Untame Your Life!

North Carolina Wild Foods Weekend II

April 30th, 2007

Mike Rasnake has been attending the NC Wild Food Weekend for 25 years. In the early 70’s he read a few of Euell Gibbons’ books and 3 months later was living in Hawaii eating as many wild foods as he could get his hands on. He even had a stint of living in the back of a herse for 6 months in the early 70’s, foraging almost all of his food. Below is a photo of the vegetable group he led on Saturday morning. We gathered wild vegetables and spent the afternoon preparing them for a feast with over 50 wild food dishes on Saturday evening.

There were over 120 people in attendance, each joining a group to gather and prepare meat, salads, appetizers, soups, drinks, desserts and more. That made for over 50 wild food dishes, including: acorn bread, jerusalem artichoke pie, fettucini alfredo with squirrel, yaupon chai tea, pawpaw custard, sauteed milkweed shoots, poke eggrolls, kudzu chips, morel mushrooms with wild garlic on toast, violet leaves stuffed with wild nuts and cream cheese spread, cherry tomatoes stuffed with chickweed pesto, sumac maple syrup lemonade, and more!

A little green tree snake we found on our hike with Mike.

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North Carolina Wild Foods Weekend

April 29th, 2007

Yeehaw! What an amazing weekend at the 32nd Annual North Carolina Wild Foods Weekend. The summer Festival scenes are just starting and I would encourage you all to include some of the many wild food gatherings around the country into your summer and fall travel plans. You can go to the Resources section of this website to locate some upcoming festivals. Nothing like winning a pie contest when no one else enters the competition! Above is a photo taken right after winning my $25 prize for the contest. Below is the recipe for this savory pie. It makes enough crust and filling for 2 small pie dishes.

Curly Dock Pie

Crust
1 c curly dock flour
1 c unbleached white flour
1/2 c + 3 T butter
4 T cold water

Use fingers to mix flours and butter together. Then add cold water 1 Tablespoon at a time until thoroughly mixed. Store in refrigerator for a few hours or a few days until needed. Roll out dough and put into pie dishes. Bake in 425 degree preheated oven for roughly 10 minutes. Tap down any bubbles that form before it cools. Cool crust and turn oven down to 350 degrees.

Filling
4 c curly dock greens, chopped
1/2 c wild garlic tops, chopped
4 pieces bacon
2 c cream
6 eggs
2 c swiss cheese
1 t wild ginger powder
black pepper to taste

Steam curly dock greens for roughly 6 minutes. Cook bacon on low heat. Remove bacon, chop and place back into pan with chopped wild garlic tops; cook for roughly 1 minute. In mixing bowl beat eggs and cream. Then fold in cheese, bacon, wild garlic, wild ginger powder and black pepper. Pour into pie dishes with crusts and bake at 350 for roughly 25 minutes.

There were so many great kids at the North Carolina Wild Food Weekend. Below is Braxton, Milton’s grandson, holding a 4-leaf clover he had just found.

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Food Preservation

April 27th, 2007

What a disappointment! I opened up my acorns to find the last 3 gallons of them, along with a couple pounds of dried Toyon berries, molded. Food preservation really is an art…figuring out how to store, package and otherwise preserve foods for home use can be challenging. Not all of us have a wise old Grandma around telling us how to do things, but a nice resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Although they don’t cover a lot of wild foods specifically, you can usually fit your wild foods into their cultivated foods model. Someday we’ll have a Wild Foods Center for Home Food Preservation.

To keep up with using all that wild fennel right now try the recipe below for some marinated olives. Adams Olive Ranch sells delicious olives/olive oil/tapenades/etc., which they have been growing and curing for 5 generations.

Wild Fennel Olives
extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups olives
orange rind, roughly 2 long strips
fennel leaves, several small sprigs
1 T fennel seeds
6 cloves garlic, peeled

Stuff jar with fennel leaves and seeds, garlic cloves, orange rind, olives and pour in olive oil. Make sure olives and completely covered in oil and store in refrigerator. You can also lightly sauté all ingredients, except olives, for about 5 minutes and then cool and place into jar. Again, store in refrigerator.

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Sticky Monkey Flower Tea

April 18th, 2007

Ever since the new leaf growth began emerging on the sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), I have been attracted to this plant. Frustrating attempts to make sticky monkey flower greens with peanut sauce, wild rice sticky monkey flower stir fry, and more, turned out as disgusting and expensive disasters. But the spirit of experimentation doesn’t get stamped out easily, so I finally listened to the plant and made a tea.

Click here to see some nice photographs of the sticky monkey flower plant in bloom. To make the tea, boil 3 cups of water. After water is boiling, remove from heat and place in one bag of Yogi Green Tea and about 5 leaves of sticky monkey flower and a few flowers. Put the lid on the pot and let steep for at least 5 minutes. Of course you don’t have to use Yogi Green Tea, I just like the combination of these flavors.

The photo shows me dipping some amazing 11-grain sourdough bread from Bezian’s Bakery, slathered with rose hip lemon curd, into my steaming cup of sticky monkey flower tea. It’s a mouthful to say, but it slides down the hatch really well.

Rose Hip Lemon Curd

4 lemons
2 c sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 T finely chopped rose hips, no seeds

Finely chop rose hips, removing stems and seeds. Juice lemons and combine with sugar, butter, and rose hips. Cook over low heat until liquid. Remove from heat and beat rigorously. Lightly beat eggs and blend into mixture. Return to low heat and stir constantly until it coats the spoon. Pour into sterilized jars and store in refrigerator.

I think this plant is about attracting what you want in your life. It is extremely sticky to the touch, and attracts many beneficial insects when in bloom…including bees (click here to read the latest buzz on our bees). This is not a tea to drink every day….do not exceed 3 cups per day and don’t drink for more than a week at a time.

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Wild Fennel Fritters

April 15th, 2007

Fennel galore here! You can see the young furry piece of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) growth bursting out of the frond near the middle of the photo. Harvest these tender young stalks/fronds and greens when still flexible. Wild fennel originates from the Mediterranean and is high in phenols. Phenols are phytochemicals that block inflammation and clumping of platelets in the body. Click here to view specific details of phenols in wild fennel, published in a 2003 issue of the World Review of Nutrition and Diet.

The following recipe comes from Angelo Garro from Sicily. They are absolutely delicious fritters, and a fun way to use this wildly abundant wild food. Click here for more details and photos of Angelo’s recipe.

Wild Fennel Fritters

1 1/2 lbs of wild fennel fronds
3 eggs
1 c shredded parmasean cheese
1 c coarse bread crumbs (made from day-old bread ground up in a food processor or blender)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
salt & pepper to taste
grapeseed oil

Wash young fennel fronds and steam or parboil for 15-20 minutes. Once they have cooled, chop finely. Mix eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, seasonings, and cooled fennel in bowl. Form into patties and fry in oil. Once they have been cooked on both sides, place them onto paper towels to absorb extra oil. Salt lightly and serve immediately.

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Wild Fennel

April 13th, 2007

A transition from Peru to Topanga via wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). This plant is in the same growth stage on both continents right now. You can find wild fennel naturalized on every continent, except Antarctica. Its young flexible stalks, feathery greens and seeds can be eaten raw or cooked, tasting anise-like. I stuffed the avocado above with fennel potato salad. Take your favorite potato salad recipe and load it up with lots and lots of wild fennel greens and stalks. The prickly phlox (Leptodactylon californicum) flower is NOT edible, but is blooming profusely in Topanga right now…its sweet smell lured me in to include it in the photo.

The above photo was taken at a market in Cuzco, Peru. The photo below shows fennel (all-green fronds near the middle of the picture) being sold at market. I also saw fennel for sale at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on Wednesday.

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Eco-tourism

April 12th, 2007

Traveling opens a portal to another world. Although I was off to see the fabled city of Machu Picchu, it was the experience of traveling, and opening myself to new ways of seeing the world, which brought the most fulfillment. Everyone should be allowed to do what makes them happy, as this will only make our planet a better place. But my roundtrip flight from LA to Cuzco created 3,492 lbs of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The TerraPass website helps you to calculate your flight, home, and auto transport carbon emissions. You can then purchase a TerraPass to offset your carbon emissions, and those funds support clean energy projects. My roundtrip flight TerraPass from LA to Cuzco would have cost me $36.95, but I chose instead to donate those funds to a local organization working on recycling projects. I’m waiting for Scotty to just beam me up!

My son and I ate many of our meals at Aldea Yapay. This wonderful little restaurant uses all of its profits to sustain their social projects in the surrounding communities. On the left is Crema Andina, a creamed soup of olluco (native tuber), milk, cheese and muna (wild mountain mint). On the right are Andean Yuquitas, yuccas stuffed with vegetables and a cilantro and muna dipping sauce. All the foods we brought home with us (coca leaves, cacao bars, red quinoa, wild khayas roots, 2 varieties of corn, freeze-dried andean potatoes, etc.) were purchased at the Casa Ecologica Cusco. Their products are fair trade from local indigenous communities.

For me, eco-tourism has become the venue in which I feel I can support programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Click here to visit the International Ecotourism Society. This website can help you identify tour operators and organizations around the globe who are dedicated to ecotourism.

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Wild Radish

April 10th, 2007

My absolute favorite meal while traveling in Peru was from a Quechuan woman selling food from a plastic bucket on the side of the road. I was in the Fortune Teller’s village of Huasao, staying at the Ninos Hotel Hacienda. All profits from this hacienda, as well as their 2 hostals in Cuzco, go to help neglected children in the area. I was gathering nettles, wild radish greens, wild amaranth, wild mustard, dandelion, wood sorrel, and watercress on my way in to get my fortune told, when I stopped for a bite to eat. We had fun sifting through my bag of foraged greens until the woman found the wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) leaves. With lots of nods and happy smiles by us both, she pointed that those were the greens I was eating. Wild radish is now found virtually around the world, and was blooming here in southern CA before I left for my trip. Click here to read a study in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, showing wild radish’s powerful antioxidant capabilities.

The corn on the plate was from the Quechuan woman’s field. Maize is the most revered food on the planet. Interestingly, western cultures don’t know much about its wild relative, but it has now woven its way into our fuel, our fodder, our number one sweetener, our plastics, and more. Above is my final glass of chicha morada. This absolutely divine drink is made with either black or purple maize, and boiled with pineapple juice, cinnamon, clove, and some lime or lemon juice added just before serving. It is a very dark purple color and truly tastes like a nectar of the Gods. Thanks to the woman who fed me while I was away from my kitchen, the wild radish, and the maize!

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Back to My Rock

April 9th, 2007

I’m back in my kitchen after an amazing trip to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, in Peru! Since I moved to Topanga Canyon, and have a 9 foot tall rock in my kitchen, rocks have been really prevalent in my life. The Inca’s have a deep reverence for stones, recognizing their life and the power that lies within each one. This, along with a sun-worshipping culture and amazing wild foods, made for a fantabulous trip to my final continent. My dream of visiting every continent before my 30th birthday is realized!

The above photo was taken at Machu Picchu, a blessing to see the light of the sun as a double rainbow. The next few posts will highlight some wild Andean treats, and then I’ll get rollin’ with some rock solid recipes for you again.

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