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A Walk On The Wild Side

By Gini Rainey

Now, just when you men out there think there isn’t going to be anything interesting for you on the cookbook aisle, along comes one I think might be right up your alley, especially if you spend any time at all in the woods.  However, my husband just said, after leafing through the book, “there isn’t anything in here that sounds good.”  If I hadn’t been deep in a creative thought process at the time, I would have reminded him that he probably would never be caught dead foraging in the woods for something to eat, and if he were, this book would come in mighty handy.

Written by noted naturalist Jean Craighead George, “The Wild, Wild Cookbook: A Guide For Young Wild-Food Foragers” is divided into seasonal foraging sections. George has listed plants alphabetically, by season and then further identifies them by description and habitat, and includes recipes for cooking them.  Published by Thomas Y. Crowell Junior Books in 1982, this book has the beautifully detailed drawings of the plants by Walter Kessell.  George and Kessell combined have made this a field guide everyone should carry in his pocket whenever the urge to go hiking and foraging strikes.

The cabin in Minnesota might be one of the first places I might think of using this book.  The woods behind the cabin seem to have morel mushrooms in them, and we know what a delicacy they are.  Although, George cautions against foraging for mushrooms as “they are difficult to identify and so dangerous that a professor of mycology once told me that he himself would never pick and eat them.”  Cattails line the shoreline and George has a few recipes that make good use of them, such as Cattail-On-The-Cob and Cat-O-Nine-Tail Pancakes.  My Aunt Evie had a High-Bush Cranberry bush at one time in front of the cabin.  I’m not sure how many berries she was able to harvest from it, but I do have a memory of her making jelly one year.  Of course, there are wild raspberries all over the place and they are yummy.

Now something that might be accessible to those of us outside of the mid-west where theoretically sun flowers can grow wild along the road side, would be sunflower seeds.  A really great sounding and relatively easy recipe using wild sunflower seeds (or store-purchased and unsalted) is for Sunflower Bread.  If you love seeded breads as much as I do, you just might want to add this recipe to your collection.  First, preheat your oven to 325°, then cream together ¼ honey and ¼ cup soft butter.  Beat in 2 eggs.  Now, combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1-1/2 cups blender-ground sunflower seeds (meats only). Add honey and butter mixture by alternately stirring into the dry ingredients with 1 cup milk.  Pour into a greased 9” bread loaf pan, sprinkle with ½ cup whole sunflower seed meats and bake 1 hour.  Cool on a rack, slice and serve with butter.  That’s my kind of foraging!

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