Top Foraging Posts 2011



2011 marks the year in which my passion for foraging turned into a career in foraging.  I've never doubted that I was touched by good fortune.  But now that my little hobby has translated into steady work, everything seems touched by gold.

Foraging grants me ample time outside - wandering the ditches and forests, feeling each turn of wind and sun on my cheek.  I'm quite convinced that these things are necessary to my health.  Foraging also allows me to be immersed in the world of high-end foods.  With Rene Redzepi and his restaurant, Noma, peaking in fame, the world's gaze has turned to foraged products.  It's like my own little slice of heaven, truth be told, where my outdoorsy nature collides with my hard-core food geekiness.

And it never gets old.  Discovering each new food as the seasons spin along is always exciting.  Every time.  Even now.  I'm pretty well known for shouting and doing a happy dance when I find one of my treasures.  But it isn't a show I put on for the benefit of others.  I do it even when the trees are my only witnesses.  It wells up and explodes from me; I just can't help it.  Every squeal of delight, every urge to dance is proof positive that I'm working in the right field.

One of the things I like best about foraging is sharing the wonderful foods of my home with others, whether through this blog, the restaurants for which I forage, or for Zester Daily.  To celebrate 2011, I've collected the posts which contain the tastiest tidbits of the year.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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I know that chicken livers are a hard sell for many people.  Combine that with a fruit that I've knicknamed stinky sock berries, and you might find it hard to believe that my recipe for Chicken Livers with Highbush Cranberry Sauce was one of the best of the year.  But you've gotta trust me on this one.  The murky mineral notes of livers marry brilliantly with the tart and ever so slightly funky flavor of the highbush cranberries.  Keep in  mind some of the most prized foods the world over are funky (cheese, anyone?).


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Cottonwood catkins were probably one of the more unusual things I ate this past year.  It took me quite a bit of trial and error to figure out when they peaked in flavor.  But once I did, I captured their perfection with Tempura-Style Cottonwood Catkins.  Given how plentiful cottonwood trees are in my area, this is a food I will look forward to eating every spring.


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I've used nettles as medicine in the past, but this was the first year that I really fell in love with them as food.  I came to really adore their unique flavor, and even crave it.  My favorite was to serve them loaded up with some spices and simple cheese in a mock saag paneer - Nettle Paneer.


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If you've got an edible similar to my little local succulent known as stonecrop, you've gotta try to get your hands on some during the growing season.  Stonecrop is hands-down, no contest, the best wild plant I've ever made into a pickle.  They stay delightfully crunchy and absorb flavors well.  Try them first in the classic form - Stonecrop Wild Garlic Dill Pickles.


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Warm Black Walnut Milk is now the staple warm drink in my winter kitchen.  It only takes a few nuts to infuse milk with their complex flavor.  And in my book, nothing quite compares to holding a warm mug full of this delicious drink on a chilly morning.  If you love black walnut ice cream in the summer, give this nutty cuppa a try.


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I actually had a hard time deciding which of my acorn recipes was my favorite.  I was quite inspired by the humble acorn this year, and cooked up some killer dishes, from acorn mock rye bread to acorn blini.  In the end, I decided that Acorn Frangipane was the best.  I actually think the deep molasses-rich flavor of acorns makes a far better frangipane than the classic almond.


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It has been a wonderful and wild year.  I can wait to share more of my wildcrafting and cooking adventures with you in 2012.

I'm sharing these recipes with Real Food Wednesday.

Comments

  1. I think this is incredible! You're my hero. I LOVE chicken livers.

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  2. I wish there were more chicken liver lovers in the world. I just read that article about how Olympians are being discouraged from eating liver because it can skew drug tests. The author brushed it off as no big deal, because at least the athletes could still have their bowls of pasta and sandwiches, and get their protein from other sources. It made me sad that they were so dismissive of liver. I consider it a super food.

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  3. I am so glad I found this blog :) I am inspired by you to keep following my passions and hope to make them my livelihood as well! Bring on 2012!

    Wonderful food creations too! I'm swooning!!!

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  4. Here's to the new year, Lee Ann! I know very well the fortune and fulfillment that come from following your passions, so keep slugging away. Cheers!

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