Untame Your Life!

Sea Rocket Rocks!

August 27th, 2007

Adventures by the sea usually have us turning our heads towards the ocean. But be sure to look back, as you can find a delicious plant anchoring the sand. I believe the photo above is of American sea rocket (Cakile edentula). This spicy succulent is in the mustard (Brassicaceae) family. American sea rocket is native from Virginia to Newfoundland, probably making its way to the west coast via ship ballasts in the late 1800’s. European sea rocket (Cakile maritima) arrived a bit later, probably in a similar way. Ocean currents do, however, disperse their fruits to distant lands. The two plants have widely hybridized.

Sea rocket rocks! It packs a powerful punch and was fun to have sea rocket leaves with tuna, tomato, sea rocket seedpods and flowers as hors d’oeuvres. I’ve also added them to salads. So, be sure to check out the sand dunes, as you may find yourself a tasty new vegetable.


Leda goes Local!

August 24th, 2007

(photo courtesy Leda’s Urban Homestead)

Leda Meredith, of Leda’s Urban Homestead, goes local in Brooklyn! She has challenged herself to eat foods grown within 250 miles of her home for one year, similar to our Local Food Challenge on the White Earth Reservation 2 years ago.

Leda is including wild foods as part of her local food strategy, as they have been part of her life since childhood. Leda told me, “I grew up with a Greek great-grandmother who took me foraging for wild mustard and dandelion greens in San Francisco’s park each spring just as she had always done in Greece. So I had an early introduction to wild edible plants, and have remained fascinated by them.” Leda continues to explore her fascination with the wild plants as an Instructor in Continuing Education, at both the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the New York Botanical Garden. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden recently published a handbook titled Buried Treasures: Tasty Tubers of the World,
of which Leda wrote the section on wild edible tubers.

Want to find out more about wild food plants in the Brooklyn area? Leda will be offering two wild food classes this fall, so be sure to check out her calendar for those, and future events. Leda says one of the things she expects will be especially helpful with her Local Food Challenge is that wild foods, “…tend to start their season earlier and finish later here in the Northeast than garden and farm crops. For example, I am usually harvesting chickweed and field garlic in March, long before there are any greens at the farmers markets, and collecting Jerusalem artichokes and rose hips well after winter is underway.” Some wild foods already in her larder include: elderberries, cornelian cherry juice, sumac, Japanese knotweed, wild cherry juice, Northern bayberry leaves, spicebush berries, nettles, sassafras leaf, peppergrass seeds, highbush cranberries, and wild ginger root. Way to go Leda!


Sunny Savage

August 22nd, 2007

I have an announcement to make…I’ve changed my name. It’s something important to me, a decision I didn’t run out and do on a whim. For the past year the story of my ancestor Thomas Savage has really been coming through for me. At age 13 he left England for the New World. Arriving on the second boat into Jamestown in 1607, he was shortly thereafter exchanged with Namontack (a Powhatan boy). The two boys were designated to learn the language and lifeways of each others respective cultures. It is said that Savage had a close relationship with Chief Powhatan, as well as his famous daughter Pocahontas. He was a valuable man to Jamestown, and worked for the remainder of his life as a translator and negotiator. I hope to carry on his spirit of adventure and diplomacy.

Tree-ring data from the Jamestown area shows that the region was in the midst of a 7-year drought when the settlers arrived. The colonists wanted to trade for food, but the Powhatan didn’t have enough reserves. Disputes began to arise around food, and it’s an area of history I don’t want to see repeated. War is not the answer. The above photo has catsear flowers (Hypochaeris radicata) in the center of the sun. In the rays of the sun, from top to bottom, are salal berries (Gaultheria shallon), salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis), thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorous), red huckleberries (Vaccinium parvifolium), and himalayan blackberries (Rubus discolor). I saw a bear while harvesting the salmonberries, and in the spirit of the bear I hope that you are always gifted with the sweetness of life.

So, Sunny Johnson is of times gone by…and Sunny Savage was birthed into existence at 10:43 am on August 17th, 2007 in Los Angeles, CA. I’d like to leave you with these words from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.


Sea Lettuce Salad

August 20th, 2007

The blue planet. Earth is covered in a lot of water, which is constantly flowing and moving. The edges of our oceans, the coastal zones, are like any other intermediary area…rich in biodiversity. I’ve spent the last 4 days on the Oregon coast, learning about and harvesting sea vegetables/seaweeds for the first time. The above photo is of some salad made with sea lettuce (Ulva fenestrata).

According to the World Resources Institute over two-thirds of the global population lives within 100 kilometers of a coastline. The Earth Institute at Columbia University released findings from a recent report stating that 634 million people – one tenth of the global population – live in coastal areas that lie within just ten meters above sea level. How could we possibly advocate taking more sea vegetables from our oceans? Controlled development, protection of intertidal areas, controlled release of environmental toxins into waterways, controlled harvesting of sea resources, and more are part of this advocates strategies.

I believe using our coastal resources is a necessary part of a sustainable solution. Sea lettuce is an abundant plant, with the ability to produce up to 4 crops per year. Like so many of the algae, it provides powerful nutrition. To harvest use a pair of scissors to cut a couple of inches above where it attaches (the holdfast) to the rock. The plant can regenerate if not torn from the rock. DO NOT harvest sea lettuce (Ulva fenestrata) from polluted areas. Pay particular note if an area contains only Ulva, as they are able to take up more nitrogen than most species, and therefore grow quite well in toxic areas. See the photo below, showing a healthy patch of sea lettuce (it’s bright green).

I served the Sea Lettuce Salad with some beautiful fresh Chinook salmon from Robin of Wild Oregon. You can buy some of her amazing fish at Sunday’s Hillsdale Farmer’s Market in Portland, OR.

Sea Lettuce Salad

2 c sea lettuce, chopped finely
2 T green onion, sliced
1 small carrot, julienned
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
1 T rice vinegar
1 medium-sized clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 t fresh ginger root, or 1/8 t powdered
hot pepper flakes to taste

Thoroughly clean sea lettuce. Sqeeze it dry and chop finely. Julienne carrots, slice green onion, and add to salad. In small bowl mix remaining ingredients. Combine all ingredients and let flavors blend for at least one hour in refrigerator before serving.


False Dandy Balls

August 17th, 2007

Hairy catsear (Hypochoeris radicata), or false dandelions as they are commonly known, originate from Europe. They have certainly made themselves comfortable here in the US though, and are mostly regarded as an invasive or noxious weed. Although they look similar to a common dandelion, you can easily tell the difference between the two through their leaves and flower stalks. Hairy catsear has hairy leaves, unlike common dandelion’s smooth. The common dandelion also has only one flower stalk which is hollow, unlike catsear’s branched flower stalk.

Tender young leaves of catsear have been part of the Mediterranean diet for a very long time, and recent studies have shown the leaves to be high in polyphenols. I haven’t found much information specifically on the edibility of catsear flowers. Many references say the entire plant is edible, but I leave you with a warning that I am not 100% sure. Are the flowers of hairy catsear high in lecithin like those of common dandelion? I don’t know. Also of note is that sap from this plant will stain your hands and clothing. So be prepared.

The video above was a bit unfinished, but the sea swallowed my videorecorder while out beachcombing…so this will be it for videos for awhile. It’s a bummer to lose the camcorder, but I will keep posting photos while figuring out how to replace my $234 machine. Thanks goes out to the Bouwsma’s for their hospitality and encouragement during my stay here in Portland! It’s always nice to share good food with good friends.

The recipe below is adapted from Dr. Peter Gail’s recipe for dandelion burgers. Dr. Gail is widely known as the Dandelion Man, and he has written several books on using dandelions in cooking.

False Dandy Balls

1 c false dandelion/catsear flower petals
1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c onions, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, finely diced
1/4 t dried basil
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried hot pepper mix
salt & pepper to taste
milk, enough to make stiff batter
oil for frying

Remove false dandelion/catsear petals from flower base by pinching tightly between your thumb and pointer fingers. While applying pressure roll the flower base between your fingers.This allows the petals to fall below. Once you have your false dandelion/catsear petals, mix all ingredients. Add milk until you have a stiff batter. Fry in oil – I like to use grapeseed oil – until golden brown.


Mallowmallow S’mores

August 7th, 2007

My Dad was a physics and calculus teacher, and his favorite mug when I was growing up said, ‘Hi, I’m Mr. Science’. Dr. John Kallas, of Wild Food Adventures, is another Mr. Science. He’s been teaching wild food classes since 1978, and truly embodies the spirit of scientific inquiry, and all the positive discoveries to which that can lead. With an open and inquisitive mind, he has been doing the work to answer some of the oftentimes vague or loose historical references, around the use of wild edible plants.

For many years John has worked to develop a recipe using common mallow (Malva neglecta) to make marshmallows. The traditional way of making marshmallows was to use the root of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis), which grows in marshy areas. But the above-ground parts of common mallow are also mucilaginous, and this plant is widely available to most people throughout North America. Watch the video below to get an idea of how to make ‘mallowmallows’ using the small fruits/buttons/cheeses, or peas as John likes to call them, of the common mallow plant. We also briefly discuss how he’s noticed differences in the plants due to climate change.

So, you want the recipe right? You’ll have to either wait for the release of John’s new book, scheduled to come out in fall of 2008, or attend one of his workshops at Wild Food Adventures. These treats are soooo yummy, thanks John for adding another great wild food recipe to the mix!


Elderberry Polenta & Elderberry Bread Pudding

August 2nd, 2007

Happy Lammas! This ancient festival, falling half way between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox, marks the beginning of the harvest season. I’ve harvested between 40 and 50 pounds of elderberries already, so am literally swimming in them. This is the essence of what seasonal eating is all about. When something is in season, you take advantage of eating large quantities of whatever it is. If you have a food in abundance, and you like it, you are then able to store for later use. Chef Bob shows us how to make 2 interesting dishes using the elderberries. Both are savory, not sweet, and could be used as a main dish or as a side. Chef Bob uses an elderberry essence/sauce to drizzle on top of both plates, and it is simply elderberry juice and agave nectar cooked down into a syrup. Enjoy!

Follow these links to read more about elder:
Elderblow Fritters
The Wisdom of Elder
Elderberry Sauce

Tip: When cleaning your elderberries some people like to use a hair pick to pull them off the stems. I just use my fingers and put them into a big tub of water. This way any leaves, not-so-good berries, flower remnants, etc., float to the surface. I then strain them in a colander and rinse several times.

Savory Elderberry Bread Pudding

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 T butter
3 c bread, diced into 1/4” cubes
1 c elderberries, blanched
1/4 c wild black walnuts, or conventional walnuts
2 c chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 t thyme, dried
1/4 t dried hot pepper mix
1/4 t salt

To blanch elderberries put them into boiling water for one minute. Remove from hot water and place into bowl of cold water. Saute onions in butter until translucent. In bowl mix all ingredients. Butter molds for cooking the bread pudding and heat oven to 350. Place molds into oven pan and pour water in the bottom of oven pan so that the outside of the molds are sitting in a water bath about 1/2 way up their sides. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 35 minutes.

Elderberry Goat Cheese Polenta

1 c cornmeal
4 t blue cornmeal
1 1/2 qt vegetable stock
1/4 t dried hot pepper mix
1 T butter
1/2 c goat cheese

Place all ingredients into pan and mix with wire whisk until smooth. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly until creamy. Remove from heat and stir in goat cheese, saving some for garnish.