Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sweet Goldenrod in the Kitchen

This week I tackled the tea making on my own. I have to say it felt like much less of an adventure. The Sweet Goldenrod was easy to find in a field by my house. I made sure to thoroughly inspect the plant with my ID book before harvesting. Sweet Goldenrod has long, straight leaves that come to a point at the tip. It’s very important to identify this plant correctly before ingesting it. I also would err on the side of caution if you know you’re allergic to a similar species of Goldenrod or a plant in the Asteraceae family.

Harvesting was easy. Since only the leaves are used for this recipe, you can pick them off and leave the rest of the plant. I was feeling overheated, so I took the entire plant in attempt to save my fair skin from the blistering July sun.

The recipe I used was Jonathan M. Forester’s recipe from entitled Backyard Teas: Sweet Goldenrod Tea. This site doesn’t have a recipe so much as a paragraph describing the plant and how to make tea from it. I followed the author’s preference and dried my tealeaves. According to Forester drying the leaves makes the tea less delicate with an agreeable bitterness.

In between sneezes I plucked the leaves from their stems, placed them on a cooking sheet, and baked them in the oven on low until they were golden. You simply have to watch them to get the timing right. Cook time varies from day to day because of the moisture the plant transpired. Once cooled, I placed about a teaspoon of leaves in a mug and poured boiling water over them. After seeping for 5-10 minutes the tea was cool and strong enough to drink.

The flavor was abrasive- herbal, yet bitter. I decided for fun I’d use the leftover leaves to make iced tea. Something about the change in temperature cut the bitterness and made it much more enjoyable. Considering Sweet Goldenrod’s season, it only makes sense to make it a cold drink anyways.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sweet Goldenrod

Okay, to start off, it is not crazy (though many of you may think so) to make a recipe from Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora). It is a common misconception that the cause of hay fever and many allergy problems are due to the blooming of Goldenrod. This is not true; Ragweed, the culprit, blooms at the same time as Goldenrod, yet somehow goes under the radar.

Goldenrod is commonly seen between late spring and early fall. Its bright yellow flowers make it hard to miss along roadsides and fields. A word of caution- there are many varieties of Goldenrod and you absolutely should I.D. your plant before consumption.

Sweet Goldenrod has an interesting place in American History- After the Boston Tea Party colonialists had to find alternative tea sources and became particularly found of Sweet Goldenrod Tea. There was a time that the U.S. actually exported it to China!

These teas are used as kidney and throat anti-inflammatory medicines, and digestive stimulants. Native Americans used all parts of the plant to make balms for curing cuts and burns.


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asterales

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Solidago

Distribution: Native to North America, but introduced to South America and Eurasia.

Quote of the Plant:

The Goldenrod

“Some day the fields of Flanders shall bloom in peace again,

Field lilies and the clover spread where once was crimson stain,

And a new, cheerful golden spray shine through the sun and rain.

The clover's for the English who sleep beneath that sod,

The lily's for the noble French whose spirits rest with God,

But where our sacred dead shall sleep must bloom the goldenrod.

For every flower of summer those meadows will have room,

And yet I think no Flemish hand will touch the Kaiserbloom,

Whose growing blue must evermore whisper of grief and doom.

But clover for the English shall blossom from the sod,

And glorious lilies for the French whose spirits rest with God.

And where our own lads lie asleep the prairie goldenrod.

Once more the Flemish children shall laugh through Flemish lanes,

And gather happy garlands through fields of bygone pains,

And, as they run and cull their flowers, sing in their simple strains:

'These clovers are for English who fought to save this sod,

These lilies for the valiant French--may their souls rest in God!

And for the brave Americans we pluck this goldenrod.'"

-W.D. Eaton

Beach Roses in the Kitchem

Once again my friend, Lauren, and I set out on a cooking adventure. We had no problem finding enough rose hips for our recipe and were happy that a bush was conveniently located right outside our favorite coffee shop. Pretty much anywhere you are in a beach community you’ll be able to find Beach Rose bushes. Be careful when harvesting- the bushes are covered in thorns, especially close to the fruits you’re picking.

We decided that we prefer jam to jelly and were pleased to find an easy and incisive jam recipe on About 2/3 the way down the webpage you’ll stumble across the Rose Hip Jam recipe we used.

The hardest thing to tackle with this recipe was prepping the rose hips. Inside the rose hips are a bunch of small hairs that need to be removed. These hairs are so tiny they slip into your finger pores and make your hands itch terribly. I’m not even going to say that gloves are recommended- they are necessary!

Once again we tweaked the recipe a bit (this time due to lack of certain equipment). We didn’t have a grater so the pieces of fruit in our jam are meatier than the recipe intended. I don’t feel this is a loss; our jam just has a chunkier texture. Also, we didn’t have cheesecloth to hold the apples in, so we added them to the mix. If anything this made the jam thicker and sweeter.

The recipe wasn’t difficult and we made out with a few jars of decent jam. Jam keeps for a long time if stored properly, so I’d recommend making a large batch and saving it for last minute birthday presents or hostess gifts. If any of you are as forgetful as I am, last minute gifts are essential to have around.

I really like our jam and am proud that our first time jam making was such a success!

Beach Roses

Rosa Rugosa, although this name could be mistaken for a character from the Harry Potter series, it is in fact the scientific name for a Beach Rose. Beach Roses litter the sand dunes of every Rhode Island shoreline. They are the bushes with little pink flowers that make the dunes so pretty, and scratch the hell out of eager youths ankles attempting to have a free beach day. They bloom in the summer and produce a fruit called a rose hip.

Rose hips were first used by Ancient Greeks to make rose oil perfume- the scent being associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Still to this day 50% of male and female perfume contains rose oil.

In addition to being used as a type of “love potion”, rose hips were used to treat a myriad of ailments. Its high content of Vitamin C and antioxidants make it a useful medicinal plant.

Today we use rose hips in teas to cure inflammation and simply for their pleasant flowery taste. They are also commonly used to make jams and jellies.


Common Names: Japanese Rose, Beach Rose, Saltspray Rose, Beach Tornado.

Kingdom: Plantae

Class: Magnoliopsida

Order: Rosales

Family: Rosaceae

Genus: Rosa

Species: R. rugosa

Distribution: Native to eastern Asia, but naturalize in the sand dunes of many coastlines.

Quote of the Plant:

Sand Dunes

“Sea waves are green and wet,
But up from where they die,
Rise others vaster yet,
And those are brown and dry.

They are the sea made land
To come at the fisher town,
And bury in solid sand
The men she could not drown.

She may know cove and cape,
But she does not know mankind
If by any change of shape,
She hopes to cut off mind.

Men left her a ship to sink:
They can leave her a hut as well;
And be but more free to think
For the one more cast-off shell.”

- Robert Frost

Friday, July 16, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace in the Kitchen

One of my favorite carrot treats is carrot cake. I found a recipe specifically using Wild Carrots on Queen Anne's Cake seemed like a simple cake recipe that only took about 45 minutes including prep time. I was fortunate enough to have my dear friend and fellow cooking enthusiast, Lauren, joined me in the wild food making this week.

To start off we harvested the plant: As my partner in cooking-crime and I discovered the roots of Queen Anne’s Lace do not give very easily. I highly recommend using a harvesting devise (a shovel would due) and pulling them anytime other than the time we chose- on the roadside at midday in July. Despite some difficulty harvesting the plants we were able to collect all that we needed. Queen Anne’s Lace is incredibly abundant on the sides of roads; we hardly put a dent in the small patch we found.

Once back to the kitchen, I began prepping the carrots as Lauren measured and mixed the other ingredients. The recipe says to grate the carrots; unfortunately we didn’t have a grater so I tried having the same affect as one using a knife. I didn’t realize that Wild Carrots would be as tough as they are. If I were to use them again I would first boil or sauté the Wild Carrots with butter to soften them.

We cut the recipe in half, because we didn’t want two whole cakes. In addition, we tweaked the recipe slightly by adding brown sugar and making a crumble topping out of brown sugar and walnuts instead of using icing. Our final product, therefore, would be better titled: Carrot and Brown Sugar Crumble Bars.

Despite how potently Wild Carrots smell of carrot, they don’t carry the same amount of flavor to the taste as our Domestic Carrots. I definitely think in the future I would use more carrots (in addition to softening them). Overall I believe these changes would make the texture and flavor more enjoyable. Our final product, however, was very yummy, even if it didn’t hold as much carrot flavor as I had hoped.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace

As the summer progresses more and more of our weedy friends have been sprouting up and I’ve been thinking of what recipe I can conduct next. Luckily I remembered that deep in the roots of that sea of lace on the sides of the roads is a close relative of our domesticated carrot. Daucus carota, most commonly known in the US as Queen Anne’s Lace is in fact a wild carrot! I’ve never cooked with them before, but have heard that they can be great in recipes as a substitute for our common Domestic Carrot.

Queen Anne’s Lace are extremely abundant along roadsides. They are easy to identify with their long green stems that blossom into a tuft of intricate “lace”. The large lace flower is reminiscent of the collars that Queen Anne, fourth wife of Henry VIII, wore, hence were the common name originates. Queen Anne’s Lace are biennial weeds- meaning they grow through two seasons, and only flower and release their seeds in the second summer.

The Wild Carrot root holds no resemblance to a Domestic Carrot; it is yellowish-white with many small roots sprouting forth from the core. In addition, although it smells just like a Domestic Carrot, it is much tougher and “rootier” than one. I don’t recommend trying to eat the wild variety without some sort of
curing beforehand.

Folklore claimed that the flowers could be used to cure epilepsy and increase fertility in men and women. Today we associate its nutritional value to be similar to that of the Domestic Carrot.

Common Names: Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, and Bishop’s Lace.
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Daucus
Species: D. carota

Distribution: Native to Europe and southwest Asia, but naturalized in northeast North America and Australia.

Quote of the Plant: “God send me well to keep” –Motto of Queen Anne of Cleves.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Red Clovers in the Kitchen

The recipe I thought sounded the most interesting was “Red Clover Rice” from Prodigal Gardens. I collected the best looking flowers I could find from my yard and my neighbor’s. The total amount of flowers I collected came to about 2 cups. The recipe doesn’t have the specific recipe outlines that I’m used to, so I decided to improvise it.

First, I made 1 cup of brown rice, with 3 cups of water and ½ tbs of butter in my rice cooker, seasoned with salt and pepper. While that was cooking, I cut the Clover flowers off from their stem and sautéed them with 1-2tbs of butter, salt and pepper at a low temperature. You’ll notice that the flowers shrink up a lot. Keep this in mind when you’re picking them. I took the recipe’s advice to sweeten the dish, but only used ¼ cup of walnuts and 1/3 cup of honey.

Once finished I plopped the rice in a bowl and put the sautéed Clovers on top with fresh Clover as garnish. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the dish. The flowers had a really rustic taste to them that went particularly well with the sweetness of the honey and the crunch of the walnuts.

I would definitely recommend this recipe to others and strongly encourage tweaking it to your liking.