Thursday, September 21, 2017

Delicious Prickly Pear Fruit Smoothie in Sedona Arizona

Food Under Food headed west last week, and found ourselves hiking in Sedona, AZ where prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) was fruiting everywhere!

Knowing that though the fruit looks void of prickers it actually contains thousands of tiny hair-like glochids, which are barbed shots of pure pain, we carefully harvested them using a plastic bag, and washed the glochids off before handling.
See how the fruit looks fuzzy? Those are barbed glochids! Beware!

prickly pear fruit AFTER washing glochids off

After much trial and error, I found the best way to process them was as follows: hand-peel the skin off the fruit, and then cut the hard top and bottom off, slit it open and scrape out the hard seeds. From here they can be eaten raw or used in recipes.

We were staying in a rented condo, so we simply put them into a blender with a banana, ice and a little water. The result was delicious, especially in the 90+ degree weather!

What an incredible color! And so delicious. It is sweet and tastes a bit like watermelon. Hope you get a chance to enjoy this wild edible delight!

~ Melissa

Monday, May 8, 2017

Love The Dandelions: Please Don't Use Commercial Weed Killers

Please please please do not use commercial week killers like Roundup on your lawns, parks, playground, restaurant patios, etc.

Here are just a couple peer reviewed, scientifically researched, articles discussing the horrible dangers of this product. Not only is it's active ingredient, Glyphosate, a known carcinogen and neurotoxin, the so-called inactive ingredients have been found to exacerbate the toxicity of the Glyphosate.

Plus, dandelions and other weeds are beautiful, food for birds like finches and people, and incredible medicine. They are good for body, mind, and spirit, and don't let billions of dollars in advertising convince you otherwise.

Let's follow Ontaio, Canada's lead and BAN the use of weed killers on dandelions! (In 2009 they banned the cosmetic use of commercial weed killers on yards, parks, and playgrounds.)

Love the dandelions. They are an amazing source of beauty, nourishment, and medicine.

East and West, Dandelion is Best

Love and Dandelion Wishes,


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Recipe: Dandelion Tea Cake

Dandelions! Dandelion flowers aren't as bitter as the green leaves, and they are easier to harvest and use than the root. I like to put dandelion flower petals (I remove the green collar, see below) in all kinds of batter: pancake, scone, cookie, you name it! 

Last year my daughter and I made this delicious Dandelion Tea Cake: it's a sweet bread, like zucchini bread but with dandelion flowers. We made ours gluten-free and dairy-free...and it was delicious! 

Perfect served with honey and tea.

The first step is to gather lots of dandelion flowers.
Next, remove and compost the green collar, saving the yellow flower petals, until you have 1 1/2 cups.

Then, gather your ingredients and put it all together.



  • 2 cups buckwheat flour (I ground buckwheat grouts in a coffee grinder)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dandelion petals
  • 1 mashed banana with drizzle olive oil (I used in place of 1/4 c veg oil)
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup cashew milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  1. preheat oven to 400 F
  2.  mix dry and wet ingredients separately (dandelion petals with dry ingredients) then mix together
  3. Pour into oiled loaf pan. bake 25 minutes on 400 F
  4. turn down to 350 F and bake 20 more minutes.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wild Dinner: Garlic Mustard and Cleavers Pesto with Dryad's Saddle

Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)
Sometimes when I'm out looking for morels, I don't find any morels. If I'm lucky, I will find Dryad's Saddle (aka Pheasant Back, aka Polyporus squamosus.) If it's early enough in the season they will be tender and juicy and delicious. I'm happy to report that was the case today.

Also while out looking for morels, I passed piles of (weeded) garlic mustard, but I also passed fields of it where the volunteers hadn't yet reached.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

So I thought, "You know what would make a nice dinner...."

So even though I didn't find morels, I returned home with a bag full of Dryad's Saddle, garlic mustard, and some cleavers, which is a delicious fresh spring green (yay!) with the texture of sandpaper (boo!), but blended into pesto it is quite nice.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Demonstration of how cleavers use their sandpaper-like texture to stick to you.
I like to cut the pungent taste of garlic mustard with a less bold green: cleavers and chickweed (Stellaria media) are top on my list this time of year.


Garlic Mustard and Cleavers Pesto:


  • 2 cups greens (I used mostly garlic mustard with a bit of cleavers)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts: dry roasted then splashed with lemon juice and tamari at end of cooking
  • 2+ Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • nutritional yeast (optional, but nice addition if not using Parmesan cheese)


  1. In a food processor, first process garlic into small pieces.
  2. Dry roast walnuts in iron pan until just start to smoke and turn brown. Turn off heat and add a splash of lemon juice and tamari, stir quickly to coat all the walnuts.
  3. Add walnuts to processor and pulse a little.
  4. Add greens in batches with oil and pulse until blended.
  5. Add lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast to taste, pulse until blended.

Mix in to favorite pasta and enjoy.

Side of Dryad's Saddle:

Cut the dryad's saddle thinly, then saute in butter or oil until browned (stir or flip so both sides cook.)

And serve:

Enjoy the wilds of spring!

Happy Foraging,


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Make Your Own Natural Tick Repellent

I am in the woods a lot. Looking for mushrooms, harvesting wild edibles, bird watching. If I have time to spare, I'm outside.

Ticks - and Lyme's disease - have become a real problem in Western PA, the United States in general, and in many areas of the world. Even though it has reached nearly epidemic levels, it is still underdiagnosed and not always treated immediately. The disease can become chronic, the flu-like symptoms of aches and fatigue morphing into chronic fatigue and debilitating pain in some cases.

I want to do everything I can to avoid getting Lyme's disease. So here is what I do:

I make a homemade tick repellent from vinegar (white or apple cider), water, and essential oils.

I buy a spray bottle from the dollar store, and fill it halfway with vinegar and half with water. To this I add essential oils. Currently I am using:
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Peppermint
  • Lemongrass (or Lemon, whichever I have on hand.)
I add at least 30 drops of each oil to the bottle, often more, I am very generous with the essential oils.

I keep the bottle in the car and before heading into the woods I spray myself like crazy. All over my clothes, my hair, my shoes, socks. I also spray every part of my skin which is exposed and I rub it all in. I stink of vinegar (oh!) and essential oils (not bad), which is an odd combination but it doesn't bother me. It smells kind of good and bad all at once.

And then I check for ticks obsessively during and after the walks. This year I've only found one (knock on wood!) crawling on me, and I got it off before it bit me.

I love being in the woods and I hate the thought of Lyme's disease.

Other tips: 
  • Tuck pants into socks and tuck your shirt into your pants.
  • Pull your hair back into a ponytail and/or wear a hat
  • Wear light colored clothing because it's easier to see the ticks on them
Don't panic if you find a tick. Pull it out with tweezers or a special tick remover. We have a "Zeckenkarte" which someone gave us from Germany, and it removes ticks incredibly well (I have found them on me in the past, before I concocted my tick repellent!) I keep the Zeckencarte on hand as well. Then wash the spot, I like to dab it with an essential oil like lavender. If you use homeopathy, Ledum is a good one to take after a tick bite.

Watch the spot and if you develop a rash - bull's eye or otherwise - go to the doctor as soon as you can. Also, if you develop flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and muscle pain, even without the rash, go to the doctor. Some people save the tick in a plastic bag so it can be tested for Lyme, but I've never met a doctor who wanted to see or test the tick (but maybe yours does!) Antibiotics - usually doxycyclene - is the common treatment for Lyme's disease.

Good luck and stay safe out there!

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