Monday, April 27, 2020

Spring Shoots, Mushrooms, and Greens-Dinnertime!

Spring is coming along slowly this year, it has been chilly and damp, plenty of April Showers. A few treks into our local woods yielded some early edibles: nettle shoots, ramps greens, garlic mustard, and morels. Dinners have been wild this week!

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)are out in open fields and along the edges of the woods, They are covered in small, stinging hairs that inject you with a mix of histamines and acids, producing the "sting". Nettles are high in soluble iron and proteins, a super green vegetable to use as a spring tonic.

Soup made with nettle greens, spinach, and ramps greens, with topu croutons

We do have a very local spot where we often find a handful of morels each year. This year the yellow morels (Morchella americana) have popped early in this one spot, it is a really exposed area that gets plenty of direct sunlight. We headed back twice, finding more than two dozen good-sized mushrooms. Morels are a highly sought after mushroom with a very earthy flavor, and they can be preserved by drying. It is very important to slice your morels in half to make sure they are completely hollow (and to make sure there are no slugs hiding!)

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a very abundant and invasive weed that most people want to eradicate from their property. It is biennial, and the second year's growth has already shot up with the flower cluster at the top. Garlic mustard is in the mustard family and can be a bit bitter for beginners, but we eat so much that we are used to the pungency and can eat it as a side of sauteed greens.

Potato and morel hash with a side of sauteed garlic mustard greens
Irish boxty made with morels and ramps greens

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) have sprouted in southern New England, and we have collected a few from several different patches that we visit. Ramps are a wild leek with a fantastic funky-garlic flavor. We only collect one leaf from each plant, allowing the bulb to stay and reproduce for future years; besides all of the flavor we want is found in the leaves, along with the goodness of a green vegetable.

Flaxseed braided breads stuffed with potatoes and ramps greens

Chinese flower steamed buns with chopped ramps greens

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Recipe - Dandelion Root Pudding

Wintertime is a good time for us to go over our stores of wild food from the previous seasons and use them in some dishes and recipes. Here we used dandelion root powder to make a smooth, creamy, and deeply flavored pudding for dessert. We make the powder by digging up the long, tough taproot of dandelions in the spring or autumn, then scrubbing them well until they are free from dirt. Then they get roasted in a low temperature oven until they are dry, you will start to smell the wonderful coffee-chocolate-like aroma after about 30 minutes. Once the roots are totally dried and brittle, they get ground into powder using either the blender of a coffee grinder. The powder is then kept in a airtight jar until we want to use it to make a coffee-like hot drink or use the powder as a flavoring in other recipes.

For this pudding, we made a vegan pudding with a blend of almondmilk and coconut milk from the can, but you could use dairy milk as well. We also used weight measurements since they are far more accurate than volumetric measurements in many cases.

Dandelion Root Pudding-makes about 8 servings

200 g almondmilk
15 g dandelion root powder
200 g coconut milk (from a can)
70 g sugar
30 g coconut oil
25 g tapioca starch
1/2 tsp agar agar powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, add the almondmilk and dandelion root powder and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Filter the mixture through a coffee filter to remove the solids.
2. Add the almondmilk back to the saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture up to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Remove the pudding mixture from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. It will thicken slightly and be a bit gooey.
4. Place the mixture in the blender and whir it for 30 seconds, until smooth. Pour the pudding into serving cups and chill in the refrigerator.