Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Finding Morels By Following A Trail of Tulip Poplar Petals

April 24 is my wedding anniversary! It has become a tradition for me and Dave to look for morels on our anniversary. This year was no exception and our search was not in vain.

I thought I'd share with you a tip on how we hone in on where to look for morels, so I made the little video (above). We love looking for morels around tulip poplar trees. Tulip poplars are great big trees that grow straight up for a long time before you see branches. Their leaves' shape always reminds me of pokeman. So when I'm walking around looking down (to find mushrooms) and I start seeing petals from the flowers way on top of the tulip poplar trees, I know I'm in a good area.

Photo by Bruce Marlin, Wikimedia Commons
Today we found a bunch of morels. I sauteed them with onions and spinach, then topped our pizza with them (only half the pizza, as my daughter doesn't like morels...!)

Hope you are able to get out into the woods and find some morels of your own!

~ Melissa

Monday, April 24, 2017

Frick Park Earth Day Walks Were Awesome!

Frick Park Earth Day 2010 with Zany Umbrella Circus
This past weekend was the annual Earth Day celebration at Frick Park! This year the celebration moved back to the Environmental Center area of the park. We had a great weekend and two great walks which were full to (beyond!) capacity. Thanks everyone who came. Here's a recap the great edibles we found and discussed.

  • Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale

  • Redbud Tree (Flowers edible), Cercis occidentalis
  • Burdock, Arctium species

  • Curly/Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus
  • Broadleaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  • Chickweed, Stellaria media
  • Cleavers, Galium aparine
  • Violet, Viola

  • Deadnettles, Lamium purpurea

  • Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea
  • Plantain, Plantago major
  • Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata

  • Onion Grass/Wild Chives

In celebration of Earth Day moving back to the Environmental Center, here are some pictures from past Earth Days:

Earth Day 2010:

Earth Day 2011:

Hope you had a great Earth Day!!

Happy Foraging,


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making Dandelion Wine

We are in the process of making dandelion wine! Or should I say...the wine is made, it just needs to ferment some more before we cork it and let it rest until winter solstice.

I read quite a few recipes for how to make dandelion wine, and solicited your favorites on our facebook page (please join us on facebook!) I combined them together to do what I did.

Unfortunately I do not have the ability to let you know whether this is the most amazing dandelion wine ever or not....I did take a sip as we were pouring it into bottles and I will tell you it is still very SWEET! Maybe that will mellow in time.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 gallon dandelion flower heads (I kept the greens on, I read to do it both ways (pulling the yellow petals off of the green necks and just using the petals...I used the whole thing.)
  • 1 gallon water (I was going to use more but it turned out both my largest pot and largest crock could only hold a gallon, so that's what I used.)
  • 3 lbs sugar (organic sugar cane is what I used.)
  • 1 packet yeast (photo below)
  • 2 organic oranges, with rinds peeled and saved, the orange sliced (photos below)
  • 1 organic lemon, with rinds peeled and saved, lemon sliced (photo below)
  • handful of organic raisins
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp whole cloves

Boil a gallon of water and pour over the dandelion blossoms. Cover loosely and let tea steep for 2 days.

Strain tea (reserving liquid of course! You can compost the flowers at this point) and return to the stove. Add 3 lbs of sugar, lemon and orange rinds, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to boil and simmer for about an hour.

Pour from pot into crock and add the sliced oranges, lemons and raisins.

Once it has cooled to body temperature, sprinkle a packet of yeast on top.

Cover with a cloth and let sit 3 days to a week (I did 3 days). When you put your ear close to it you can hear it fizzing and crackling.

Strain (reserving liquid!!!!). I first strained it through a colander to get the big stuff out, then strained it through two jelly bags.

Let sit another day, covered with the cloth (will let extra "stuff" settle to the bottom.)

Pour into bottles, leaving some room at the top. Cover bottles with balloon which will indicated (by inflating) that quite a bit of fermentation is still taking place. You can poke a pin hole in each balloon so that it doesn't get too full and pop or fly off the bottle.

Once the balloons stop inflating, you can cork the bottles and store in a cool dark place for at least six months.

Dandelion was my original wild ally! And though I made dandelion wine back then, it was 20 years ago. If you make dandelion wine this year, be sure to let me know how it turns out!

~ Melissa

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Making Homemade Nettles Pasta

One of my favorite early spring greens is stinging nettles (Urtica dioica.) Ella and I have been making pasta out of nettles since she was four. I believe I originally from another herbal website (possibly Herb Mentor?) but as I search now I cannot find it to link to, so I am sorry that I cannot give you an original source. However, we did change it: we ground buckwheat to use as our flour making the noodles gluten-free.

Let me share our spring ritual with you.
  1. Harvest young stinging nettles. You'll need three cups of chopped fresh nettles (which will steam way down) for the pasta. *When harvesting and chopping fresh nettles, you may want to use gloves to avoid being stung.*
  2. We are gluten free so we like to make our own flour, which we do easily in our high speed blender. Today we ground buckwheat groats into flour and used 2 cups, plus extra for kneading on. Rice flour also works well.
  3. Place steamed nettles and two eggs into a blender and mix.
  4. On a table or in a bowl, make a pile of flour with a well in the middle.
  5. Put the nettle/egg mixture in the well and mix/knead into the flour
  6. If too sticky, add more flour.
  7. Place dough ball under wet cloth and let it "rest" for 15 minutes.
  8. Cut about a fourth of the dough off and roll it out on a floured surfaced as thinly as possible. (If you have a pasta maker by all means use it!) Cover the dough you are not rolling with the wet cloth.
  9. Cut into strips and set aside as you continue to roll and cut all the pasta.
  10. Place the pasta in boiling water and cook about 3 minutes (fresh pasta does not need much time to cook.)
  11. Drain pasta. I returned it to the pot and added some butter, fresh chopped tomatoes and salt while I sauteed the rest of the veggies, which I then mixed in.

In a separate pan in butter, saute 1/2 large onion, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms and 1 cup chopped fresh nettles. (You may want to use gloves while chopping the nettles.)

Mix into noodles, add salt to taste and enjoy!

Happy Spring!

~ Melissa

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recipe: Puffball Nuggets

Calvatia gigantia - Giant Puffball Mushroom
 Giant Puffball! So exciting and fun to find!!

Here is my friend Trish last year on our bike to DC, finding some:

And yet, with their marshmallow-like inside, the texture when cooked (sauteed) is not the best. Sort of mushy and lackluster...not really my favorite mushroom. 

That is, until today!

I found if you put the crunch on the outside, it doesn't matter so much if it's soft on the inside. In fact, it's better that way!

Because I am doing a vegan oil-free type diet right now (a la Forks Over Knives) I knew I didn't want to saute these in oil or butter. But what else could I do?

That's when the old noggin took over and voila, deliciousness was born. These are such tasty puffball nuggets I am hoping I find more out there this season!

Recipe: Puffball Nuggets

vegan, gluten-free, oil-free

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Get two bowls. In one, put tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and water in equal amounts. In the second, make the "breading."

Breading 1

  • rice chex-type cereal
  • nutritional yeast
  • black pepper
  • dried basil
  • dried thyme
  • dried parsley
  • dried cilantro

Crush the cereal and mix everything together. You can add or omit spices as you have them or to your taste. I did not put salt in because the tamari is salty.

Breading 2:

  • blue corn chips 
  • nutritional yeast
  • cumin
  • tumeric
  • dried coriander
  • chili powder
  • cayenne pepper

Again, mix and match spices as you like. I was going for a Mexican theme with the corn chips. You can also use yellow or white corn chips. Crush corn chips (I used a spice/coffee grinder) and mix with spices and nutritional yeast.

3. Now, take your puffball:

  • Slice it 
  • Peel it (peel the outer skin away from the marshmallow-y inside, it easily comes off, but you can also cut it off if you want. I peel each slice rather than trying to peel the whole mushroom before I've cut it!)
  • Cut it into "nugget" or "finger" sized pieces

4. Take each piece and first dip into the tamari mixture:

5. Then dip it into breading:
6. Place onto a tray covered with parchment paper:

7. Bake 18 minutes, flip pieces over and bake another 15 minutes.

8. Enjoy!!! You will! They are so good!!

I preferred Breading 1:

While my husband preferred Breading 2:

Now... to find more giant puffballs!
Happy foraging!

~ Melissa

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Recipe: Sunchoke Soup

Digging up Sunchoke tubers is easy. They grow just below the surface and can ofen be pulled out in droves, without harming the flower patch at all. 

Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus), aka Jerusalem Artichoke, are a native plant that blooms in the fall. You will often find them on the side of the road, in fields and forests. The stems and leaves feel like sandpaper to the touch. Below the surface you'll find the knobby tubers.
These are delicious and were a staple in the diet of Native Americans and early settlers. This hardy, nutritious and delicious tuber can be dug from the ground year round, as long as the ground is not frozen solid. They store well in the refrigerator or root cellar (but actually store best right in the ground, so only try to store them for the months when the ground is actually frozen, around here that is January and February.)

The name "Jerusalem artichoke" is somewhat of a mystery, since they are not artichokes and are not from Jerusalem (it is a native American plant.) The theory is the Italian and Spanish word for sunflower is Girasol, which sort of sounds like "Jerusalem." And I suppose they do taste a bit like artichokes, though they are unrelated. Most people now have returned to calling them "Sunchoke" though you'll hear both names.

They can be eaten raw or cooked almost any way you can think of: roasted, fried, steamed, boiled, simmered.  

Here is a ver simple, easy way of making soup from Sunchoke tubers.

Recipe: Sunchoke Soup


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 - 7 large sunchoke tubers, washed well, peeled half-heartedly (don't worry about getting all the peel off), and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • water or stock to cover vegetables
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, good if not using vegetable stock)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Saute onion in olive oil.
  2. Add sunchoke tubers and continue to saute, adding some salt, to bring out flavors.
  3. Cover with water or stock and let simmer until sunchokes are soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Place in blender with cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt and pepper. Whizz til smooth.
  5. Reheat and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
This soup is simple and delicious!!!

~ Melissa

Monday, October 17, 2016

October is A Month of Wild Abundance

Gem-Studded Puffballs

October is amazing when it comes to finding wild food!

The forests are full of delicious mushrooms including giant puffballs, pear shaped puffballs, gem studded puffballs, chicken mushrooms, hen of the woods, aborted entaloma (shrimp of the woods), blewits, honey mushrooms, lion's mane, ... what else am I forgetting? Parasol mushrooms, horse mushrooms, at a mushroom club walk on October 15 even chanterelles were found! Abundant!!

Just some of the mushrooms found at the Western PA Mushroom Club's walk on Saturday October 15
 Mushrooms aside (though it is difficult to put mushrooms aside - they are so delicious!), there are other delights found in October as well.

You might have noticed these gorgeous sunflowers blooming along roadsides or in fields and forests.

They are the native American sunchoke (aka Jerusalem artichokes.) Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus) are in the sunflower family, though this species is not known as much for its seeds as for its underground tubers (hence the species name tuberosus.)

sunchoke tubers
The tubers are knobby and funny looking, but they are delicious, abundant, easy to dig, and nutritious. They can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted, fried, simmered. Ways to make them include: roast them alongside other root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. Steam and mash like mashed potatoes. Saute with mushrooms (maybe some aborted entolomas or other wild mushroom). Make into a delicious soup (recipe will be posted tomorrow.)

black walnut in its green husk
Other October treats include nuts such as black walnut and hickory nuts. Now is definitely the time to get out and collect those, as well as acorns, which are falling off trees in droves this time of year. Unlike black walnut and hickory, most acorns need to be processed first to remove the bitter tanins. In the past I have boiled shelled acorns in repeated changes of water, but this year I am going to try a method described in Mike Krebill's new book Scout's Guide to Edible Wild Plants (due out November, 2016 and on which I was technical editor), where he blends the acorn meet in the blender, and then rinses the pulp until the bitterness is gone. I will report back in more detail once I actually try it.
kousa dogwood
You may have noticed these red balls hanging from some of your dogwood trees: this is Kousa dogwood, and the inside of this red fruit is soft, creamy and delicious.

Foraging is fun, and especially so in October! I hope you are able to get out there and find an abundance of wild food!

~ Melissa