Tag Archive | Wild Edibles

Black and Red, I love both those berries!

The different stages of ripeness.

The different stages of ripeness.

really love finding wild berries.  Black, Blue, Red, I like them all.  I’m going to focus on the Black and Red today though.  Raspberries come in season long before the Blackberries, which gives me a full 2 months or more to go berry picking!  Yeah!  I love berry picking.  Ok, well I do like berry picking but not as much as berry eating!  Berry picking can be a very “prickly” business.  I get pricked quite often, actually.  If your going to go picking berries, especially if they grow in the wild, it is a really good idea to wear long sleeves and heavy pants, such as jeans.  If you don’t you might end up with big scratches and bleeding spots.  Trust me, been there and done that repeatedly.  Not a good idea.  I tend to plan out my berry picking activities now instead of just going on a whim.  It’s painless that way!

Ripe Raspberries in all their heavenly glory.

Ripe Raspberries in all their heavenly glory.

First we shall talk about raspberries, being they ripen first up here in the Northern Woods.  My Mom absolutely loves them.  Way more than I do.  Therefore, when ever I go out to pick raspberries I pick them for her.  She typically makes me a jar of jam from them.

Raspberries are so fragile, so light, so fragrant.  Their taste just pops in your mouth.  At the height of ripeness they have the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity.   They are also full of good stuff!  In one cup of raspberries there are lots of greatness, such as they are downright loaded with Vitamin C.  32.2 Grams.  54% of your daily value.  Vitamin K, 9.6 mcg and 12% of your DV.  Manganese, 0.8 mcg, 41% of your DV.  They are a good source of dietary fiber.  They are super low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol.  They are 82% carbohydrate, 10% fat and 8% protein.  In other words, yummy!   Besides that they taste good and can easily added to many food items.  They can be baked into a muffin, eaten raw over some cereal, added to yogurt with granola, etc. etc.

When picking raspberries it is wisest to take several small containers instead of one large container.  The reason is that they crush easily.

Beautiful red raspberries hanging nicely for me to pluck.

Beautiful red raspberries hanging nicely for me to pluck.

Raspberries are absolutely wonderful when turned into a jam, preserves, or conserve.  I personally decided to go different this year and made a peach and raspberry preserve.  Preserves are more like a honey consistency and the fruit is a little bigger than a jam.  It spreads easily on toast.  It tastes great on toast with butter!

Raspberry Peach Preserves.

Raspberry Peach Preserves.

 

Now , I’d like to talk about Blackberries.  Many people confuse blackberries and DewBerries.  There is one major difference.  Dewberries typically grown along the ground on a vine and Blackberries grow upright on canes or stalks.   Look at the pictures below to see what I mean.

Dewberries grow along the ground on vines.

Dewberries grow along the ground on vines.

Blackberries grow upright

Blackberries grow upright

Blackberries are also bigger than dewberries.  There are also black raspberries.  They grow in the same exact way as blackberries.  There are a few differences though.  The black raspberries are shaped the same as red raspberries, round and with a hollow after you pick them.  They leave a white half circle of what I call pith on the vine.  The underside of their leaves is also almost white.  Blackberries on the other hand  leave no visible pith, are not hollow, and are more  light green under the leaves.  They are also more oblong shaped.

Blackberries are more oblong shaped

Blackberries are more oblong shaped

Blackberries are full of natural vitamins and minerals.  They are 50% of your Daily Value of Vitamin C in one cup!  They are also 41% of your manganese for the day.  They are also a good source of folate, vitamin K, and copper.  Just like raspberries they are low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol.  They are 79% carb, 10% fat, and 11% protein.  All in all a good healthy choice.  They are very versatile.  Being they are a tougher berry they hold up well while baking, freezing, and picking.  You can use one large vessel rather that several smaller for picking.  These berries don’t crush as easily.

Personally I adore blackberries and they are my favorite summertime fruit.  I like them for all sorts of yummy reason.  They are great for snacking, they are sweet and less acidic that raspberries, they make wonderful wine, etc.  I try and get gallons of these little delicious bites in my freezer every year.  I make jams, preserves, and crumbles with them.

Rows of blackberry and raspberry bushes growing wild along a trail.

Rows of blackberry and raspberry bushes growing wild along a trail.

 

Dewberries are not as sweet as blackberries in my opinion.  I find them rather tart and a little bitter.  It might just be the weather this year though.  It has been rainy and overcast much of the summer.  Temperatures have been hovering around the low to high 70’s all summer.  In order for berries to get sweet they need pure unadulterated sunshine for days and days. A good mix of rain and sun is best for the greatest tasting berries.  I’ve noticed all the berries are a little bitter this year because of it.  Bummer  😦

Dewberry vines are creeping across the ground

Dewberry vines are creeping across the ground

Dewberries are smaller.

Dewberries are smaller.

I don’t know as much about Dewberries as they are a discovery I made only last year and I am figuring out ways to use them.  They ripen about the same time as the blueberries here in Northern Michigan, typically July.  I tried mixing the blue and dewberries together into a pie and it was horrible!  It was bitter and sour!  I know many people who love Dewberries.  I’m hoping next year they are sweeter and I can fall in love with them too.

So, in closing today I’d like to say GET OUT AND PICK!  It’s good for you!  You get exercise, hang out in nature, and reap the rewards of luscious berries!  Besides they are completely organic and GMO free when you find them growing wild.  I like that.  I like that VERY much.

 

 

Fungi, Fungi, and more Fungi!

An abundance of Chanterelle's

   An abundance of Chanterelle’s

The Chanterelles, Oysters, and Puffball Mushrooms are all coming out in droves with the cooler weather here in Northern Michigan.  Thank GOD!  We love mushrooms, they are so delicious.  I took my 5 year old  nephew out with me yesterday to show him the ropes of Chanterelle hunting.  We found more than Chanterelles which was great.  My nephew told me we had to make something for dinner which included the mushrooms.  The recipe I made is included in this post.

Chanterelles grow on the ground, either singly or in groups.  The ones we are finding are called  “cantharellus cibarius”.  They are yellow.  Anywhere from a light buttery yellow if they have been under leaves and haven’t gotten much light to a dark yellowy orange if they are getting older and drying out some. They have a flat to slightly depressed cap usually, though occasionally it can be more trumpet like.  Chanterelles have “false gills”.  What are false gills you ask?  False gills look like this: 

These are false gills

These are false gills

 They are false gills because they are more like folds in the mushroom.  You can not pull them off individually.  They tend to fork at the end of the mushroom.  It’s really important to know the difference between false gills and true gills.  There are very dangerous look alike mushrooms out there.  The Jack-o-Lantern mushroom is a look alike to the Chanterelle.

Think about a button mushroom you buy at the store.  Turn it over.  On the underside you will see that it has gills.  They are detached from each other.  You could pull each one off individually if you like.  They are plate or blade like.  These are true gills.

True gills.  Can be pulled off individually. Detached and hanging down singularly.

True gills. Can be pulled off individually. Detached and hanging down singularly.

Chanterelles also have a fruity smell.  You may not notice it individually but if you get several together it’s undeniably apricoty.  Chantharellus Cibiarius once broken will stain a darker orange to brown color.  They are usually  a few inches tall (between 1 and 5) and and inch to several inches across.  The spore print is pale yellow to creamy white.  Chanterelles can be preserved by sautéing them in some butter and garlic, cooling, and then putting in freezer bags and frozen.  If preserved other ways they tend to lose their flavor.

This is the biggest Chanterelle I have found.  It's as big as my hand!

This is the biggest Chanterelle I have found. It’s as big as my hand!

Chanterelle Hunting

Chanterelle Hunting

Smaller chanterelle.  This is more typical size

Smaller chanterelle. This is more typical size

 

We also found oyster mushrooms.  They tend to grow on deciduous trees and tree stumps.  They grow in clusters mainly but can be found individually.  The ones we find are typically a light tan to creamy whitish tan color.  They are slightly slimy when wet.  They look like a fan and have true gills.  The Oysters in the pictures below are not ones I picked yesterday but some my wonderful neighbors gave me a few days back.

Creamy tan to whitish color, true gills, fan shaped.

Creamy tan to whitish color, true gills, fan shaped.

True gills

True gills

They grow in abundance

They grow in abundance

Oyster Mushrooms come in many shapes, colors, and sizes.  There are a lot of different types of oysters out there and you need to know which are which.  If your unsure you can ask a mushroom expert for identification.  Never eat ANY mushroom that your unsure of.  You could get sick and at worst die.  Now we wouldn’t want that would we?  Oyster are a good addition to many main dishes.  They are also great dehydrated and then ground into a powder that can later be used for adding a mushroomy flavor to food.    

 Wild Mushroom Risotto

  • 1/2 stick of salted Butter
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 2-3 cups wild mushrooms, I used Chanterelle, Oyster, and Pear Puffball
  • 1 C Arborio Rice (Risotto)
  • 2 C beef broth
  • 2 C Sherry
  • 2 C water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Fresh Chives (3-4 TBSP) and  Fresh Oregano( 1-2 TBSP)
  1. Melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet
  2. Add in Olive Oil 
  3. Add Onions to pan and allow to simmer until onions are translucent, 3 minutes or so
  4. Once Onions are translucent add wild mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms shrink in size and pan has lots of liquid.
  5. Add in Arborio rice.  Stirring continuously until all liquid is absorbed.
  6. Mix beef broth and Sherry together in a 4 cup measuring cup or bowl
  7. Add 1 C of beef/sherry liquid to pan.  Stir continuously until all liquid is absorbed.
  8. Continue adding beef/sherry mixture to skillet 1 Cup at a time and stir until all liquid is absorbed in between each addition
  9. Test Arborio Rice.  Taste a piece of rice and see if it is still hard in the middle, if so add water 1 Cup at a time in the same manner as above until rice is soft.
  10. Add in salt and pepper and Fresh Chives and Oregano, cook a few minutes more.  Rice should be a creamy consistency.
  11. ENJOY!
    Keep adding liquid until absorbed

    Keep adding liquid until absorbed

    Once finished Rice will look like this.

    Once finished Rice will look like this.

 

I hope you enjoyed the Mushroom Issue of my Blog.  David and I both really enjoy mushrooms and hope you do too!

 

The BULL about Bull Thistle

Bull Thistle in Bloom

Bull Thistle in Bloom

Bull Thistle, that prickly, pokey, spiny plant that hurts to even think about touching.  We did though.  We touched it a lot.  We got poked, ALOT!  Then we got smart and brought leather gloves and gardening pruners with us.  We gathered more, many many more of those beautiful purple blossoms.  Why? you ask.  To eat them of course!

No, seriously.  We ate them.  It was a pain in the patootie, but we did it.  Was it worth it?  Not really.  Here’s why:

  • They hurt me, repeatedly
  • It’s a lot of work for a thumbnails worth of food
  • It takes a tremendous amount of thistle blossoms to make any sort of a side dish
  • They hurt me, repeatedly
  • Did I say, they hurt me?

Supposedly you can eat the stems.  Only stems from the first years growth because after that they get way to tough.  We found that out the hard way, David and I.  Bull thistle can be prepared by boiling it and then extracting the good stuff.  They are rather like an artichoke in how the look, taste, and are prepared.  Just like and artichoke you don’t want the “choke” part, just the meaty fleshy part underneath all the hairy stuff.  The hairy stuff is the flower.  Unlike artichoke, it’s just not worth it.  You boil the thistle heads whole for about 20-30 minutes.  They actually turn black and get soft when they are done.  After retrieving them from the cooking water with tongs or a slotted spoon, you need to cool them a bit so you can handle them.  The spines are softer now but you will still get poked if your not wearing gloves.  I found it easiest to cut the head in half lengthwise.  I then used a spoon to get in between the choke and the flesh and scraped the good stuff out.  It’s so small.  I did this about 20 times before I got sick of it and stopped.  David and I each ate about 10. We agreed they taste like globe artichoke but that we would rather just eat the artichoke.

You can also eat the leaves of the Bull Thistle.  We aren’t even going to go into that aspect of it.  David and I decided that that was not happening.  You have to pick all the spines off.  That in itself would be such a monumentous task.  We couldn’t see it being worth it unless we were absolutely starving and couldn’t find anything else to eat.  Then we might consider it.

I think that the beautiful Bull Thistle flower is best left to the bees.Honey Bee on Bull Thistle Bee on Thistle   If You decided you just have to try eating the Bull Thistle plant, BE CAREFUL! Protect your hands by wearing some sort of protective covering.  If you decide to eat the leaves , remove all spines.  You can fry them up like any other greens. 

Honey bee getting pollen off of a Bull Thistle plant

Honey bee getting pollen off of a Bull Thistle plant

The Bounty in your own backyard!

Have you ever taken the time to walk around your yard and wonder what really might be there, to eat? Your probably thinking that this is a ridiculous question, that of course you haven’t. Maybe you should! Foraging for wild edibles has many benefits. Variety in diet, saves money on groceries, essential vitamins and minerals, among other things. Let’s go over some of the wonderful and exciting reasons to forage.

Variety in diet:

Many of us are tired of the same variety of fruits and vegetables that you can buy at the store. Mostly it is the same things trip after trip. Potatoes, lettuce, oranges, etc. Instead of plain old iceberg lettuce have you ever tried a spring mix? Notice the difference in texture, variety, and taste? Some of the “lettuce” in that spring mix can be found in your own backyard. Yes, seriously! Dandelion greens for example are a common staple in Spring Mixes. Dandelion greens are full of vitamins such as A, C, and K. They also have minerals. Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous to name a few. These “weeds” are full of nutritional value and add variety to diet.

Saves money on groceries:

Imagine the money that could be saved by foraging for your own wild greens in order to make a salad for dinner. It costs almost nothing! It does however take time, knowledge, and determination. Your backyard probably has Dandelion, Mallow, Purslane, Broadleaf Plantain and other wild greens. Taking the time to learn what these are is invaluable. Imagine picking, for free, a salad from your own backyard or neighborhood. The sense of accomplishment you get feels amazing!

Essential Vitamins and Minerals:

Foraging for food in the wild is an excellent and sustainable way to get your daily vitamins and minerals. Take for an example the dandelion greens discussed above. These greens are loaded with valuable nutrients. One cup of dandelion has 5588 IU of vitamin A. That is 112% of the daily value. There are 19.3 mg of vitamin C, that is 32% of the daily value. 428 mcg of vitamin K which is 535% of the daily value! Imagine how much you could save buying vitamins! Dandelions offer much more in nutritional value than 1 cup of chopped iceberg lettuce. Let us compare. Iceberg lettuce has 361 IU of Vitamin A, 7% of the daily value. 2.0 mcg vitamin C which is 3% of your daily value and 17.4mcg of Vitamin K, 22% DV. The comparison is spectacular. Which would you rather eat?

Foraging in your yard, community, county, can be very rewarding. Besides the nutritional benefits there are the health benefits. Being outdoors and exercising. Get moving and forage!

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