Monday, March 29, 2010

i want to share this with you

This morning I discovered the first wild sorrel and ground elder . As I crouched there, brushing my palms over these tender plants, chewing a few leaves, savoring the sourness, smelling the fragrance on my finger tips, I realized that I would have to do some explaining before I began blogging passionately about wild edible plants. 
My love for gathering wild food began as a child on the Northern California coast. My father sometimes took me with him in our old brown Datsun out to the piney cliffs of Commonweal, where we would sift through mounds of fallen needles, looking for boletus mushrooms. The earthy smells, the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs, and the feeling of secrecy there was under the dark, low canopy of evergreens, has stayed with me all these years. It was a rare time alone with my father, and I savored those mushroom hunts even more than I did the buttery eggs and boletus he cooked in the black cast iron skillet afterwards. 
Fast forward to spring of 2009. I was taking a walk with my friend Gerit and our dogs. Green was finally taking over the forest floor, and birds were singing. Coming around a bend, she suddenly cried out, "Oh look! Waldmeister!" She bent over a bright green stalk and stroked it lovingly. I had no idea what that plant was, but her enthusiasm made me inquire. She told all about the plant waldmeister (or woodruff as it's called in english) and about how it was used in May Wine. Just hearing her talk about it made me want to try it right away. 
this woodruff plant started it all
After making my first woodruff lemon-appleaide, I knew I wanted to learn more about the wild edible plants growing around me. From then on, every walk with Gerit was like a magical field trip. What had before been random varieties of green became plants with names, uses, tastes, healing properties. I took a bag with me on every walk to fill with wild greens and herbs, and felt as though a whole new world had been opened up to me. Not only that, but Austria, which had continued to feel foreign even after living here for a few years, was becoming my own; I was learning to appreciate and even revel in it's beauty and bounty. The more I discovered, the more I grew to love this country and accept it as my home.

woodruff lemon-appleaide
Every time Gerit showed me a new species, I took a photo and looked it up in the internet; I tried old recipes, invented new recipes, and got on my husband's nerves when we took walks together, because I was constantly stopping to gather something and explaining to him what it was. 

a chart i made last spring of wild edibles
1. bellis perennis (daisy) 2. ground elder 3. chickweed 4. yarrow 5. dandelion 6. nettles 7. wild strawberry 8. lady's smock 9. sorrel 10. violet
It was a year of dandelion honey, hops asparagus scrambles, batter-fried elderflowers, and wild cherry cakes; a magical time of discovery where the surrounding woods and fields became my own secret garden.
yogurt dessert with chopped nuts, homemade dandelion honey, and a sprinkling of wild edible blossoms and leaves
Now that the gathering season has begun once again, I know I won't be able to stop myself from indulging in my passion for picking and cooking wild edibles, and subsequently blogging about them. I hope this enthusiasm is infectious; I hope I can inspire some of you to learn about the wild edible plants growing in your area, and to cook with them. Or, at least, I hope you will enjoy reading about them and seeing the pretty pictures.
What a wonderful start to the week it was to happen upon the first leaves of sorrel and elder; I am filled with anticipation, and can't wait to share all the wonders of nature's food with you.

xoxo country girl

p.s. for a look at past blog posts with wild edibles, click here .


  1. Ooooh! The 'herb detective' is out in the forest again! I remember your dandelion honey for your mother-in-law; the whole process and the beautiful little jars with the fabric decoration of the lid. Has it been a year already?

  2. Yiota! Yes, you remember! How I poured all my love for the things I was learning into my Jamie Oliver blog! It was such a great time. And now I am so excited that it's here again.

  3. Exciting every year, isn't it! I'm a wild foodie too, my passion for herbs just keeps growing! Love your blog!

  4. Yay for foraging for wild foods! Something that I too enjoy :) We are so blessed to live in such wonderful areas of oustanding natural beauty filled with edible treats for us and all the little creatures that inhabit them. Looking forward to seeing all of your bounty over the coming months
    Love Morwenna

  5. living in the city i don't often get to see such - it's fun learning about them

  6. oh what a heavenly post! I am excited to see some old herbal friends finally poking up around here as well! my garlic is sprouting, valerian and nettles are coming up and am awaiting the buds on the elder bushes!... I would love for you to post some of the recipes for you wild gathered ingredients! The things you mentioned sound delicious!!!

  7. Oh, wow. I loved this post! I'm at a loss for words!!

  8. yummy! i can't wait to hear more about your gathering! :)

  9. I love wild food foraging - you are very lucky to have had your dad and Gerit to help you! I have tried it a bit - I've made nettle soup and elderflower old housemate was friends with a guy who made a living from food foraging - he wrote a book called The Self-Sufficientish Bible. He visited once and helped to identify some plants...still...I'd love someone to advise me or to go on a small course... xxx

  10. I'm going to find out what grows around my part of the world and see if I can find something wonderful too! Thanks for the inspiration and look forward to your posts about all the bounty of the countryside and some recipes.

  11. Wonder wander through the sorrel and ground elder and boletus. On to the California woodlands and remembrance of childhood and back to sip woodruff lemon-appleaide. Closing with the creamy yougurt and edible woodland goodies.

    I'd say this was a grand Spring visit. Yeah! :)

  12. That yogurt looks great! You are a talented food stylist and awesome cook!!!! I saw Jamie on Oprah the other day.. he inspired me to make my own breaded chicken tenders. I posted a photo of a pitcher of lemons today too. ;-) My passion is edible rose petals and violets in salads, cupcakes and truffles.
    Pretty Love,

  13. Such a lovely post Dawn. The change of seasons where you are is so much stronger than anything I experience in Melbourne, and it is so cool to read about the greens coming through.
    Wild sorrel here is introduced! (but still yummy). I have tame sorrel in my big plant pot!

  14. Herb walks are still my favorite times in's all bursting here in the SF bay area right now...cali sage, mugwort, poppies etc etc...thank you for sharing your love for plants and what they do for us.
    Francis, a fellow your dad and I met in Bali in '79 said: "If you take care of the plants, the plants will take care of you." (imagine with a French accent:)

  15. What lovely photos ... and I admire you for doing this. I'm sure it makes meal time much more interesting. I'm sure I would make myself sick if I attempted this ... I'm not that good on details.

  16. Hello Darling Dawn, fingers crossed that I'm back for good this time and all computer glitches sorted out! What a gorgeous post...reminds me of MY dad, who is also great at knowing what to forage & eat. He comes home with huge puffball fungi & fries them up in butter...mmmm. Have you seen the book Food for Free by Richard Mabey? It's quite old but has been republished fairly recently, I think you'd love it. Looking forward to seeing what you discover this year! Lots of love xoxo Rachel

  17. ha! I love it. My father and I took the same walks when I was young.

  18. Thanks for the update on these wonderful plants, I will have to study them and see if we would have any in our area. Your photos are magical and make me want to be there with you!!

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us.

    xoxo Gert

  19., so wonderful, Dawn...i love all of it..and your pictures are so beautiful...

    i am feeling a nature walk coming on soon...

    loved hearing you talk about the mushroom walk and coming back to cook everything in a cast iron favorite...

    with all the rain here in Central California I should have some good luck...i'll let you know...

    sending love to you,

  20. This all sounds and looks so delicious. Years ago my husband and I bought several Euell Gibbons books about foraging and got great info from them.

  21. you are so clever and inspiring! i love the story of you and your dad and i especially love the botanic illustrations you've added to the side bar.
    it is always such a pleasure coming here dawn, enjoy your walks and special finds!

  22. Oh, looking forward to hearing more about your wild edible adventures! We have been learning lots about what our land has to offer since we moved here! Amazing and yummy things growing all around us!!
    That yogurt dessert looks delicious and your chart is great!



Related Posts with Thumbnails