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.
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 .