Friday, December 30, 2011

Places to go in January

Boat Tailed Grackle

Just in case you missed it.... Monica Pearson (aka Monica Kaufman) and I did a piece on foraging for WSB tv here in Atlanta a few weeks ago.  It aired just after Christmas so as to inspire all of us to get outdoors and walk around.  Here's the clip if you are so inclined to watch it.

In the meantime, things are happening all over the place.  Let's start with First Day Hikes.  There are three that I know of.  All of them are on January 1st.   Tallulah Gorge State Park has one.  It's a moderate hike of 3.5 miles.  If you want information try calling 706-754-7981.  There's also one at Reed Bingham State Park in Adel on Jan 1.  229-896-3551.  And, last but not least Laura S. Walker State Park in Waycross is also having a First Day hike along Big Creek Nature Trail.  912-790-8800.  More than likely these will also be listed at

The Atlanta Boat Show is coming up on Jan 12 -15 for those of you who are into floating on the water.  More information is at

The Great Southern Fishing Show is Jan. 21-22 at the North Atlanta Trade Center in Norcross for thoe of you who love all things fishing.  Theres more information about that at 770-279-9899.

Calloway Gardens is sponsoring the Sothern Gardening Symposium Jan 27-30.  As you might expect it will be devoted to gardening in the south.

If you happen to be in Augusta Jan 21-29 the 33rd Futurity Cutting Horse Event will be going on.  Check it out at

Not to be missed is "Garden Geology" at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.  It goes on Jan 11, 18, 25 and Feb 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.  All of this so you can learn about the rocks of Georgia's Eastern Blue Ridge and Inner Piedmont Provinces.  Check it out at

In case you didn't know it, Georgia is comprised of 6 geographic regions:
  • The Appalachian Plateau
  • Ridge and Valley
  • Blue Ridge
  • Piedmont
  • Upper Coastal Plain
  • Lower Coastal Plain
One of these days, we will talk about the differences in these regions because all of them have different flora and fauna for you to enjoy.

For example, the farther south you go the more snakes you find.  For the adventuresome, there's the Rattlesnake Roundup in Whigham, GA on Jan 28th.  This area of Georgia not only has all the dangerous snakes but it also has alligators.  During the roundup there are three presentations on poisonous snakes and for those who like arts, crafts and food... at least one vendor sells alligator bites.  I was hoping to hear that there was some rattlesnake stew going on down there but... not this year.  If someone out there like to cook rattlesnake however.... here's a business opportunity for one day a year. For more information on this activity, you can call the Chamber of Commerce at 229-377-3663.
Boat Tailed Grackle
Seems like this year will start off warmly.  Not too hot and not too cold just inbetween.  That means the weeds are thriving in advance of spring.  If you look around now you will find dandelions, garlic mustard, garlic onions, hairy bittercress, curly dock... just to name a few edibles.  In fact, I believe I spotted some dead nettles and some henbit as well while I was walking the woods the other day.  So....get out and walk around, breath the air and be glad we have the trees to produce the oxygen we need.

I wish each of you have a happy and healthy new year with many new adventures planned.  Ciao!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Amaranth, OH Amaranth.....

A. Palmer
 Your grandpa probably called it pigweed but today this noble weed is in the news.  By now everyone here in the south has probably heard about the Palmer Amaranth which is invading the cotton and soy fields in Georgia and the rest of the south.  Why it made the news is sort of fascinating.... it is resistant to Round Up®.  But that doesn't surprise me... plants came before we did (check out the Cretaceous period) and are quite resiliant.  Plants adapt, mutate, and evolve to meet the demands of their environment just like germs, bacteria, fungi and every other living thing.  So why shouldn't they become resistant to Round Up®

This precursor of spinach is a hearty little thing.  It grows just about anywhere the soil has been disturbed.  And, oh wow!  It is edible.  The argument of late is whether the Palmer Amaranth is edible. And the answer to that is...well.... somewhat complex.  I asked a wonderful resource, Green Dean, of what he knew about this situation and, after much asking around, he says that A. Palmer is certainly edible HOWEVER, best not to eat it from the Round Up® treated fields.  The reason is that every edible plant grown for human consumption that is treated with Round Up® has a known "poison span" ( my word) meaning that as long as the product is picked between X and Y it is safe for humans to eat.  However, if a weed has been sitting in the field for Z period of time no one knows what the uptake of the Roundup® is or what the overall effect of treatment is to the growth of the weed.  With amaranth, a known nitrate consolidator, it could be that it takes up too much of this chemical when exposed to Round Up® and thus, could be unsafe for human consumption.  Hence, eat the A. Palmer but don't eat it from fields that have been treated with Round Up® any time soon!  Actually, I think I would apply this rule to any weed you find in a field that has been chemically treated... even your lawn.

Now for the rest of the Amaranth family.  Today, I was shopping at my favorite international market in Marietta, GA.  I always mean to take a piece of paper with me to notate the names of plants which I don't recognize so I'll know whether to buy them the next time I shop.  Well, wonders never cease.  Today I selected the Red Shen Choy as my investigative plant.  And you know what?  It turns out that this is an amaranth.  So is the Callalou (A.Tricolor or A.Gangeticus) the favored vegetable plant of  Jamaica and hin choy, Chinese spinach, bush greens and Indian spinach....  In short, humans have been eating amaranth as far back as Egypt and the pharaoh because it is highly nutritious and delicious to the palate.

A. retroflexus

What's really neat about this discovery is that amaranth grows wild nearly everywhere in the world and it is practically free for the taking because it is a weed.  It is good as a green and it is good for its seeds.  Think of it as one of those wondrous gifts from the gods.  As you look at the picture on the left just think about it.  How many times have you seen this growing in an empty lot?  In the park?  Along a country road?  .  Most amaranths have red stems, the leaves are alternate and there is a lovely seed head at the top of the plant.  For more information check out 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From little acorns.... pancakes!

Finally I got around to making something with the acorns that I harvested earlier this year;  pancakes.  And, I wasn't at all disappointed.  They were nutty and sweet and a surprise considering that a raw acorn tastes plenty bitter.  Hence, I'll just bet you'd be interested in the recipe which I borrowed from Redhawk; a Lakota Native American.  He/she can be found at 

Acorn Griddle Cakes
  • 2/3 C finely ground leached acorn meal
  • 1/3 C unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 3 Tbl melted butter
Combine dry ingredients. Mix together egg and milk, then beat into dry ingredients, forming a smooth batter. If the batter is a little thick, add a bit more milk.  Then add butter. Drop batter onto hot, greased griddle. Bake, turning each cake when it is browned on underside and puffed and slightly set on top. Makes 12 to 15.

The Georgia Forestry Commission lists these oak species as native to the state:
Oak, Black
Oak, Blackjack
Oak, Bluejack
Oak, Chestnut
Oak, Georgia
Oak, Laurel
Oak, Live
Oak, Northern Red
Oak, Overcup
Oak, Post
Oak, Scarlet
Oak, Shumard
Oak, Southern Red
Oak, Swamp Chestnut
Oak, Turkey
Oak, Water
Oak, White
Oak, Willow

           The White Oak is known to have the sweetest, least tannin imbued nuts.  The less tannin a nut has    the easier it is to process.  And, to answer the question -- how do you process an acorn -- here's the simple answer. 

Take a hammer and gently rap the nut.  The shell will break.  Pick out the pieces of acorn and put it into bowl.  Once all the acorns have been shelled, you need to break them into smaller pieces.  This can be done by putting them into a food processor or by wrapping them in a towel and hitting them with a hammer.  Regardless of your choice.... you get the idea. 

Now, you need to leach the tannins.  There are two simple ways that I like.  One is to put your nut meats into a handkerchief or piece of fine grade cheese cloth and hang it in the toilet tank -- repeat.... the TANK-- and let the flush rinse the tannins away for a day or three depending on the size of your household and the use of the toilet.  The other easy way is to put your hanky into a running stream, brook, river.... and let the rushing water do the job.  There are other more labor intensive methods but why bother when life can be so easy? 

When you finally remove your finished nuts you need to dry them.  Squeeze out the excess water and then put them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in an 350 F oven.  Let them bake until golden brown.  Normally this takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.  Once they are dry, put them into an air tight container...a jar or plastic bag will do...and they will stay fresh until you decide to use them.  To make the bits into flour, put a handy amount into the coffee grinder and just blend until all the bits become powder.  More than likely you will need to do this in two or three actions.  Pulse...shake the granules down....pulse again....shake the powder and granule down.....pulse again and you are probably finished and have a lovely flour.

Another tidbit of interest:  Oaks do not produce acorns before they are 20 years old and can wait as late as 50 years of age so if you don't plant one when you are young you may never havest acorns in your yard. On the other hand, as you walk the woods in search of an acorn rejoice...the little morsels that have fallen from the limb on that lovely autumn day comes from a mighty old tree.  Even more interesting.... one oak can produce as many as 2500 acorns in a single season.  How's that for pancakes????

Walk quietly and enjoy the peace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Winter greens are in abundance

Hairy Bitter Cress

Took a walk today up the mountain only to find stiff breezes and about a dozen edible wild plants.  As you can tell from previous blogs, I'm a foodie and nothing makes me happier than finding something to eat.  I'll keep the column short today and simply make a list of what you can find in the southern climes just before Thanksgiving.

Onion garlic,
Garlic Mustard
Curly Dock
English Plantain
Mt. Mint
Hairy Bitter Cress
Common Mullein

From here you see you can makes yourself a pretty decent meal and what else goes good with a wonderful turkey for this Thanksgiving.... and abundance of wild greens.

Ciao and Buonapetito

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fungus are few but greens are in abundance

Surprise, surprise!  Here I was, walking through the woods, which I haven't had much chance to do these past months, when what did I find.... a wonderous patch of chickweed.  Now I know I spoke of this before but I thought you all would be happy to know that even if its November.... there are treasures to be found.

That wasn't the only thing.  How about Curly Dock.  There it was, growing on the edge of the field.  Lovely curly leaves just waiting to be picked.  This is one of my favorite "weeds".  As I understand it, dock was the original spinach before farmers got their hands on it and started to plant the hybid spinach.  It used to be you could collect this to your hearts content and be filled with good food.  Today, it is more difficult to find what with all the construction and grooming that goes on.  Nevertheless, there is nothing like a plate of Curly Dock to make a happy dinner. 

This evening I prepared some with its brother, the spinach.   I washed the dock and the spinach and coursely chopped it.  In a saute pan I melted a nice knob of butter and, when it was completely melted I threw in the, still damp, mix of greens.  Immediately I put a lid on the mix and cooked it on low for about 5 minutes...just enough to wilt all the greens.  Let's say that this was one of the finest fall meals I've enjoyed.  Hopefully, you will try it in the days ahead.

Lastly, mushrooms are in short supply.  There has been the occassional Hen of the Woods but, for the most part there is a shortage due to the lack of water.  Here's hoping that spring is better in the fungus family.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mushrooms are up! Hurrah! Hurrah!

The rains have arrived, at least for the short term, and that means the mushrooms are coming out. Walking through the woods, it is a wonderous thrill to see the colorful secrets that emerge from the earthern duft or off of an old tree stump. So, let me introduce you to some of the treasures that are available these days.

There is the chanterelle. A lovely little orange mushroom that has gills that cling to the stem and ride all the way up and out to the edge of the cap. As you can see they are orange (although they do come in white) and are about 1" in diameter and about 1" tall.
You can buy these at Whole Foods or you can pick your own but just watch out for the Jack O'Lantern which resembles the chanterelle, sorta. It is poisonous. By poisonous I mean it can make you sick to your stomach. The JOL grows in clumps and occasssionally glows in the dark if you should be camping out.

Another delectible that can be found these days is the Cracked Bolete.
Bolete's are an interesting breed. Instead of gills they have spongey undersides. These are described as tubes in some books as they contain the reproductive bodies of the mushroom.

As you walk the woods these days, you can find lots of multi-color boletes. There are those that are bi-color, those that are red, blue, green, a color-- fungus come in all colors and in all seasons.

If you want to learn about mushrooms I suggest you join a mushroom club. Here in the northern region of Georgia there is the Georgia Mushroom Club. It meets regularly and takes wonderful hikes. There are special interest groups for growing mushrooms, using mushrooms to dye fabric and to eat mushrooms. You can find them at

Then, further south, in Macon, Chris Matherley, at takes folks on walks to find all kinds of mushrooms and, in particular, Morel mushrooms. Nearly every state in the union has a mushroom club which is a great way to discover these delights of the woods, the lawn, and the trees.

I think next time we should talk about how to determine which mushroom you have found. In the meantime, I suggest you invest in a field guide if this is an area that interests you. The Smith's have a fine one for Southern Mushrooms; and so does National Geographic.

Have a find day in the woods, fields, and wild lands of Georgia!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Where the wild things are.

Back in the day, or at least when I was young, we spent hours out of doors. I remember walking over dirt fields looking for rocks; catching butterflies; collecting bees and lightening bugs.  I think it was then that my love for the outdoors was born.  There was never a dull moment with or without companionship.  My sisters and I made rafts from old logs and floated them across ponds, caught frogs and ran through fields.  Sadly, the same is not true for many children today.  In fact, there is a whole group of youngsters who are outdoor impoverished.  Instead of fresh air and personal creativity, these kids are stuck behind computers or surrounded with high tech toys.  Worst of all, they are missing the vitamin D of the sun, the wonders of nature and the joy of creating games for entertainment with other friends.  So here is my challange for the week.

How about you and the kids drawing a square in the yard, or the woods. 12x12.  In fact, give each kid his/her personal square.  Have each kid collect as much stuff from their square as possible and sort it out....bugs, plants, rocks...  See who saw the most and what they know about each of their specimens.  For those things they know nothing about use the computer.  I am a fan of Google but there are some other wonderful sites you might appreciate. This is a great one for identifying bugs.  Just start with the shape of the bug and work your way through the various options. Or, if you think you know what the insect is, do a search and see if you are right.  This site is great if you have a flower you want to identify.  At the very least it will give you a head start on the possible family in which your flower resides.  Finally, there are rocks to consider.  This site has great information on rock identification plus it has a rock key which helps your "student" to identify his/her rock. 

The success of taking a kid outdoors is measured by their involvement.  If they forget that you are there -- if you can't take them away from their spot --  if they start to invent games and want to include you or, if they just want to wade in a stream.... you've created a winning opportunity for future excitement and learning.  What a great combination.  Painfree learning and fun.  There really isn't a much better package.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Don't eat that wild carrot!

Today, the topic is Umbelliferae or Apiaceae.  You know this plant because it contains celery, caraway, carrot, queen anne's lace, parsnip...and 293 other plants.  More than once you've seen plants like this in the wild because they look just like carrot tops. Sadly, in addition to being wild carrot it can be unforgiveably poisonous when it grows in the form of poison hemlock. 

Poison hemlock looks much like Queen Anne's lace and can be difficult to distinguish it. To be safe, never eat any part of a plant in the celery family that hasn't been grown in a garden from a seed packet. There are other poisonous plants in the family besides this one.  There is no known antidote for poisoning in the family.

We all eat carrots or parsnips or caraway seeds in our rye bread but are there other alternatives?  Carrot tops are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. They are loaded with potassium, which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited,  My suggestion is to put them into your salad as a condiment rather than eating a bowl full.  They are also rich in Vitamin K which should be consumed in limited quantities if you are on a blood thinner.

In old England, garlands of carrot leaves were worn in ladies hats during the winter months in place of bird feathers and, to brighten up the hearth, the top of a carrot was cut off and placed in a plate of water; the result was a lovely bouquet of leaves.  A tea made from the leaves serves a dual purpose, a diuretic and an anti-flatulance.  Nature is soooo wonderful.  Just make sure you got your leaves from the grocery store!

The other thing we are seeing these days are wild onions; aka garlic chives, wild garlic.  Not be confused with Crow Poison which grows at the same time... Wild onions smell like onions while Crow Poison doesn't have that distinctive oniony aroma.

These you treat just like garden chives.  Cut them from the plant, wash them, chop them and either put them on your baked potato; into a dip; as an accoutrament to your soup or salad OR, you can freeze them or dry them and save them for a rainy day.  The bulb you can steam or saute and serve as a side dish if you are so inclined.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Time is aflying!

Dogwood blossom
I don't know how two weeks have disappeared but that's life, isn't it.  Just when you think you have control of everything you have control of nothing at all.  Well, my disappearance hasn't interupted spring, has it?  No matter where you look, something new is erupting from the earth; flying overhead; or on the breeze.   And, true to form, March has come in like a lamb and is now chilly -- hopefully only for a day or two.

Shortly, Dr. Mary Meyer will be taking folks on a fascinating walk through the woods over there on Kennesaw Mt.  With spring being early, it is difficult to say what she will find.  I did notice that the dead nettles are up, the Dog Wood in bloom, and the cleavers tacky green and waiting.  Meyer has a CD out entitled "Wildflowers of Kennesaw Mountain and North Georgia" that has some great pictures on it.  She not only provides the name of plants but explains some of their uses.  It's listed in a number of places but this site is also useful for other happenings, history etc. in Georgia.   So this link serves more than one purpose.


And now, because you know I love to eat the weeds....  How about a pot of cleavers.  Just grab yourself a handful.  Wash them off thoroughly but do not drain.  Chop them up and slip them into a fry pan that has a small clove of chopped garlic or teaspoon of onions....  Stir them around with or without a lid, depending on the level of starvation you are experiencing.... and eat with a bit of salt and pepper.

Dead nettles

On the other hand, if you come across a field of dead nettles and are in the mood,  you can treat them the same way as the cleavers. 
OR.... you dry them for another day; crumble them up and brew yourself a coffee-like tea.  Dead nettles are in the mint family -- not like they taste minty -- they just have a hollow,square stem like all the mints.  Either way you are getting a good dose of lovely greens complete with vitamins and minerals.  Too, they don't have pesticides or fertilizer on them so they are naturally organic if you don't pick them by a roadway (and I'd never do this under any circumstance as there is lead in the exhaust fumes of motor vehicles).

Bon apetite'

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It must be Spring!

It seems like spring burst forth with abandonment during this last week .  I’ve seen daffodils, crocus, and magnolias blooming their little hearts out.  En route to the airport, the decorative pink cherry trees are prolifically in bloom and the crab apple trees are just about to burst forth along with some redbuds I discovered.  In my backyard the plum tree is in flower and up the street the fuchsia quince bushes enliven a yard.  This is called "eye-candy" season.

 If you listen carefully, you can hear the blue jays calling out in argumentative tones suggesting that the mating rituals are just about to take place and everywhere else there are birds in song.  Just the other day there were two Pileated woodpeckers romancing up and down the pine trees in the neighbor’s yard.  One hops around the ground pretending to look for insects while the other one dances around the base of the tree playing “now you see me- now you don’t”.  Then they change places and start the dance all over again.  It is always such a delight to view these “Woody Woodpecker” characters as they are quite illusive the rest of the year. 

And then, on Saturday, I saw a gray squirrel sneak quietly into the backyard birdhouse undoubtedly to set up a nest.  Every year I reinforce the holes of the bird boxes so that the critters take up residence elsewhere.  And every year at least one squirrel removes the reinforcement, enlarges the hole and moves in.  One year, I went to clean the bird box and out flew a flying squirrel frightening the breath from my being.  Bird box flew in one direction, me in the other and both of us required psychic first-aid.  I’m sure the squirrel is still telling his neighbors about the invasion by an alien human. 

But on with the real story.  The grey squirrel is in residence now and every evening she puts a leaf over the open door, presumably to keep the draft from her fur.  During the day she sits at the "window" surveying her domain and, after a thorough review, moves out into the world to feed.  I haven't seen any babies yet so I think she must be preparing for delivery.  When she's completed her yardly rounds, she moves about the base of the tree and all the trees in between, making sure there isn't a predator in sight and then up she goes, back into her house. 

As you can see, now is the time to get outdoors.  Once again the renewal of creation is at hand and we are reminded of the cycles of time. It is a time for sharing with those we love and those we meet along the road.  We need to touch the green; to feel the advent of spring; to hear the sounds that refresh the soul.

And don't forget to check our website:  Scheduled events are listed here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Great Backyard Bird Count

It's a happy day when we take time to savor the moment and reflect on the little beauties in plain sight.  That's what the Great Backyard Bird Count provides. This annual celebration and scientific contribution just ended on February 21st this year but that isn't the end of bird watching.  The Great Backyard Bird Count gives us permission to sit and reflect and to count the winged beauty right before our eyes.  On the other hand, any day can be a backyard bird count if you choose to delight in these winged creatures.

As I sit here in the kitchen there are quite a few birds flitting in and out of the feeders.  Of course there are the Carolina Chicadees with their high pitched peeps.  They are abundant here in the south.  

And then there are the Brown-headed Nuthatches that chide me as I go towards a feeder.  These little fellows are really quite gregarious and have lifted seeds from my fingers if I stand very still.  If you have pine woods near your house there is a great chance that you will see these little fellows creeping down the trees in search of food.

I'm sure you've all heard the voice of the Cardinal throughout the winter.  It's colors are brighter now as mating season approaches and it dresses in its best mating finery. He's here on the right, while she is here on the left.  Do you think she will pick him as a suitable partner?

The Pine warbler is still about with its golden chest that has little striations of brown to the left and right.  Notice the wing-bars...and the gold collar.  

When observing birds, it is important to look not only at the color of the bird but at the head; the eyes; the wings; and the tail. Do the eyes have white eye rings around them?  Do they have a dark band through the eye?  And do the wings have bars on them or not?  Is there a cleft in the tail or is it straight across?  Are there any bars on the tail?  That little Chicadee above has a black throat patch and a black hat.  Both the male and female of the Northern cardinal have a crest on its head - and the male has a black face mask around its eyes and beak.  Did you notice the way it sang?

For the novice it is important to focus on one bird at a time and familiarize yourself with it.    For example, take the Carolina Wren.  It has a spring song that goes tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle.  It is very common here in the south and will nest in your flowers just as well as your shrubs.  Last year my Mom had one nesting in her garage.  It flew in and out whenever the garage door was opened.  This little bird has a light eye band over the eye, not through the eye.  It's tail usually sticks up approaching a right angle to the body.  The top of the body is a rich burnt sienna while the underside is a lovely buff.  If you look at the wing feathers there are wing bars that are broken and that pattern can carry on the the tail of the bird.  Try finding one of these today.  They are here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rejoice and Beware! The Garlic Mustard is coming up!

Last week, while climbing around Kennesaw Mountain I noticed that the Garlic Mustard is on its way and for those of us with a hunger as well as a passion to keep Kennesaw Mountain healthy, dinner is fast approaching!

Last year, Kennesaw National Battlefield Park had a Garlic Mustard clean-up weekend which provided commraderie and fun for a lot of people.  This little pest turns up early in the season and is very invasive.  By the time it turns to seed sometime in May, it casts thousands of seeds into the environment.  Hardier than many of our native plants, it overtakes areas where you would normally find bloodroot, toothwort and many other native species. 

How to identify Garlic Mustard:

It has heavily veined, scalloped leaves, and the flower heads are little personal bouquets for gnomes.  Note in the picture to the right that these flowers come in a cluster and are comprised of 4 petals in the shape of a cross.  When a leaf is bruised it smells like garlic but don't just use this description to find a specimen.  Make sure to check other sources and people. 

To harvest/or remove Garlic Mustard: take out the entire plant including the roots
early in the season before it has a chance to flower. Young leaves
are best for pesto (and for salads or as a steamed green). Use only the
leaves for the recipe below. Remove the roots from the area you are clearing as
they will re-establish themselves if left in a pile on the ground.   Beware:  If you
pull up garlic mustard after it has flowered  it will still develop the
seedhead even after it is pulled from the ground so eating it is much more productive.


Having said all that, I hope the folks that cleaned up the mountain took their garlic mustard home for a lovely meal or two.  This beautiful but invasive plant is a delightful addition to a number of meals and is well suited to a variety of recipes.  Jennifer Chesworth of Centre Hall, Pennyslvania offers us a few possibilities.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Pesto
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Pine Nuts or Walnuts
1/2 Cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
Enough Garlic Mustard leaves to choke a horse (or to clear a forest floor)

Finely mince the walnuts and garlic mustard. An electric coffee grinder
works like a charm.

Add Oil and Cheese, serve with pasta or rice or other whole grain.  For
vegan pesto use Nutritional Yeast instead of Cheese.

Stir Fried Buds with Garlic Mustard and Mushrooms

Gather from an unsprayed area and wash well:
2 cups of 1/2" to 1" daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)buds
2 cups garlic mustard (alliaria petiolata)

other ingredients:
1 T. roasted sesame oil
1 T. sesame seeds
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1 cup mixed wild mushrooms (any kind will be good)

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil, sesame seeds, and ginger.  Lower
the heat to medium and add the mushrooms and daylily buds. Cover for 5
minutes. Uncover and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the garlic
mustard and stir until wilted and the mushrooms are done.... 3 - 5 minutes.

Note: This is a wonderful side dish. Add chicken or shrimp and serve over
wild rice for a main course. This is one dish that will change minds when
it comes to eating wild foods!

For a few more of Jennifer's recipes, go to:

Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What do I need for my wildflower expeditions?

It occurred to me that you might be wondering what you need to forage for wild foods successfully.  My answer to you is, not much.  As Green Deane ( and so many other enthusiasts of wild foods will attest, the first thing you need to do is know the plant

Plant identification is imperative and is relatively easy to do for the common plants. Start with what you know and research it.  For example: you know what a dandelion looks like. Maybe it is edible maybe it's not but, at least you recognize the dandelion. 
Your next step is to look it up. 

  1. Is it definately dandelion?  There are other yellow lawn flowers.  Always make a  positive identification!
  2. Is it edible?  Old wives tales do not work here.  Make sure to verify.
  3. How to prepare it?   This is the easiest step.  Find a recipe or invent one.
Reliable information can come in the form of internet information or books.  Regarding the internet, you want a reliable source, not just any internet source.  Most often I use those sources with .edu or .gov.  or .USDA.  There are some good sources on but you should definately know what you are talking about before believing everything that is available.   Green Deane does a great job educating his audience on youtube in a reliable manner.  Some of the others do not.  You  have to be picky.  When it comes to wild foods, absolute certainty is a must.  So always double check your resources before deciding to eat the greenery.

When it comes to books you really do need to invest in at least one field guide on southern wildflowers and one or two books on edible plants .  Books will tell you even more about the plant in question and supply you with additional pictures.  You can always take a book with you on your foraging adventure. 

Almost all plants have some form of flowers and, seeing as you are going to be examining flowers of the southeastern states selecting a book in this category is a great idea.  I always carry at least one reference on the trail because this hobby is a never ending learning trip.  Two of my favorites are:

Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains by Smith
Field Guide to Eastern Wildflowers from the National Audubon Society

After you have some books to facilitate plant identification, it is helpful to carry around plenty of brown paper lunch sacks.  They are readily recyclable and they allow you to separate your specimens for later identification.  Too, paper doesn't allow your plants to sweat.  And why is this important?  A sweating plant wilts; encourages insect eggs to hatch that might be on the leaves; and causes plants to start decomposing which is not very appetizing in the long run.  Hence, the brown paper bag routine for collecting.

I also like a magnifying glass and a camera.  Not everything is edible but nearly everything is beautiful.  One of my favorite pastimes is really looking into the soul of the plant...the blossom -- the leaf -- the stem -- the hair-like structures that encourage pollination...  I hate leaving anything unexplored for fear that something beautiful will be missed.  I have discovered that the eye of the camera provides me with another moment for joy.  It captures elements I did not see whilst standing there.  And, as I have my pictures on the computer, I use them as a screen saver so I can re-live all those lovely moments of peace and tranquility.

And yes, the dandelion is edible.  You can eat the washed leaves as a salad with a lovely bacon/vinegar dressing; in a mixed salad; or you can take the flower heads when they are yellow, dust them in a bit of flour and saute them in olive oil or bacon fat (depending upon your heart condition).  You can even make a coffee-like beverage from the roots.  Some call the dandelion natures most perfect vegetable.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wecome to Wild In Georgia

Well, spring is just around the corner, which means wildflowers, mushrooms, abundant opportunities to forage and fish.  How good can life get?!

I’ve been meaning to start this blog for many, many months but you know how time flies.  Other things take priority (like a new website*), and well, we just get behind a bit.  Nevertheless, I am now committed to write at least one edition of Wild in Georgia every week and keep you abreast of what is going on in the woods and hinterland.  I will cover edibles, discoveries, activities, and anything else related to wild Georgia. 

We’ve had a few days of perfectly gorgeous weather.  The temperatures have been in the 70’s and the sun has shone her heart out.  Of course, this isn’t normal for the beginning of February but I’ll take it.  Cold is not my forte’; nevertheless, nature continues regardless of the weather. 

Mouse-ear chickweed
This week I have noticed that the mouse-eared chickweed is coming up and that means soup.  What could be better with this fluctuating weather than a soup that contains the promise of springtime?  I love it, look forward to it, and am sad when the chickweed season ends. 

Chickweed can be found just about anywhere the soil was disturbed.  It grows in the lawn, in the flower pots, on the edge of the woods, and in the park.  Most folks think of it as a weed.  I think of it as gourmet eating.  A clump of it spreads out in a thousand directions so, to collect it, you encircle the center of the plant from underneath, slowly lifting so as to gather up the runners and then tear this handful from the base of the plant, leaving the root system for another season. 

And finally , if you are like me, you would now like a recipe for chickweed soup so here goes.  This one takes no time at all. 

Per person ingredients:

1 handful of chickweed – washed and chopped.  Flowers are okay.
½ tsp. diced onion
1½ C chicken stock
1 tsp. olive oil
  1. Put the olive oil in a soup pan and add the onions.
  2. Let the onions sweat for around 2 minutes to soften.
  3. Add the chicken stock and the chickweed.
  4. Bring to a simmer and wait 5 minutes until the chickweed is well cooked.
  5. With an emersion blender (stick blender) puree the contents of our soup pan into a fine green broth and serve.  Be careful  when you blend– the soup is hot and you don’t want it to splash back at you.
Optional:  Once the soup is pureed, you can add heavy cream and bring it back to the simmer and then serve.  This is like living in Paris!
So now that you have something to eat, I shall leave you to it and get back with you next week with yet another discovery. 

*Our new website, which is still under construction is:  Please visit to find our activity schedule.  Thanks.