Spring Foraging Favorite: Ramp Pesto!

The season for one of my favorite wild edibles will soon be coming to an end.  Ramps, or wild leeks, are a favorite spring green that has a very unique onion-garlic-like flavor I’ve come to crave in the spring.

Although I would like to say that I’ve harvested several times already this year, I missed out on much of ramp season, but just HAD to get out there to make some ramp pesto.

I spotted a huge patch awhile back and finally returned there to harvest some ramps.

In the spirit of the latest consensus about sustainable harvesting, I only took the ramp leaves which are very flavorful indeed. I left the bulbs alone so that they can develop into new plants next year. Overharvesting can very quickly decimate a ramp patch (even one as big as this!), and when you can get away with using just the leaves, why not do that and ensure that this species continues to grace the plates of future generations? Continue reading

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Homegrown Mushroom Tacos

When I saw a Mushroom Mini Farm for sale nearby, I knew that it was something I needed to try. It’s made by Back to the Roots, a company that seems to be trying out forward-thinking indoor food production systems.  They also have a pretty neat mini fish farm that might end up as a holiday present for a few family members.

Growing these mushrooms was incredibly easy – I cut a hole and soaked the bag holding the spores for 8 hours, and then I gave them just a little water each day.  Within a day or so, I noticed the little bulbous beginnings of the mushrooms and then they grew immensely each day thereafter. Finally, they looked like the right size to eat and so I decided that it was oyster mushroom taco day! Continue reading

Herbal Ice Cubes

Hurry! Before the killing frosts come (if it’s not already too late)!  Try these herbal ice cubes as a way to preserve the last of your culinary herbs.   Continue reading

Healing Plantain Salve

Awhile back, I posted about the medicinal benefits of the common “weed” plantain (Plantago spp.) and described the process of infusing it in olive oil.  (Read about it here!)  Continue reading

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad

It’s still tomato time!

Hopefully everyone has been feasting on some version of pico de gallo recently, but don’t forget to make a tomato basil mozzarella salad before the season is over. Continue reading

A Late Lammas Reflection

The peak of summer has crested and now it is time to ride out the remainder of these long days, grateful for the warmth and light as we head closer to Autumn.

Continue reading

Learning to Love Weeds – Plantain

You’ve probably seen it growing in lawns, along the sidewalk, and in vacant lots, but have you ever realized how beneficial plantain can be?  (And no, we’re not talking about the banana-like fruit.)

Continue reading

Ramp + Oregano Pesto. Mmm.

Wow. My brain’s pleasure neurons are still lighting up after discovering this one. Ramp + Oregano pesto, you have won over my heart and my mouth.

Ramp + Oregano Pesto Goodness

This week at the Tremont farmers’ market, one of my favorite farmers (from Por-Bar Farms) had a deal on ramps and oregano with the suggestion of making a pesto.  I hesitated for a moment as I’ve been collecting so many of my own ramps, but I haven’t gathered any for a few days so I went ahead and got the deal. I am happy that I did as this makes a fantastic pesto!!

I looked around at quite a few recipes today, but didn’t find anything quite perfect enough for me, so I took what I learned and developed my own.

To make something similar, you will need:

  • 15 ramps
  • a bunch of oregano (mine was about 1 packed cup)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (and I added about a Tbs extra when blending)
  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts (I thought I had some local nuts in the cupboard, but I ended up using pine nuts)
  • 1/4 cup hard cheese (something like parmesan)

First, you’ll need to chop the ramps.

Chopped ramps

Then you’ll need to pull off the oregano leaves and tightly fill a cup.

Bunch of oregano.

1 Packed cup of Oregano.

Measure out a heaping 1/4 cup of nuts and toast them.  Pine nuts need to be toasted for about 5 minutes.

Heaping 1/4 cup of pine nuts.

Toasting pine nuts.

Add these ingredients plus the olive oil and cheese in a blender or food processor, and mix it all together!  But don’t go for too long because it’s best to still have some texture in the pesto.

Pesto!

And then you can use this anywhere you desire an intensely awesome pesto! I tossed some of mine in a bit of tri-color pasta. Mmm. Depending on how much pesto you use at a time, I’d say this makes about 5 or 6 servings.  It’s about 1 cup of finished pesto product (I have a lot leftover and even was able to freeze some).

Pesto Pasta

My only warning is that it is a bit strong.  You can’t really give me too much onion/garlic, but if you’re sensitive to that taste, you may want to skip this recipe, or leave out some of the white bulbs of the ramps and focus on the green parts.

Also, I have to share that my salads are becoming increasingly exciting as the Spring picks up!  This 100% local side salad included lettuce, radish, mushroom, carrot, and cheese (not yet grated for this picture) all gathered from the farmers’ market.  Perfection!

Spring salad.

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Remember to Take Your Pine Needles for Good Health!

Did you know that pine needles can provide you with more vitamin C than orange juice? And that they can help to heal your body from respiratory ailments, colds, and the flu?

Some say that the Native Americans taught the early settlers about drinking pine needle tea to help prevent death from scurvy!

Pine needle tea is easy to make, but what are some other things that can be done with pine needles?

They can be infused into a variety of menstrums (liquids used to extract the nutritional or medicinal properties of plants) other than water.  For example, tonight I got a nice dose of vitamin C by using vinegar infused with pine needles in my salad dressing.  White pine needle vinegar (the type I made) tastes similar to balsamic vinegar.

First, you’ll need to gather some needles. I collected a bunch from a white pine.

White pine needles

Pick through them to ensure the best ones are being added to glass jars. I also tore these up as I was adding them.

Fill the jar!

And then cover with the menstrum. In this case, it’s apple cider vinegar.  I get large jugs of the raw kind so I boiled some first to ‘pasteurize’ it before making this vinegar (and I was able to boil enough extra for future use). Make sure to completely cover the needles — poke them down so that they’re an inch below the liquid line.

Let the finished product sit for 4-6 weeks before using.  Also, use a plastic lid or put a piece of wax paper on top because vinegar will eat away at the lid.

White Pine Vinegar ready to be strained!

What’s another use for the pine needles?  Infuse them in olive oil!  The oil can then be used as a relaxing massage oil or as a chest rub to help with respiratory issues.

Cover a jar full of pine needles with the oil and let sit for 4-6 weeks.

When you’re ready to use the oil, strain the needles out.

And you’re left with pine needle infused olive oil!

The oil can also be turned into a salve that can help to remove splinters (although it seems that the actual sap of a pine tree might be best at this!), or it can be put on small wounds to help them heal.  I’ve also been having a fun time using it as a lip balm!

To make a salve, create an easy double boiler by putting a measuring cup into a pot of boiling water.

Add 2 Tablespoons of beeswax (I just guessed at the amount when I made this…) to the measuring cup and let melt.

After it has melted, add 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of the oil infused with pine.  Stir with a chopstick until you reach an even consistency.  Test to see if you’re done by putting a drop on your counter. It will allow you to quickly see if the salve is firm enough or too runny.  Too runny? Add more beeswax. Too firm? Add more oil.

When the mixture is consistent, pour it into a reused container and let sit to become a salve!  Use and enjoy knowing exactly what went into your product!

 

 

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