Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mid-winter foraging in Texas, what's in season? (Early spring plants for everywhere else)

I really love living in Texas. The fact that I can forage year-round, even in the dead of winter, makes me so happy. And I've been taking advantage whenever I can. In some ways, the stark landscape makes foraging easier, with no tree leaves to block the view.

I realized I hadn't done a "What's in Season?" post in quite a while, and I also thought that everyone might be curious about mid-winter foraging, especially if you live in the Southern US. So this is kind of a combo post. It's focused on what foraging you can find in Texas in mid-winter, but generally the same plants apply for early spring up in the Northeast and Midwest.

10 Edible plants & mushrooms in Texas mid-winter 

1. Purple deadnettle

Purple deadnettle, or Lamium purpureum, is a common, easy-to-identify, member of the mint family. Like all mints, it's an edible, flavorful, herb. But, it doesn't taste minty, not all mints do. Did you know that basil is a mint? Well it is, and so is oregano, sage, rosemary and more, including deadnettle. Deadnettle is named for its passing resemblance to nettles, the unrelated Urtica genus. Deadnettles LOOK like stinging nettles, with similar heart-shaped leaves, but they don't actually sting. They also have very different flowers, that look a bit like snapdragons and come in pink or purple.

Deadnettle can be eaten raw, though I prefer it cooked, as it has a bit of hair on the stems and leaves. It's very herby, and slightly bitter. Use it like baby kale!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Balsamic soy wild mushroom pizza. Vegetarian foraged honey, oyster and velvet shank recipe.

When my husband and I lived in the Northeast, one of our favorite restaurants was The Continental. They have locations in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and the surrounding areas. The food is great, the atmosphere is retro, and they do awesome things with mixing and fusion cuisine.

Winter oyster mushrooms
One seasonal dish they make is a balsamic soy flatbread pizza with wild mushrooms. I've seen a lot of balsamic soy mushroom recipes, but something about theirs always stood out. Maybe it's the wild mushrooms or the quality of the aged balsamic, but the dish was really superior. Since then we have played around with a ton of variations, and they've all been good (my favorite is with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms!). This one uses honey, velvet foot, and wild oyster mushrooms - all foraged. 

I hope you like this recipe, it's one you can make with store-bought mushrooms if you like - try cremini, shiitake, or store-bought oysters or hen-of-the-woods.

The rich flavors of wild mushrooms and aged balsamic mean you don't have to go crazy with the cheese to still have a decadent pizza, keeping it low in fat and as healthy as pizza can be. Which isn't very healthy, but still. . . sometimes you just have to have pizza!

Velvet shank or velvet foot mushrooms, another winter species that makes a great pizza topping

Friday, January 13, 2017

Savory spruce (or pine!), oatmeal and cheese scones. Eat your Christmas tree, part 2!

So after experimenting with the spruce in a sweet dessert cookie, I got curious about it as a savory. After all, rosemary and pine have kind of similar flavors, and rosemary is frequently the featured flavor in artisanal breads, biscuits and rolls.

I started out with a fairly basic oatmeal scone recipe, but I deviated pretty quickly. Technically, I think these would count as a "teacake" at this point, rather than a true scone.  I made them a little smaller than scones, as they are little sweeter (but still not sweet), denser, and richer. 

With spruce being an ingredient in Scandinavian cooking, and scones being British or English, what would you call these? Scandlish? Britinavian? 

I really liked these a lot, more than the sweet cookies I made earlier, though most everyone else liked the sweet better. These are best served hot, preferably with some creamy, grass-fed butter or fresh cheese, and, of course, a pot of hot tea!

Special note: women who are pregnant should avoid eating spruce. You could make these with pine or balsam fir instead, though!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Honeyed spruce (or pine) needle cookies. Yes, you CAN eat your Christmas tree!

Preparing for the holidays, I have made several huge messes in the kitchen, which my husband has lovingly cleaned up for his exhausted wife. I love cooking, but I get extremely flustered and tired when I'm trying to prepare multiple meals at the same time!

I think my husband was looking forward to a break in the mess, but fate interviewed, and oops! I did it again! At least I cleaned up after myself this time!

Beautiful fresh blue spruce