WildFest: Forage. Ferment. Feast.

Foraging season is just around the corner, and what better way to kick off the season than with Kentucky’s only festival dedicated to wild and fermented foods. There’s still a week left to purchase discounted early bird tickets for Sustainable Kentucky’s  WILDfest.

Join us April 19, 2014 at Cedar Creek Vineyards in Somerset for a full day of workshops, demonstrations, and a keynote and book signing by Sandor Katz, bestselling author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation.

We will be leading plant identification walks for beginner foragers.

Other special guests include:

Master storyteller and naturalist Doug Elliott

Jesse Frost of Rough Draft Farmstead, author of Bringing Wine Home

Rachel Milford, Reclaiming Your Roots

And more!

To learn more about the festival and purchase tickets, visit to wildfestky.com. Discounted early bird tickets are available until April 1st, so act now!

Use coupon code FORAGE15 at checkout and save and extra 15%! 

Can’t wait to see you all there!

Presented by Sustainable Kentucky and Cedar Creek Farm.

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Fall Foraging Finds

The world is looking a little browner lately, but there are still plenty of plants that thrive after frost. Here are a few edibles that are just hitting their peak.

 

EASTERN BLACK WALNUT (JUGLANS NIGRA)

 

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information on harvesting and processing black walnuts HERE via Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

(In order for you to have the best quality content possible, I included links to other resources rather than attempt to tackle all the information myself.)

 

GROUND CHERRY (PHYSALIS SPP.)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat ground cherries only when ripe and yellow (pictured below).
Place green berries in a window for a few days to ripen.

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

Ripe Ground Cherry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information on ground cherries HERE via Foraging Texas

Ground cherries will ALWAYS have husks.

Be careful not to confuse them with the highly toxic horsenettle (solanum carolinense), which can sicken livestock, and potentially kill a human.
It also has yellow berries, but will have thorns and no papery husks.

Below is a picture of horse nettle for comparison.
Again, and I can’t stress this enough,
DO NOT EAT HORSENETTLE BERRIES PICTURED BELOW.

Highly toxic horsenettle ***DO NOT EAT***

***TOXIC HORSENETTLE. DO NOT EAT!!!***

 


CURLY DOCK (RUMEX CRISPUS)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My personal favorite of all greens, wild or tame.

More information on curly dock HERE via Eat the Invaders

 

GARLIC MUSTARD (ALLIARIA PETIOLATA)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my least favorite green, but if you enjoy it, eat to your hearts content.
Garlic mustard is an extremely invasive plant.

More information on garlic mustard HERE via Eat the Weeds

 

ROSE HIPS (ROSA SPP.)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All rose hips are edible.
Another invasive, the multiflora rose (pictured) bears loads of tasty and medicinal rose hips.
Be sure to take some thick gloves!

More information on the medicinal use of rose hips HERE via Hawthorn Hill Herbs

 

STINGING NETTLE (URTICA DIOICA)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep those gloves on!

HERE is a recipe for stinging nettle pesto via Splendid Table

 

COMMON MALLOW (MALVA NEGLECTA)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible and medicinal

More information on mallow HERE via Edible Wild Food

 

CHICKWEED (STELLARIA MEDIA)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chickweed is completely edible and loves the cold weather. It is the first edible we find in the spring and the last of fall.

Click HERE for a recipe for Creamy Chickweed Dressing via The 3 Foragers

 

WILD GARLIC/ ONION (ALLIUM VINEALE)

{Kentucky Forager} Fall Wild Edibles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good rule of thumb for identification is smell. If it doesn’t have a strong onion smell, don’t eat it.

Wild garlic is extremely strong, but I think it’s great added to stir fry or sautéed veggies and greens.

 

**Remember, when foraging for wild edibles, never eat anything that you can’t positively identify. If you are foraging a plant you’ve never eaten before, only try a small amount and wait a day to be sure you have no allergic reactions.

You are responsible for your own safety!!! Please use caution!

Happy Foraging!

 

 

Wild Grape Jelly

Lately I’ve had a little trouble getting motivated to write a post; but after stepping outside on this 40-something degree morning, I decided it is time to talk about grapes.

I don’t know much about tame grapes, but 2013 has been an exceptionally good year for wild grapes. If you live in Kentucky, finding wild grape vines shouldn’t be a problem. We see them everywhere we go. Your best bet would be looking in fence rows, where the grapes don’t have any trees to climb. If you look in the woods, you’ll find them, but you probably won’t be able to reach them.

Wild Grape Jelly {Kentucky Forager}

Also, not all wild grape vines bear fruit. I don’t know much about the biology of grapes, but I have been disappointed by many a barren vine. I had always assumed it had something to do with male and female species, but I recently read that grape vines only bear fruit every 4 years, and that’s why only about one in four vines have fruit. I have no idea if this is true, but it seemed like a logical explanation.

In the spring, you can cook and eat the new young leaves of the wild grape. I have seen recipes for dolmas made with wild grape leaves, but have never tried them myself. Probably because I’ve never eaten a dolma and don’t really know what it is. It’s really just a word I like to say to feel cultured. And speaking of cultured, you can also add the leaves to your pickles while they are fermenting. The tannins in the grape leaves will help keep your pickles crunchy.

The grapes will start to form early in the summer, but don’t fully ripen until fall. It’s a long wait, but it allows plenty of time for scouting. I’ve been told the best time to harvest wild grapes is after the first frost. I usually notice a lot of grapes drying up before then, so if you’re waiting for frost, keep a close eye on them. We are about two or three weeks away from frost, but I decided to go ahead and get an early start so I could write this post before it was too late.

We picked about 3 grocery bags full of grape clusters, which added up to 9 cups of grapes. The most tedious step in this process is picking all the grapes from the clusters. I’d suggest doing this outside, because the clusters can be filled with ants. I’d also suggest using rubber gloves while picking them, as they are very acidic and can burn your skin.

Wild Grape Jelly {Kentucky Forager}

I find that refrigerating the grapes overnight helps remove some of the bitterness. It might all be in my head, but I feel like they taste a little sweeter after they chill. (This is probably the reason for waiting until after first frost to harvest.)

You can make wild grape jelly using any grape jelly recipe. The only real difference is that wild grapes are smaller and less juicy than most tame grapes, so they will require more water in the juice making process. I would recommend starting with 9 cups of grapes to  2 1/2 cups water, then adding more water later to dilute it to your taste. Boil the grapes down for several minutes in the water, mashing them as you stir, then strain through a mesh strainer. Taste the juice and see if it’s to your liking. Mine was super concentrated at this point, so I added another cup of water. So altogether I used 9 cups grapes, 3 1/2 cups water. I ended up with about 5 1/2 cups of juice. Just enough for my jelly.

Wild Grape Jelly {Kentucky Forager}

If you’ve never made jelly before, don’t be intimidated. It’s not as complicated as it looks. I’m not going to get into the details, because this post is already getting wordy, and there are thousands of tutorial videos and posts online that are significantly better than any instructions I could give you. I included a link to one of many great tutorial videos at the bottom of this post.

 

Wild Grape Juice:

  • 9 cups wild grapes
  • 2 1/2+ cups water

In a large saucepan, bring grapes and 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Continue boiling ten minutes, mashing the grapes as they boil. Remove from heat and strain through a mesh strainer or squeeze through a cheesecloth to remove seeds and pulp. Add additional water to desired taste.

Wild Grape Jelly:

  • 5 cups grape juice
  • 1 packet pectin powder (6 Tbsp.)
  • 7 cups sugar

Combine juice and pectin powder in a large pot. Bring to a hard boil over high heat, boil for one full minute, stirring constantly.

Add sugar to the pot, bring back to a hard boil, and continue boiling for another full minute stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and skim foam from the top.

Ladle jelly into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 in. of head space. Wipe down rims and seal jars with lids and rings.

Process jars in water bath for 10 minutes.

 

If you are new to the water bath canning process, click here  for an instructional video.

 

Wild Grape Jelly {Kentucky Forager}

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Lambsquarters Stuffed Mushrooms

Greens that grow to 6 feet tall, produce almost all summer, and require no sowing, tilling, or watering. To someone who has never heard of lambsquarters, it may sound too good to be true.

Many people compare lambsquarters to spinach, some even call them “wild spinach”. I personally think their taste is totally unique and the only similarity they have to spinach is their versatility. It is, of course, just a matter of opinion.

Lambsquarters Stuffed Mushrooms via Kentucky Forager

Lamsquaters (Chenopodium album)

Chances are you wont have to look far to find lambsquarters. They are very common and will grow just about anywhere there is disturbed or bare soil. Last year we only had them in one place in the yard (in a bare spot from a shrub we had removed). I let one plant go to seed and this year I have them growing everywhere.

You can eat lambsquarters raw or cooked. A lot of people don’t like them raw because they have a very strange texture. When you rinse them, you will notice that the leaves are completely water-proof. It’s almost like they have a teflon coating, which makes them unpalatable to some. I really don’t mind the texture, but I agree they are much more desirable when cooked.

Lambsquaters can be used interchangeably with spinach in any recipe, so I decided to try substituting them in one of my favorite spinach recipes, stuffed mushrooms.

The verdict: Better than the original!

I am confident that this is a recipe that anyone would enjoy. So go out, find some lambsquarters, and surprise all the wild food skeptics in your life!

Have a great holiday weekend!

 

Lambsquarters Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh lambsquarters (Approximately, I just filled a brown paper lunch bag.)
  • 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 24  fresh mushrooms, stems removed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add lambsquarters and boil until wilted (about 5-7 minutes.)Drain in a colander and press out all excess water with a slotted spoon.

Wash mushroom caps, discarding stems.

In mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except mushrooms and parmesan cheese.  (Keep in mind that feta and parmesan are very salty, so you won’t need to add much salt to the mix, if any.) Fill mushroom caps with mixture and place on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Lambsquarters Stuffed Mushrooms via Kentucky Forager

 

 

 

 

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Making Salves and Balms (Part 2)

In my previous post, “Infusing Oil for Making Salves, Soaps, Etc.”, I walked you through infusing oils. If you haven’t yet infused your oil, go here for a quick tutorial.

If you’re not yet sure what plants you’d like to use, here are some suggestions:

  • Jewelweed- For poison ivy rash (and protection) and bug bites.
  • Yarrow or Comfrey- For cuts, scrapes, and bruises
  • Calendula- For diaper rash, skin irritations, cuts and scrapes, chapped lips, etc.
  • Plantain- For bug bites, skin irritations, and rashes
  • Rose bud- For lip balm

Ok, now that you have infused your healing herbs in oil, it’s time to make them into a salve.

For the salve, you will need the following:

  • A double boiler
  • Infused oil
  • Bee’s wax, grated (or bee’s wax granules)
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Essential oil of your choice (optional)
  • Plastic transfer pipettes (optional)

Making Salves and Balms via Kentucky Forager

As I mentioned before, I don’t have a true double boiler, so I just used a heat safe glass bowl over a sauce pan. I like to use a sauce pan with a pouring spout. It leaves room for some steam to escape. I’ve found that leaving no space will sometimes cause pressure to build, causing boiling hot water to spurt out from around the bowl.

The only tricky part to making salve is getting the consistency to your liking. If you are wanting a very soft salve, start with an 8:1 ratio oil to wax. (i.e. 8 tbsp. oil to 1 tbsp. bee’s wax) If you are wanting a more solid salve, go with a 6:1 ratio, and for a very firm salve (consistency of tube lip balm), use a 4:1 ratio. You can play around with the consistency once the wax is melted.

For my jewelweed salve, I used 10 tbsp. jewelweed oil and 2 tbsp. wax. (5:1)

For my yarrow lip balm, I used a 8 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. wax. (4:1)

 

Heat the oil and bee’s wax in the double boiler until bee’s wax has melted.

Making Salves and Balms via Kentucky Forager

Once the wax melts, add a small amount of vitamin E oil (for preservation purposes). Approximately 1/4 tsp. E oil to every 5 tbsp. salve.

Now, check the consistency of your salve. The easiest way to do this is to place a drop on a metal jar lid that has been in the refrigerator. (Pickle jar, jelly jar, etc.) You can also place a spoon in the refrigerator prior to making your salve to use for this purpose. It will solidify almost instantly on the cold metal. Feel the drop of salve, and if it is too soft, add more wax. If it’s too firm, add more oil until you get the consistency you like.

You can add a few drops of essential oil to your salve (mainly for scent), but this step is entirely up to you. I added peppermint oil to my jewelweed salve, and nothing to my yarrow lip balm.

Now the salve is ready to transfer to your containers (jars, tins, tubes, etc.).

With a steady hand, spoon or pour the salve into the containers. If you are using small containers or tubes, I would highly recommend using disposable plastic transfer pipettes.

Making Salves and Balms via Kentucky Forager

 Making Salves and Balms via Kentucky Forager

Allow the salve to solidify before sealing.

Making Salves and Balms via Kentucky Forager

Yarrow and Jewelweed salves

That’s all there is to it! Your salve is now ready to use.

 

 

 

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Infusing Oils for Making Salves, Soaps, Etc. (Part 1)

The first step in making a salve, balm, or soap is infusing the oil with the plant material. As simple as it sounds, there is a right way, and wrong way. The first oil I tried to infuse was plantain in olive oil, and I ended up with about ten dollars worth of sour olive oil. I’ve seen many instructional posts and videos that tell you to let fresh plants soak in the oil for 4-6 weeks, but what they don’t tell you, is that the water in the plants will likely cause the oil to sour. But enough about my dismal failure. Let’s talk about what works.

There is a fast way, and a slow way to infuse oils.

METHOD 1: Slow Infusion

The slow way, is to let the dried plant material soak in the oil for several weeks. It’s also the simple way, so let’s start with that.

As I mentioned earlier, some people use fresh plant material for this, but from my own experience I would not recommend it.

Start with a clean, dry jar or bottle. Add enough of the dried plant to fill the container 1/2 to 3/4 full. (depending on the density of the plant.) The yarrow I used was very loose and fluffy, so I filled the jar 3/4. If your plant material is densely packed, use less.

Yarrow Oil Infusion via Kentucky Forager

Dried Yarrow

Next, add your oil. When choosing your oil, be sure to choose an oil that is liquid at room temperature and has a long shelf life. I plan on using this yarrow infusion for a lip balm, so I’m using almond oil. Almond oil is lighter, less greasy, and doesn’t have a strong smell like olive oil, so it’s perfect for a lip balm or moisturizer. Slowly fill the jar with oil, allowing time for the oil to settle, and cap the jar tightly.

Yarrow Oil Infusion via Kentucky Forager

Label the jar with the contents and date. Shake the jar daily for at least the first week, to ensure that the plant material is staying submerged in the oil.The plant material will turn dark and limp as it’s being penetrated by the oils. You will want to let the oil infuse for 4-6 weeks. Leave the jar sitting somewhere you will see it, so you will remember to check it regularly for mold or souring. When the oil is ready it should smell like the plant, and will most likely have an altered color.

After the oil is infused you will pour it through a strainer or cheese cloth to remove all plant material.

Infusing Oils for Salves, Soaps, Etc. via Kentucky Forager

Store your oil in an airtight container until ready to use.

METHOD 2: Quick Infusion

The fast way to infuse oil, is to heat the plant material in the oil, forcing it to breakdown. This method is much quicker, but it’s also a bit trickier. You have to be careful not to burn your oil, and also not deep fry your plants.

The best way to infuse oils using this method is to use a double boiler to avoid direct heat. Oil can burn very quickly, so you have to keep a close eye on it. I don’t have a double boiler, so I just used a stainless steel saucepan, kept the heat low, and watched it very closely.

For this method I infused jewelweed in olive oil. I will be making a salve for poison ivy rash and bug bites.

First, roughly chop the plant. The ratio of fresh plant material to oil is roughly 3:1.

I used approximately 6 cups jewelweed and 2 cups olive oil.

Infusing Oils for Salves, Soaps, Etc. via Kentucky Forager

Place the chopped plant into the pan and pour olive oil over it. Let it simmer for an hour over low heat. Keep a close watch on it. You want the plant to soften and wilt, not fry.

After the oil has simmered and the plant material has broken down, remove from heat and cover and let sit overnight, or for several hours until completely cooled.

Once cool, strain out the plant material (you may need to mash it through the strainer or squeeze it through a cheese cloth to collect all the oil.)

Infusing Oils for Salves, Soaps, Etc. via Kentucky Forager

After you strain the oil, let it sit for a minute. You’ll notice water settling to the bottom. When you pour the oil into it’s container, leave the water in the bottom and discard it. If there is still water in the bottom, continue pouring it back and forth, discarding the water, until no more remains. You will lose a little oil in this process, but it’s better to lose a little now, than for all of it to go rancid later. I can not stress this enough, DO NOT skip this step. Any water or plant material left in the oil will make is susceptible to spoiling.

Now your oils are infused and ready for use!

Infusing Oils for Salves, Soaps, Etc. via Kentucky Forager

Jewelweed infused in olive oil (left), and yarrow infused in almond oil (right)

Part 2, a walkthrough on salve making is coming soon! In the mean time infuse your oils and gather your ingredients. Aside from your infused oil, you will need bee’s wax, vitamin E oil, and the essential oil of your choice (optional) for scent.

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Common Milkweed (and a Recipe for Milkweed Bud & Cheddar Soup)

I want to begin this post by addressing a couple of issues concerning the milkweed plant.

Issue #1:  Almost every time I see a Facebook or blog post on milkweed, there is at least one person who expresses concern. “But isn’t it toxic?” “Doesn’t it irritate your skin and burn your eyes?”

The only question I have is, why are wild foods judged so harshly? Picking and juicing grapes or peeling tomatoes will cause my hands to turn red and burn for hours. Ever rubbed your eye after slicing a jalapeño??? It feels like the fire of a thousand suns is searing into your brain, yet no one uses that as a basis to stop eating them. This is something that I encourage you to research for yourself and make your own decision. I know a lot of people who eat it, some who have eaten it for 30+ years, and none of them have ever had even the slightest ill effects.

Now, I understand that different people have different reactions to everything. So, if you are trying something for the first time, just eat a small amount and see how you feel. One concern with wild foods is that doctors don’t test you for allergies to them. If you have food allergies, be very cautious and be sure to study the species of wild plant to make sure it is not related to a food you are allergic to. For a person with no sensitivities to the plant to suffer illness, they would have to eat a very large quantity of it.

This is just my two cents. Do some research and make your own decision, and be sure to positively identify the plant. There are many species of milkweed, and not all of them are food friendly. I could go on all day about the fear mongering and society’s war against wild edibles, but I’d rather get to the good stuff.

Issue #2:  Milkweed is the primary, and possibly the sole food source for Monarch caterpillars. Milkweed is SUPER abundant in Kentucky, but it’s still important to be considerate of the caterpillars. I never take all the buds from any stalk, and if I see a caterpillar on a plant, I don’t harvest from that plant at all.

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Milkweed sap

Milkweed sap

 

Asclepias syriaca, or common milkweed is the plant you’ll be looking for. There are many different varieties of milkweed, but not all of them are edible. It stands three to six feet tall and produces milky sap when broken. It has one straight stem with opposite oblong leaves alternating down the stem. The pink flowers or green buds look like little pom-poms when in bloom.

 

The most common look alike in Kentucky is Apocynum cannabinum, or hemp dogbane. It’s in the same species as milkweed, so it has a lot of the same characteristics and grows in a lot of the same places. The dead giveaway for dogbane is that it branches and milkweed doesn’t. (but it’s more difficult to tell them apart in early stages of growth.)

Hemp Dogbane

Hemp Dogbane (Toxic)

 

Common Milkweed via Kentucky Forager

Common Milkweed

The edible parts of the milkweed plants are the young shoots and leaves, under 12 inches tall (They get too tough and fuzzy when they are bigger), and the buds, flowers, and young pods of the adult plant. You can find a ton of information on milkweed (including how to prepare it) in this excerpt from Forager’s Harvest, written by Sam Thayer, one of the most well know foragers in the United States. You will find many articles about how to prepare milkweed, and many of them will encourage boiling multiple times in changes of water as you would pokeweed. I personally think that this would do nothing but remove flavor and vitamins from the plant, and I don’t know anyone who does that. In fact some people eat it raw, although I am not one of those people. I personally would suggest one quick parboil just to leach out sap and tenderize it before cooking.

 

The part of the plant that is in season now is the buds and flowers.

Milkweed Buds via Kentucky Forager

Milkweed Buds

When you collect the flowers or buds, the first thing you should do before cooking or storing them is submerge them in cold water, take the bowl outside, and shake off all the bugs that surface. I think I shook/flicked at least 20 bugs off of this one batch. Store them in the refrigerator if you don’t plan to use them right away.

Milkweed Bud & Cheddar Soup

Milkweed Bud & Cheddar Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups milkweed bud clusters

¼ cup all-purpose flour

4 tbsp. butter (½ stick)

2 cups milk (or half and half)

1-14.5 oz. can chicken broth

½ cup celery, diced

½ med. onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp. nutmeg

8 oz. cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add milkweed buds and boil 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Sauté onion and garlic for 3 minutes, add celery and continue cooking another 3-5 minutes until tender. Set aside.

Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until combined. Add milk and chicken broth to sauce pan and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

While the liquid is simmering, separate milkweed buds from the clusters. (they will resemble little peas with stems). I used kitchen shears, but they should be tender enough to remove them with your fingers.

Add milkweed buds, onion, garlic, and celery. Let simmer another 10-15 min.

Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cheddar cheese.

Stir until cheese is melted.

Eat your delicious soup.

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Mulberry Cobbler

We’ve been swatting flies and picking mulberries! Unlike blackberries or raspberries, mulberries grow on a tree rather than a bush, so you have two options, fight the flies and ants for fallen berries, or pick from the low hanging branches. Either way, you have your work cut out for you. The trees we pick from are along a walking path, so we pass on the ground berries and pick from the tree. It’s a two man job, Robbie holds the branches down, and I pick the berries.

Mulberry Cobbler via Kentucky Forager

The stems don’t affect the flavor in any way. To remove all those little green stems would be a lot of unnecessary work. Just give the berries a quick rinse and they’re good to go. I adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s blackberry cobbler recipe. Mulberries aren’t as tart as blackberries so I omitted some of the sugar.

Ingredients
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sugar (preferable raw organic)
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh mulberries
Ice cream or whipped cream for topping

Directions 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, milk, and melted butter.

Pour the batter into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the mulberries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the mulberries. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour. Top with whipped cream or ice cream.

Mulberry Cobbler via Kentucky Forager

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Creamed Wood Nettle

On our seemingly never ending search for stinging nettle, we came across the next best thing, wood nettle, and lots of it.

Creamed Wood Nettle via Kentucky Forager

Wood nettle has all the physical characteristics of stinging nettle, so don’t let the name fool you, it has a nasty sting. If you plan on gathering it be sure to bring thick gloves. I was stung several times through my gloves while picking. Fortunately there was some plantain close by. I chewed it and applied it to the sting and it soothed it in seconds.

Creamed Wood Nettle via Kentucky Forager

Although small, the stinging hairs are clearly visible on the leaf backs and stems

I’m sure this goes without saying, but if you try to eat it raw, you’re going to have a bad time. When cooked, the stinging hairs are softened and the formic acid is removed. Wood nettle can be used interchangeably with any greens in any recipe. I am a big fan of creamed spinach, so I just swapped the spinach for nettle. I unfortunately didn’t measure my wood nettle, but it was about enough to fill a paper grocery bag.

Creamed Wood Nettle via Kentucky Forager

For this recipe you will need:

  • 32 oz. Wood nettle leaves (I didn’t measure exactly, but this recipe is very forgiving)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream

Separate the leaves from the stems, discard stems and rinse leaves thoroughly.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add nettle leaves and boil 3 minutes. Drain leaves, pressing with out water with a large spoon. Set aside.

Melt butter in large skillet over med-high heat. Add the minced garlic and saute, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the nettle leaves and cook, stirring often until the liquid is released. Add the cream, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking about 5 minutes until excess liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

The finished product turned out great. The texture will take some getting used to, but the flavor was excellent. I could have taken a fancy picture of the finished product in a pretty bowl but I didn’t. I’m not gonna lie, I wish I would have and I regret it now but what’s done is done. You can drink the water you used to boil the leaves as tea. With all it’s health benefits (and all the work that went into harvesting it), it would be a shame to waste a drop. You can also dry the leaves, just as would stinging nettle, for future use as a tea.

 

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Yarrow, Our Favorite Wound and Fever Herb

Yarrow is quite plentiful this time of year here in Central Kentucky.  The soft, feather like leaves are a common distinguishable feature that set this wild medicinal apart from other similar looking herbs.

Yarrow, Our Favorite Wound and Fever Herb via Kentucky Forager

Patch of young Yarrow leaves

We like to wait at least two weeks after the plant starts to bloom before harvesting, giving the flowers time to fully open. Along with it’s many medicinal uses, yarrow has a pleasing aroma and beautiful flowers, all of which make it one of our favorite springtime herbs. Once flowering, it will have white or light pink flower clusters and will stand 2-3 feet tall.

Yarrow, Our Favorite Wound and Fever Herb via Kentucky Forager

Yarrow Beginning to Flower

There are many medicinal uses of yarrow. The most common use being as a blood calming agent. Some practical applications include nosebleeds, wounds, hemorrhoids, normalizing blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and my personal favorite, healing and calming a nasty blood blister. It can be directly applied to wounds as a poultice (crushed and moistened), added to a bath, or ingested as a tea, infusion, or tincture.

Yarrow, Our Favorite Wound and Fever Herb via Kentucky Forager

Yarrow in Bloom

Yarrow is truly the cure-all herb, and is not just limited to treating cardiovascular issues. You can apply it directly to an injury to reduce swelling and inflammation and reduce symptoms of pinkeye by applying a poultice wrapped in cheese cloth. Taken internally, it can also help calm diarrhea and stomach upsets, and reduce fever associated with the flu. Yarrow relieves fevers by opening your pores to promote sweating and release toxins. Drying or tincturing is the best way to store the yarrow to ensure you will be prepared when winter flu season hits. If you are steeping it as a tea, you will only need about a tablespoon of the dried herb per cup. (About 3x that if you are using fresh yarrow.) If you are interested in making a tincture, click here to watch an instructional video by Mountain Rose Herbs.

Yarrow, Our Favorite Wound and Fever Herb via Kentucky Forager

Dried Yarrow

To dry the yarrow, I simply tied the bunches with twine, and hung it upside down in a dark dry closet for a few days. The yarrow is ready when dry and crisp. Remove the leaves and flowers and store in a clean dry container. Discard or compost stems.

Yarrow, Our Favorite Wound and Fever Herb via Kentucky Forager

Prepared Dried Yarrow

Yarrow is one of the first wild medicinals to bloom in late Spring. It is a common herb that has much to offer and is hard to miss if you venture out into an open field. It is a favorite of most, and if you can fend off the ticks, it is a worthwhile harvest that will keep you wanting more.

 

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