Go wild in the country! (Your favorite ways to eat foraged foods)

Nicole Eigbrett’s fiddleheads and endives. Photo: Nicole Eigbrett, via Twitter

Nicole Eigbrett’s fiddleheads and endives. Photo: Nicole Eigbrett, via Twitter

I have a confession: I’m something of an indoorswoman. So if I’m going to venture out into the wilds, there needs to be a good reason, and a good reward. With this thought in mind I asked you last week as the latest installment of our food adventure together this summer to send me your favorite ways to eat wild (foraged) foods. Here are some of your suggestions:

Via Facebook, Julie Wainwright says, simply, “wild leek soup!”, and Mark Holland says (even more simply), “Putting them in my mouth. With butter.” Thanks Mark.

Nicole Eigbrett (@Nicoloewhaat) has this suggestion, and a photo, for fiddlehead ferns and wild endives she says she finds near St. Lawrence University (via Twitter): “Fiddleheads & wild endives sautéed simply w.garlic and oil. So good!”

So simple seems to be the way to go with your foraged foods, but just for a little extra fun I’m including these recipes, from NCPR’s classic of North Country food culture, “Stories, Food, Life.” These look….ungh….delicious.

Before you get cooking, a quick note: For next week we’ll be looking for your perfect summer meal. I know you’ll be tempted to just say “throw a mess of stuff on the grill!” But recipes you have for special salads, desserts, or anything a little more complicated are very, very welcome. It’s all about sharing your cooking secrets!

Vermont Fiddlehead Pie

The Combes Family Inn, Ludlow, Vermont

1 uncooked 9-inch pie crust

2 cups fiddleheads, coarsely chopped

1 small chopped onion

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 eggs

1 cup milk or half-and-half

1 tbsp. coarse mustard

2 tbsp. flour

Salt, pepper or other light seasonings, to taste

Preheat oven to 350º. Precook pie crust in oven. Sauté fiddleheads and onion in olive oil. Spread in pie crust, followed by cheese. In a bowl, blend remaining ingredients, then pour over pie. Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into pie. Let set for 5 minutes, then cut. Serve hot, warm or cold, as you would quiche.

Wild Leek Quiche

(adapted from wild-leeks.com)

1 pie shell

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tbsp. of butter or oil

10 wild leeks, bulbs and leaves chopped or sliced

1 cup other vegetables, chopped (e.g. mushrooms, broccoli)

8 eggs

½ cup milk

1 tsp. crushed rosemary

1 tsp. crushed dill or oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste

Paprika or powdered red pepper

Preheat oven to 400º. Press pie dough into a pie plate or small casserole dish. Sprinkle ½ cup of cheese into pie shell. Sauté the leeks and other vegetables in a buttered or oiled pan until softened. Spread vegetables on top of cheese. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings. Pour over vegetables. Sprinkle top of quiche with paprika or red pepper. Bake for an hour, or until egg mixture has set and lightly browned.

Serves 6 to 8.


Wild Leek Casserole

(adapted from main.nc.us)

1 tbsp. butter or oil

½ lb. sausage (pork, bison or venison)

5 eggs

2 cups grated cheese (cheddar or other favorite)

2 cups milk

Salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary or other seasonings, to taste

20 wild leeks, bulbs and tops sliced

8 small potatoes, sliced

Preheat oven to 350º. Brown the meat in the butter or oil. In a bowl, combine eggs, cheese, milk and seasonings. In a casserole dish, layer sausage, potatoes and wild leeks. Pour milk mixture over the top, sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese. Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until potatoes are tender.

Serves 4 to 5.


Chicken and Ramps (Wild Leeks)

Martha Clare Pritchard Spear, Upper Jay

As soon as the weather indicates that spring is on the way, my brother and I start to make plans for the annual Mother’s Day Ramps and Fiddlehead Fern Forage. It’s a pilgrimage for me–a once-a-year chance to revisit my childhood. We take what seems like a dozen back roads to a very well-hidden spot next to a small stream where the banks are solid with the tulip-like leaves of the ramps. I was sworn to secrecy the first time my brother, who discovered the ramps years ago while trout fishing, took me with him. Digging ramps is messy–they must be coaxed gently but firmly from the ground. Back in my mother’s kitchen, we are elbow deep in mud. Cleaning ramps is nearly as messy as digging them, but the kitchen fills with a rich earthy smell of onions and garlic–and spring. It is my brother’s job to make a potato soup–a standard vichysoisse with ramps replacing cultivated leeks. My job is to roast the chicken.
1 lb. ramps
3 lbs. (more or less) chicken, cut up
1 lb. new potatoes
2 to 3 tbsp. quality olive oil
½ cup dry wine–good enough to drink!
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper

Cut off and reserve the leaves from the ramps. Remove the roots and outer skin of the ramps but retain the slender pink stem on the bulbs. Place in separate bowls and set aside.

Rinse and pat dry chicken and potatoes and place in shallow roasting pan that can also go on top of the stove. Coat with 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Make sure chicken is skin side up. Season with salt and pepper and roast in 500º oven for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, mix ½ tbsp. oil with the ramp bulbs and season with salt. Add to chicken and potatoes and roast another 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and roast veggies an additional 5 minutes or so, until tender. Remove ramps and potatoes and pour off fat.

Set the roasting pan on the top of the stove and deglaze with the wine over high heat. Reduce wine by half and add chicken broth. When it comes to a boil, quickly add the ramp leaves and cook only until wilted. Remove and add to platter with chicken and ramps and potatoes. Further reduce the broth, adjust the seasoning, pour around the platter and serve.

2 Comments on “Go wild in the country! (Your favorite ways to eat foraged foods)”

  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Perhaps this is more garden weeding than wild foraging and not a recipe per se, but lambs quarters make and excellent pesto. Wood sorrel is easy to gather and throw into a salad, garnish soups, or add to the lambs quarters pesto – gives a little bit of lemony flavor.

  2. Barb Heller says:

    When preparing fiddleheads, the papery brown covering should be removed before cooking. It’s a bit of a chore- like shelling peas, or de-stringing beans. I boil them once, then discard the water, then sautee them. Fiddleheads are high in oxalic acid, which can impart an unpleasant flavor and side effects. The first brief boil removes quite a bit of that, allowing the delicate flavor to come through.

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