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Frick Park Earth Day Walks

Our first walks will be at Frick Park Earth Day Celebration!
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This year walks on Earth Day at Frick Park are Sunday, April 19, from 12 - 4. Our walks will be at 1 and 3, each for 45 minutes.
The city foots the bill, so these Earth Day walks are free to you, all you have to do is show up! Just get there a bit early so you can sign up, the walks are usually limited to 20 people each.
There will be other walks as well: mushroom walks, spider walks, tree id walks, herp walk (lizards and salamanders), bird walks. It’s a great day, hope to see you there!


Join Us Morel Mushrooming!

Let’s forage for morels together! We can’t guarantee we’ll find morels, but we’ll take you to places we’ve found morels in the past.  We’ll also identify other wild edibles as we hike along looking for mushrooms.

Please join us for our first walks this month, and a mushroom foray in early May.

Bring a basket, paper bag or mesh bag (you can reuse the ones you get from buying onions or oranges) to collect morels, and some water to drink.
When: Sunday May 3, 2015, 11 am - 1 pm
Where: Frick Park. You will receive exact start location upon registration.
Price: $15 adults
$5 kids 6 - 12
Free kids 5 and under

RSVP: Please let us know you are coming! If enough people want to go we will add another day. Email Melissa@FoodUnderFoot.com to RSVP. Please tell us your name, phone number, and how many people in your party. Thanks!

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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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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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Oil-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Sunchoke Latkes!

Recipes
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Baked Sunchoke Latkes

Baked Sunchoke Latkes

Chanukah is just around the corner and while it may seem taboo to tamper with perfection of the fried-in-oil potato pancake, I’ve done it before (raw sweet potato latkes) I did it last year with sunchoke latkes made the traditional way (with egg, fried in oil)and now I’ve done it again: baked, gluten-free, oil-free, vegan sunchoke latkes!

Actually, latkes (potato pancakes) are very versatile and so much can be added to them, and they always turn out great. Chopped wild greens can be added (garlic mustard, nettles, and chickweed are my favorites), different veggies can be grated along with or instead of the potatoes (case in point: Jerusalem artichokes, aka sunchokes).

But can they be made without all that oil?

That is the question I tackled this year with the result: a resounding YES!

Latkes are traditionally fried in oil to represent the miracle of the oil: olive oil in the ancient temple was only enough to last one night, instead it lasted eight: a miracle! (There’s  a bit more to the story than that.) But do we really need to cook things in an excess of oil to celebrate?

This year I made three batches of latkes:

  1. potato and onion
  2. sunchoke, potato, onion
  3. potato, onion, chickweed, jalapeno and scallion

grated sunchoke tubers

Ingredients:

  • 2 large potatoes, grated
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 Tbsp chopped wild greens
  • 1/4 cup grated sunchokes
  • 2 - 3+ Tbsp flour of choice (I used buckwheat flour to keep these gluten free)
  • salt, pepper
  • chopped scallions, or garlic mustard or onion grass
  • chopped jalapeno (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Line 2 cookie trays with parchment paper.
  • After grating potatoes, squeeze out excess liquid. Place in large bowl.
  • Mix in 3/4 grated onion.
  • Mix in 2 Tbsp of flour, salt and pepper.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the rest of onion  and flour with grated sunchoke tubers.  You can add a spoonful of the potato mixture, or keep it sunchoke only, up to you.
  • Form the sunchoke mixture into patties (you can use a 1/4 cup measure to keep amount consistant), then press on baking sheet to flatten into cakes.
  • Do the same using half potato batter.
  • With the rest of the potato batter, add the wild greens, scallions and optional jalapenos. Mix. Place these in on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 20 minutes more, until browned on both sides.

Serve with applesauce (I make my own raw applesauce by simply blending apples in my blender!)

Also serve with plain yogurt or sour cream (can use tofu or cashew sour cream to keep vegan.)

Easy tofu sour cream recipe:

Blend a block of silken tofu with a juice of one lemon.

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Enjoy a healthier version of a holiday favorite, while getting outside and foraging for fantastic ingredients, even in winter.

In fact, the ground is frozen here in Pittsburgh, yet I was still able to easily forage Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus) tubers. How? Because they are so close to the surface that I just took a metal gardening rake and pulled away some of the frozen soil from right near the base of the plant and voila - fresh sweet tubers were revealed! Here they are washed:

Sunchoke Tubers

Enjoy the weather, the woods and your holiday traditions!

Peace and Joy to all ~

~ Melissa from Food Under Foot

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