Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Connecticut Boletes

July 2014, all found in one park in one hour
July and August are prime season for finding Boletes in our area of New England. CVMS holds a well attended educational day at the end of August in a local park, and the stars of the show are usually the collections of Boletes. Robert had chosen to study them, and works to identify finds using visual observations, smell, chemical tests, and his books. His favorite way to get to know the large amount of Bolete species in our area includes photographing them.

July is under way, so he'll be out in the field (and forest), looking for the edible, and inedible, beautiful, and sometimes confusing Boletes for the next two months. Wish him luck!

Boletus innixus

Likely an Strobilomyces that has been attacked by a Hypomyces

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wintergreen Recipe- Wintergreen Meringues

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a lovely little perennial, ground hugging plant in our area. The leaves are leathery, but can be chewed while hiking for a refreshing wintergreen flavor. The red berries, also tasting of wintergreen, are abundant in the fall, and can over-winter into spring for gathering. We had a wild foods potluck to attend in June, so we went out to find some of last fall's berries, still clinging to the low foliage. I chopped them finely in the food processor. The berries are not juicy, they are rather dry inside with many seeds, which is why they can last under snowfall all winter. Once chopped, they made a paste, which I folded into the meringue recipe before piping into rosettes and baking. Quite popular at the potluck, I also had a hard time keeping Gillian's little fingers out of the cookie basket before they were served. There should not be too much color or browning on the meringues, if there is you need a lower oven temperature. Try not to bake these on a humid or rainy day, or they will just stay sticky and not really dry out. If you can't find berries right now, wait until late autumn to seek out wintergreen berries in abundance, most often under white pines.

Wintergreen Meringues                   makes about 48

1 c. wintergreen berries
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 c. sugar

1. In a food processor, chop the wintergreen berries into a coarse paste, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl. You will end up with about 4 Tbsp of a dry paste.
2. Preheat the oven to 250° F.
3. In a mixer bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, then continue to whip to soft peaks.
4. Slowly add the sugar, and mix the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. With a whisk, mix in the wintergreen berry puree by hand, trying not to deflate the whipped egg whites.
5. Using a large star tip, pipe out the meringue into rosettes, leaving about 1/2" between each meringue. Bake for 3 hours until dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Burdock Recipe - Burdock Root Pickles

Burdock is a biennial plant, and knowing which year plant is in is necessary before you attempt to dig and harvest the roots.  From the second year's growth, we gather the flower stalk, which is delicious peeled and boiled, tasting like artichokes. By mid-June, you can tell how old your burdock plant is, because that is when the flower stalk will bolt up from the center of the basal rosette. We dig the roots from the first year's plant, since they are less woody and stringy. The roots can be dug in spring, summer, or fall, but you'll get the biggest roots in the fall. Digging in sandy or rocky soil is easier, as is digging after it rains, because burdock roots are long and tough. Often you'll only get part of the root broken off, and that's fine to use for cooking or pickling. We have 2 burdocks in our area, great burdock (Articum lappa) and common burdock (Articum minus), both with edible roots. The Japanese consider burdock root a useful vegetable, and call it gobo. Here's a pickle recipe to make if you ever come across a big patch that was exceptionally easy to harvest, they're tart and make a nice addition to any pickle tray.

Burdock Root Pickles                 makes 1 quart jar

about 2 pounds burdock root, enough to fill a quart canning jar
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
3/4 c. rice wine vinegar
6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp diced garlic
1 Tbsp diced ginger

1. Peel the burdock root and cut it into uniform sticks. Boil the sticks in salted water for 5 minutes, until tender. Drain the sticks, then pack them tightly in a sanitized quart canning jar.
2. In another pot, add the soy sauce, water, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, garlic and ginger. Bring the brine up to a boil for 2 minutes.
3. Pour the brine over the burdock sticks, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Add more brine if needed to cover the burdock. At this point, you can keep the pickles in the fridge and eat them in about 3 weeks. If you want to make them shelf stable, cap the jar with a canning lid and boil the jar for 20 minutes to seal. The pickles taste best after resting for at least 2 weeks, and will keep in the fridge once opened.

Second year growth with flower stalk

Monday, June 2, 2014

Spruce Tips

It's already June, but it still seems a bit cool this year in southeastern Connecticut. Most plants are a bit behind schedule, extending foraging possibilities for spring plants. One item we have always nibbled but have yet to experiment with has been the new, fresh growth of spruce trees, Picea sp. Spruce trees are your basic Christmas tree, and we mostly have red spruce growing in the wild, along with lots of ornamental blue spruce and Norway spruce having escaped cultivation. By this time of the year, the new growth has usually gotten too large and toughed up for nibbling, but we are still finding tips in some areas. The flavor is slightly resinous and piney, citrus-y, and rather refreshing. Gillian will often keep a few tips in her pocket to chew on while we hike. Maybe next season we'll get a chance to do some of our own experimenting with this spring edible, but for now I can just share some recipes on the internet.

Punk Domestics is a greats site I contribute to, it collects recipes and methods for all kinds of preserving, pickling, charcuterie, recipes, and some foraging. I usually head over there to find tested, quality recipes made by experienced cooks with lots of love.

Spruce Tips Recipes

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Morels Recipe - Morels and Ramps Biscuits

Living in Connecticut, we generally don't find too many morels. The soil is not right, the trees are not right, and historically, there just are not that many here. Last year it took six adults a few hours to find 27, this year those same six adults found only 12. On our forays with Connecticut Valley Mycological Society, most of the hunters return to the display table with a few specimens, rarely a dozen, and often the only morels in attendance were found off-site a few days before the foray, and brought out for observation and bragging rights. Last week I came home from work one afternoon to find Robert grinning like a fool, and he asked me to guess how many morels he found. Five? Ten? Nope, he found one hundred and forty nine. 149. He was out picking feral asparagus in one of the few patches we frequent in the spring, and realized he was surrounded by beautiful Morchella americana, the blonde morels. Since we had never had so many to deal with before, we wondered how to cook them up or preserve the precious harvest. Most were dried, some were added to scrambled eggs, some went into an asparagus and cream sauce, and the ugliest ones were chopped up and made into biscuits with ramps leaves (Allium tricoccum).

Morel and Ramps Biscuits                 makes 1 dozen

2 Tbsp butter
5 oz. chopped morels (by weight)
2 1/2 c. flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp cold butter
3 Tbsp chopped ramps leaves and stems
1 c. buttermilk

1. Over medium heat, slowly sautee the chopped morels with 2 Tbsp of the butter for 10 minutes, until the morels are browned. Chill the butter/morel mix in the refrigerator until cold and re-solidified. 
2. Heat the oven to 425° F.
3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped ramps together. Slice the 4 Tbsp of cold butter thinly and add it to the flour, and crumble in the cold butter/morel blend. Mix it all gently, making sure there are still pea-sized bits of butter in the mix.
4. Pour in the buttermilk and gently mix together, just until it forms a crumbly ball.
5. On a generously floured surface, dump out the dough and press into a ball. To get lots of flaky layers, roll it into a rectangle, then fold it into thirds like a business letter, pressing it together. Make a quarter turn, and roll it back out into another rectangle. Fold it again into thirds like a letter, and roll it into a rectangle about 6" x 8". Using a knife or biscuit cutters, cut out 12 biscuits and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 425° F for 14-17 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve warm, preferably with gravy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Foraging and Wild Mushroom Hunting 2014

A new camping season with friends has started, beginning with our first outing of the year, this past Mother's Day weekend. Sure, I didn't get flowers and breakfast in bed, but I did eat morels around the campfire and woke up to birdsong in the woods. Dinners were fantastic again, with communal cooking for the meals, our cooperation made mealtime easy and abundant. We had vegetarian chili, venison stew, beans and rice, fried dryad's saddle, and fresh bread for dinners. Potato pancakes, ramps and wild rice hash, and toad-in-the hole, plus bacon and toast filled our tummies in the mornings. We fished for a couple small brook trout, and gathered fresh ramps greens in the woods.

While our actual hunt only yielded 11 morels, 6 Morchella americana and 5 Morchella punctipes, we did find a good amount of tender Dryad's saddle (Polyporus squamosus) to slowly cook until browned and crispy. The season is late and chilly where we were camping, even the ferns were not yet unfurled and many trees were still leafless. Even with a thunderstorm and some night time rain, plus a flood in the screen house that needed to be drained, we still had a great time and look forward to the 2014 camping season with our fellow mushroom hunters and foragers.

Potato pancakes for breakfast

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Garlic Mustard Recipe Roundup

Microgreens and larger leaves
Garlic mustard is another wild, invasive green we like to cook with, creating familiar and original recipes in which to use this sometimes bitter, garlicky/mustardy plant. We encourage gathering and cooking as much as you can! The teeny sprouts that come up in abundance in the early spring are mild and can be used like microgreens in salads and on other dishes. The rosettes of leaves that grow next are tender enough to eat raw most of the spring, but will toughen and get more bitter as the season progresses. They can be quickly boiled and used like any other leafy green in recipes, whole, chopped, or pureed. We also like to eat the flower stalks that will shoot up in mid-spring from the second year plant growth, bearing clusters of white flowers. The thinner, triangular leaves that grow from the flower stalk are very tender, and the unopened and opened flowers are edible as well, all with a garlicky-mustardy bite. In the summer, the seed pods will form, and we'll eat them as long as they are still green and flexible. After the seed pods dry out and turn brown, we gather the black, comma-shaped seeds quite easily in abundance. The seeds store very well, dried and in a jar, to use for dressings, topping breads, and grinding into fiery mustard all year. Finally, the roots can be dug up and grated into a horseradish-like condiment, with a touch of vinegar. While it is an annoying invasive plant in many areas, garlic mustard can be used as food during all points of it's two year life cycle. Use it simply, use it in complicated recipes, just use it!

Garlic Mustard Recipes:

Garlic Mustard and Cheese Ravioli
Garlic Mustard Seed Dressing
Green Felafels 
Garlic Mustard Hummus
Garlic Mustard-Mustard 
Garlic Mustard Roulade 

Steamed garlic mustard seed pods and greens with butter