Burdock & Rose

wildly-crafted plant tales from herbalist, forager & author lisa rose

Tag: cooking

Go Nuts with Walnuts: Italian Walnut Liqueur

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Cocktails flavored with different plants and herbals are now all the rage among foodies and at popular restaurants. Beyond the garden, foraged, wild flavors can be gathered from the woods and fields to be blended into infused liqueurs, simple syrups and handmade bitters for the cocktail cart.

The windfall of falling walnuts becomes noticeable in mid-summer as the green fruits of the black walnut begin to drop. Your main competition for this fruit will be the local wildlife, particularly the ever-aggressive squirrel.

The wild walnut of the Juglans nigra (black walnut) is a forager’s delight – not only does it offer delicious nutmeats for cooking and baked goods, but the green hull has a fragrant, citrus-like aroma that infused in liquor makes a delicious aperatif.

Traditionally, nocino is made from the English walnut, but here in the Midwest, black walnut may be used. In some literature, there has been question whether or not the juglone content of the roots in the black walnut render the nut inedible (as it is a gardener’s nightmare for plants intolerant of the juglone), but there is enough traditional and contemporary use of the black walnut to negate this potential concern. The only issue that the black walnut may cause is in companion planting in the garden! 

For more tips on identifying the black walnut, get a copy of my book, Midwest Foraging to take with you into the fields! 

In “Midwest Foraging,” I describe that  the green hulled walnut can be transformed into a traditional Italian digestif known as nocino, an aromatic spicy liqueur that contains clove, orange peel, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Try making a nocino with the herbs of the spicebush, tulip poplar, and wild ginger.”

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To make your own nocino, gather 4 quarts of green walnut hulls. In the kitchen, stuff large ball jars to the brim with the nuts, including a tablespoon each of clove, juniper berries, orange peel, cardamon, ginger, and 2 cinnamon sticks. Cover completely with vodka (or white wine), and let macerate for 8 weeks. Strain and preserve in a glass bottle to let age.

Enjoy as a sipping liqueur or in a dessert course with fragrant cheese and dark chocolates.

Holiday Cooking with Pines, Spruce & Firs

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Spruce tips (Picea spp) are a wonderful culinary flavoring in the kitchen.

 

From firs to pines to spruces– these favorite evergreens adorned many homes for the holidays with their fragrant boughs.

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to take down the trimmings– but wait! The boughs can serve an additional purpose: Before directing that greenery out to the compost or to the curb for recycling, think about repurposing those evergreens in the kitchen for both culinary flavorings and herbal medicine.***

Pines, firs and spruces are all edible and have various notes of flavor in their needles and branches. There is no finer way to bring the aroma of the forest into the kitchen and onto the plate than by cooking with these evergreens. High in vitamin C, the needles of pines, firs and spruces are notably bright, slightly sour, and citrusy in flavor. The needles can be used as a culinary flavoring in most recipes that call for lemon. Chop the needles and use them as an herb to flavor salads, butters, and vinegars for dressings. Add the needles to potato salads, bean salads, and pasta salads with other fresh salad greens. The needles, chopped, can also be used to flavor rustic breads in place of rosemary.

For the bar, spruce and pine needles can be made into a simple syrup or infused honey that can flavor mixed drinks or martinis. Beer brewers are becoming interested in using foraged ingredients and can use the fresh spruce or pine tips as a flavoring agent in the second fermentation cycle of brewing. A short fermentation will capture the desired aromatics and citrus high notes for a Belgian or wheat-styled ale without making the brew overly “tree” flavored.

Roasting meat or fish? Water-soaked boughs and needles can be used to roast or steam white-fleshed fish to infuse the meat with the flavors of the evergreens.

And for dessert, concoct a pine or spruce-infused honey to drizzle over ice cream (or can flavor ice cream!). The infused honey can also be served alongside a Stilton or local cheddar cheese — It is a sumptous way to savor the magical forest flavor.

These conifers also have a place in the herbal apothecary. As an herbal remedy, spruce, fir or pine needles can be made into a tea. Add boiling water to a pot of needles, cover, and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Its aromatics can open up stuffy sinuses and the astringency of the tea can help dry up runny noses and sinus gunk. Sweeten with honey, sip, and inhale the aromatics for best results.

Other musings on these conifers and their uses:

Pine needle tea

Fir body balms: (My friend and herbalist Rebecca McTrouble makes a divine White Fir Body Butter)

Spruce tip beer

Aromatic steam inhalations for colds and flus

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***Foraging note: Some things to give consideration before using the evergreen boughs for food and herbal use — make sure your boughs were sourced from a tree farm or nursery that uses chemical-free growing practices. It’s common in commercial Christmas tree farming to spray the trees with a fire retardant also, in addition to possible herbicides and/or pesticides used in the fields.

Don’t decorate your home with conifers for the holiday? The branches and boughs can be sustainably harvested off the forest floor after a winter’s wind storm without having to gather directly from a mature tree. 

“Chestnuts Roasting on a Open Fire”

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… A holiday mantra that hits the airwaves at Thanksgiving and then repeats on loop through the December holiday madness. We hum the tune, but have you ever added chestnuts to your table during the holiday?

The chestnut is a pretty amazing food, filled with protein, minerals and vitamins and energy in fact, if ever needed to rely on a nut (Hunger Games, anyone?).  And it’s pretty versatile too. Chestnuts can be roasted, boiled into soups and ground into flours.

For an easy holiday appetizer that kids will enjoy, I suggest roasting chestnuts stovetop for snacking while that Christmas turkey or ham is in the oven.  They can be peeled and enjoyed warm from the shell. They have a very neutral, almost buttery flavor making them an easy food for children to appreciate.

We first introduced our own children to the chestnut several years ago on a fall foraging jaunt. One Sunday afternoon, the husband and I loaded the kids into the car for a Sunday drive west from Grand Rapids to Winkel Chestnut Farms to learn more about the chestnut. The Winkel Farm grows about 20 acres of chestnuts and have been doing it for over 20 years.  While we had missed their regular UPick season; the owners, Leslie and Dick, were super cool to let us bring the family out to forage for fallen nuts on the ground.

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My children listened to the farmers tell us the story of the American Chestnut — how it was once prolific throughout the eastern United States until the Chinese Chestnut tree was introduced in the late 1880s, when a virus it carried affected greatly the American Chestnut and nearly wiped out its population completely.

After about an hour of searching through the grass, we’d gathered several quarts of chestnuts. The children took it upon themselves to turn the ground foraging into a competition.  We wished we’d brought leather gloves — not realizing how spiky the spines of the chestnut were!

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We giggled and laughed in the sunshine, trying not to puncture our fingers with their spines.  Farmer Leslie fired up the roaster and showed the children how the nuts should be scored on the bottom before roasting. The kids loved the taste of the warm nuts and were excited about adding chestnuts to our Thanksgiving menu. And while my children would have tried the warm nuts straight out of the cast iron pan during the holiday, making that venture out to the chestnut farm gave us a bit of family time together outdoors and taught the kids a little about the food’s history and ecology.

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So now, each fall my kids see chestnuts at the farmers market or hear “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” they will know more about the chestnut than it being just a healthy food. They will have memories of our family heading out and foraging for them underneath the chestnut trees.

And to me that’s what creating a culture of food around the table is all about — creating lasting memories and new holiday traditions with loved ones.

***To find a chestnut farm or farmers market near you, check out LocalHarvest.org. And for ways to prepare chestnuts, check out the many ways you can prepare chestnuts on FoodIly.com.

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The Pot Stirrer’s Broths

Nourish. Food is the mortar for our castle’s walls and is a key element in warding off and rebounding from illness (more on the castle as metaphor for immunity in another post). Winter is a good time to slow down and think through how you are feeding yourself. Quality and habits matter for not only digestion; but for proper absorption of the minerals and goodness our healthful diets have to offer to us.

Have you ever noticed that those times you are really stressed, eating junk, not sleeping  and BAM. Sick. Yea.  I hate that. During cold & flu season and if you are recovering from an illness, injury or surgery– pay particular attention to reducing refined sugars, excess caffeine (a tough one for me — I love my espresso), excess alcohol, conventional dairy and gluten. These foods not only lack in the nutrient density needed for healing; they negatively affect blood sugar, sleep patterns, adrenals– the whole lot of it.

Make sure the meals that you eat throughout the week are filled with healthy, organic and even wild plants of all colors (I love late afternoon snacks of veggie juices and smoothies as easy ways to get extra fruits & veggies into my day), eat fermented foods (pickles, kimchi, kefirs — all are probiotic dense and FANTASTIC for digestion), bitter flavors (stimulates bile production — also AWESOME for digestion), and healthy fats (get your Omega 3s!!). Oh, and Vitamin D! And C! And….

Broths!  I am a big believer of the nutritive power of mineral dense plant & bone broths. Both are key components in my cooking and broth is a useful food to easily get nutritive plants and minerals into my family’s diet in a bioavailable way.

Bone broth has been in simmering on the stoves of healing kitchens across the globe and across time — In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bone broth is a key component to building yin deficiency and nourishing the body, and the Jewish Bubbe knows that chicken soup is her form of penicillin. It’s an ancient food.

My chicken broth fortified with nutritive herbs and mushrooms

As a cook, a good broth (vegetable, chicken or beef) is a must to have on hand in the pantry and is essential in many recipes. I guess I’ve become a bit spoiled — my homemade broth is leaps above the stuff at the supermarket and making it at home allows for quality and price control. And as an herbalist, I know how healing a good bone broth can be for a recuperating body and can help build immunity.

Bone broths build blood, support the adrenals, build connective tissues, bones, teeth, and gums in a whole foods way rather than solely derving the minerals we need from supplements. Broths can be especially powerful when power-packed with nutritive herbs and medicinal plants like nettle, red clover, oatstraw, seaweeds, horsetail, astragalus, burdock and wild foraged medicinal mushrooms like reishi, maitake, shitake, and chaga.

Sun curing foraged Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) for my broths

While there is no replacement for the tissue healers that come from cooking with bones (from healthy, pastured animals), plant-based broths (simple decoctions of plants) can be equally valuable for those wishing to adhere to plant-based diets. You’ll find my recipe below is pretty plant packed, and super powerful. I’ve included my recipes at end the of this piece.

Broths = Comfort food

I use both the bone and plant broths for sipping warm in a mug — a perfect food when sick, particularly with fever or for feeding the body when recuperating from surgery or severe illness. I prefer to enjoy it rich and full-flavored. If it is too rich for your tastes, broth can easily be thinned with additional water to taste. I also integrate broth into soups, use them to cook grains, rices & pastas, and even add the plant broth into smoothie recipes for added minerals.

A note on my recipes — I cook by sense and feel. Ingredients listed are in “ish” amounts. Please let me know if you have questions, or share links to additional broth making resources — I am always looking for great information.

Foraged Red clover, Nettle & Oatstraw from my gardens for a Plant-Based Broth

Plant-Based Broth. (Vegan) High in bioavailable minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, Silica, Potassium.

Herbal infusion mixture — Goal is approx. 2 cups (ish) dry herb total: Red clover, Nettle, Raspberry leaf, Oatstraw, Astragalus (2 sticks), Bull kelp seaweed, Horsetail (if suffering from muscle tissue injury), dry Burdock, JujuBe, and Wolfberries.  In case of Gluten Intolerance, remove Oatstraw and increase Nettle, Red Clover, Raspberry leaf.

1 cup dry mushroom of choice — Shitake, Chaga, Reishi, Maitake — mix match as you wish, or 3 TBSP powered mushroom (MushroomHarvest online offers great mushroom blends). Mushrooms can support cellular repair, have powerful polysaccharides, and are antioxidant rich. Plus they are magical.

Magical Foraged Maitake

 

Simmer herbal mixture and mushrooms  and decoct SLOWLY in 4 qts of water for 20 minutes. Simmer, boil, whatever. I used to be really concerned about the boil until I realized what I was shooting for here was simply a MINERAL EXTRACTION from the plant material. You can’t destroy minerals with heat – they are an earth’s element so heat won’t destroy them and a long cooking/extraction time is needed to extract minerals.

Strain & store in Ball Jars or containers and refrigerate. Keeps for 2 days. Freezes well. I love this as chilled ice tea, warm in a mug, added to smoothies (in place of the water) or as my vegan base for soups and other dishes.

I also soak grains, cook rices, pasta in this sweet, yet neutral flavored broth. For a more aromatic broth, sweat carrots, celery, onion and garlic then add broth with a bouquet to create a more flavorful soup more suitable for French style soups. It’s very versatile.

Simmering a Plant-Based Broth with green onion for a quick soup seaweed soup base

 

Bone Broth

Brown 2 lbs of organic, pastured soup bones (LocalHarvest.org for sources near you — I love using oxtail) in a large stockpot (I have a big 12 quart pot that works well for this). For chicken broth, I brine and then roast a whole chicken, remove the meat and use the softened bones in soup with a small ratio of water, herbs. But similar process. And I always make sure to add the feet.

Add a few tablespoons of oil along with chopped carrots, onions and heads of garlic. Sweat. Then add 1 cup vinegar to deglaze the pan (those are the good, tasty bits) and this will help extract minerals from the bones.   Cover completely with water and fill the stockpot. Stir in additional dry herbs:

1 cup Bull kelp (or other) seaweed

1 cup Nettle

1 cup Raspberry leaf

1 cup Oatstraw

1 cup dry Burdock root (or several fresh roots, cleaned and chopped)

1 cup Red cover

1 cup Horsetail

1 cup Comfrey

2 cup Medicinal mushrooms (Shitake, Chaga, Reishi, Maitake)

Astragalus — a few sticks

1 cup Wolfberries

1 cup Jujubes

Bring all ingredients to the pot to a boil. Skim off scum that boils to the top, then reduce to a simmer. Over the course of 7 days, I bring the pot to a boil then simmer for 8-10 hours.  I refrain from stirring the pot (haha) then strain through a colander and add into pint jars, which I then freeze for later use.

Food Safety 101 recap: When cooking stock on the stove top for extended periods of time, food safety can be managed by bringing stock to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes before serving. Do the same before straining and putting into steralized jars to help ensure any potentially dangerous bacteria (i.e. botulism) is eliminated before eating or preserving. 

A few ingredients for Burdock Stew

 

Nourishing Burdock Stew (Can be Vegan, GF if made w/o Oatstraw)

Plant or Bone Broth, prepared as above directed above

1 cup brown rice — cooked, optional

1 cup adzuki bean — cooked, optional

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

3 reg sized, peeled and chopped Burdock root (available at many Asian grocers if you don’t dig it up yourself)

3 carrots, chopped

Salt, pepper to taste, or even Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Rosemary.

Sautee onion, garlic, sweat Burdock & Carrots, then stir in cooked rice & beans (optional). Cover with prepared plant or bone broth.  Simmer again for 20 minutes to meld flavors. Eat and savor this nourishing, nutrient dense soup.

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Additional resources:

Jim McDonald’s recipes, musings and links on Broth

Chef Michael Rhulman’s Recipe for a Stovetop Stock plus links & Yummy bacteria convo

The Nourished Kitchen on Bone Broths with links to easy crock pot recipes.

My favorite SeaWeed Source: NatureSpirit Herbs

Need herbs? Organic, bulk herbs available from Mountain Rose Herbs. But they can also sometimes be sourced locally using LocalHarvest.org. 

Grassfed, pastured healthy bones for stock: LocalHarvest.Org for a farmer nearest you

Mushroom sources at Mushroom Harvest