Tag Archives: foraging

Event: Spring Foraging Campout 2019

 

This Spring, March 16th – 17th, Green Valley Gardens is holding a 2-day Wild Foods weekend on their organic, permacultural farm in North Texas.

Comprising over 100-acres, this family farm showcases a variety of sustainable land management practices and a diversity of natural resources. Come enjoy the weekend with us as we celebrate the return of Spring and explore all the amazing foods growing in this beautiful landscape!

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Green Valley Gardens was created as a start-up market garden, just North of Denton, Texas. They are active promoters of local farmers markets, and regularly work with other local growers to bring environmentally-conscious, quality food to North Texas. They also work hard educating and sharing their practices with others.

We’ll get to spend an entire day discussing (and harvesting!) edible species of native and wild plants, their implications for food security and sustainability, and how we can work with these resources to grow a healthier relationship with our Land.

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Day 2 we’ll turn to the culinary arts and explore all the amazing ways you can turn these Mange Sauvage into High Table fare! Spring is a beautiful time of year in the woods;  flowers are blooming, onions are budding and a smorgasbord of other wild foods are on offer. From learning to prepare soup and salad starters to delicious hors d’ouvres and wild entrees, we’ll share our secrets to celebrating and enjoying all the amazing flavors and foods here around us.

Come camp out with us, enjoy some excellent foods around the fire, and experience great fellowship while learning more about how we can work to craft a better way of living, together.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids 10 years and younger (kiddos 3 and under free!), includes entire 2-day event with meals, workshops and camp sites. Tickets are available through Paypal. PLEASE RSVP with the ages and numbere of people in your party. Space is limited, so reserve your spot soon.

Note: This event is the last weekend of Spring Break 2019, so bring the kids for a last burst of fun (with a little learning snuck in) before they have to head back to school!

Hope to see you this Spring, and Happy Harvesting!

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Gardens – New Home, New Gardens

Our new home has brought us a new opportunity to grow some new wild gardens, and we are going to try and take them in a little bit of a different direction this time around.

We’ll still be wildcrafting some of our favorite wild and native species from our surrounding area to fill our beds, but we are also going to be working with local businesses and entrepreneurs to determine the market potential for the different species we grow as well!

Since moving to the Texas hill country this past Summer, I have been fortunate to meet and work with several other individuals dedicated to sharing and educating others about these wonderful, wild resources. From reknown restaurants to urban farms and markets, there is growing interest in these products as healthy, holistic and delicious cuisine. In working with landowners and small farmers, it’s also important to be able to share as much data on the potential of these resources as possible. That includes productivity, economy, but also market value.

Throughout this next yearly cycle of foraging then, we’ll be actively marketing the products of our wild gardens to local restaurants and businesses that are interested in showcasing local and willd fare, to determine which species are the most profitable, what is the value of all other species grown as well, in addition to the usual data we collect on productivity and environmental impact (i.e: wildlife).

We’re also stepping up our overall construction in terms of design and bed size this year. The Texas hill country is *blessed* with an abundance of beautiful limestone, and we’ve been able to re-purpose several hundred pounds of flagstone and loose fill. The number of species we are growing has also increased. We are adding several aquatic species, so we’ll also be building tanks to house them, along with a few native fish species to act as mosquito control-cum-aquacultures. That will be especially exciting!

New Garden Layout

In all we’ll be propagating between 15 and 20 different wild and native species of edible plants. Including: Turk’s cap mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.), canna lily (Canna spp.), winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), passionfruit (Passiflora incarnata), wild onion (Allium spp.), cattail (Typha spp.), American lotus (Nelumbo lutea), wild grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) and an assortment of native herbs and flowers.

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Our hope and purpose for this new project is to set down a blueprint which can be followed or applied to any small to moderate sized property or urban farm and garden. We’ve touted the potential benefits of working with these resources for many years, and have seen success in the past in propagating them both for ourselves and others. But now we are unequivocally stepping forward to create a new potential dynamic in the arena of land and habitat management. Proverbally putting our money exactly where our mouths are.

Within the next two years we will have definitive data on the potential and value of managing landscapes for wild and native edible plants, both in terms of their impact on human standards of living and economy, as well as the positive impacts they can have on urban and rural environments.

We will have the basis for forming  a new pact with our Land; the seeds by which we can reap a greater freedom and securty for all.

 

 

Event: FARFA Conference

 

I will be speaking during the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance – Farm and Food Leadership Conference October 14th and 15th , in McKinney, Texas.

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Topics covered at the event will range from food security and public policy, to land management techniques and home gardening. I will be speaking on a panel about diversifying income streams for farmers, along with Megan Neubauer, Brad Stufflebeam and Jennie Herm.

I will also be holding a joint panel with Jesse Griffiths, owner and head chef at Dai Due, in Austin Texas. We will talk about issues dealing with learning about edible native species of plants, as well as wild game. While this talk will be geared towards the average consumer, we will also address how consumers, as well as land owners, can utilize these resources to supplement their income, experiment with native species, benefit their environment and provide a sustainable food source.

Conference tickets are still available, as are tickets to the Farm-to-Table dinner being held the evening of the first day of the Conference. There are also several workshops to be held Sunday, the day before the Conference officially starts, and they will also cover a wide range of both consumer and producer related topics.

More information and registration are available here.

Event: Kids’ Fall Foraging

I’m teaming up with the Calixto Project again to offer another Kids-focused foraging adventure! We’llexplore and gather the wild Autumn foods of the forest, then create some surprising (and delicious!) treats.

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This is a perfect outdoor activity for kids, with a little bit of learning and life experience snuck in (shhh!). The event will be held Sunday, October 21st, near Southeast Austin. You can read more about the oppurtunity at the Calixto Project, as well as find information on how to sign up!

The weather is sure to be cooler by then (or at least not lethal!) so come out and have some fun.

Recipe: Prickly Pear Marinara

Anyone who has eaten fresh prickly pears can tell you, despite their juicyness, theirs is a delicate sweetness.

Much like tomatoes, in a way.

We’ve been experimenting with producing different sauces, and syrups, with prickly pears for a long time, on our Wild Pizzas and as a glaze and barbecue sauce with wild game. We’ve found that they can really take on a variety of flavors, similar to tomatoes in many traditional recipes.

Ingredients:

peeled, seeded prickly pears (crushed)

prickly pear juice

oregano

basil

lime juice

salt/pepper

dill weed

This recipe is designed to mimic a traditional marinara sauce, for use in Italian style dishes, or on pizza. The fresh cactus pears are excellent at absorbing savory flavors and their light sweetness compliments these sauces in much the same way as ripe tomatoes usually will.

The key ingredients are strained prickly pear juice and several peeled, de-seeded prickly pears. Producing the juice is extremely simple, however skinning and removing the seeds from the whole prickly pears can be time consuming work.

To make the juice, place several whole prickly pears in a large potand cover with water, then boil for about 20-25 minutes, until softened. Afterwards, using a potato masher or other utensil, pulverize the cactus pears in the pot until thouroughly mashed. Next boil them for another 30 minutes and then strain, first through a colander and then a cheese cloth. This method denatures the sharp spines, and enables the pulp and seeds, as well as any spines or glochids, to be removed without having to struggle with them.

Peeling the whole prickly pears and removing the seeds has no easy short-cut though, and is longest part of this process. Remove the tops and bottoms from the pears with a sharp knife and then slice each in half. The seeds can then be scooped out of the centers, and the skins peeled off the fruit using the knife. After which, both the whole fruits and juice can be combined in a large pot with all of the seasonings and brought to a simmer.

After the mixture begins to boil, and the prickly pears halves start to break down, they can be crushed using a mallet, spoon or immersion blender. The entire sauce should then be allowed to further reduce down, and seasoning adjusted for taste. Once the desired thickness is achieved, remove the sauce from heat and add the juice of 1-2 limes  before transferring the sauce to jars for storage.

We’ve had so much success with these prickly pear – tomato substitutions. I challenge anyone to come up with a recipe where you couldn’t swap the two out wholesale. Their mild flavor and absorbtion, along with their A-MAZING color, are making them more and more my go-to for all kinds of sauces.

Recipe: Wild P B J

Nearly everyone loves the classic American combination of peanut butter and grape jelly, in sandwich form.

However, peanuts don’t grow in the wilds of Texas, and grape jelly is loaded with sugar – not exactly the healthiest of indulgences. Fortunately there is another fantastic, native, gustatory combination that exists, with every bit of magical pizazz as a traditional peanut butter and jelly combination, but amazingly, in an infinately healthier, and guilt-free form.

Presenting, the majestic mesquite-butter and prickly pear jelly sandwich! This “mesquite butter” is created from reduced mesquite oil, with emulsified cream and other spices. Our prickly pear jelly is produced using a low-sugar/sugar-free pectin.

After producing Mesquite Flour, the left over chaff) is perfect for using to make mesquite jelly, or rendering into refined mesquite oil. After reduction, and chilling, this oil takes on a glutinous, almost syrupy quality. When whipped with cream (or butter) and spices, what is created is a wonderful, delicious spread with a host of applications!

Ingredients:

1-2 cups refined mesquite oil (produced from several cups mesquite chaff)

1/2 stick of butter

OR

~ 1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of salt

Additional spices can include: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and possibly orange zest or ginger

 

After rendering the mesquite oil, the process of combining it with butter or heavy cream is relatively simple. Should enough of the oil be produced, and allowed to reduce and chill enough, it is possible the addition of butter or cream could be omitted. Although, a small amount of low-sugar pectin may need to be added.

To blend the butter or cream into the mesquite oil, use an immersion blender to emulsify the fats along with the oil in a tall glass, or other container. Afterwards, the desired spices can be folded in.

To produce  the prickly pear jelly, juice several fresh prickly pears in the same manner as with the Prickly Pear Marinara recipe. After straining, add low-sugar pectin to the juice and bring to a boil for 10 minutes, while stirring constantly to avoid scorching the mixture.

The jelly will need to set overnight in the refridgerator, but on the next day, you’ll have one of the most wonderful wild treats we’ve come up with waiting for you.