July 7 Wild Edible Adventure

It’s been over 10 years since I convinced a friend of mine to try milkweed fritters with me after reading about them in one of Euell Gibbons’s books.  We enjoyed them so much, we made an annual event out of it. Over the next few years, a meal consisting entirely of deep-fried foods evolved into a full-course potluck where every dish contained wild edibles. As word got out and more people expressed an interest in sharing this experience, Laura’s “You can eat that?!” Wild Edible Adventures came to life. The summer workshop continues to be scheduled around the milkweed flowering season.

A wide variety of wild edibles is available at this time of year. The July 7th “shopping list” contained 14 above-ground plant parts that would lead participants into several different habitats, including riverbottom forest, upland prairie, marsh, woodland edge,  domestic gardens and yard sites.  Our list included:

wild grape leaves, purple prairie clover, wild mint, bugleweed, giant hyssop, wild bergamot, wild caraway seeds, lamb’s-quarters, pigweed, portulaca (a.k.a. purslane), wood-sorrel, chickweed and, of course, milkweed flowers and flower buds.

While exploring the marsh, we also discovered the wonderfully acidic flavour of the swamp smartweed, and gathered that, too.  We also paused to enjoy a patch of ripe saskatoons, one of the few patches that actually produced berries this year.  All of these distractions cost us some time, but in the end, this fun and diverse group of 12 produced the most delicious Wild Edible Adventure meal that I can remember.

In addition to what we gathered, I provided some sassafras roots to make an experimental sassafras cake.  (I mean,what could be better than a cake that tastes like root beer?)  I also had some cattail flower tops to add to the main dish.

This is what our menu looked like:

 

Menu

Wild salad (Portulaca, Lamb’s-quarters, Smartweed and Wood-sorrel) with Chickweed Dressing

Wild Grape leaf soup

Wild green lentils with Cattail tops

Milkweed fritters

Blanched Milkweed flower buds

Wild pizza pita pockets

Dandelion Wild Mint cake

Sassafras cake

Bugleweed and Hyssop teas

 

As usual, not everything turned out according to plan, which was great.  Several recipe modifications have come from the creativity and accidents that occur in the kitchen during these workshops.  (Like the time wild mint accidentally got mixed in with the stinging nettle and ended up being a great addition to the stinging nettle soup!)

The experimental sassafras cake tasted wonderful, but  (mental note) the powdered roots should be put through a fine sieve first.

 

May 12 Wild Edible Adventure

This was the most amazing spring Wild Edible Adventure to date!  Abnormal weather conditions resulted in a greater diversity of available wild edibles than usual.  Roots and tubers are usually the focus at this time of year, but wild greens were sprouting up all over the place and, true to my nature, I felt compelled to add as many as possible to the dinner menu. I knew it was a tall order, but I also had a good feeling about the group coming out  – and confidence that they would work as a team to pull it off.

They did.

After introductions over acorn squash muffins and lavender-spiked dandelion coffee, the group was briefed on plant identification and harvesting tips.  By 11:00, everyone was ready to head out and put their knowledge to action.

We gathered 14 edible plant parts from 12 different species, including:
cattail roots, cattail shoots, burdock roots, sweet cicely roots, caraway roots, dandelion roots, dandelion flowers, stinging nettle, goosefoot, lamb’s-quarters, milkweed shoots, caragana flowers, basswood leaves and stinkweed shoots.

When we got back to base camp, this eager and enthusiastic team didn’t miss a beat putting the menu items together.  I offered additional wild greens and mushrooms that I had gathered earlier.  The result was a phenomenal wild dinner that included 19 different wild edibles! Check out our menu!

MENU

Basswood, lamb’s-quarters and caragana salad (stinkweed optional)

Cattail shoots

Stinging nettle, goosefoot and fiddlehead soup

Curried chickpeas with cattail tops and lamb’s-quarters

Burdock root in vinegar sauce

Milkweed shoots (cooked)

Caraway roots (cooked)

Dandelion fritters with sweet cicely honey

Cattail pancakes with Manitoba maple syrup

Dandelion wild spearmint cake

Sweet cicely tea

 

If you would like to sign up for the next “You can eat that?!” Wild Edible Adventure, click here!

Photos taken by Cindy Balkwill Photography.