Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ramps Recipe - Ramps Twists

Here is a great use for the ramps pesto we make using the green leaves of our native edible wild leeks (Allium tricoccum). Another spring ephemeral, the leaves of the ramps start to poke up from the warming earth in April. They can be gathered for about a month and a half before they send up their flower stalk and the leaves begin to yellow and die back until next spring. We rarely dig the entire ramp, as this kills the plant and we don't use the bulb very often. The leaves are full of the funky-garlicky goodness we like, and we harvest the leaves by cutting one leaf from each cluster of 2 or 3 that each plant produces from its bulb. By taking only a few leaves from any area, we ensure the health of the ramps patch. They reproduce very slowly by splitting their underground bulbs, and digging them up as many short-sighted commercial harvesters do will destroy future sources of this delicious wild edible. Most of the recipes we come up with use the leaves, and the pesto recipe freezes well to use all year.

Find this recipe in our book.
Ramps patch

This recipe is available in our book, available Spring 2016.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Garlic Mustard Recipe - Garlic Mustard and Cheese Ravioli

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is another super-invasive plant in our area along the east coast. The whole plant is edible, the leaves, flower stalks, flowers, roots, and seeds that are produced in massive quantities. Eating this invader can be done for a good portion of the year, and the blanched leaves store well in the freezer. The flavor overall is garlicky, with a bit of a mustard bite that some people might find bitter. We like the second year's triangular leaves better than the oval, scalloped leaves of the first year's basal rosette, they tend to be more tender and less harsh. We like to pair the pungency of this wild edible with earthy flavors like mushrooms, plus rich textures like cheese in recipes, while still adding a good quantity of garlic mustard. This recipe is mostly about making a filling. You can fill wontons or pasta dough for ravioli, or even use it to stuff some puff pastry triangles or bread. We used some wild hen-of-the-woods maitake mushrooms, because that is what we had in the freezer, but grocery store mushrooms will work fine.

Garlic Mustard and Cheese Ravioli Filling     makes about 2 cups

1 T olive oil
1 c. chopped ramps or onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c. chopped maitake mushrooms, or chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 1/2 c. garlic mustard leaves, roughly chopped
4 T farmer's cheese, or drained ricotta
1 T sour cream
1 tsp salt

1. Sautee chopped ramps or onion in the olive oil over medium heat until transluscent, 4 minutes. Add garlic and chopped mushrooms, cook until the mushrooms release their juices and it evaporates, about 5 more minutes.
2. Toss in 2 cups of the garlic mustard leaves and cover the pan, cook 2 more minutes to wilt the leaves. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
3. Put the cooked onion, mushroom and garlic mustard mixture into a food processor, and pulse a few times to mix. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of raw garlic mustard leaves, the farmer's cheese, sour cream and salt, and continue to pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. Taste and adjust salt.
4. Use the filling to fill ravioli, wonton wrappers, or as a spread.

First-year basal rosette

Second year leaves and flower stalks

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Japanese Knotweed Recipe - Knotweed Fruit Leather

Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is one of our most prolific invasive plants, it spreads by producing copious winged seeds in the fall and through underground rhizomes. Colonies of knotweed advance and can puncture up through the pavement in the spring, making them especially hated by public works employees who will try to cut down the stalks and poison the heck out of the plant. When gathering some knotweed shoots in the spring for consumption, try to get them from untreated areas and away from roadsides. They should also be picked before they are 12" tall; when they are still thick and have not unfurled too many leaves is the best time. To eat them raw, we prefer to peel the stalks, which can be difficult since the stalk is hollow like bamboo. When they are younger, the stalks are thicker and the peel comes off rather easily with a knife or potato peeler. For this fruit leather recipe, you can use smaller unpeeled stalks, or peel the larger ones with a stringier skin. Since we purchased a better blender, we can make this fruit leather without the peeling step.

Peeled knotweed stalks

The color is not particularly appetizing, olive green, but the flavor is similar to sour apples, without any of the knotweed's typical vegetal qualities. Our daughter, Gillian, really enjoys this snack and we had trouble keeping her away from the fruit leather long enough to take a picture. I tried two different methods of drying the fruit leather: the oven and the dehydrator. We have a cheap 1990's Ronco dehydrator that works just fine, using the fruit leather plastic tray. I then tried spreading the puree on parchment in the Ronco and it worked, but was a little more brittle. Then I spread some puree very thickly on some silicone baking mats on a sheetpan in the oven and it worked, but took the longest to dry. Once I removed it form the drying surface, I just rolled them up to store them in some glass jars.

Update: We finally saved enough money to purchase a good Excalibur dehydrator. This recipe makes enough puree to fill 2-12" square trays lined with the silicone liners. I use the fruit leather setting, about 130ยบ F until the leather has darkened and dried. The old Ronco still works too!

This recipe is available in our book, available Spring 2016.
Pile of knotweed peels