Category Archives: food

Milkweed dinner?

Tonight, Alex and I prepared the Milkweed Alex found on his most recent foraging trip.  As was described in the last post, Milkweed has qualities that require a great deal of boiling prior to ingestion.

The way in which we prepared the Milkweed wasn’t anything special, but there was a specific amount of boiling that is necessary.

Boiled Milkweed

  1.   Clean and cut Milkweed.
  2.   Keep 1 large and 1 small pot on hand.  Boil water in the large pot and begin boiling the Milkweed in the smaller pot.
  3. Boil Milkweed in smaller pot for 1 minute and then drain and continue boiling the milkweed with water from the big pot.  Over the next 4 minutes, change the water 4 more times.  Do not use cold water in the changes as they will set a strong bitter taste in the Milkweed. You should let the 5th change of water cook the Milkweed for the last 10 minutes.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
Opinions? 
Alex liked them.  They were bitter, but not bitter enough to make him dislike them.  The smaller shoots weren’t bitter at all and he loved them!
As for myself, I was not a fan.  Maybe I tasted the more bitter shoots, but either way…they were too bitter for me!  We decided it was the leaves that caused the unfortunate taste. After also tasting the bottom of the shoots, I agree with that conclusion.
Apparently, Alex might have found them a little late in their growth cycle which could’ve contributed to their bitter taste.  That also might explain why the smaller shoots we tasted were less bitter.
Overall, they smelled delicious (like Asparagus) and if you like a bitter vegetable, MILKWEED IS FOR YOU!
– Sam
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Garden State

I spent this past Sunday May 22nd with my dear mother Betty preparing and planting our garden. We planted Corn, Carrots, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Radishes, Spaghetti Squash, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Romaine Lettuce, Peas and String Beans. I can’t wait to begin harvesting our vegetables! We also have Raspberries, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Basil, Rosemary and Oregano.

It is amazing how much variety you can plant in such a small area. Our garden is only 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, yet all the veggies, fruits and herbs listed above fit quite nicely inside its boundaries. I think having a garden is one step away from foraging. Honestly on a small scale having a garden is just as close an interaction with Earth as foraging. Each thing has its season and must be taken care of. On a small scale there is no need for pesticides or fertilizer and really being organic isn’t tough at all.

As Sam will tell you from an environmental stand point small local gardens and farms is a way better system for food supply. It always boggles my mind when I hear the statistic that food travels up to 1500 miles to get the super market! Yet you drive through neighborhood after neighborhood and past house after house without any food gardens. Sure they have Geraniums and Daffodils blooming throughout their extensive lawns but not one Tomato plant our herb garden. In my opinion the convenience of the super market does not outweigh the hazards of climate change.

Plus growing you own food just appeals to a side of human tradition that seems to be slowly disappearing. There is something about getting your hands into the soil and watching life and food sprout from the ground that puts things into a greater perspective. Food is something we should try harder to create and capture ourselves. That is what our whole foraging experience embodies. Knowing where your food comes from and being highly involved in it builds the respect and love for nature that our concrete jungles keep diminishing.

– Alex

Every fisherman starts out as a boy or a girl.

My love of fishing, or at least of watching fishing, started as a toddler.  I would wake up on Sunday mornings, 6am and watch fishing shows on TV.  Later on I got a little more participative and I remember having the best experiences of actually fishing.  Waking up early, rowing out with Grandma, Grandpa, and parents in tow.  Yes, I was so strong then I rowed them.  Well not really, but I was so enthusiastic it seemed to me we were powered on that enthusiasm alone.

I’ve been fishing with Alex once since we began this project and the successful outcome of today’s meal was NOT due to my fish whispering skills.  All the fish we ate for this meal were the product of Alex’s last trip to the Thornapple River and a generous donation from our friend John.  The menu was as follows.

Breaded and Fried Catfish/Blue Gill

  • All the Catfish and Blue Gill fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • Breading made from Veggie Chips
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat the vegetable oil until at frying temperature.
  2. Dip fish fillet into eggs, into breading and place gently into the pan with oil.
  3. Fry until fish is cooked and breading is crispy and brown.
Sauteed Cattail Shoots
The Cattails were as always, DELICIOUS.  As for the fish, we were amazing at how good the breading turned out!  Veggie chips are definitely a new twist on breading for fish.  The fish was cooked to perfection also.  Who would’ve thought Alex knew how to cook fish so well?

-Sam

Praying For Rain

After talking with a few people with more experience than myself about Morel mushrooms I am praying for some rain. I have learned they like moister soils but not wet soil and prefer to grow at higher elevation than I had previously expected. The conversations have backed up all I have learned on the web like looking around dead elm trees, old burn areas and logging areas. I also picked up some pointers from my cousin who told me they seem to prefer sandier soil (the white morels that is) and if I could find an old apple orchard that I would definitely have better luck. With the White Morel season in full bore, Sam and I should hopefully be able to find some morels before seasons end come Labor Day.

Not only has the warmer weather spurned my desire for Morels it has also brought fishing back into my vocabulary. Eating the Ribbon Snake was interesting and certainly some resourceful foraging but there is no substitute for a good ol’ fish fry. I have the evening off Thursday and the whole day off Friday; perhaps I’ll be telling a fish story later this week.

– Alex

Keep your eyes open, but more importantly…take whatever you can get.

Cattails.  Delicious….yes.  Exciting 3 consecutive meals in a row…not so much.  We thought this past week’s meal was, once again, going to rest in the verdant hands of Typha latifolia (the Common Cattail).  Thank the Lord we were wrong.

Last week, Alex and I foraged three times in different places around the area for something new to consume, but to no avail.  Neither did we find the species of fiddleheads we were searching for nor the early season Morels and wild Asparagus that are said to be sprouting around Michigan.  It’s sufficient to say our spirits were low.  As of Friday, we had NOTHING to prepare for our meal that night.  Postponing the meal until Monday we felt less pressure and decided to try foraging once more in Seedman Park (Ada, MI).

Right away we were happy to see the largest Dandelion’s we’d seen yet this spring and snatched those babies up. Praise the Lord and…pass the Dandelions I suppose?  The rest of that trip turned up little else other than a couple fiddleheads that unfortunately, we not of the Ostrich fern specie.   We’ve read that technically, there aren’t any poisonous fiddleheads, but we heard some are definitely more tasty than others.  We’ll have to try the ones we found this past trip in our meal this Friday.  Oddly enough, we also came across a Ribbon Snake that we were able to catch, clean and refrigerate to add to our meal Monday.  I’m still not so sure about that one.  Hm.

As all of you know, Sunday (yesterday) was Mother’s Day.  So as I’m sure all of you were, Alex and I were spending our days separately with our Mom’s.  Thank goodness we did.  After spending time with my own Mom at the Tulip Festival in Holland, MI, my parents and I went out to my Dad’s parents home in Nunica.  My Grandparents live on a large amount of land and have a field and adjacent woods comprising most of the acreage.  After coincidentally discussing Alex’s and my blog, Grandma Joan kicked me out of her house.  I didn’t need too much convincing to go forage the woods I had explored most of my childhood, but I did need some encouraging after all the snacks we had eaten.  I needed boots so Grandpa Otto provided, with dead mouse included.  How nice.


My Aunt Paula and Uncle Greg were nice enough to let me tag along and boy did we hit the mother load….of Wild Leeks!  Up until this point, Alex and I had only found wild onions with deeply rooted, not to mention tiny, bulbsThe wild Leeks we found were large and ripe for the picking.  Not only were they in huge, easily accessible clumps, but their bulbs were so close to the surface my family and I were able to use our hands to dig them out (a not so easily done task with wild onions).  In 10 minutes or so, we easily collected 50 plants. 

FINALLY!  Alex and I would have a foraged resource to make our meal with.  Right off the bat, I decided we were going to make Leek Soup the next day and boyyyyy did we!  Our meal we prepared for lunch and follows below.

Sauteed Ribbon Snake

  • 1 ribbon snake, gutted, cleaned and sliced
  • Butter
  1. Fry up the snake meat, tiny bones included, with butter in a pan until golden brown and crispy.
  2. Dish and serve.

OUR OPINIONAlex: loved.  Myself:  Tasty, but I hated the bones.  Worth trying once though.

Dandelion and Leek Leaf Salad

  • the leaves from 20 dandelion plants
  • 2 Tbsp of sliced leek leaves
  • preferred dressing
  1. Thoroughly clean the dandelion/leek leaves and prepare as one would a typical salad.
  2. Slice a few leek leaves long wise and add to the dandelion leaves.
  3. Add preferred dressing and serve.

OUR OPINION:  Alex and I both found incredibly tasty, but a little on the bitter side.  Dandelion leaves would really compliment a Romain leaf salad as well we decided.

Potato Leek Soup  (3-4 Servings)

  • 1-2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 leeks, in our case we approximated with our small leeks what we thought would be the equivalent, washed and sliced
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, optional
  • 3 – 4 cups water
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 Asparagus (we got ours from the garden), we added for fun
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp freshly-ground white pepper
  1. In a large pot heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the slices leeks and season with salt. Cook the leeks over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they’re completely soft and wilted.
  3. Add the thyme, if using, and stir for about 30 seconds, cooking them with the leeks to release their flavor flavors.
  4. Pour in the water, and add the potatoes and bay leaf.
  5. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when poked with a sharp knife. Depending on which potatoes you used, it could take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

THE LAST STEP BELOW (we didn’t do this step due to time shortage, but we will try it next time for sure)

  1. Pluck out the bay leaves and puree the soup with the white pepper, seasoning with more salt if necessary. I use an immersion (stick) blender, but if you use a standard blender, be sure not to fill it more than half-full and secure the lid, and cover it with a tea towel when blending, to avoid hot soup or steam for causing problems. Don’t use a food processor as that will make the potato purée gummy.If the soup is too thick, add a bit more water, until it’s the desired consistency.

OUR OPINION:  Alex and I both loved it!  We can’t wait to make it again and maybe this time around, we’ll puree it like the recipe’s last step suggests.  The one thing that truly amazed me was how tasty the 3 cups of water became after combining all the other ingredients.  There really weren’t that many, yet the liquid in the soup tasted like some bouillon or chicken stock were added.  So healthy AND delicious.

– Sam


Cattail Soup

Sam came over today for our second foraged meal of Cattail soup. Preparing it was relatively easy. The rice sat simmering away as Sam cleaned and separated the massive clump of wild onions and I started simmering the sesame seeds and carrots (Queen Anne’s Lace) in a handsome amount of olive oil. With the wild onions cleaned it was few simple chops and into the pan they went. Then Sam took over the cutting board and began slicing the cattails into bite size pieces with great finesse, as only a fencer could.

With the rice close and our Cattails, Wild Onion and Carrots simmering beautifully Sam and I could step back and enjoy the sounds and smells of the kitchen. When everything was ready we added the veggies to the rice along with 4 cups of chicken broth and let it cook for another 15 minutes.

We decided to deviate from the recipe, but only slightly, and add some Herbs de Provence. The 15 minute wait was excruciating for Sam as she had skipped lunch and was “dieing” of hunger.  With the clock striking 6:30 we turned off the heat and ladled out the soup into two bowls and were happy to see we would definitely have leftovers. At the table we spooned the soup into our mouths so quickly we got burnt, oops.

Caution Hot!

Sam grabbed some bread so we could at least taste the broth without suffering the heat. Soon enough we were like Goldilocks, enjoying soup that was just right.  The soup was very good and now having had Cattails twice I can confidently describe the taste. It is has a sweet yet fishy taste much like imitation crab and the ends are so soft you hardly know they are there, however the green sections have a crunch to them. The Queen Anne’s Lace is extremely comparable to store bought carrots except that they are white and not orange.

Now after two meals I am feeling even better about our experience thus far. It is so much fun walking through swamps and fields with Sam and discovering wild edibles, as well as sharing the kitchen cooking a shared meal. We can’t wait to share our next meal with you and we hope you enjoy our journey as much as do.

– Alex

Earth Day – Our First Meal

Today is EARTH DAY 2011!!!  Alex and I enjoyed a beautifully cloudy and chilly celebration of our mother earth cooking up our first officially foraged meal.  It was so exciting watching the fruits of our labors meld into a delicious concoction.  The scent of sesame and onion filled the kitchen and set our mouths a-watering.

For those who are interested in what we cooked, here is our menu below.

Menu

Wilted Dandelion Salad

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dandelion leaves from 6 plants approx.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Brown the minced garlic in olive oil, add dandelion leaves, mixing thoroughly to make sure all the leaves are coated in oil, add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat once the leaves are just slightly wilted.

Cattail Stir-Fry

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp crushed Sesame Seeds
  • Wild onions
  • Cattails
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  1. Roast Sesame seeds in olive oil on low until you can smell their aroma, add the diced up stalk of the green onion and sautee on low for another 2 minutes.  Add the onion bulbs, chopped to bitesize, and  cattails (cut to about 1-inch long), sautee for approx. 3 minutes.  Add a little water and cover pan, let simmer until the cattails become translucent.  Add cooked rice, stir, salt & pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

Candied Violets

Before baking

After baking

  • 1 egg white
  • sugar
  • wild violets (icluding stems) washed!
  1. In bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk just until frothy. Place sugar in another bowl.   Taking one violet at a time, pick it up by the stem and dip into egg whites, covering all surfaces.  Gently dip into the sugar, covering the entirety of the flower.  Place on wax paper-lined baking sheets and snip off the stems.  Using a toothpick, open petals to original shape.  sprinkle sugar on any uncoated areas.  Dry in a 200 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until sugar crystallizes.  Remove violets to wire rack, sprinkle again with sugar if violets appear syrupy.  Cool.  Store in airtight containers with wax paper between layers.
    Nutrition Facts   (1 Flower = 1 serving = 3 calories, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 9 mg sodium, 1g protein, trace carbohydrates, 0 fiber)

Our Meal Review

The meal as a whole was delicious!  We especially enjoyed the cattails and  onion, but they were a lot sweeter than we thought they would be.  The flavors were subtle and pleasant, and they complimented each other extremely well.  The candied violets were messy, but uber sweet and surprisingly, they tasted like a combination of berries and leafy greens (it might sound odd, but it tasted amazing!).

For all our praise and enjoyment, this is a learning experience and there are some changes we’ll make next time.  For example, when adding vinegar to the dandelion salad, the rule of thumb should be LESS IS MORE!  Also very important, make sure to not over-wilt the dandelion leaves.  As with the aforementioned vinegar, less is also more when it comes to the amount of egg white and sugar coated on the violets.  Our violets didn’t crystallize all the way through, even though we baked them for the allotted time, and proved to be a gooey mess.  If you decide to use our recipe, we advise an application of non-stick spray to the wax paper prior to preparing the violets.

This meal was many things.  It was fun to research, clean, prepare, cook, present, photograph, ingest, delight in and ruminate on.    One thing it wasn’t?  Hard, expensive, inedible (thank goodness) or gross!    I honestly cannot believe all the produce that was right in our metaphorical backyard.  Nor did we have to search for days to find it!  The hardest thing about preparing for this meal was waiting for a day…in April…in Michigan, with good weather.

– Sam and Alex

P.S. For more photos check out our Facebook page