Gifts from Our Forests

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

a meat dish like the one below:

Greens-and-Sorrel Steaks

Mix 3 to 4 cups cooked greens (N sorrel), 1 clove minced garlic, 2 teaspoons parsley and H teaspoon ground coriander and spread in a casserole dish. Brown 1 cup of ground meat and 1 chopped onion in olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the meat mixture over your greens. Next, scramble 6 eggs with O cup milk and salt and pepper. Pour over casserole and bake.

In June, grape vines (various species in the genus Vitis) reach the best point of development for several uses. The leaves are still tender, yet they're large enough for recipes in which you use them as a wrap. You can gather tendrils, the curly appendages that enable the vines to attach to and climb other plants, in May to make a great addition to salads and pickling solutions.

If you enjoy Greek dishes, you may want to try making your own stuffed grape leaves as a cool summer appetizer. Many recipes exist, both in Greek cookbooks and wild food guides. You could make your own mixture of cooked rice, cooked ground beef or lamb, tomato sauce and spices, or use the following recipe, which includes a traditional lemon sauce:

Stuffed Grape Leaves

For 50 to 60 stuffed grape leaves, chop a large onion and 3 garlic cloves and brown them lightly. Meanwhile, mix together 1 lb. lean ground beef, the juice of 1 lemon, H cup rice, 2 tbsp. fresh spearmint leaves, 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, 1 egg and salt and pepper to taste. Add the onion and garlic to this mixture, as well as some water, if you need it.

Soften about 60 full-sized grape leaves in warm water and then drain. (You'll want to collect 10 to 20 additional leaves to substitute for any that may tear during preparation. Sometimes you may need to use two leaves to make your wrap large enough to cover the filling.) With the upper side of the leaf on the outside, place 1 tsp. of the filling in the center. Fold the sides in toward the middle and roll the leaf, beginning at the narrow tip, like a cigar.

Lay the filled leaves in a large pan in even close rows, seam side down. Continue to add layers until all of the leaves are stacked. Place a plate on the top layer to keep the leaves from unraveling. Cover with water and add a bouillon cube for extra flavor, if desired. Cover the pot and cook slowly for about 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

To make the sauce, beat 3 egg whites until stiff and fold in 3 egg yolks and the juice of 1 lemon. Pour the sauce over the grape leaves, shake, and serve immediately without stirring, covering or reheating.

As you've now discovered, foraging for summer wild edibles can provide not only a great feast but a great pastime as well.

As days shorten and temperatures drop in fall, roots thicken and the fruits of many plants reach their peak of color and maturity, providing new edible food resources.

In late August begin looking for American hazelnuts (Corylus americana). These small tasty nuts, found along sunny forest edges or in open woods, add a flavor all their own to any recipe. You have to know a trick or two to collect these small flavorful nuts before the squirrels or mice beat you to them.

They grow inside a fleshy husk that's easily recognized. You can harvest these right off the bush if your timing is right. Watch for this green husk to start turning brown on the fringe. Inside the husk you'll find the oval shaped nut. In a good year you'll find them in clusters, generally three to five. We have harvested clusters holding eight or nine nuts in an excellent year.

The outer shell, like any nut, hardens as it dries. Just remove the husk and allow the nuts to air dry for about two months. However, you can speed up this process by drying them in your oven on low heat.

Conservation Agent Marsha Jones shared a favorite recipe with us:

Hazelnut Salad

chuck or sirloin steak

1 head romaine lettuce

2 cloves garlic

red onions

2 tbsp soy sauce

jar of pimento

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup shelled hazelnuts, ready to eat

Cut chuck or sirloin steak into bite size pieces. Marinate the meat for about an hour in the garlic, oil and soy sauce. Brown the meat in the same sauce. Add in hazelnuts and heat.

Toss lettuce, red onions and pimento together. Add your browned steak and hazelnuts and serve with honey mustard dressing.

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