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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

Some Quick Links:

~ Make sure you sign up for our free newsletter (green box right margin.) You’ll get 5 great ebooks free!! Happy Holidays! ~

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Wild Highlights of 2014

General Posts
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As 2014 draws to a close, it’s fun to look back at all the fun we had with wild edibles this past year here at Food Under Foot.

The year started, as they always do, in the midst of winter, but we were far from being done with wild edibles! Last January we found ourselves enjoying Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchoke Tubers, which we dug every chance we got. We enjoyed them raw, roasted and in soup.

Sunchoke Tubers

Melissa also put out the first book of the year that winter: Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting, which was a fun celebration of wild edibles found in winter! From roots and tubers to cold weather loving greens like chickweed and deadnettles, this book is a great resource for winter edibles and delicious recipes for any table!

Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting

As we neared the spring equinox, we took to the road, traveling west to Tuscon, AZ where we got to learn about edible cacti, including the barrel cactus which was fruiting when we arrived! We found candies made of prickly pear cactus in all the gift shops, and were reminded of Jason’s delicious Prickly Pear Sorbet.

Prickly Pear Granita

We returned to Pittsburgh, PA in time for Morel Season!

morel mushroom

We also had great walks this year, including our Frick Park Earth Day walk, a morel mushroom walk, and a walk around Schenley oval in the summer.

Wild Edibles Walk Schenley Park, August, 2014. Photo credit: Jennifer Verala

Summer brought lots of wild fun to Food Under Foot, including a trip back to the Blueberry Bog at Black Moshannon State park, and chanterelles at Cooks Forest.

Blueberry picking in the bog (ranger-led program)

chanterelles

Of course we made lots of yummy wild recipes all year long here at Food Under Foot. We also did fun things to preserve our wild harvest, like putting up wild honey and making smudges and moxibustion (used in acupuncture treatments at our Birch Center for Acupuncture in Pittsburgh) from wild mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris.)

photo1241

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Melissa also put out a new book, Wild Edibles 101, in response to many people requesting a beginning recipe book with common wild edibles.

wild-edibles-101-page-001

This fall Food Under Foot’s Melissa Sokulski was featured in a newspaper article about acorns, Pittsburgh-area Foragers Go Nuts for Acorns. You can find links to all recent newspaper articles about us here.

Acorns in a White Oak Tree

And to end this year and start the new one fresh, you can still pick up a copy of the Wild Plant Ally Workbook for whatever price you choose, as low as 99 cents! What a great way to start 2015: by choosing a wild plant ally and studying all year, January to December!

Wild Plant Ally Workbook Cover

What is the first date you find your ally sprouting? What does your ally look like month to month? What are the best ways to harvest and use it? This workbook will take you through all that and by the end of the year you will know one plant so well it will be your go-to for everything: from ailments to dinner dishes, and it will open the way for you to deeply learn about the world of wild edibles! Please, as our gift to you, download this book for just 99 cents and start the year with a new wild ally!

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and we are looking forward to so much more wild fun with you in 2015!!!

Festive Foraging!

Melissa, Dave and Jason

The Folks at Food Under Foot

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Wild Recipes for the Holidays

General Posts, Recipes
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Sunchoke Tubers

Sunchoke Tubers

One of my favorite winter wild edibles is Jerusalem Artichoke - or Sunchoke - tubers.

Jerusalem Artichoke is actually native to America, and is in the sunflower (not artichoke) family. Its botanical name is Helianthus tuberosus. - the sunflower known for its edible tuber.

Sunchoke Flowers

Sunchoke Flowers

The flowers bloom in the late fall, usually September and October. All through the winter, as long as the ground is not frozen solid, the tubers can be dug up and eaten - and they are delicious! They can be enjoyed raw (I like to grate them into salad) or cooked (I love to roast them in the oven.) They have a wonderful unique flavor that I crave during the winter!

Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be used in any recipe in place of potatoes, but be warned they have a slightly different consistency when cooked than potatoes, they are a little more watery. This is because the starch is different. Jerusalem artichokes contain the starch inulin, which actually helps regulate blood sugar making it an excellent food for diabetics, or anyone with blood sugar issues.

Other than roasting it with other root vegetables, my favorite recipe is Sunchoke Soup (sometimes called “Palestine Soup”, a play on the name “Jerusalem.”)

This is a simple yet delightful recipe that is superb on the holiday table!

Sunchoke Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 - 7 tubers Jersalem Artichokes, washed well, peeled half-heartedly (don’t worry about getting all the peel off), and chopped
  • water or stock to cover vegetables
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, good if not using vegetable stock)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

onions and sunchokes

onions and sunchokes

  1. Saute onion in olive oil.
  2. Add Jerusalem artichoke and continue to saute, adding some salt, to bring out flavors.
  3. Cover with water or stock and let simmer until sunchokes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Place in blender with cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt and pepper. Whizz til smooth.
  5. Reheat and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

This soup is simple and delicious!!!

You can find other amazing holiday recipes in my book, “Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting; Delicious Recipes for the Holidays or Anyday.”

You can get it directly from our website, and it is also available on Amazon Kindle.

I hope you are staying warm and enjoying some winter wild edibles! It can be fun to make the holiday table WILD with some great winter edibles!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa from Food Under Foot

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Have You Ever Wondered If You Can Use All Those Acorns?

General Posts
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Have you ever wondered if you can use all those acorns? It is a common question we get on our walks. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if all those millions (billions? trillions?) of acorns that drop to the ground every fall were useful? Edible even?

Good news: they are edible! And though usually quite bitter when eaten straight away, they are easily processed and made into a food that was a staple for many Native Americans and Settlers.

Recently an article in a local paper came out about acorns: Pittsburgh Area Foragers Go Nuts For Acorns in Their Diet. You can read all about what local wild food experts (including me!) have to say about them.

Acorns in a White Oak Tree

Acorns in a White Oak Tree

Interested in reading and hearing more from Food Under Foot in the media? Below is a list of links to many interviews and articles about us! Enjoy!

  • Listen here as Melissa and David Sokulski of Food Under Foot are interviewed on Hooked on Raw with Rhio. It originally aired in June, 2009 on NY Talk Radio.
  • Read about Food Under Foot in Pittsburgh’s City Paper
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Some Wild Things in November

General Posts
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It’s November and surprisingly there are still a lot of wild edibles around in Western PA! Yesterday in Pittsburgh I saw a vacant lot which had chicory, dandelion and red clover - all in bloom!

Yesterday I enjoyed a fresh juice which contained fresh nettles, fresh lemon balm and fresh mint as well as pineapple and apples.

Green Juice with Fresh Nettles

Green Juice with Fresh Nettles

We harvested, dried, and bundled wild mugwort into smudges:

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Smudges Made of Wild Dried Mugwort, used to cleanse energy

Smudges Made of Wild Dried Mugwort, used to cleanse energy

We also made our own moxabustion out of the leaves of mugwort which we use as loose moxa in cone form, and we also made our first moxa pole from our own mugwort! To read more about how we did that, check out our sister blog Birch Center.

Burning Moxa Cone, Used In Acupuncture Treatments

Burning Moxa Cone, Used In Acupuncture Treatments

As the season goes into winter it may be tempting to hang up our foraging basket…but there is plenty to harvest now and throughout the winter! Check out my book Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting, available to download from our website or on Amazon for your Kindle!

bookcoverwinter

Today I plan to harvest burdock root and lemon balm.

Let’s all keep on foraging right through winter.  Next thing we know, there will be morels popping up, heralding the spring!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot

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