fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Thursday, April 24, 2014

wood sorrel

When I was a little girl I would take my books and journals into the woods. There was this magical spot with wild grapes, thick vines, blackberries, and a mossy floor to lie upon. I didn't need much more that this setting and words on a page. In this spot, I could be anywhere, in any time. Sometimes I was an Indian (I had not learned to say "Native American" yet) living off the land and other times I was Laura Ingalls Wilder searching the prairie for beauty. I had a creek for water and it was filled with crawfish. I would pop the wild grapes and berries into my mouth as I read about things like drying meat for pemmican.

Sometimes I made fairy salad with bits of things I knew were edible. Violet flowers, mint leaves, dandelion, and what I called "fairy bells", but now know as wood sorrel. It's a delicate yet decadent mix while on a mossy carpet with a daisy crown upon your head.

The Fresh Cut at Kimball House

I no longer live near the magical spot but the taste of wood sorrel always reminds me of carefree days of unbridled imagination where I made bouquets of lilacs, daisies, and violets. So yesterday when Miles Macquarrie handed me a chartreuse-colored cocktail with pureed sorrel called The Fresh Cut, I became Laura Ingalls and squealed "sorrel tastes like springtime!"

Wood sorrel is of the genus Oxalis, meaning "sour." A first nibble of wood sorrel tastes pleasantly tart and lemony with a slight feeling of what I call "spinach tongue," that sticky, weird feeling caused by oxalic acid. Raw or cooked, wood sorrel is bright and fresh.

Wood sorrel grows from mid-spring to fall in shady areas of undergrowth. It consists of three heart-shaped leaves on a slim stem and is often confused with clover, which has oval-shaped leaves. The leaves can be green, red, or purple but always grow three to a stem. Flowers can be yellow, white, or pink. The creeping perennial is dainty with long, slender stems that only fully extend in the shade. Sorrel is so delicate that the leaves fold in when in direct sunlight or during storms and the leaves and flowers close up when it is dark.

All parts of wood sorrel are edible: leaves, stems, flowers, and seed pods (which I called "fairy bananas" as a child). There are no poisonous look-alikes but those with kidney problems or gout should avoid eating because of the high oxalic acid content. Wood sorrel is high in vitamin c, potassium, and a great source of iron. Many have sojourned into the woods for sorrel to cleanse their bodies of heavy metals. I just think it tastes delicious. It is great raw in salads, almost eliminating the need for dressing with its zing. The leaves are wonderful in smoothies or as a pot herb. To make a lemony tea: pour boiling water over leaves and flowers and let steep for a few minutes. Mmm spring.

"A year is made up of a certain series and number of sensations and thoughts which have their language in nature. Now I am ice, now I am sorrel."

                                                     - Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June, 1857

Monday, March 31, 2014


I picked up these greens from Woodland Gardens at the new Freedom Farmer's Market at the Carter Center.
Dandelions are one of the first spring greens to appear and also one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables. Their bright, somewhat bitter, and fresh leaves are a welcome mitigation from winter's starch-laden and preserved foods. Often used as a spring tonic, dandelion greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E, D, K, as well as copper, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium. They are higher in beta carotene than carrots and higher in calcium and iron than spinach. They are also a great source of protein and fiber. Beyond vitamins and minerals, dandelion greens have properties that support digestion, reduce swelling, and act as an antibacterial.
notebook sketch
All parts of dandelion are edible: the leaves, flowers, stems, and root. They emerge from January to May and are best at this time. "Best" is an understatement. I wouldn't want to eat bitter dandelion greens any time other than spring. The younger the plant, the less bitter and more tender. New fronds are almost sweet and are more nutritious. There are ways to lessen the sharpness of the leaves beyond simply using younger leaves in early spring. Process them with some sort of naturally occurring fat (nuts, seeds, oils...). They make a great pesto. Blend them in a smoothie with fruit. Grill them as you would romaine or sauté like spinach. The leaves also make a great green for sandwiches.

Dandelion leaves are smooth and green and grow in rosettes from the roots. The edges are indented in large "teeth." It is wonderful to purchase greens from farmers' markets but foraging has an advantage- the crowns. The crown is the knot-like bit sitting upon the taproot just where the leaves meet it. It is kind of artichoke-y and contains the flower buds. Always remember to gather dandelions only from ground clear of road run-off or chemicals.
 The roots of dandelion are often dried, roasted, and ground as a coffee substitute or even added to cookies and cakes. I find them best like any boiled vegetable. Clean, peel, and chop the root and  boil the slices roots for 5+ minutes. Add salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil.

Those bright, happy flowers we made headdresses of as children (well, I did) are more than just spots of sunshine in the grass; they are quite tasty. Dandelions have composite flowers. Hundreds of tiny ray flowers make up the "flower" we see. From this, we make dandelion wine, natural dyes, vinegar, battered and fried flowers, or add the bright petals to spring salads. Or for a fun spring cocktail or soda, try making dandelion flower syrup:
Dandelion Flower Syrup
2 cups petals (tightly packed)
2 cups sugar (can use honey as well)
2 cups water
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
  • wash flowers and remove petals
  • cover with water
  • bring to a boil for 1 minute
  • remove from heat
  • let steep overnight or for several hours
  • strain
  • add sugar and lemon
  • boil then reduce to simmer for 1 1/2 hr
  • decant in bottle or mason jar
  • use in place of simple syrup

 This prolific "weed" is the scourge of suburban lawns but no matter how many chemicals are doused upon this source of nutrition, medicine, and burst of cheer, it remains. The dandelion's fortitude reflects upon its prowess.
Perhaps the best part of the dandelion is when the flower goes to seed and hundreds of tiny parachutes send them far and wide with our wishes. Make a wish, you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Valentines Lego necklaces for Press On

Here is a fun, lovely, and charitable way to celebrate your love for Valentines Day. These our necklaces are sterling silver and the heart is your clasp - you literally 'PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER FOR CHANGE' each time you wear your necklace, as 40% of the proceeds goes towards Press On To Cure Childhood Cancer. The sterling chain totals 16" in length with the bricks, and the sterling silver charm is double-sided with the charity of choice details. The charm next to the heart denotes the cause and you'll find that wearing it is an invitation to an elevator pitch. People will ask you about the necklace and you then have the opportunity to tell them about a cause CLOSE TO YOUR HEART.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Second Helping from The Giving Kitchen

Start looking today for Sweetwater Brewery's limited release of Second Helping, a collaboration with Staplehouse's Ryan and Jen Hidinger. This was The Giving Kitchen's entry and first-place winner  in Sweetwater's "Brew Your Cask Off" on November 9, 2013.
This beer was created to pair well with food and it succeeds. I tried it with roasted sunchokes at Kimball House on the dreariest of days. I am no beer expert, but it was fantastic. The beer and the food brought out the best in each other. Second Helping has a beautiful amber color and a biscuit-y, maltiness (using these words, I realize I hang out with beer geeks a lot). It's hoppy- I read there are 5 types of hops involved. It has this lovely, botanical, piney flavor from the juniper berries Ryan included. The next time I sip it, I will pair it with Ryan's beloved wings.
I love Second Helping because it is delicious, because Ryan and Jen created it with Sweetwater, and because all profits from the beer’s sale will be donated by United Distributors and Sweetwater Brewery to The Giving Kitchen. What is the Giving Kitchen? It is the most beautiful thing to come from hope and love. TGK is dedicated to lending a hand to people from the hospitality industry who have hit a time of crisis.
So raise a glass in happy memory of a life cut short but with an indelible impression. Cheers, Ryan.
*A list of metro-Atlanta places to find Second Helping can be found at the end of Bob Townsend's beautiful article in AJC Food and More here.