Sunday, April 26, 2015

Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is a non-native plant in Minnesota, brought to the United States in the mid-1800’s by Europeans for use as a culinary herb. Since it has no native enemies, it is able to outcompete native plant species for sun, soil, space, and water, making it an invasive plant. It is is not a weed to take lightly; if you have it, control is imperative. The only possible positive of this invasion is that garlic mustard is edible. As the name says, it is a plant in the mustard family with a slight garlic taste.

Garlic mustard is a wild edible, and can be used in many dishes, including pesto. In NY, Garlic Mustard flowers in  May. The leaves are best when they are young, before they create seed pods. It is important to eradicate Garlic Mustard where it grows in the United States; volunteers around the country remove literally tons of it every year. This recipe provides another way to benefit from the process!

To begin, gather garlic mustard plants. They can be identified by their triangular, heart-shaped leaves with scalloped edges and white flowers arranged in a cross shape. Grab them by the base of the plant and pull upwards firmly; the plant should come out of the ground easily, exposing its long taproot.  If not for eating, place in a garbage bag and throw away. Do not compost.

The part of the plant used to make the pesto will be the leaves. This recipe yields about 3 cups of pesto, give or take. You will need a couple of large handfuls of leaves. Pull them off the plant and rinse them thoroughly.

  • 2 handfulls of garlic mustard leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • dash of garlic salt, to taste
  • dash of pepper, to taste

In a food processor or blender, crush the garlic mustard leaves. Slowly add the olive oil, walnuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Add the seasonings until it tastes the way you want it to. The garlic mustard leaves already have an light garlic taste to them so a lot of seasoning is not necessary.

This pesto is outstanding served over pasta, excellent served on cracker and also compliments the grainy flavors of brown rice, and goes well with cheese. The taste is, in my opinion, much lighter and earthier than store-bought pesto. I’m a huge fan. If there are any extras, it can be easily frozen.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Eating Daylilies

The pea- to almond-sized swellings on the root ends can be eaten fresh like jicama or boiled, but the roots contain some toxins so it is recommended that they be eaten in moderation.

he young spring shoots can be eaten like green onions. However, even though the daylily is related to the onion, the flavor isn’t as interesting as onions or spring garlic.
Daylily flowers taste like butter lettuce. Some are sweeter than others so taste before using. You can sprinkle the petals in a salad, stuff and sauté the flowers like squash blossoms, or use the flower as a container for spreads, guacamole or sour cream. Be sure to remove the pistil and stamens before using.
I’ve saved the best for last… the buds. Choose buds that are just about to open. I sautéed a handful of buds in a mixture of olive oil and butter, then seasoned them with salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious! Phil told me that an Asian market contacted him about 10 years ago wanting to buy 2,000 kilos of daylily buds shipped fresh daily. That’s how popular the buds are in Asian cuisine.
Asian markets sell the dried buds as a vegetable ingredient and a thickening agent (you can use newly wilted flowers to thicken soups but check inside for bees before you pick the flowers). Have you eaten lily buds without knowing it? Chinese restaurants in the U.S. hesitate to use daylily buds in their dishes because a few customers might experience gastric distress or have an unexpected allergic reaction to them.If you have a really productive plant, you can pickle both the fresh buds and the newly formed seed capsules.

You can also scrub and slice the smaller, firm tubers (the larger, older, flaccid ones are terrible), and sauté them in olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper, or add to soups, stews or casseroles. They taste a little like nutty turnips. Some people love the tubers, but they are small and labor-intensive to clean, so I rarely prepare them.

Pan Seared Daylilies

*please see my notes below before eating any parts of a daylily
2 handfuls of green and still tight daylily buds
1 tablespoon canola oil
It’s very easy to do. First rinse the daylily buds well. Its important that they are young buds and aren’t showing much orange yet. For taste, for texture, but also to help you be assured they’re clean on the inside and not full of bugs. I’ve never had a problem with bugs though; that’s just me being cautious.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the buds to the hot oil. Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes, or until the sides are very browned.
Essentially you’re searing or ‘pan frying’ them. I like to do it this way because it leaves the buds with a solid texture. If you were to cook them longer at a lower temperature, they would become somewhat mushy.

Home fries with lily tubers (serves 2)

3/4 cup lily tubers, cleaned and par-boiled
1 medium potato, cooked
1/2 onion
olive oil, herbs and spices to taste.
Chop onion fine.  Start  sauteeing it in the olive oil.  Chop the cooked potato and add, once the onions start to soften.  Add lily tubers a few minutes later.  Sprinkle paprika and other herbs/spices that you like for your homefries (garlic powder?  coriander?).  When potatoes have crisped on a few sides, it is time to serve your fries.
As I mentioned in the intro to this post, above, the lily tubers have a hint of carrot, and my friend John thought they tasted a little of new potatoes.  Otherwise, they are starchy, mild, bland, and a little more slippery than a potato.  But interesting.

Daylily Root Cake     

            makes one bundt pan

2 c. shredded daylily tubers
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. honey

for the icing:
1 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk or water
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and lightly flour a bundt pan.
2. Toss the shredded tubers and the lemon juice together.
3. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon into the bowl of a mixer.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, maple syrup, and honey.
5. Using the paddle, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients with the mixer running at low speed. Scrape down the sides, and mix at medium speed for 30 seconds. Fold in the shredded tubers.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-38 minutes, until golden and firm. Cool about 10 minutes, and invert the bundt pan onto a serving plate. Cool the cake completely.
7. To make the icing, whisk the milk or water and vanilla into the powdered sugar. Drizzle over the cake and serve.

Canning Mushrooms

I seldom buy canned goods from the store.  Oh there are still a few things I need like tuna, sardines, tomato paste, soup for the kids if I'm out of my own and maybe some beef broth. Then some special things like calamata olives, capers, marinated artichokes etc

I stopped buying canned mushrooms a few years ago. I either use the fresh mushrooms from the store or break into my stash of frozen or dried wild mushrooms that I have foraged. This week Aldi had a sale on white button mushrooms 8 oz. packs for $0.69. I haven't seen that price for awhile so I bought a case (12 packs). Of course, I had to do it in two trips because there was a limit of 6.

 I have never canned mushrooms before, so I was looking forward to putting some away. I tried to get small mushrooms, but the packages were filled with larger ones. I selected packs that seemed to have the youngest mushrooms. when I got home, I cut the stems off of each mushroom, then quartered or cut into even smaller pieces.

I soaked the mushrooms for a few minutes, drained off the water then dumped them in to a pot of hot water along with a generous pinch of thyme and couple shakes of garlic powder and a glug or two of lemon juice, then occasionally stirred them until they were boiling for 5 minutes.

I drained them, saving the fragrant liquid and filled half pint jars with the mushrooms. I added 1/4 tsp of canning salt to each jar and filled the jars with the mushroom liquid leaving 1 inch of headroom. Following approved pressure canning procedures they were canned at 10lb PSI for 45 minutes.

The yield was 12 half pints .. so each 8 oz .box of whole mushrooms gave me a 8 oz jar. As the saying goes, a pound's a pint the world round! As each box was 69 cents each half pint was 69 cents. A 7oz jar of "Great Value" mushrooms was advertised at 98 cents. So this is a deal and it's better than what I can get in the store. I'm heading back to Aldi ... maybe I can get more.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dog Toothed Violet

Trout Lily (Dog Toothed Violet)

Erythronium americanum

Trout Lily (Fawn lily, Adder's tongue, Dog tooth violet) grows in huge colonies that can completely cover a forest floor. The colonies can be hundreds of years old and takes a long time to grow to such a size. Its bulbs are sterile up to about the seventh year and then it produces only one leaf and no flowers. When they mature one plant will grow two leaves and one, beautiful yellow flower. The colony spreads mostly by runners and less importantly by seed.  This plant is a beautiful spring ephemeral meaning it's perennial. It disappears by early summer, to reappear the next spring.

Trout Lily is both medicinal and edible. The leaves have a very mild flavor and the flowers have a slight sweetness due to their nectar and are also slightly acrid. The corms are edible as well and have a cucumber-like taste. its flower stalk, flower buds, and flowers are edible raw or cooked. The leaves can be eaten raw, such as in salads. Again, the plant only has two leaves so harvest responsibly.  They are crisp and chewy. However again, consume sparingly as they can be emetic. (makes you throw up), therefore it is recommended not to eat mass quantities of these in one day. You can add this plant to a salad or eat them as a trail snack. You can also make a tea with the flower, leaves or corm (or all). Collect enough corms then they can be roasted.