Archive for Foraging

Fiddlehead Ravioli

Fiddlehead season in Maine has come, and pretty much gone. With our first collection this year we decided to try something different. With some home made pasta, ricotta cheese from Crooked Face Creamery, and fresh fiddleheads, we spent an afternoon making homemade fiddlehead ravioli.

For the pasta we used a really basic recipe found in one of our many cookbooks that we have tucked away. When I say basic, I mean four ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

This is a great started base that you can add any type of seasoning too, along with making it out of any flour. We used wheat flour and an Italian seasoning mix that I keep made up in the cabinet – it’s a lot quicker than pulling out all the individual spices. The longest part of it all was rolling out the pasta to cut up for the ravioli. We’ve definitely decided that we’re going to keep our eyes out for a cheap, used pasta machine. As great as homemade pasta is, we don’t really have the time (and I don’t have the upper body strength) to do all that rolling in one afternoon!

The grand thing about homemade pasta is that it only takes a few minutes to cook. After two hours of manual labor it was great to see the pot brimming with a good deal of pasta.

Unfortunately last year’s tomato harvest was a bust due to hornworms and blight. Instead of homemade sauce we’ve been making due with Newman’s Own, a great sauce selection from a wonderful company. With left over filling and sauce to top off the pasta, it looked like a culinary master piece.

It was delicious! Everything came out wonderful…but with one draw back. Apparently some people have issues dealing with digesting raw and undercooked fiddleheads. The patriarch of this household seems to be one of those. Given how horrible Joe felt after eating the ravioli with the uncooked fiddleheads in the filling, we decided the next night to chop it all up, mix it with the sauce, and cook it off as a pasta bake. The result? No illness and a delicious pasta bake that we would never had been able to afford in a restaurant. All in all, everything worked out great and we ended up with a total of six meals out of one afternoon of work.

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(Originally published: May 9, 2012.)

Fiddleheads

Yesterday we finally got around to cleaning and blanching our fiddleheads.  We picked about 6 lbs this year, a little less than we planned on but pretty decent over all.

In case anyone is interested in freezing their fiddleheads, here are a few pointers.

1.  Make sure to clean off as much chaff as possible before doing anything else with them.  This is best accomplished outside with two 5 gallon buckets (or other similar sized containers).  Put all the fiddleheads in one bucket, lift it about 2 feet above the other bucket and slowly pour the fiddleheads out.  This works best with a light breeze so the fiddleheads drop down, but the chaff blows away.  A large fan could be used to supply the wind on a calm day if need be.

2.  Bring in your fiddleheads and rinse them in the sink.  Cold water is fine, you’re just trying to get off as much of the sand and small pieces of chaff as you can before you blanch them.

3.  Now you are ready to blanch your fiddleheads.  Bring your pot of water up to a steady boiler, pour in your fiddleheads and let them stay in there for 2-3 minutes.  Make sure the fiddleheads are entirely covered in water.

4.  Take them off the heat, drain them and rinse with cold water in the sink.  Freeze them immediately.  We use quart size freezer bags, but you could use gallon bags or plastic containers if you want to.

That’s it.  It’s a lot of work from the time you pick them by the river to when they are cooked and on your plate, but well worth it I think.  Last season we had enough that we had fiddleheads for Thanksgiving and Easter!

 

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(Originally published: May 10, 2010.)

Dehydrated Dandelion

IMG_2353

Dandelions are one of the many “weeds” that Americans spend a good amount of time trying to rid their yards, driveways, and sidewalks of. For no reason at all these poor little plants have been deemed the more hellish thing to crop up in a suburban piece of land. Few realize the number of wonderful things that can be made out of dandelions.

Their leaves can me sauteed and eaten dressed with butter, vinegar, or anything else the pallet prefers. The heads had be used to make dandelion wine. There is such a thing as dandelion syrup, which I hear is delicious. The entire plant can be fed to numerous critters to supplement their diet. Not to mention the seed heads can keep a toddler entertained for hours on end.

One way that dandelions can be used is as a detoxifying tea which can help shed water weight and flush the kidneys – in turn helping to balance hormones. Now that this wonderful little tea has become a staple in our home, I decided it was time to dry some out myself. I was in for a bit longer of a process than what I expected.

IMG_2353Dandelions run rampant around our home (the toddler helping to sow the seeds is only an added bonus for them). I decided that I would try digging them out of the ditch up by the road that we live on. Our town does not use any form of pesticide, so I felt completely safe doing this. **If you are digging from a common area and do now know if there are pesticides used, PLEASE find out first!**

A note to those trying to dig out dandelion root for the first time: do not try to dig in an area where the plants have been unharrassed.

IMG_2357I quickly found myself using a spade, trowel, and a kitchen fork to try and dig this bugger out. Diamond (who’s leash you see in the photo), just looked at me like I was a crazy woman. I moved down to our back lawn and near the stream and had much better luck. There seem to be two key things to look for to have success with this: 1. sandy soil and 2. young plants. The younger the plant, the smaller the tap root. While that means more that need to be collected, that also means an easier time pulling them out of the soil.

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If you look at the photo above, you can easily tell the younger plants (fairly straight, thinner tap roots) from the older ones that are wrapped around one another, forming an alien looking tuber.

After getting a decent size haul of plants, I double washed them in the stream and then lobbed the tops off. (Both the rabbit and chickens were delighted to have fresh veggies delivered right to them.) I then brought in the roots for a good scrubbing in fresh, cold water, and let them work on air drying while I diced them into roughly uniform sized slices, leaving the really thing ones in lengths of roughly one inch.

IMG_2360The key to drying is to wait until the roots are crumbly and can be broken down by hand with no sponginess left. For my slightly older dehydrator it took about 12 hours. Supposedly this can be done via air drying, but living in a humid climate, I wasn’t about to try it.

 

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Connected up on the Homestead Blog hop!
Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Originally published on: Jun 12, 2014.)

‘Tis the season

Things have geared up full force for spring.

Saturday we went fiddlehead picking. In the course of a week, the fiddleheads have poked their lazy heads out of the sandy stream banks and bolted. They’ve gone by. Normally the picking season is just gearing up for the second week of May. This year, it’s done and over with all ready. We didn’t even get a quarter of what we picked last year. Tonight we’ll cook off the few pounds we have, enjoy some for dinner, and freeze the rest of the cooked ones to be added by the handful to pasta and other dishes. We still have four frozen servings from last year, so we’ll have some throughout the summer, just no Yule time fiddleheads from the freezer this year.

The next thing on the list for foraging and trying is a tie between Japanese knotweed and dandelion greens. I know, what type of homesteaders are we that we haven’t tried either yet? Insane! ;-) Both are things that I think I’ll be trying solo as neither Hubster of Little Mister seem too enthused about the idea. Regardless as to whether I get to try the greens or not, I need to start harvesting dandelion root as I’m almost out. At least I have more of a plan this year, so it should go a lot smoother than in the past.

Saturday we were also able to sell our original, and now unused, chicken coop, which gave us the funds to purchase our first blueberry bushes. I’m hoping to get them in the ground this weekend at the latest. I’ll be doing a more in-depth post on those later, but needless to say, we’re all excited! They’ll be going in down amongst the rhubarb and will really help pull that piece of the yard together.

Sunday saw us outside practically all day. Hubster, bless his heart, was devoured by black flies in the morning while beginning the tilling on the gardens. The large garden that we added last year as been extended a bit and we mergered two older gardens together and expanded those as well. We also tilled a 6×10 plot for Little Mister to have as his own first garden. He and I will be working on the fencing for that this weekend, most likely. He’s super excited about it. Now if I could get him to understand the blueberry plants aren’t for his garden….

Given the crazy season, updates on here might still be a bit more sporadic than what I would like, but I’ll try to share and re-link past posts from our excursions and adventures in order to keep things more entertaining.

And so comes spring…

A lot has changed in the past two months since I have had time to update here. Personally, I’m suffering the set back of having to extend my Master’s work yet again, but this will be the last time, thankfully! The time that I’ve had to devote to my writing, the mental prep and planning for planting season, and the physical exertion of growing another farm hand has left me with very few chances to get onto the blog. I’m stealing a few minutes to update everyone about what we have going on and what’s changed.

We decided to rehome our white crested Polish rooster, Jovi. No sooner did we than his immune system apparently shut down on him. He passed away only after a week of living in his new home. It killed me to hear that he had moved on. I just hope that depression and being away from us did not exacerbate his health issues. His new owner did say he didn’t seem to be in pain when he passed. It’s hard, though. You can say as often as you want that you won’t get attached to the live stock – the breathing beings that provide you with food – but it’s hard not to.

Our only rooster now, Gimp the Rhode Island Red, has been dealing with some health issues of his own. At a later date I will do an entry on both of the specific ones he went through and how we treated each, as it’s very important information that I feel many chicken owners, including myself, tend to over look. Needless to say, he’s lost half a toe and two toe nails due to frost bite issues and is allergic to hay.

We’re also looking to rehome a few of our hens who just aren’t fitting into the flock as well as we would like. they are great layers and barely a year old, so I can’t see just sending them to freezer camp. We have a few people interested, we just have to decide when we need them gone by.

It’s also chick season around here. We bought 6 Black Australorps pullets from Aubuchon’s since we couldn’t get the from the hatchery. While there, I entered for their Chick Days drawing, which ws a chick starter kit. For once in my life, I won something! Not only did we get a tote with all the fixings (water font, 2 feeders, heat lamp and bulb, treat stick, and themometer), but it came with six free chicks (one mystery chick and then I chose the rest), a bale if shavings, and a 25 lb of feed!

We now have the 6 Black Australorps, 5 Jersey Giants, and one mystery chick (most likely a Brown Leghorn or Welsummer roo) in one brooder box. The other brooder box has 10 Buff Rock roos, 2 Buff Rock pullets, 2 Blue Andalusian Pullets, 2 Silver Laced Wyandotte pullets, and a mystery bird, which I’m pretty sure is a Cochin. Our basement is very lively right now!

We also have expansion plans for the gardens and will possibly be adding in blueberry bushes this year as well. Oh, and let’s not forget fiddlehead season is in a few weeks! Let’s hope this waddling mama doesn’t fall into the Sandy Brook when fiddlehead picking!