Book Review: Foraging & Feasting – A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook

Book Review: Foraging & Feasting – A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I love a good garage sale. So it only makes sense that I’d like foraging. It’s like garage sale meets farmers market. But it’s organic and free … if you know what you’re doing and stay away from chemically treated or publicly protected lands.

Foraging & Feasting CoverOver the past few years I’ve collected a few foraging books to teach myself what I can and cannot eat. I learn something new from each book. My latest addition/edition is Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook, by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender (Botanical Arts Press, 2013)

The book starts with a philosophical celebration leads into practical harvesting tips and continues with lushly detailed illustrations and identification information for 50 plants. Charts in the middle summarize seasonality and culinary uses. And relevant recipes are an inspiring finale. Did I already say it’s delightful to the eye?

Dina with Angelica 6_1_13

Dina’s interest in herbs and, then foraging, was sparked at 11, when she received her first herb book.

“I became conscious of the healing properties of food, clearly grasping the concept that food is my medicine,” she writes. “From that point forward, my commitment to and exploration of finding, preparing and eating healthful foods began.”

In flipping through I recognized my favorite chickweed. And, for the first time I came upon the day flower, a plant that I’ve been fighting (and losing) all summer. In the future it’s going into the salad, not the compost pile.

Dayflower-Commelina erectaI must admit my favorite recipes are herbal spirits and ice creams. The spirit combinations include lemon balm-strawberry vodka and black currant-fennel vodka. Ice cream inspirations include rose petal, lavender, bee balm and lemon verbena.

Therapeutic recipes include digestive bitters which are a scotch-based herbal root infusion.

My biggest problem with this book is that I don’t know if I should keep my copy on my nightstand for studying, in my kitchen for cooking or on the porch for relaxing. It’s that useful.


Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook, by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender is available from Botanical Arts Press.

What to do with Garlic Scapes

What to do with Garlic Scapes

20170701_124331At the Willoughby, Ohio, Farmers Market my farmer friend Maggie Fusco handed me a blue plastic grocery bag half full of garlic scapes. There must have been 100 of those long, circled flower stalks that must be trimmed from hardneck garlic to make certain energy goes back into the bulb. What was I supposed to do with so many scapes? Thank goodness she shared her weekly newsletter … it was full of ideas. — Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster

By Maggie Fusco, Wood Road Salad Farm, Madison, Ohio

You can chop ‘em and saute’ ‘em…..

You can pesto and puree’ ‘em…..

You can roast ‘em

You can toast ‘em

You can grill ‘em

You can swill ‘em?

You can eat ‘em on a boat

You can eat ‘em with a goat

You can use ‘em now or freeze for later

Either way it doesn’t matter

Get ‘em soon while they last

Like all things seasonal

They come and go so fast!

What am I rhyming about? Garlic Scapes of course!

image003Botanically speaking, the scape is any leafless flower stalk. The flower of the well-known Hosta plant falls into the classification of scape as do the flowers of many other plants. Each garlic produces one scape. If the scape is left on the garlic plant it will flower and produce seeds. (The wild garlic you tell me you have in your yard is spread this way.)

 

image007Cutting the scape from the garlic plant helps it focus more energy into making a bigger bulb underground (good for us) rather than making seed up top which is its real job in life. Turns out the garlic scape is not only edible – it has mild garlic/green flavor — it’s delightful to eat!

20170703_142646So, how can we use the scapes? Any way you already use garlic you can use scapes instead or treat them as would fresh young green beans.

Chop and sauté along with any dish or make a simple pesto by blending with olive oil for fresh use or to freeze for later. Braid them into wreaths and roast or grill them. Cut them into uniform lengths and make refrigerator pickles.  (NOTE: I mix the pesto into mayonnaise and serve with burgers, amazing. – PW)

20170703_145548Scapes are most likely found in July at farmer’s markets in Northeast Ohio.  They keep nicely wrapped in plastic for up to a month.


Maggie Fusco and Justin Kopczak own Wood Road Salad Farm in Madison Ohio. They have been happily married and growing great produce since 2002.  They call their fields a “salad” farm because in the beginning they grew mostly lettuces and greens but then one crop led to another, and every season became a new adventure in growing and eating.

 

‘Silver Drop’ Eucalyptus 2016’s Most Popular for The Grower’s Exchange

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

eucalyptus-silver-dropIf everyone else is doing it, I often run the other way. Or so I’d like to think. I consider myself my own woman making my own decisions without an external script. (WestWorld anyone?)

Unless everyone else is growing an herb. Then, I want to be part of the club.

I was surprised when The Grower’s Exchange announced that its bestseller for 2016 was Eucalyptus, Silver Drop. I would have expected something better known.

“Always in the top 5, but never a winner, this year, eucalyptus pushed out lemongrass and would have done even better had we not run out near the end of the spring,” says grower/owner Brisco White.

eucalyptus-silver-drop-2The reasons, he says, are a mystery. “What makes for a winner? Who knows? Why Beanie Babies one year, and Cabbage Patch another?  Could it have been effective marketing? A trend in medicinal treatments? An article in a major publication that ramped up demand? What we do know is that we are growing a lot more for 2017.”

While a number of eucalyptus cultivars exist, ‘Silver Drop’ is popular for its deep, silvery green scalloped leaves and a growing habit that can be shaped into a wide shrub with ease. It’s prolific and can grow up to 40 feet, but is best kept to four to five feet.

“It smells incredible, can handle a drought, resists deer and insects and actually provides nectar in the summer to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies,” notes White. “It’s also easy to grow and we cut tons of it to add to both fresh and dried arrangements. We even have it for holiday decorating.”

Silver drop can be grown during hot summers in most regions, and lacking a long and harsh frost, it is hardy to Zone 7. With plenty of light, it might even over-winter indoors.

Those reasons explain its popularity well to me. I plan to order it for my summer garden in Northeast Ohio and keep it in the kitchen window with my bay tree next winter. I want to be part of this club.

Fredericksburg Herb Farm: A Lifestyle Approach to Herbs

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America


20160412_172729Time began in a garden.

Two weeks ago, I was in Fredericksburg, Texas, on a business trip for travel-writers. We stayed at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm where we enjoyed herbs and inspiration. Nestled among greens, tastefully scattered throughout the gardens, is a collection of cast cement blocks and rocks blooming with quotes.

The earth laughs in flowers. – Emerson

Like the lodging, spa and gardens, the sayings are restorative. They were the bonus I needed to power me through 13-hour days touring, meeting and dining with strangers.

I was one of four members in our group who stayed in a replica Sunday cottage at the Farm.  Sunday cottages are a historic notion; in the late 1800s German farmers built these simple structures for weekend visits to town for church services and supplies. While few original cottages remain, the town is dotted with replicas where tourists stay.

20160415_073804 My Sunday cottage was a modern, one-bedroom affair with a spacious bathroom. The delightful front porch was furnished with two rocking chairs, a wooden swing and a rosemary shrub growing in a knee-high terracotta pot.  As expected, the herb theme was woven throughout the property. The bedroom had tasteful touches of herb décor, while the bathroom boasted hand-crafted body products made on site. These included invigorating peppermint shampoo, conditioner and body wash as well as gentle chamomile face soap.

20160415_074429When I awoke my  first morning, Basil-the-Cat greeted me on the front porch. A cat lady, I attract them wherever I go.  Visitors may encounter three more cats – Yarrow, Milky and Pepper.

Amenities on the four-acre property include a modern spa, farm-to-table restaurant, charming gift shop and manicured garden with more than 40 herbs, vegetables and native plants. Oh, and the omnipresent inspiring quotes.

Two people make all lotions, gels, shampoos, conditioners, colognes, and other bath and beauty products on site for use in the Sunday cottages. These are available in the gift shop as well. The 30-plus scents include the traditional lavender and the unusual tomato leaf lotion. Yes, to some people like my boyfriend, tomato leaves
are a delicious-smelling reminder of summer.

20160414_130157Herbs grown on site are used in the restaurant. Perhaps one of the more creative concoctions is a refreshing lavender limeade made with St. Germain’s elderberry flower liqueur, gin and Collins mix muddled with fresh lavender and splashed with soda.

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. – Shaw


Paris in poppiesIf you make it to Fredericksburg, don’t miss the 200-acre Wildseed Farms just seven miles east of town. The company plants, harvests and sells seed of more than 100 species of wildflowers, herbs and garden variety flowers. The cool part is that you can visit the Farm and see the flower fields in full color.

 

Violets Infuse Vodka for a Delightful Cocktail

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160328_173928While we waited to see Book of Mormon at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, we settled onto bar stools at Bin 216. I ordered the Aviation Cocktail- a mixture of gin, crème de violette, luxardo and lemon — because I’d never heard of the violette liqueur and I love new culinary experiences.

The drink settled into the back of my mind until the book Eat Your Roses reminded me that the violets were edible.

And, I’m compelled to make everything I can from scratch. At least once. Consider, in my 20s I thought about raising chickens so I could control the quality of my chicken stock, but I couldn’t decide what would come first – the chicken or the egg.

Laugh if you must, but the thought crossed my mind.

So, why not make crème de violette?

Problem was my obsession started in February, after a foraging trip through the mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C. Unable to find fresh violets in late winter, I bought the purple liqueur. For the budget-conscious, it comes in a classy package and, again, costs less than buying your own packaging and making it.

But that wasn’t the point. I grew up in a family where from-scratch food was de rigueur. Store-bought bread? Verboten.

20160326_155718So, when on Easter 2016, I found violets growing in my boyfriend’s yard, it was time. When you eat (and drink) with the seasons you act before the window closes. I was on a mission.

It didn’t take long to realize accumulating enough of these little fairy blossoms was going to be onerous. So, I made like Tom Sawyer and turned it into a game with my boyfriend’s grandchildren. With the help of four girls we lightly filled half of a quart mason jar.

The glass jar was a delightful way to collect because we were ch20160326_155708armed by the way the sun illuminated the delicate petals through the glass and the perfume was a promise of things to come.

I was almost reluctant to cover the vibrant violets with vodka. For a few seconds at least. Glug, glug, glug and the violets were giving up their soul to the spirit.

20160329_181527_001After marinating (macerating?) overnight the purple leached into the tasteless liquor. And, the flavor went with it, creating an almost berry-like balm. I knew because I’d sample every few hours. I call that quality control.

By day three, when the flowers were nearly colorless I strained the fledgling liqueur into another mason jar spilling precious drops onto the counter. I refrained from licking the liquid straight from the granite. It wasn’t five o’clock somewhere. Yet.

The sketchy instructions I’d found on the internet claimed their infusion was a light lilac. Mine was, but it oxidized to a light gold after a few days.  How could I improve the coloring? The purist in me resisted food coloring, but I may give in. Again, we eat first with our eyes.

I decided to make another batch and another and another. I tried six different vodkas. Not to belabor the details, but the flavors were all slightly different. I preferred the barely there hint of fruit from Ciroc vodka – made from grapes – as it married with the violets.  My second choice was Kamchatka, a lower-priced vodka.

Next step? Adding an equal part simple syrup.

Then, shake and serve over ice, splashed into bubbly or crafted into a cocktail.

Cheers!


NOTE: Simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts sugar and water, simmered until sugar is dissolved. After cooling I added it to my violette infusion.

Herb of the Month: We Be Chiven’

Herb of the Month: We Be Chiven’

By Rickie Wilson, Guest Author

Garlic chivesVincent van Gogh paid homage to a wonderfully versatile herb in his 1887 oil painting entitled “Flowerpot with Chives.”

Whether you call the plant gow choy, ku ts’ai, nira, cuchay oriental garlic or Chinese chives, April 2016 Herb of the Month — garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) — has myriad 10uses.

DESCRIPTION:  Garlic chives, unlike thin, tubular common chives, are strap-like. In contrast, they are firm and light green in color. The flavor and fragrance of this herb is more like mild garlic than onion-y chive.  The plant produces small white, star-shaped flowers which grow in loose bunches, on stalks much taller than the leaves. Both the leaves and flowers of the plant are edible. While most species of garlic chives do not produce bulbs, the few that do produce edible bulbs.  Although the herb originated in parts of Mongolia, Siberia and Northern China, it can now be found throughout Europe. Garlic chives grow wild and abundantly in parts of Ohio, Illinois, Alabama, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arkansas, California and Michigan.  Because of aggressive growth and readily available seeds/seedlings, it is believed to have migrated to many other parts of the north.

CULTIVATION: The herb grows well in damp soil but prefers well-drained, organic soil. The plant grows best in total sunlight and will not tolerate shade. Garlic chives usually repel insect invasion but must be protected from disease and fungi which can occur if they are too congested and saturated with water.

 CULINARY USES: The leaves are wonderful when infused into butters and cheeses. They are used to flavor sauces, vegetables, meat, poultry, egg dishes, soups and salads. The herb is a tasty addition to seafood, especially, salmon, caviar and oysters.  Garlic chives are used prolifically in Asian cooking. In Asian countries the fresh Garlic chive leaves are often fried with vegetables and meat. Chinese dumpling of pork, egg and shrimp are flavored with the leaves.  In Northeastern Indian cuisine the herb is used as a substitute for onion and garlic and is called maroi nakupi. The flowers should be picked fresh for use. It is best to use fresh leaves as well.  However the leaves may be frozen in ice cubes if necessary. Never dry this herb for storage as it will lose its flavor and color.

Six Reasons to Read The Culinary Herbal

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

The Culinary Herbal bookAn herb gardener and enthusiast for nearly 30 years, it’s been a while since I’ve met an herbal reference I couldn’t live without. Well, I just met one:  The Culinary Herbal, Growing & Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs (Timber Press, 2016, $27.50) by Susan Belsinger & Arthur O. Tucker. Both are members of HSA.

The book is  a guide, not a cookbook. With carefully chosen words, and straightforward pictures by Shawn Linehan, it sates the appetite for information. You don’t walk away hungry for more or overwhelmed by too much.

Six reasons to add The Culinary Herbal to your library include

  • It discusses common and uncommon herbs. For example, the first listing is “ajowan.” The seeds smell/taste of thyme and are used in savory Indian dishes.
  • It covers food uses. About lemon verbena the authors write “[the leaves] make a delightful syrup. Extracts and tinctures are used in the formulations of liqueurs. They can also be made into an aromatic paste for baked goods.”
  • It explores taste like a good wine catalog. Violas or Johnny-jump-ups “have pleasingly mild sweet tastes like baby lettuce. Some of them have a slight, mild hint of wintergreen, and a few bring bubblegum to mind.” 
  • It notes growing information. Atop the page for each herb is a summary of ideal conditions. French Tarragon prefers full sun in well-drained soil of a 6 to 6.5 pH. 
  • It cautions of dangers. Did you know that green, unripe elderberries are poisonous? 
  • It offers lush, definitive photography. Relevant photos of each herb show essential parts such as leaves, flowers, fruit, seed, roots.

The only thing missing is a spreadsheet so I don’t have to flip pages to find like-herbs for my shade garden with dry soil, etc. Then, again, the growing information is a top each listing. So, flipping page by page is simple enough.


What’s your favorite herb reference book?