Monday, April 30, 2012

How to get your children to eat their (wild) greens

Like most children, Eva is rather picky about her vegetables.  She actually eats a wide variety of them, but only a few bites at a meal, and I never know whether she'll be willing to eat them at that particular meal.  Vegetables in general are strongly flavored and oddly textured--making them exciting to an adult palate, but kids' taste buds are young and undulled and can taste much more strongly the nuances of the foods they are eating, making blander foods more exciting and bolder foods difficult to swallow.

But, like many parents, we have discovered a serious veggie turn on for Eva--picking them herself.  This works in the garden and even more dramatically in the wild.  She takes great delight and discovering a patch of wild greens herself and digging in.  She is particularly attracted to Canada mayflower and wood sorrel.  We have large patches of mayflower around the bases of the maple trees in our yard.  For these, Eva drops to all fours pretending to be a cow chewing her cud (great image, I know, but she refused to pose for me and I only got pictures of her cute little bum!). 

For the past two weeks, Eva and I have gone on daily hikes to the stream on our property.  Along the paths are great clusters of wood sorrel.  She will stop and nibble these for ten minute stretches, telling me she needs a tasty snack to keep up her strength for our hike.  And yes, like you, we have read the ubiquitous warnings in our field guides which always accompany information on wood sorrel's edibility about how it blocks calcium absorbtion.  But we've read up on this exensively.  It seems it would takes many cups of wood sorrel eaten daily for several weeks in a row to have any negative effect.  I would much rather her eat wild greens than Doritos--which have no warning labels.

So while our child will not touch spinach or lettuce of any kind, she readily devours many wild greens. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ostrich Fern Fiddlehead Recipe

This recipe for ostrich fern fiddleheads (Matteucia struthiopteris) is a simple, comfort dish for us . . . but who ever minded a little comfort?

  • 1 lb. of fiddleheads
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs. 
  1. Steam the fiddleheads in a covered pan with 1/3-1/2 cup of water until most of the water evaporates (about 5 minutes).
  2. When the fiddleheads are softened but still crisp, add the butter and stir until fully melted. 
  3. Sprinkle in salt and bread crumbs.  Fry everything over medium heat. 
  4. Dish is done when the fiddleheads are just beginning to loosen and unfurl (just slightly) and the bread crumbs have turned golden. 
  5. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Strawberry and Japanese Knotweed Crisp Recipe

We've tried preparing Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, syn. Polygonum cuspidatum) for several years now without being much impressed.  In previous years we've often thrown out what we've made after eating one serving.  This year, we're finally getting the hang of this prolific plant.  I think our success is due to the following:
  1. Japanese knotweed is not rhubarb.  A lot of wild food authors favorably compared knotweed to rhubarb.  So we tried replacing rhubarb from some domesticated recipes with knotweed.  This was a mistake.  Yes, it is true that knotweed has a similar textures and sour flavor to the familiar garden plant, but the similarities stop there.  Knotweed's sour is less tart, and it has a suite of earthy flavors that rhubarb does not have.  I suppose that replacing rhubarb in recipes was a good place to start, but we required a lot more experimentation before we hit on knotweed recipes that we truly enjoyed. 
  2. Less is more.  In our zeal to increase our consumption of knotweed, we always added too much to our recipes.  Like any strongly flavored ingredient, knotweed is best used sparingly.  (I, for one, would not enjoy a fruit salad based on sliced lemon.  There is a reason people use mild-flavored fruits like melons and then add other flavors to perk up or contrast the major ingredients.) 
  3. Gather early.  We like the early knotweed's flavor.  If the stalk breaks off easily at the base without much yanking, that is a good sign that we are picking knotweed at the right time. 
This is our favorite recipe so far for knotweed.

  • 3 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup knotweed stalks cut into thick coins
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • pinch of baking soda
  • pinch of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • cinnamon to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour, oats, surgar, baking soda, baking poweder, and cinnamon.
  3. Spread half of this crumb mixture on the bottom of a greased 9 x 9 pan.
  4. Spread the strawberries and knotweed over this and place the raining crumb over the top. 
  5. Bake 40 minutes or until lightly browned on top. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Recipe: Sesame Stir-Fried Japanese Knotweed


  • japanese knotweed shoots (Fallopia japonica--which used to be known as Polygonum cuspidatum)
  • ginger
  • tamari
  • garlic
  • sesame oil
  • a high-heat cooking oil (like canola)
  • sesame seeds
I recommend having the ingredients on hand and then adjusting to taste. 
  1. Lightly heat the oils in a small pan or wok. 
  2. Press garlic in and fry until golden brown. 
  3. Add cleaned knotweed stalks (no taller than 7 inches), tamari, brown sugar, and ginger to taste.   The hardest part of this recipe is to refrain from cooking too long.  Knotweed shoots quickly loose their crunch.  I cooked mine for about 3.5 minutes, and they turned out reasonably crisp. 
  4. Remove from heat immediately when finished.
  5. Serve hot with a sesame seed garnish. 
I (Thag) enjoyed this side dish quite a bit.  Ooga was not as fond.  Tell us what you think. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chicken sauteed with field garlic (Allium vineale)

Over Easter weekend we foraged weeds from around Thag's mother's yard.  She was as eager for us to uproot her field garlic as we were to harvest them!

This was tonight's dinner:

4 chicken breasts
butter (2-5 TBSP)
1 to 2 cups field garlic, cleaned and chopped, bulbs separated from greens
1/2 cup chicken broth

Dredge chicken in flour sprinkled with salt.

Melt butter in large skillet.  Add bulbs (reserve greens).  Add chicken.

Saute chicken until browned on both sides and cooked through.

Remove chicken.  Add greens and broth.  Cook on highish temp, mixture should be bubbly and require stirring, until broth is much reduced and resembles syrup.  Pour broth/field garlic mixture over chicken.