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Fine Dining Gone Wild  RSS feed

 
D. Logan
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Location: Soutwest Ohio
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Foraging is something I admit I am not as good at as I should be. I spent a decade and a half learning a number of the plants local to Southwest Ohio. I can arguably survive with minimal fuss in that part of the world through foraging. I'm perhaps not an expert, but I can get by. Each time I move to a new part of the country, one of the very first things I have done is learn some of the most common wild edibles for that area. Most of the time I've tried to also get some access to hands-on experience with those plants.

Still, something I did years ago in scouting came to mind as I was thinking about what I might post in this forum that hasn't already been touched on. I recall going to summer camp and participating in the Mountain Man program. It was a program where the boys and Scoutmasters could practice their skills in a number of areas, all being applied to ancient situations. Leather working, boat crafting, etc. Among those was a wild-edibles aspect for the highest level of the program. You had to make a meal using entirely wild edibles.

Of course, most people would make a salad of wild greens and maybe some cooked roots or something similar. Being the over-achiever that I was, I obtained permission to demonstrate the knowledge of how to obtain sweeteners and to make acorn flour and then use more traditional honey and flour due to time constraints. I worked with the premise that the flour had no gluten, so didn't go making leavened bread or anything. Either way, I made a meal with cooked greens, a cracker-like bread, blackberry jelly and some roasted wild tubers seasoned with wild onion and some rendered fat.

I think it was pretty good. Not amazing, but certainly a bit better than a salad and nearly flavorless boiled roots. At the very least, the ones judging it seemed to be impressed. I've been thinking about that a lot ever since. Almost every recipe I find relating to wild edibles involves tossing them as a flavor agent into something else. A few stand on their own only because they are so incredibly simple that there isn't a need for more than a little salt. It seems that very few wild foraged foods get elevated above the level of 'survival food' or flavor agent. I would love to see more recipes developed that involve a spectrum of foraged foods being applied in harmony. Recipes that may indeed take a little more knowledge to manage, but which can stand toe to toe with modern food choices.

Imagine a mulberry pie with an acorn-flour crust or a blend of wild grain, ramps and deer wrapped in grape leaf and boiled in slightly salted water. There are all sorts of possibilities. What I would love to see are some really high caliber recipes that use wild edible plants only. Canned, cured, dried, or fresh, as long as everything came from forage, it is fair game. Does anyone have these sort of recipes already? Is anyone interested in trying to develop new ones?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Feed the wild foods to a chicken.
Butcher the chicken.
Season with salt.
Bake on a wire rack at 250F for 6 hours.

Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmmm.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Wild fruits are the only thing I'm adept at using.  I've never eaten any wild thing from below ground level,  except for a groundhog that I killed with a spear when I was 10. I know these things exist, and I should learn a little more.
 
Heather Ward
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Joseph Lofthouse, I agree with the overall spirit of your answer, and there are a lot of weedy plants around that I can't eat myself but "process" through my chickens into meat and eggs. I am also interested in the kitchen specifics of your reply. 250 degrees for 6 hours? Can you cook older birds this way or just young roasters? Does the skin brown and crisp? When I'm working in the yard for long periods of time, I'd love to have something in a low oven that I could run in and serve.
D. Logan, your wild meal sounds ambitious and delicious. I guess that in my kitchen there is not a lot of distinction between wildlings and the deliberately grown stuff, because I have so many introduced wild things around my property. I had to introduce nettles for example, they don't occur naturally in my area, but they are plenty wild now.
 
D. Logan
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Location: Soutwest Ohio
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I have nothing against combining foraged items with other foods. Wild can be a relative term as you say. Still, I often see people treating wild edibles either as emergency food or as things that somehow can't hold their own against modern domesticated foods. Part of me wants to see recipes that consist entirely of the wild counterparts and still manage to be worthy of the most discerning tastes. I think if there were amazing meals made entirely of wild-harvested foods, more people might stop making a distinction between wild food and modern food. It would all just be food and some of it would come with far less labor.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I was doing a bush craft course a while ago. We foraged an entire meal, in my case the main ingredient of which was 60 freshwater crayfish. We have invasive signal crayfish in some of our streams. That was a GOOD meal. I boiled up the left over shells and claws etc... to make a crayfish broth to cook my rice in later.
 
Heather Ward
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Great point, D. Logan. It seems that this should be particularly possible with wild edibles that are found nearly everywhere in large quantities, like lambsquarters and amaranth. They are prime candidates for being "just food," eaten without remark, as in fact they are by the Hispanic and Native American population here in the Southwest
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Posts: 2498
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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The skin gets dry and leathery when cooked at low temperatures on an oven rack for a long time. To get the skin brown would require high temperatures either at the beginning or end or roasting. It's common to put the bird in a 450 F oven and immediately turn the heat down to 250. I don't keep chickens myself, I feed other people's chickens and they give me gifts that are almost always young roasters, so I don't know about how older birds cook with a slow-roast.
 
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