Katie Letcher Lyle

Books & Articles:

The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts

© Lyons Press, 2004

The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts

Edible wild plants, mushrooms, fruits, and nuts grow along roadsides, in country fields, and in urban parks. All manner of leafy greens, mushrooms, and herbs that command hefty prices at the market are bountiful outdoors and absolutely free for the taking. But to enjoy them you must know when to harvest, and how to recognize, prepare, and eat them. THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO EDIBLE WILD PLANTS, MUSHROOMS, FRUITS, AND NUTS provides everything you need to know about these wild treasures. Included is information on the most commonly found of these wild comestibles, going beyond a field guide's description to provide folklore and mouth-watering recipes for each entry, such as wild asparagus pizza, fiddlehead soup, blackberry mousse, and elderberry pie.

This fully illustrated guide is the perfect companion for hikers, campers, and anyone who enjoys eating the good food of the earth. With THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO EDIBLE WILD PLANTS, MUSHROOMS, FRUITS, AND NUTS in hand, you'll never walk through a field again without casting your eyes about with dinner in mind.

Excerpt:

Wild Strawberry Jam

(This works well with commercial strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, too. It makes a wonderful, fresh-tasting, runny jam.)

Take a quantity of wild strawberries, and add three-quarters as much sugar. Boil them gently together for 17 minutes without stirring, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them, stir briefly, and seal them at once in sterilized jelly jars.

Fresh Berries for Winter

This method saves fresh fruit for out-of-season treats. The disadvantage is in the amount of sugar needed. Mix fresh, cleaned, slightly crushed berries with twice as much sugar (that is, 2 cups sugar to every 1 cup berries), stirring hourly until the sugar is dissolved. (If you don't, it may recrystallize in the jar.) Then store in sterilized jars tightly closed. The sugar preserves the fruit in its uncooked state. I've used it with mixed success, best with strawberries, but with freezers I'd choose another method of saving fresh fruit; that is, by light sugaring and freezing.

Strawberry Soufflé

This is adapted from a famous Swiss hotel's recipe. It serves four, and can be doubled. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

I use four individual casseroles, in a large (10" x 13" or larger) 2"-deep baking dish half full of boiling water. Assemble wild strawberries, 1 lemon, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 4 large eggs, an 8-oz. block cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 4 Tbsp. of either rum, brandy, kirsch, or a mix, and 2 tsp. vanilla. First, clean and mash the 2 cups berries. Grate 1 Tbsp. lemon peel and set aside, then squeeze and strain the juice from the lemon. Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and the lemon juice to the berries, stir well, and set aside. Separate the 4 large eggs; soften the 8-oz. block of cream cheese; and measure the 1/2 cup granulated sugar into one cup and the liquor into another.

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Butter four individual baking dishes or one large baking casserole, and dust with some of the granulated sugar. Save the rest. Beat egg yolks and cream cheese with the remaining 4 Tbsp. powdered sugar and the 2 tsp. vanilla for 5 minutes, then beat in the liquor and the lemon peel.

Beat egg whites with the granulated sugar until they hold soft peaks. Fold a blob of the whites into the yolk mixture, then pour the lightened yolks into the whites and fold. Divide the mixture among the casseroles, and set casseroles into the baking pan half full of boiling water. Bake about 20 minutes for the small soufflés, 40 minutes if using one large casserole.

When the hot soufflés are ready, pour the crushed berries over them and serve at once.

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