Untame Your Life!

Elderberry Sauce

July 25th, 2007

*WARNING: Some people experience nausea from eating raw elderberries. Be sure to dry or cook your blue or purple-colored elderberries before eating them.*

The Elders have asked us to listen. Nelson Mandela celebrated his 89th birthday last week by announcing the formation of a powerful group called The Elders. Their voices are calling us to listen, as does the elder tree. This tree has been used for centuries for making music.

The video below highlights one of the most amazing meals I’ve had in a long time. A pork chop covered in elderberry orange sauce, over a duet of wild California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and nasturtium spaetzle, was divine. Thank God for friends like Chef Bob! A true artist of the kitchen, his ability to create a perfect blend of flavors is unsurpassed. He started by brushing the pork chops with olive oil, sea salt, and my hot pepper mix. He then seared them in a hot pan for 30 seconds on each side, and then put them into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. This video will also show you how to make elderberry syrup, and highlight elderflower tincture, elderflower infused oil, elderberry tincture, and dried elderberries. Click here to see my elderflower fritter recipe and click here to read more about the wisdom of elder.

Elderberry Sauce
1 1/2 c elderberries
juice of 2 medium sized oranges
2 Tbsp orange zest, cut in long thin strips
1/4 c agave nectar
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter

Place all ingredients, except butter, into saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until reduced and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

California Buckwheat Spaetzle
1/2 c California Buckwheat flour
1/2 c unbleached white flour
1 egg
2/3 c milk
1/8 tsp salt
generous pinch of hot pepper powder

Nasturtium Spaetzle
2 tsp nasturtium powder
1 c unbleached white flour
1 egg
2/3 c milk
1/8 tsp salt
generous pinch of hot pepper powder

Combine ingredients of each spaetzle mixture separately. Simmer 1/2 gallon of water in a large pot with 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp salt. Place a colander over the top of your large pot and pour in one of your spaetzle mixtures. Using the back of a spoon push mixture through the holes into simmering water. Remove colander and stir spaetzle. When they float, strain them off the top and place into bowl of ice water. Wash colander and repeat process with second spaetzle mixture. To reheat melt 2 Tbsp butter in a pan, add spaetzle, and toss until thoroughly heated.


The Wisdom of Elder

July 24th, 2007

The wisdom of elder has pervaded many cultures around the world, and is well known for its gifts of food, medicine and utility. The elder (Sambucus mexicana) here in southern California is very abundant and producing large quantities of berries. Sambucus nigra is found growing in Europe, and is the elder found in the widely available Sambucol®. Studies using this elderberry tincture have been shown to significantly reduce the duration of flu. So, can we carry those same healing properties to our American species of Sambucus? It seems so. A recent study comparing elderberries across the continents found that the various species, regardless of which continent, contain very high levels of Vitamin’s A and C, powerful anthocyanins, and a long list of active medicinal compounds.

The Chumash revere her as the heartbeat tree, and the gypsy’s say a wish can be granted when asked sincerely. Be sure to be careful what you wish for, and remember to treat her with respect. The jars in the photo represent just a few of the ways in which elderflowers and elderberries can be preserved. Tomorrow’s video will highlight some of these preparations and uses. To see a recipe using elderflowers click here.

My friend Dan Rotblatt recently made this medallion for me. I asked him to use elderberry twigs for the base, which were then lost-wax cast into bronze. I love having the elder branches be the foundation of where my ancestor’s name Savage sits.


Cool Mesquite Drink

July 24th, 2007

Looking for a cool and refreshing late summer drink? Have you harvested up all your mesquite pods from the desert and now have to wait to have them ground into flour? This recipe comes from Chef Bob, and is a yummy way to use those mesquite pods now.

Mesquite Drink

4 c mesquite pods, broken into 2” pieces
10 c water
2 T lemon or orange rind
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground wild spicebush berries
agave nectar to taste

Break your mesquite pods into pieces and measure them out. Place broken pods, water, and lemon rind into pot to soak overnight (roughly 8 hours). Then put the pot on lowest heat setting, adding cinnamon and spicebush berries, making sure the mixture does not boil. Simmer for an hour and a half and strain. Add agave nectar and cool in refrigerator before serving. Garnish with a lemon or orange.


Nasturtium Hors d’Oeuvres

July 19th, 2007

In keeping with the spirit of foraging for free foods, I’ve been getting a lot of nasturtium leaves, unopened flower buds, flowers, and seedpods. I know, it’s a garden plant. But this South American native has naturalized itself here in California and is found growing in many places where it was not originally planted. So many folks I know are unaware of their edibility, so I thought it was good to highlight them here. All parts above-ground are edible, and although we call them nasturtium’s, they are actually of the Tropaeolum genus.

The above photo is of some hors d’oeuvres using the leaves as a wrap. Stuffed inside is the julienned carrot, goat cheese and quinoa. I’ve been drying and powdering most of the leaves though, adding them to mayonaise and pasta dough. Check out this cute little restaurant called the Nasturtium Cafe in Kealakekua, HI.


Aunt Marilyn’s Juneberry Pie

July 15th, 2007

“If you truly love nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere.”
-van Gogh

Welcome to North Dakota! A land kissed with beautiful sunsets, a famous International Peace Garden, and a wild wind that whips through its prairie wildflowers. I’ve been visiting some of my relatives here, all of whom are farmers. Their connection with the land runs deep, and I am grateful they have shared their stories. The photo above is of bee balm/bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). It was blooming profusely and I harvested a large supply, of which I will use the dried leaves as a cooking herb, and the flower tops for a medicinal tea. The video below also highlights echinacea/purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), and juneberries/saskatoons/serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia). My Great Aunt Marilyn shows us how to make her famous juneberry pie. She, my Grandmother Jeanne, and their sister Joyce, spent many hours harvesting juneberries as children near their buffalo ranch in northwestern North Dakota.

Aunt Marilyn’s Juneberry Pie

3 ½ c juneberries
¾ c sugar
2 T flour

2-crust pie shell:
2 c flour
¾ c butter-flavored Crisco
dash salt
5 T cold water

Mix flour, Crisco and salt in mixing bowl. Add cold water one tablespoon at a time, and do not overmix. Split dough into 2 pieces. Roll out first crust dough onto floured surface and place into pie pan. Mix filling in a mixing bowl and place into pie pan. Roll out your second crust and place on top of pie filling. Fold over crust edges, press with fork, and poke fork holes on top to allow pie to breathe. Sprinkle top with a bit of sugar and bake for one hour in preheated 400° oven. Cool for 2 hours and serve.



July 10th, 2007

Here’s a play on the very American dish…succotash. In the video below you’ll see how to harvest and process the Yucca whipplei seedpods. Be sure that you are harvesting VERY young seedpods, and that you boil the seeds until all of the soapy taste has been removed. We then head to the kitchen with Chef Bob, where he adds a new twist to this old favorite.


2 c yucca seeds
2 c corn, shaved off the cob
2 c kidney or lima beans
4 T yellow onion, finely chopped
1 T butter
1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
salt & hot pepper powder mix to taste

Use only VERY young yucca seedpods. Broil the whole seedpods for 20 minutes. Cut them open and scoop out seeds. Boil seeds in at least 2 changes of water, or until soapy taste is removed. Rinse them in cold water. Saute onions in butter until translucent. Add corn and broth and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then mix in yucca seeds and pre-cooked beans, salt & hot pepper mix, and heat thoroughly. Serves 6.


Wild Food Challenge

July 7th, 2007

(Photo taken from www.wildmanwildfood.co.uk)

Today is 7/7/07! It’s fun to look at numbers, as they are especially infused into our modern-day lives. The number 7 is oftentimes associated with investigation, analysis and keen observation. Fergus Drennan of Wild Man Wild Food is definitely embodying the spirit of that number in this, his 7th day, of eating only wild foods. Fergus has taken on this Wild Food Challenge for one month, as a preliminary study, for a one-year Wild Food Challenge he hopes to begin later in the year.

He’s subjected himself to medical tests prior to the Challenge, and is taking it while doing the gruelling work of writing a book. You can read daily accounts of his Wild Food Challenge, which includes the search for a wild seed coffee and the making of wild food flours, by clicking here. Fergus lives in England, and is tired of pondering whether a person can live by wild foods alone. Susan Campbell, in a paper ‘The Hunting and Gathering of Wild Foods: What’s the point? An Historical Survey’ (a paper delivered at Oxford and reprinted in Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2004), states that, “….nor have I yet met anyone who could convince me that modern man could subsist on wild food alone, legally or illegally, the year round, in a northern climate.”

Fergus is attempting to answer this, and instead of simply ‘subsisting’, he wants, “… to live fully, to be nothing less than a whole man, to transcend the everyday, to feel the struggle of the impossible and know that it can be surpassed.” Here, here to readjusting Ms. Campbell’s paradigm. Send email support letters to Fergus the Forager at: info@wildmanwildfood.co.uk



July 3rd, 2007

(photo taken from RyanIsHungry.com)

Ryanne Hodson and Jay Dedman are weavers. They take fibers and weave them together, creating webs of infinite possibilities. In today’s world that translates to fiber-optics, hardware and software, and the world wide web. Since 2004 these creative folks have been on the frontlines of the videoblogging world, helping to blast open the channels of independent media. They recently visited me in Topanga Canyon to talk about wild foods. They’ve posted two video’s of our interview on their website RyanIsHungry.com. Their website is dedicated to documenting the green movement and I feel honored to be included. Click here to view the first 8 minute video, and click here to see the second shorter video.

Do you have a good idea for a videoblog/show, but can’t get the funds to purchase equipment or implement some necessary step for your show? Ryanne and Jay are co-founders of HaveMoneyWillVlog.com, a group of promoters who might be able to help you obtain the funding you need. They are also Co-Founders of Freevlog.org (free video tutorials on setting up your own videoblog) and NODE101 (open source collaborative effort to teach videoblogging around the world). Ryanne is a Co-Author of Secrets of Videoblogging and Jay is a Co-Author of Extreme Tech: Videoblogging. Here are the resources, now you need to start spinning your own web.


Mesquite, It Ain’t Just for Barbeque

July 2nd, 2007

That’s right, you might recognize the mesquite name for your favorite barbeque products, but this little tree ain’t just for barbeque! It’s a leguminous plant, fixing much-needed nitrogen into desert soils, and providing delicious pods. It’s similar to the carob in that it’s really the sweet flesh surrounding the seeds that you’re after. That said, you can grind the whole pods with seeds and all for a delicious and healthy flour. Pictured above are 3 native mesquites to the Sonoran desert; on the left are the pods of honey mesquite (Prosopsis glandulosa), in the center screwbean mesquite (Prosopsis pubescens), and on the right are the velvet mesquite pods (Prosopsis velutina).

This video highlights Brad Lancaster’s work as a master mesquite harvester, and author of 2 volumes of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands. Brad is an amazing guy, permaculture enthusiast, and great educator in the Tucson area. He helps run Desert Harvesters, a grassroots organization which promotes, celebrates, and enhances, local food security and production by encouraging the planting of indigenous, food-bearing shade trees. They educate the public on how to harvest and process mesquite pods, and hold mesquite milling events. Be sure to check out the calendar of events on their website www.desertharvesters.org… I’d love to make it for their 5th Annual Mesquite Milling Fiesta and Mesquite Pancake Breakfast on November 17th!


Tohono O’odham Saguaro Camp

July 1st, 2007

Join Stella Tucker for a glimpse into her saguaro cactus fruit camp. This Tohono O’odham woman harvests these amazing fruits, the way of her grandmothers before her, and shares much of that bounty with her fellow community members. Thanks to her and her family for allowing me to film, as well as keeping the traditions alive and sharing them with a larger audience.

In this video Stella teaches us how to make saguaro cactus fruit syrup step-by-step, and discusses how to make a jam as well. The syrup can be purchased in small amounts through a great Tucson-based organization called Native Seed/SEARCH. This group preserves the crop seeds that connects Native American cultures to their lands. Tohono O’odham Community Action, located on the reservation, is another group doing good work. They’re dedicated to cultural revitalization, with traditional food systems having a major emphasis.