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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Midwest Wild Harvest Festival

 
Pat Armstrong, foraging instructor at the Resiliency Institute in Naperville

 
Evening potluck with wild foraged food featured.
 
 
I just got back from the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival that was held at the Badger Camp near Prairie du Chien. This annual event gathered nearly 130 people all interested in learning to live a more self sustainable lifestyle by incorporating wild foods into their diets. The weekend event takes place at the Wisconsin Badger Camp and features top rate foraging instructors from the area as well as a guest speaker from New York. This is a family friendly event where the kids go to day care while their parents go on classes to learn to identify, process and store wild foods.
 
With five outstanding instructors it was really hard to choose from the classes offered. I have a pretty solid grasp of identification of plants so this year I focused on learning new recipes and ways to store the food that I gather. My favorite class was a food preservation class given by our guest speaker, Leda Meredith. She discussed the main ways to preserve food and then went into specifics. I now feel comfortable and confident to begin using fermentation as a means to preserve the wild edibles I gather. She also introduced us to a wonderful new way to eat plantain. You take the plantain leaves and dip them in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Then put them in an oven at 250 degrees for up to 10 minutes. Delicious!
 
The weather was chilly for this time of year but we still got out and did quite a bit of walking and collecting wild edibles. Sumac was in its prime as well as wild grapes, apples, and ground nut. Soon it will be time for the roots such as Jerusalem artichoke and burdock. Another amazing event and I am already looking forward to next year!


Monday, August 25, 2014

May Apple Banana Ice Cream



I am an enthusiastic forager and this time of year features a truly fun fruit to forage, the may apple. I first read about may apples from the infamous Euell Gibbons who wrote about the wonderful flavors of may apples in his book Stalking the Wild Asparagus. He claimed they tasted like ambrosia which instantly peaked my interest. The forest across from me has a bounty of these fun and beautiful plants. It is a fun plant to forage for because the leaves themselves are easy to identify but the fruit is much more like a scavenger hunt. The fruit are ripe when they are yellow and they can still be attached the plant sprouting two leaves or laying on the ground recently dropped by the plant. But you will be will competing with the deer for this delicious treat so you have to keep an eye on them as they progress into ripeness.

Now at the end of August of 2014, there are in peak season and soon they will all be gone either from the deer or they will be turning brown and will be of no use. Collect them when they are yellow and slightly soft or when slightly green and just keep them on the counter until they ripen. It took only a couple days in a paper bag to turn from a slight green to yellow and be ready to go.

Euell Gibbons talked of making a marmalade out of the may apples but the 5 cups of sugar was a definite turn off for me. A friend and I had made some wild grape jam the previous fall without any sugar or sure-jell at all so I wanted to see what would happen with may apples under the same process. I quartered my may apples and tossed them into a pot under low heat. Within a half hour they became very mushy and I took a potato masher to them to speed up the process. After another half hour I put them in a steel colander and pushed the pulp and juice through and separated them from the seeds. You do not want to eat the seeds - they are toxic. These I tossed back into the woods to continue the cycle of bountiful may apple fun.  On the heat again for another half hour and the sauce thickened right up. About 2 dozen may apples produced about a cup of this thick may apple jam. And the taste was MARVELOUS. Like nothing in the grocery store which makes the whole process even more worth it.

Next I put this mixture in the freezer. In my house we have a special treat called Banana Surprise. It is simply a frozen banana in the vitamix along with about a half cup of coconut milk. Voila you have a healthy ice cream like treat. For a completely dreamy ice cream delight combine the frozen banana, coconut milk and two heaping tablespoons of frozen may apple puree and your taste buds will explode!!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wild Edible Foraging and Cooking Class


This past weekend under beautiful skies at Riverside High School, over 20 people joined me for a wild foraging event! The first part of the day, we walked the campus and identified a dozen different edibles including daylily, plantain, curly dock, burdock and milkweed. We sat and discussed the many reasons why someone would want to incorporate wild edibles into their diets and the specific nutrient content of each plant. We also discussed when to harvest and how to prepare each plant. It is always interesting for met to find out the various reasons people are embarking on this journey which seems to be growing in interest. I do it for many reasons. The nutrition and medicine are a big part of why I love to cook with wild edibles but it's also knowing exactly what is in my food. When you harvest your own food, you have a lot more control over the amount of chemicals you are consuming. I also do it for the exercise and just the sense of empowerment that such an activity brings.

But my favorite part of the day was the second half of the class where we actually created a meal in the classroom that featured wild edibles. We created Wild Spinach Pie, Wood Sorrel Hummus and Daylily Dessert.  The food was amazing and quickly consumed by the class.

This coming fall I'll be doing an in-depth series on specific wild edibles and teach everyone how to identify, collect and prepare acorns, burdock, sumac and dandelion. For more information, go to www.resiliencytraining.net.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

More From Euell Gibbons - Common Mallow



This plant is called Common Mallow or Malva neglecta. Malva has Greek origins and means soothing, softening, and generally pleasant to the skin. This is a plant that you may find growing abundantly in your garden but probably have been tossing it out with the weeds. I'm hoping to convince you that this is a plant that you need to allow to flourish and take advantage of because it has so many useful and fun attributes!

This plant produces small green fruit often referred to as "peas". They are delicious and very easy to gather. They can be eaten raw or cooked like any other vegetable. They also have another very useful function which is that is produces an extremely mucilaginous water that can be used to create a stiff foam much like whipped egg white produces. Euell Gibbons describes this process in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs. In this book he goes into detail about creating a may apple chiffon pie but it can be done with any fruit, wild or domestic.

To get this liquid, gather a  cup of the mallow fruits. Boil them with 3 cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain out the fruit (but definitely eat the fruit - they are delicious!) and allow the water to cool. To speed up the process, you can put the water in the frig for 20 minutes.

While that cools, get your fruit ready. Put 4-6 cups of your fruit (I love blueberries, raspberries and apples) in a pot on the stove under a low simmer. Add one cup of water and the amount of sugar you would like to sweeten it with. Euell adds one cup which I think is way too much. I'd go with 1/3 cup. You can also add lemon zest, ginger  root, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove depending if you like those flavors. Add 1-2 tablespoons of corn starch or arrowroot powder as a thickener. Stir frequently until it is thick like pudding. Take off heat and let cool. It will continue to thicken.

Now let's get to the mallow part. To help whip up the mallow, take one egg white and put it in a mixer. It won't be long before it starts to whip up. When it does, slowly add your mallow liquid and it will continue to froth. When it is a thick, frothy mixer, fold it into the fruit mixer and dump all of it into a graham cracker crust. Put in the frig to set. When the whole thing has chilled, it is ready to eat!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Girl Scout Jr. Camper Badge


Resiliency Training has partnered with the Girl Scouts to give the Troops an opportunity to earn their Camper Badge through fun and interactive activities. The knowledge, skills, and fun the girls will have during this program will give them memories that can last a lifetime! During this program, the girls will talk about the importance of protecting themselves from the elements if they are outside overnight. They will create their own paracord bracelets that they will get to keep as a souvenir of the day. They will use their bracelets to learn how to lash together a tripod to create the framework for a debris hut which they will create as a team. The girls will learn cooperation and feel empowered with the knowledge they will gain from the class.

The program will also teach how to correctly build a fire and start a fire without a match. Fire safety will be emphasized at all times.

To find out more about the Girl Scout programs offered by Resiliency Training, visit the website at www.resiliencytraining.net or call Shannon at 262-515-5331.

Hi Shannon! Thank you so much for the photos!  And even more importantly, thank you for the terrific camping adventure!  The girls had a blast learning and practicing their new skills!  You have a wonderful program and we are so happy we found you! Do you have a part 2 to your program?  If so, we’d be very interested in it for next year. Thanks again. Your program is awesome!  I will be recommending it to the other troops at the school. Enjoy the summer!”
M. G.
Girl Scout Cadette Troop #3003 Leader

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Girl Scout Flower Badge Program


Resiliency Training has partnered with the Girl Scouts of SE Wisconsin to create a great program for the Junior Flower Badge. This program can be done year round and it is a great way for the troop to learn about the wonderful healing abilities that certain plants have as well as the different parts of a flower and what they do. In this fun, interactive class, the girls will be assigned the different parts of a flower and act out what those parts do. They will then work in teams or pairs to label the parts of the flower on a handout. Next the girls will learn about the medicinal qualities in plants and make a healing salve with a popular garden flower called calendula.

This class can be done anywhere indoors or outdoors. It is sure to be a bit hit with all the girls! To see more about this class, go to www.resiliencytraining.net or call Shannon at 262-515-5331.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Time to Collect Mullein!



When the cold season is upon you in the middle of winter, you will be grateful that you took the time to collect the leaves of this amazing plant called mullein.

Mullein is a biennal plant. The first year plant (shown above) produces a rosette of large velvety green leaves. These plants persist through the winter and the following spring, will produce a central spike that will grow a foot or more above the plant and end with a flower stalk with random five petal yellow flowers.

The 2nd year plants are just beginning to flower here in Portland, Oregon. Back home in Wisconsin it will probably flower in about another two weeks. There small yellow flowers will pop out randomly on a tall stalk that rises from the center of the plant. You can collect and dry the leaves from the first or second year plant for the decongestant medicine it produces. Before I came to know this plant, my colds if I got one, would go to my lungs and produce copious amounts of mucus. This wonderful plant prepared as a tea acted almost immediately to relieve any congestion I had and made short order of the cold itself.

To make the tea, collect and dry the leaves then put them in a sealed container. I refresh my supply yearly to make sure the medicine is as strong as possible. When you need the tea, crumble a tablespoon of leaf into a tea holder and pour 2 cups of hot water over the mullein and cover the cup. If you do not have a tea holder, you will have to strain the leaves out before drinking your tea. You do not want to get the leaves in your throat as they have tiny hairs that could irritate your throat. You should always cover your tea as the medicinal properties of the plant are volatile and your medicine will be less potent.