Foraging

Sautéed ramps & lemon greens over parmesan hominy

Goodbye Charlottesville, hello Denver.

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This past week has been a beginning and an end, of sorts, for us. We were all set to leave Charlottesville, VA on Wednesday and head to Charlotte, NC to visit family before our move out to Denver, CO. I made my rounds of goodbyes in between packing, planning, cleaning, and daydreaming. There are people here in Charlottesville, as there have been people my whole life, who have been either friends, mentors, companions, acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers, and some people have been all of these things and more without knowing it. I need to say thank you to so many of you for opening doors to me, welcoming me with knowledge and friendship; especially at Sacred Plant Traditions, The Center for Historic Plants, and at Mudhouse.

There are several small moments which summarize the magic and love of Charlottesville. You know those little moments where a view, or a voice, or a place, a sound will make your head go tinglely and your whole body will flush with a golden warmness? Charlottesville gave me a number of those. There was a certain bend in the road while driving out to the farm we lived on that was sunken into the earth a bit. This road twisted through a thicket of beech and maple trees, their branches arching over the road to hold hands with their fellow trees on the other side. At nighttime you slowed down a great deal just to see the same clever fox bounding behind the trees and turning back to peer at you with his glowing eyes. There was a moment of unmentioned excitement as I would turn left onto the gravel road that bumped through the property I called home. My dogs would jump up and press their noses to the glass and watch, holding their pants, for any bunnies who have been out nibbling in the fields. The bunnies would twitch their ears in our direction and dart off into the thicker grasses at the sound of the slow, groaning, note of gravel on tires.

Another was the open view of the gently rolling mountains all cloaked in green after circling past the tiny, Charlottesville airport on the way to Chris Green Lake park. Or the way the mountains amused me in the winter after they shed their leaves and looked like the rumps of fuzzy sleeping animals on the horizon. Or the sweet, earthy, mixed smell of hay, blooming flowers, and rotting leaves at the Center for Historic Plants where I interned. Pure little moments that flood into gold before your eyes, like some lost form of alchemy. Many of these moments for me, are in my kitchen. Especially in the morning time when the air is still crisp and the world still. This little meal is an elegant thing and one of the last things I made before we left Charlottesville. There definitely is a moment of gold when you bite into it, you'll be scrapping your fork against the plate to get up any golden nuggets left behind.

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Recipe (Serves 2)

Ramps - a small handful

Arugula - a small handfull

Hominy - 1/2 cup (ground hominy) 

Parmesan - generous 1/4cup grated

 

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced.

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon and a few curls of zest to top

Olive oil - 2TB

Goat Cheese - a few crumbled of soft goat cheese to top

Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the ramps. Bring 2 cups of water with a pinch of salt in a small pot up to simmer. Once simmering add in your hominy and turn on low. Let it simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until cooked. After it is cooked add in your parmesan and stir to let it melt. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop out the hominy onto a serving dish.

Meanwhile, trim the root ends off the ramps and clean/trim them up if necessary. Mince up the garlic. In a medium skillet add in the olive oil on medium, medium-low heat. Add in your garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Toss in your ramps and gently sauté for about 2 minutes and then toss in the handful of arugula. Let it cook for another minute and squeeze in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and season with salt and generously with fresh pepper. Arrange the ramp and greens mixture on to of the hominy and top with a few crumbles of goat cheese and some lemon zest. Serve warm. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dandelion & sorrel pesto for spring.

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esto is one of the best condiments to have around the house. I love to toss it into something; scrambled eggs, pastas, salads, sandwiches, smeared onto toasted pita, etc. One of the better things I decided to do with this was add it into my favorite vegan lasagna recipe. This lasagna is so good, I honestly prefer it over regular lasagna. This pesto is definitely best used in recipes with pesto as the focus. It is such a special spring-time pesto that you don't want it to get over-looked. 

 

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 * Also! There is a give-a-way. I was fortunate enough to have been gifted the lovely and inspirational The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook from my sweet Aunt. She sent it to me thinking that I would enjoy it. Of course, she was right, I love the cook book but I had already purchased it for myself! I was swayed after seeing Heidi Swanson's post and was anticipating it's release. My favorite recipe in here is the edamame dumplings. Ridiculously good, they are steamed in a broth scented with lemongrass. I really like to curl up in bed with a good book... a number of those being cookbooks. Seriously, there are almost as many cookbook on my bed side table as in my kitchen. So now this beautiful book can be passed onto you dears. To enter just leave a comment about what your favorite pesto is or what your favorite way to eat pesto is. I'll pick the winner on Monday 5/6 and then ask you for your address so I can mail you this lovely book.

 

Pesto ( Makes about a scant 3 cups)

1 bunch sorrel - coarsely chopped

1 bunch dandelion - coarsely chopped

Red onion - 1/4 a red onion - chopped

emon - juice of 1 lemon

arlic - 4 cloves, chopped

Sunflower seeds - 1/4 cup

Salt/pepper- to taste

Heat up a medium pot of water to boiling. nce it is boiling toss in your dandelion greens and cook for about 2-3 minutes and then strain out. In a blender or food processor add all you ingredients, make sure the dandelion has drained well before adding it. Process until the pesto is smooth. Store in an airtight container the the refrigerator. Good for about 2 weeks.  I highly recommend that you make this vegan lasagna with it. 

Chickweed goddess dressing over a spring salad + violets. How to forage for chickweed & violet

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Last night I came back from a nice, warm, summer night out that started with listening to Brazilian drumming with drinks and ended with Thai curry. We arrived back home, parked the car in our semi-gravel/semi-grass driveway, I stepped out with my shoes in hand, feet on the earth, and just dead stopped; I was transfixed by the sky. The deep, midnight, blue sky was flecked so brightly with stars twinkling around the silhouettes of budding tulip poplar branches that seemed to arc over me. It was one of those instances where your whole body feels sucked in and swallowed by what you are paying attention to. Like the sky was a giant magnet pulling the top half of your body up many miles to meet with it. I would have given anything in that moment to reach up and cup my hands around each and every star and plant a big kiss on those bright star cheeks. I wanted to say thank you to the earth.

Once spring finally hit us it stuck for one day and then immediately leaped to summer. When I moved a bit further north I thought I would be relieved to take a break from the suffocating heat of summer but now I realize how much I drink that warmth in. How replenishing it is. I wiped the literal sweat off my brow in relief at the return of heat. On an early April day of 90 degree heat I spent most of my day licking up the sun in my cutoffs and tank top while wandering around the woods in search of wild edibles. Successful in my venture, I made this salad and it never felt more nourishing than after a day in the sun. I realize now that as far as I move, as little or as frequently as I travel, I am some weird breed of southern girl. It's landscape, its sweltering humid heat, cicadas, common phenomenon of waving to strangers, fireflies, and biscuits are in my blood. Just as I adore and prefer to be in the woods and mountains, I have the salt and heavy air of the coast flowing through my veins since my birth. As much of a vegetarian as I am I have appreciation for a good seafood recipe and envy that I can't partake in a good shrimp n' grits or étouffée, it is the cajun in me. Some things you can't fight, its the soul speaking. I can't deny that even though I find some southern traditions and politics a little suffocating, I have love for the southern wild. I'm part of it and I will always find comfort in the return of the heat. So thank you chickweed, thank you violet, thank you stars.

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hickweed goddess dressing

vocado - 1, sliced

Garlic - 3/4 cloves, coarsely chopped

emon - juice of one lemon

Chickweed - 1-2 cups fresh, chopped into chunks

live oil - 2TB

Salt/pepper- to taste

Water

Put everything in a blender or food processor (except the water) and blend. Then add water a few TB at a time to thin the dressing out to your desired consistency.

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pring violet salad

Spring mix/violet leaves - Several big handfuls

iolet flowers or other edible spring flowers - 1 Cup

Red onion - 1/4 slivered

unflower seeds - 1/4 a cup

Pumpkin seeds - a handful

Chickweed goddess dressing.

oss the spring mix, onions, and violet flowers together. Then add in the dressing and toss to coat. Then add in the seeds and toss until combined! Adding the dressing before the seeds helps the seeds to stick and distribute more evenly rather than dropping to the bottom of the bowl. 

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Foraging for Chickweed

hickweed is one of those great common garden weeds that has so much overlooked potential. Chickweed is around you, I promise, and once you learn to identify it there is no reason not to thank it, pluck it up, and add it to your diet every spring. In short, chickweed is incredibly nutritious, I will elaborate on chickweed as an herbal superstar and healer in a later posting. Chickweed is a great source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-complex, beta-carotenes, and bio-flavonoids. I have heard the flavor being compared to corn silk. That is not my first thought when eating it but it tastes similar to most of the "moderate" flavors of light, cooling, spring greens to me. You'll find it in open (untreated) lawn areas but also in and around the edges to younger woodlands typically growing in the mottled shaded patches. It is really quite easy to spot once it is pointed out to you once or twice. There really aren't many overly close poisonous look a-likes but of course never eat anything if you aren't sure and always triple check your plants, but chickweed is a great starter wild edible. 

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Chickweed is a low-growing, spreading radially along the ground about 3" tall typically, but it can get up to about 8" tall. It grows in mats up to a foot and a half in size with the leaves ranging from tiny to thumb sized. The leaves are oval, pointed, and opposite (meaning the leaves grow opposite each other on the stem). here are fine hairs on the stem of the plant and delicate white flowers at the end. The first time I looked at the flower I thought it had 10 petals but it turns out the flower only has 5 petals but each petal is so deeply cleft it looks like 10! Usually there are about 2-3 hairy flower buds drooping from the flower end as well. In addition, look up pictures online and familiarize yourself. Plus, if you are interested wildman steve brill has excellent books. Be sure to gather in areas that are not sprayed, are not exposed to a lot of road run-off, and are not a popular pet bathroom spot. 

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oraging for violet

iolet is another one of those lawn "weeds" that you probably already recognize. You know that tiny, delicate purple to white flower you have been admiring while walking along the sidewalk? Yeah that one, you can eat it. You probably have some in your very own yard as long as your lawn is untreated. Violet flowers and leaves are edible, not the roots or rhizomes, just stick to what is above ground. Also don't confuse native wild violet with the African violet house plants... you really don't want to eat those, they are poisonous. The leaves and flowers are great in salads but the leaves are very demulcent so a bit more slimy than your typical green. It is a fabulous cooling herb and rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotenes. It is another wonderfully healing herb which I will expand upon in a later posting. Violent is a low growing, dense, clumping plant. Its flower is five petaled with deep purple, blue, to white nodding flower heads. The flowers grow on a single stem with no leaves on the flower stem. The leaves grown on separate stems and are rather glossy, heart shaped with the "tops" of the hearts typically cupping inward towards the leaf stalk. Sometimes the leaves are cupped so far inwards that they create a funnel of sorts. Violet will grow in open lawn areas in sun to shade. Be sure to gather in areas that are not sprayed, are not exposed to a lot of road run-off, and are not a popular pet bathroom spot. 

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t the end of the day I had happy bellies and happy dogs.

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