Archive for the ‘{Wildcrafting}’ Category

One of my favorite activities is foraging for wild mushrooms*.  Every time I get to go the image of a big Easter egg hunt in the woods pops into my mind.  🙂

When I was younger my Dad and I would go on forays with a local mycologist.  The group would pick any fungi we could find and everyone would come back together to learn how to identify them.  Those classes have left me very comfortable picking a selection of edible wild mushrooms.

Right now the chanterelles are out in Montana.  It’s pretty dry so they aren’t too big or prolific but my stash needed to be replenished so I had fun picking a basketful over the weekend.  Chanterelles do dehydrate well but I don’t like the texture of dried mushrooms so I froze mine for storage.  Below is a short slideshow of my process.

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Do you like to forage for wild foods?

*Please don’t ever pick and consume wild edible unless you know what you are doing!

I wish it would rain so we could get a haul like this again 🙂


Our best haul ever, 2009!


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Since starting my blog earlier this year I’ve put in a lot of hours learning about local, non-typical foods to harvest or forage.  I love being able to go out and pick food items that many people don’t even know are edible.  It’s expanded my pantry and has been a really fun hobby!  While reading about all of the food items many herbal applications have popped up as well.  Using wild plants and herbs is something that I don’t have a great depth of knowledge on but I’ve been reading books and blogs trying to learn more.

In one of the Facebook Groups I belong to someone asked for recommendations on books to read to learn more about “medicinal plants and forageables.”  I jotted down everything that was listed, and one that came up was a newly published book from Henriette Kress.  I then looked at her Facebook Page and saw that she asked if anyone would like to review her book, you bet I would!

Henriette send me a .pdf copy of her new book, Practical Herbs.  I thought I would wait until after Thanksgiving to read it and give her a review when I had a bit more spare time but I downloaded it the day she sent it over and once I read the first few pages I couldn’t stop!  Her book is full of wonderful tips, harvesting information, techniques on how to use the herbs and identification of 23 herbs found in Finland (13 of which I know off the top of my head are present here in Montana, I’ll have to look into the other 10).

This herbal book is very informative and approachable.  I would say everyone from a beginner (like me) to an experienced herbalist would thoroughly enjoy her book.   Besides all of the information there is a great selection of recipes & techniques… those are going to keep me busy for years to come!  I’m not a big fan of winter so this book has made me even more anxious for the snow to melt and the plants to start growing.  🙂

Earlier this year I foraged a lot of stinging nettle so I was excited to read the section she had on nettle.  All the information on using nettle seeds was totally new to me so I’m excited to experiment with nettle seeds next Fall.  There was also a recipe for Nettle Chai that sounded delicious so I quickly whipped up a batch for my husband and I to enjoy.  The tea chai was very  mild with a slight herbal flavor, I’m a big fan of chai so I’m going to experiment more with this recipe and get some stronger spice flavors in there.  A perfect way to get a little nettle into my daily routine!

Nettle Chai

{Recipe} Nettle Chai
(recipe from Practical Herbs, used with permission)
4–5 teaspoons dried nettle leaf
1–2 cardamom pods
half a stick of cinnamon (optional)
1–3 cloves (optional)
3 cups boiling water

Pour water over the herb and spices, steep for 10 minutes, and strain.  Enjoy with milk.

Add mallows if you live in a dry climate. [I didn’t have any mallow.]


If you enjoy learning about herbal remedies I would highly recommend Henriette’s book.  You can buy a print copy or a .pdf version on her website: http://www.henriettesherbal.com/articles/pract-herbs.html.  There’s even a sample of the book so you can get a feel for it and see what is included.  Henriette was very gracious to give me an additional .pdf copy of her book to giveaway!  To enter please check out her site and leave one comment on this post saying what herb you’d be most interested in learning about.  I will draw for the winner on December 4th.

*** Note: I was given a .pdf copy of Practical Herbs to review and giveaway but the views expressed in this post are solely my own.  This contest will end December 4th at 11:59 pm MST.  The winner will be picked via random.org and be announced December 5th.  I will pass the winner’s name and e-mail on to Henriette.  This contest is open to readers anywhere in the world, good luck!


Congrats to Cheryl! 🙂

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I started off this spring picking some wild rose petals and leaves to dry for tea and wanted to wait until later in the year to finish off the tea with some of the rose hips.  So this fall I gathered up a few colanders of rose hips and put them to use in a few different ways.

The hips pull of easily but watch out for the thorns!

Dried Rose Hips

{How To} Dry Rose Hips
To dry the rose hips I pulled off the stems and bottom end and laid them out on a window screen.  They took a while to dry out so I just left them in a pan in a dark area until they were completely dry.



Rose Hip Syrup

{Recipe} Rose Hip Syrup

4 cups rose hips (pull off stem & bottom)
2 cups filtered water
Organic sugar

Place hips and water in a sauce pan and boil for 20 minutes, covered.  Strain through a jelly bag and measure “juice,” pour back into a clean sauce pan.  Add up to the same amount of organic sugar as measured juice and bring to a boil.  Store in fridge or hot water bath can.  (I put the hips that were strained out into the hips for my batch of ketchup… 2 for 1!)

{Recipe} Rose Hip Ketchup

12 cups of rose hips (pull off stem & bottom) = ~2 quarts of puree
Filtered water
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 cup organic brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup apple cider vinegar

Place hips into a large pan and add filtered water just until you can see it on the surface.  Boil hips until they are soft and press the rose hip puree through a strainer into a large bowl.  Repeat until you’ve strained all the hips and set the pulp to the side.  Repeat this process with the pulp (add water, boil and strain again) a couple more times until you’ve removed all the rose hip fruit.

Place puree into a dutch oven and add the garlic and onions.  Bring puree up to a boil and simmer until the onions are tender.  Use a stand or immersion blender to process the puree into a smooth sauce.  Bring puree back up to a boil and add brown sugar, spices and vinegar.  Simmer, stirring often, until you reach your desired thickness.  Ladle the ketchup into hot, sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Wipe the rims and seal.  Process the jars for 20 minutes (for 5k’ elevation) in a hot water bath.  Let cool and check the seals.

Little bottles for gifts.

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I’m a BIG fan of late summer in Montana, probably because it’s the only time of year when local foods are super abundant!  Wild foods are ripening, gardens are taking off, local orchards are producing and my kitchen is smoking… ya know, because I’m so busy putting up food…… sounds better to me than ‘my kitchen is a mess’ 🙂

Love how loaded this little bush is!

Wild mushrooms and huckleberries are just starting to show up in the mountains so I’m busy taking advantage of the daylight by picking wild foods whenever I get a chance.  I like to fill up my freezer with huckleberries to use in smoothies, pancakes, muffins, jam and other desserts.  An easy way to freeze small berries is to freeze them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and then put them into a container.  That way it’s easy to take a handful out of the freezer whenever you need a few.

Beautiful bowl of hucks.

Now if only it would rain the king boletes and chanterelles would really take off!  If it is a good mushroom season, I will also freeze the mushrooms by sauteing them in butter, freezing in little piles and storing them in a container.  Wild mushrooms are perfect on a pizza or in a frittata or pasta dish.

My first little King Bolete of the season.

Do you forage?  If so Happy Foraging!

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I’ve always known that rose petals are edible but I don’t recal ever making anything out of them, other than decorating my mud pies with yellow roses from my Mom’s flower beds  🙂

Wild Rose

But this year has been full of experiments!  When my Dad let me know that the wild roses just started to bloom on their property I made sure to take a little time over the holiday weekend to pick what was available.  I picked off all the full blooms and some of the closed buds.  The petals and buds were placed on towels to dry (the petals only took a day to dry and the buds will take a few days).

Rose buds.

When I got home I read up on what you can do with the wild roses and found recipes for jelly, flavored syrups, wine, cookies, teas & other goodies.  I was most interested in drying the roses for tea until the hips are ready.  Teas available for purchase online came in two styles: entirely made from wild roses (rose hips, rose leaves, rose petals) or blended into other teas (white tea leaves, rose buds).  For sake of keeping the product local I’m going to experiment with an all-rose blend.  Later this week I’ll go pick some leaves when I grab more blossoms and buds.  Then after the first freeze I’ll collect the hips to use for tea, pickles or maybe even ketchup!

Stay tuned for later in the year when I come up with my final concoctions, is there anything you make with wild roses that I should put up?

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Spruce tips on a tree at my parent's.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve seen multiple pictures of wildcrafter’s baskets full of spruce & pine tips.  You can eat those?  That’s a new one for me!  So a couple of weeks ago when I was in the mountains I looked for the new growth on the spruce trees but it was too early.  Then yesterday when I was at my brother’s picking up the strawberries he picked up for me in CA I looked out the window at the huge tree in the front yard.

Me: Is that a spruce?
My Dad/Brother: Yes.
Me: Can I go pick some of the tips off?
Everyone in room: <puzzled look>
My Brother: Sure.
My sister-in-law: What do you do with spruce tips?
Me: You can make a “poor man’s” balsamic vinegar.
Everyone in room: <puzzled look… followed by a why bother look>

This type of conversation is happening a lot this year!  🙂
But for me it’s been a fun adventure finding more local foods to forage and put up.  When I got home with my pint jar of tips I looked online for the “balsamic vinegar” recipe.  It looks like that was mostly made with pine needles so I looked up spruce tip recipes and came across this great post from Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.  What fun recipes!

Spruce tips.

For my first time playing with spruce tips I decided to make small batches of a few different items to see what I like.  Then next year I can plan ahead and figure out more ways to use this fun, new ingredient!!!

{How To} Spruce Tip Flavored Salt or Sugar
Mix equal parts sea salt or organic sugar with finely chopped spruce tips.  Place in a dish and set in a dry area to completely dry out.  Stir every day to check progress and break of clumps, takes approximately 3 days.  Store in a sealed jar.

Stir together and mix each day until dry!

{How To} Spruce Tip Vinegar
Mix two parts red wine vinegar to one part chopped spruce tips in a jar.  For each cup of spruce tips add 1 tsp black peppercorns.  Leave at room temperature for 10 days.  Shake up the jar each day.  Strain into a sterile bottle.

Ready to soak for 10 days.

Check back to see how everything turns out and what I use them for!

*** Update ***
Here’s some ways I’ve used the Spruce Tip Salt –
– A delicious carrot salad {Shredded carrots, lime juice, olive oil, spruce tips, sea salt, raisins, greens & chive blossoms}

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Glacier Lilies are a beautiful wild flower that come out right after the snow melts in Montana.  As a child I would love finding them while in the woods, I’ve always loved the shape and color of the flower.  What I also liked is that they are edible!  My Dad only had to tell me once that they are edible and I’ve been popping them in my mouth ever since 🙂

Glacier Lily - Erythronium grandiflorum

The entire plant has been a food source for many animals and humans!  They have an underground stem called a corm that the Native Americans would eat fresh and dry for storage.  It is also an important food source for bears and the foliage and seed pods are eaten by deer.  The leaves are edible raw or cooked and the green seed pods can also be cooked.

I tried to find a reference of someone making a jelly out of the flowers but couldn’t find one.  Since they have a nice sweet flavor I decided to try it out.  What a fun surprise to find that it makes a delicious, raspberry colored jelly!

{Recipe} Glacier Lily Jelly
Yield – 5.5 jelly jars
4 cups glacier lily flowers & stems
4 cups cold water
1 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tsp pectin (I use Pomona’s Pectin because it takes less sweetener)
4 tsp calcium water (comes with the pectin)

Place glacier lilies in a glass bowl and pour over the cold water.  Let steep overnight.  In the morning strain off the petals and put the lily “tea” into a dutch oven (if you can’t get to the jelly right away you can place tea in the fridge).

Add lemon juice and calcium water to the lily tea and heat to a boil.  Stir pectin into honey while you’re waiting for the lily tea to come to a boil, once the tea is at a boil add the honey.  Cook for 2 minutes to dissolve the honey and bring back up to a boil.  Ladle into sterile, hot canning jars.  Put on lids & rings and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes (for 5k’ elevation).  Let cool and check seals.

Love the color it turned out!

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