Nuggets – Harvesting wild food in the spring

Pam Robinson and Kathy Ernst share harvesting and preparation tips for wild foods you can find soon after the snow goes away, including fiddlehead ferns, Devil’s club, and more. Audio runs a half hour.

Download Audio (mp3)

Here are some recipes featured in the show…

Alaskan Spring Harvest Time Recipes

from Pam Robinson and Kathy Ernst
April 2010

Fiddle Head Fern Recipes

Note: some people pick only the unopened heads. We pick up to 6 inches below the unopened heads. If it has a lot of brown on it that is difficult to pick off – you have the wrong kind of fern!

Pesto (taken from The Fiddle Head Cookbook)

1 ½  cups washed and cleaned fresh or defrosted fiddleheads

½  cup olive oil
½  cup grated Parmesan cheese
½  cup whole almonds
¼  C lemon or orange juice
2 (or more) cloves minced fresh garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
½  Tbs salt
½  Tbs ground pepper

Directions: Place everything in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Place into a jar, cover with thin layer of olive oil and refrigerate until ready to use. This pesto can be used on pasta, steamed vegetables, omelets, in salad dressings or on sandwiches. Be creative!

Cooked fiddleheads (treat a lot like asparagus)- lots of options- experiment!

(ideas taken from Cooking Alaskan)
Saute in butter until soft (or with bacon)
or – steam or-  drop into boiling water about 6-8 minutes
-serve as is – or use a cheese sauce –
or make a dip out of mayo and mustard (Pam’s favorite)
They can also be dipped in a batter and deep fat fried!

Pickled Fiddlehead ferns

(the dilly beans recipe from Ball Blue Book)

2 1/2 pounds fiddle heads (for 7 pints)
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 ½ cups water
¼ tsp canning salt per jar
¼ tsp cayenne pepper per jar
7 cloves garlic – divided
¼ tsp dill seed per jar

Wash and trim fiddleheads, cut into lengths to fit the jars. Combine vinegar and water in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil. Pack ferns lengthwise into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Add ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and one head dill to each pint. Add ½ tsp cayenne pepper, 2 cloves garlic and 2 heads dill to each quart (Kathy’s note – I often substitute dill seed). Ladle hot liquid over ferns, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. (2 inches boiling water over jars) Yield; about 4 pints or two quarts.


Devil’s Club Tips  (pick with gloves)

Note: These tips are only edible for the first few days after their appearance. – then they get spines.
They are very tangy – add them to omelets, casseroles and soups. Some people like the taste- others don’t – you decide!

Pam’s Kim-Chee Recipe for Devil’s Club Tips

Per ½ pint jar (hot jar) use . . . .

¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne,
¼ t peppercorns
¼ coriander seed
1(+) clove garlic – crushed
small slice ginger

Pour hot rice-vinegar:water 1:1 mixture into jar. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes
Note: this recipe and the one for pickled fiddlehead ferns can also be used for “Spring Tips” – a mixture of ferns, devil’s club tips and fireweed tips

Nettles – Stinging nettles (use gloves) –NOT the hemp nettles

A favorite spring vegetable. They are a lot like spinach. – harvest and fill your freezer about the time you are planting your garden. Pick until the plant is 8- 10 inches high.  Wash several times, dry or steam.

Nettle recipes

Serve like spinach: top with garlic, lemon and olive oil. Or stir fry in oil with grated ginger and serve over rice. Try creamed nettles on toast


Lots of other spring greens and shoots – try them out!

Steamed as greens or added raw to salads. Harvest early before they become bitter. The following are also edible: dandelion greens (and roots), raspberry peeled spring shoots, rose petals, blueberry leaves, current leaves, salmonberry leaves, cloud berry leaves, leaves of the twisted stalk (also known as watermelon berry)
I like to use the fireweed tips in an omelet also.

Cooking Alaska has a great recipe for young dandelion greens

4 cups tender young dandelion greens – well washed.
4 slices bacon
3 Tbs vinegar
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
black pepper

Shred the greens. In a skillet fry bacon till crisp. Remove bacon, leaving the fat and drain on paper towels. Crumble the bacon over the drained raw greens. To the bacon fat, add the vinegar, sugar, salt mustard and pepper.. Heat the mixture and pour over the greens and bacon. Toss till the greens are wilted. Serve at once.
(from Ann Chandonnet in a July 1976 Alaska magazine article.)

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