Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Foraging Weekend

Well May 15th may be planting day here in northern Colorado, but th' harvest is already ripe for th' pickins. On Saturday we spent th' day in th' mountains, near Poudre Canyon, and what a stunning day it was. Th' first fruits to greet us were th' juniper berries.

Rocky Mountain Juniper Berries in spring.

I crushed up a handful and sprinkled it atop a quiche we brought with us for lunch, and a fine compliment it was. But even better was one, yes one lonely berry, bruised and dropped inside a bottle of sparkling water. A more refreshing drink is hard to find. Fynn just ate th' berries raw, one after another. Here he is now popping one into his mouth.

Fynn eating juniper berries
After lunch we wandered around a bit, and found some neat little burrows dug all through th' grass, dirt, and even snow. Field Mice? Not sure.

Without waiting to solve that mystery, we kept on exploring. Following a mostly dry, at this time of year, creekbed led us to some new growth of cow parsnip.

Cow Parsnip, early spring growth
Here's last years seeds, one of th' major identifying characteristics at this time of year.

Cow Parsnip seeds and stalks.
These are really good eating, (not at this stage of course) reminiscent of celery with it's clean, slightly numbing after taste, but, like everything in th' Rockies, quite a bit stronger. Cow Parsnip was a favorite food of many native americans, one taste of it's stalk and you'll know why. Please don't eat hemlock though, thinking it's a Cow Parsnip. Especially with foods in th' carrot family, know what you're eating, or don't eat it.  One bite of hemlock will kill you. We have a friend who barely survived an encounter with it, and she didn't even eat any of it, just touched it to her tongue.

Not far from th' parsnip we started getting tangled up in briars. Good news when you know that means mountain raspberries in th' summer. Here's a close up of a cane from last year, and then a whole hillside covered in canes. We'll make sure to save some for th' bears.

raspberry cane

lots of raspberry canes.
 Then we spent some time enjoying the enormouse Ponderosa pines. Th' bark of  these trees smells like vanilla. We all took a sniff, and Fynn licked th' tree a few times, just like he did with th' maple sap earlier this year.

Ponderosa Pine

Beth gathered some needles for pine needle tea. High in vitamins C and A, this tea is also an expectorant and decongestant, good for preventing and fighting colds. Brew th' needles fresh, and cut off th' sheath at th' base, as this gets pretty sharp tasting if brewed. Here's Beth harvesting some needles, and a cup of brewing tea as well, which we enjoyed as soon as we got home. I added some to a pot of green tea, just a bit, to make a nice Rocky Mountain Green blend.

Beth harvesting pine needles

Pine needle tea
All in all it was a very good day, and being in th' mountains makes us wonder how life ever got so complicated. It's so peaceful up here, and everything you need is provided. When and why did we decide that th' wilderness should be for recreation and sport, instead of our home?

Th' next day we went out to find some curly dock for dinner. Sadly, most of th' field where we've found so much food, as well as wild honey (which we have not harvested, and now won't be able to) was now torn up in preparation for who knows what. Probably more houses. But there was still a small portion left, and we did find quite a bit of dock.

Rumex Crispus, early spring

You know what dock is right? It's th' plant that makes th' big rust colored seed stalks that you see in th' fields from late summer till spring.

dock seeds, and owl feather
This has been one of our favorites this past week. We've been craving fresh greens, not store bought ones, but th' ones that grow just outside our door. Dock actually beats th' dandelion as far as providing fresh greens, and we've been eating them steamed with butter and apple cider vinegar, or olive oil and red wine. They're really pretty fabulous. Beth cooked some up with bacon, and it reminded me of growing up in east Texas eatin collard and turnip greens.

Curly Dock greens, raw

But th' cream of th' crop, literally, came tonight when we made dock "saag paneer".

dock "saag paneer"
This actually tasted like authentic Indian restaurant saag paneer. Here's how i did it, and if you know how to make the authentic stuff, and see that i did it differently, i dare your taste buds to tell th' difference blindfolded.

I took three cloves of garlic, chopped up not big or small, and about a tenth of an onion, sauteed these up with  some butter and olive oil and chili powder. When they got good and brown, i added finely diced dock leaves and a small bit of water and simmered this for about fifteen minutes. Then i added some curri powder, chopped provolone cheese and half and half, till it looked about th' consistency of what i've eaten at th' restaurants. This i simmered on low for about twenty minutes, till it got good and thick, and voila! It really was fabulous.

While we were hunting dock, we found another treat. Do you know what this is?

That's right, it's th' purple mustard, or musk mustard. This plant can cover whole fields, and you often smell it while going about town. It smells kinda like a dirty dish rag, which sounds gross, but when you know it's a flower, it's an absolutely enchanting aroma. These make great field snacks, and a wonderful addition to salads.

purple "musk" mustard.
 And here it is on a nice lunch salad.

salad with mustard greens
Well, we had a fine weekend, and we look forward to th' days to come. I do hope you can say th' same. And as long as there's a speck o th' wild left, we'll enjoy it.


Caughtcha red handed!


  1. don't be fooled by the pic- the saag paneer was DELICIOUS!

  2. What a lovely entry. I can't wait for the cow parsnip to be out up here at 11,000 feet, or the dock for that matter. Looks like your dock saag paneer was way more successful than mine. I tried adding it to a prepackaged mix and it was quite the fail, ha ha. I love the pix and the story; they make me want to go foraging right now.

    1. Thanks erica, th' saag paneer really is very easy, i looked at some recipes and was overwhelmed, but what i did get, and i think is key, is th' chili powder part of it, before we only used curry, and it just wasn't right...