Pickled Sushi Ginger (Gari) Recipe with Shiso

Shiori gingerIf you make your own sushi and sashimi, then you owe it to yourself to make your own pickled ginger, or gari, to go with it.

I used purple shiso (Perilla frutescens) leaves in this version to give the ginger a pink color and interesting herbal background flavor, but homemade pickled ginger is also good without the shiso.

If you do decide to use shiso, you’ve basically got two choices: grow it or forage it. I’ve only rarely seen it for sale even though it is a staple in Japanese cuisine.

shiso

If you choose to grow beefsteak plant (another name for shiso), it is a fast-growing annual worth starting from seed even as late as midsummer. I got my seeds here.

Shiso grows wild not far from human habitation as a garden escape. I’ve found it growing wild in Central Park in New York City, and outside of a farm in California’s Marin County.

There are two forms, green-leaved and purpled-leaved. Keep in mind, though, that the purple can revert to the green form if it isn’t getting direct sunlight.

Look for broad teeth on the leaf margins, a wide base and pointed leaf tip, opposite leaf arrangement (the leaves join the stems in neatly lined up pairs), and square stems (shiso is in the square-stemmed mint plant family, Lamiaceae).

Shiso looks like the cultivated plant coleus to many people, and they’re not far off: wild coleus is another name for shiso.

More info on identifying wild shiso in Northeast Foraging.

Homemade pickled ginger in the foreground, with a little of the shiso used in the pickle on top

Homemade pickled ginger in the foreground, with a little of the shiso used in the pickle on top

Pickled Ginger with Shiso (Gari)

Makes 3/4 cup, about 6 servings

Pickled ginger (called gari in Japan) is served as a palate cleanser alongside sushi and sashimi.

Commercial brands of gari, come in two colors: the natural light tan of raw ginger root, and a shocking pink color that nowadays comes from food coloring. What that pink is supposed to come from is very young ginger, which does turn ballerina pink when pickled.

This recipe gives you that color naturally even when you’re working with older ginger root, and subtly flavors the pickle as well.

Ingredients:

4 ounces fresh ginger root, peeled

1 teaspoon non-iodized salt such as kosher or sea salt

4 – 5 large purple shiso leaves, torn into a few pieces each

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

Use a vegetable peeler to scrape off thin slices of the ginger. Place these in a bowl and rub them with the salt until the salt starts to dissolve and lose its gritty feel. Let sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.

Transfer the ginger to a sieve and rinse it under cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then put the ginger into a clean glass jar. Tuck the shiso leaves in among the ginger (a chopstick helps with this maneuver).

Put the vinegar, sugar, and water  into a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the brine over the shiso and ginger. Use the back of a spoon to press out any air bubbles and make sure that the brine completely covers the solid ingredients. Cover the jar and refrigerate. At first the ginger will resist the color seeping into the brine from the shiso leaves. Wait at least 1 week for the flavor and color to develop before tasting.

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Foraging Plantain Leaves for Food and Medicine (no, not THAT plant…)

LMeredith_plantain
No relation to the tropical, banana-like plant with the same name, plantain is a common weed with edible leaves and seeds. It is also one of the best herbal remedies for scrapes, bug bites, and bee stings. And foraging for this edible wild plant is usually as easy as looking in your backyard.

Where to find plantain

If you have a sunny driveway, you probably have some plantain growing along it. Plantago (plantain’s scientific name) loves sunny places with disturbed soils and is common in lawns, parks, and gardens.

Identifying plantain

All of the plantains have in common that their leaves grow in a low rosette, and that the leaves have prominent, stretchy, parallel veins. If you pull off one of the leaves from the plant you’ll often see those veins sticking out of the stalk like threads (think celery). The leaves have smooth edges or a few soft teeth.

Plantago major (common plantain) has wide, oval leaves. P. rugelii (Rugel’s plantain) leaves are the same shape as common plantain’s, but with red or purplish coloration on the leaf stalks. P. lanceolata (narrow-leaved or English plantain) has narrow leaves that can grow anywhere from a few inches to a foot long, but are almost never more than an inch wide.

All three species have flowers and seed heads that emerge from the center of the leaf rosette on leafless stalks. Plantago lanceolata has 1- to 2-inch seed heads with tiny white flowers. The seed heads of both P. major and P. rugelii. cover most of their stalks and start out with green, scale-like seeds that eventually turn black or brown.

Harvesting plantain

Plantain is an invasive plant and you do not have to worry about over-harvesting it. Gather the leaves spring through fall.

Harvest the seeds after they’ve turned brown or black. I don’t bother trying to winnow the chaff from the tiny seeds – just think of it as extra fiber.

What to do with plantain

Crisp plantain (Plantago) leaf chips

Crisp plantain (Plantago) leaf chips

Use the smaller leaves raw in salads. Use the larger leaves to make chips. You can substitute plantain leaves for kale in any kale chip recipe: those stringy veins actually become an asset, adding extra crunch to the chips once they’re dried.

Add the seeds to crackers, breads, muffins, etc.

Plantain leaves are anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. They are an herbal remedy that works wonders on mosquito bites, bee stings, and minor cuts and scrapes.

The simplest way to use them is to crush up a leaf and rub it on the bite or scrape. You can also turn the leaves into an herbal ointment. But by far the most effective way to use plantain (if you aren’t grossed out by it) is to make a spit poultice. Chew one of the leaves for a moment and then apply the wad of chewed up leaf.

Plantago Chips Recipe

I didn’t call these “plantain chips” because that would be too reminiscent of the banana-like fried plantain that has nothing to do with this recipe. Here the otherwise stringy veins of Plantago species are transformed into extra crunch in a tasty snack.

These chips are all about texture, I have to admit: the leaves themselves are somewhat bland. But they are a perfectly crisp vehicle for whatever seasoning you put on them. 

Amounts here are flexible – you can change the number of leaves, amount of salt, etc.

24 large leaves of any Plantago (plantain) species

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon seasoning (try garlic powder, nutritional yeast, half the quantity of cayenne, za’atar, or any of your favorite spice blends)

Preheat the oven to 250F.

Wash the plantain leaves and dry them well in a salad spinner or by rolling them up in a clean dishtowel.

In a large bowl, toss the leaves with the oil until they are each well coated. Spread the leaves in a single later on baking sheets. Depending on the size of the leaves you gathered, you may need more than one baking sheet.

Sprinkle the leaves with the salt and seasoning. Bake until crisp but not burnt, which may take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the leaves. Remember that they will continue to crisp up a bit as they cool, just like cookies do after you take them out of the oven. If you aren’t sure if they’re done, err on the side of underdone. Take them out, let them cool for just a minute, and if they’re not crunchy enough put them back in the oven.

Once they are completely cooled, you can store your Plantago chips in an airtight container for several weeks. If the container is not airtight the chips may absorb some humidity from the air and lose their crispness. Not a problem: simply put them back into a 250F oven for 3 – 5 minutes.

Note: I wrote an earlier version of this post for Mother Earth News

Upcoming Events and Foraging Tours

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Foraging Tour in Jerusalem with Leda Meredith

On Friday, July 10th I’ll be leading a wild edible and medicinal plants foraging tour in the Ramot Forest of Jerusalem. Learn how to identify, sustainably harvest, and prepare this season’s abundance including capers, sumac, St. John’s wort, wild thyme, mullein, and many more.

The meet up point is easily accessible by public transportation, or there is parking nearby. Hope to see you there! Here’s the info on foraging in Jerusalem.

Wild Edible
How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Northeast Foraging Book Giveaway

Leda Meredith has produced the best foraging guide for the Northeast–a book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.”

That’s Sam Thayer’s comment on my book Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. And here’s a chance to win a free copy.

Get out there and forage!

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

How to Forage Juneberries…Plus a Juneberry Pie Recipe

Juneberries jpgJuneberries are one of the first wild fruits to ripen each year in the Northeast, and yet I was still too early. The exceptionally hard winter had delayed this forager’s treat, and as my departure date approached, I was sure I’d have to miss out on them this year.

Fortunately, my friend Ellen Zachos had some of last year’s in her freezer.

If you went on one of my NYC foraging tours last month, then you know where the juneberries are. The fruits were present but far from ripe then.

Go. Now. They will be ready for you.

Juneberries, also called serviceberries, are the fruits of shrubs in the Amelanchier genus. They grow wild in sunny woodland edges across North America, and are also often planted in city parks for their showy early spring flowers and amber autumn leaves.

Recognizing Juneberries

Ripe juneberries look like blueberries growing on a tree – they even have the 5-pointed crown on one end that blueberries have. As the berries ripen they turn from green to red and eventually dark purple.

me & juneberries

A couple of months before the berries appear, the flowers put on quite a show. They have 5 strap-like white petals and numerous stamens at their centers. Amelanchier flowers bloom before any of the leaves emerge, but are often still on the branches even once the alternate, oval leaves unfurl. Those leaves have fine teeth along their edges, thin leafstalks, and turn a beautiful golden-amber color in the fall.

Juneberries have gray bark that is usually smooth but sometimes develops shallow grooves as the plants mature.

Harvesting Juneberries

Picking juneberry fruit in no way harms the parent tree. The berries don’t all ripen at the same time, so expect the harvest to last for two or three weeks. Juneberries ripen sometime between late spring and early summer.

Eating Juneberries

Anytime from when they first turn red all the way through their fully ripe, deep purple stage juneberries are delicious raw. They freeze well, and are terrific in pies, jam, and pancakes. Their juicy pulp is mild and sweet, but it’s the tiny seeds that complete juneberry’s flavor: they have a light almond taste.

IMG_1311

Juneberry Pie

You can use fresh or frozen juneberries in this recipe. If you use frozen ones, measure them while they are still frozen but then thaw them before proceeding with the recipe.

1 double crust pie dough recipe

4 1/2 cups fresh or frozen juneberries

3/4 cup sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground spicebush berries OR 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice plus 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Roll out one half of the pie dough and lay it in an 8-inch pie pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine the juneberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, spices and salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 425F. Spoon the filling into the crust-lined pie pan. Dot the filling with the butter.

4. Cover with the second crust or create a crisscross lattice. Fold the overhang of the bottom crust over the edges of the top crust. Trim off any excess and crimp with your fingers or press with the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the crusts.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Take the pie out of the oven and loosely wrap the outer edge of the crust in aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Return the pie to the oven and bake it for another 30 minutes.

6. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

1. Roll out one half of the pie dough and lay it in an 8-inch pie pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine the juneberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, spices and salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 425F. Spoon the filling into the crust-lined pie pan. Dot the filling with the butter.

4. Cover with the second crust or create a crisscross lattice. Fold the overhang of the bottom crust over the edges of the top crust. Trim off any excess and crimp with your fingers or press with the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the crusts.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Take the pie out of the oven and loosely wrap the outer edge of the crust in aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Return the pie to the oven and bake it for another 30 minutes.

6. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

I first published parts of this post on Mother Earth News.

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Pineappleweed Cordial Recipe – Wild Plant Mixology

pineappleweed cordial med
Pineappleweed cordial is one of my hands-down favorite beverages. To quote my dad, “This is one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a long time.”

pineappleweed medMade with the fresh flowers and leaves of Matricaria matricarioides (a.k.a. M. discoidea), the flavor of pineappleweed cordial is both herby and fruity. It’s like a cross between chamomile and – you guessed it – pineapple.

It’s no coincidence that pineappleweed has things in common with the various plant species known as chamomile. They are all close cousins botanically.

All are low-growing plants that prefer full sun. They have feathery foliage and flowerheads that include a domed, yellow-green center made up of many tiny individual flowers. Unlike the chamomiles, pineappleweed does not have white petal-like ray flowers surrounding the central domes.

Look for pineappleweed in lawns and other open fields, driveways, and roadsides. It is flowering and ready to harvest from mid-spring through early fall. Snipping or pinching off the flowering tops of the plants does not kill the plants, but actually encourages more prolific growth.

Now about that cordial…

making cordial med

Pineapple Weed Cordial Recipe

Makes 1 1/2 cups (about 6 servings); recipe can be multiplied

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups vodka

3/4 cup fresh pineappleweed flowers and leaves, divided

3 tablespoons light honey such as clover blossom (or anything not too strongly flavored; you could also use agave nectar)

1. Put 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the fresh pineappleweed into a clean glass jar. Pour the vodka over the pineappleweed and cover the jar.

2. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of the pineappleweed into a small glass jar. Pour the honey over the pineapleweed and cover the jar.

3. Place both jars in a warm, sunny spot for 6-8 hours. A sunny window will do if you don’t have outdoor space.

4. Strain the honey through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar or (preferably) something with a pour spout. The warmth of the sun will have liquified the honey, making it easier to strain. But don’t worry if some honey is still gumming up the sieve: the next step will take care of that.

5. Strain the infused vodka through the same sieve you strained the honey in. The vodka will dissolve any remaining honey on its way through.

6. Transfer to a bottle and cork or seal tightly. Serve chilled.

pineappleweed cordial med

Upcoming Workshops and Foraging Tours

Natural Born Heroes (Foraging video with Born to Run author Christopher McDougall)

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Foraging for Japanese Knotweed

Heading back from the North Carolina Wild Foods Weekend. Had a fantastic time hanging out with fellow expert foragers including Sam Thayer and Mike Krebill.

The theme ingredient this year was Japanese knotweed. Here’s a short video I made about harvesting and using this delicious (and highly invasive) wild edible.

NC friends, hope to see you again next year!

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Sorrel Soup Recipe

Whether you use wild or cultivated sorrel, the plant’s pleasantly sour taste transforms simple soup and sauce recipes like this one from simple to extraordinary. You can use wild  sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), garden sorrel, or wood sorrel (Oxalis species). In this recipe and photo I used a wood sorrel (Oxalis pes-caprae).

sorrel soup medThis recipe could not be more basic. The simple equation of green leafy veg + stock/water + Allium (in this case garlic) + oil + starch (in this case potatoes, but could be rice/barley/parsnips, etc)  makes fantastic soups out of many leafy vegetabes, wild and tame.

Sorrel Soup

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped wild or cultivated garlic

1 1/2 cups lightly packed wood sorrel, sheep sorrel, or garden sorrel leaves

1 pint water

1 pint chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried or 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pot over low heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

2. Add the sorrel and cook, stirring, until it wilts and turns from bright green to a dull khaki color  (this unfortunate color transformation is normal for Rumex and Oxalis species).

3. Add the potatoes, water, stock, salt, thyme, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender enough to fall apart when you pierce them with a fork, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

5. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or in two batches in a stand blender. Taste and add more salt if you think it needs it. Serve hot or chilled. Croutons for crunch is a good idea.

Variation: use fish stock instead of the stock and water. After blending the soup, return it to the stove over low heat and add some flaky white fish pieces or some shellfish and simmer for 5 minutes.
Upcoming Workshops and Foraging Tours

Natural Born Heroes (Foraging video with Born to Run author Christopher McDougall)

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Clover Blossom Spoonbread Recipe

spoonbread medSpoonbread is a cross between cornbread and a souffle. It is creamy enough to warrant eating it with a spoon, hence the name. In this version, clover blossoms add a dash of color, texture, and a subtle but interesting layer of flavor.

You can use red clover (Trifolium protense)white clover (T. repens), or any other edible Trifolium species in this recipe. In this batch, I used shield clover (T. clypeatum).

clover med

Note that there are plants in other genera that are sometimes called “clover.” For this recipe, stick to Trifolium species. There’s info on how to identify wild clover, plus a recipe for red clover soda bread here.

Clover Blossom Spoonbread Recipe

Serves 4

2 cups milk, divided

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons honey (ideally clover blossom honey)

1/2 cup corn meal or polenta

1/4 cup fresh or dried clover blossoms, measured after stripping them from the tough bases and separating them into individual florets

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg, divided

Preheat the oven to 350F.

1. Heat 1 1/2 cups of the milk plus the butter and honey in a medium size pot, stirring occasionally until the butter and honey are completely melted.

2. Meanwhile, combine the corn meal, red clover, and salt in a bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and stir to combine.

3. Whisk the corn and clover mixture into the hot milk mixture a little at a time. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Lightly beat the egg yolk. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white with an electric beater until it forms stiff peaks.

5. Add a spoonful of the hot corn mixture to the egg yolk and stir it in. Add another spoonful and do the same, then add the tempered egg yolk to the pot of hot corn – clover mixture.

6. Add the baking powder to the corn – clover mixture and stir well.  Gently fold in half of the beaten egg white, then the remaining half. It’s fine if the egg white isn’t completely mixed in; in fact you want to see pockets of fluffy egg white in the mix.

7. Spoon the mixture into lightly greased ramekins, filling them no more than 3/4 full. Bake in a 350F oven until puffed up and starting to turn lightly golden on top. Serve immediately.

Upcoming Workshops and Foraging Tours

Natural Born Heroes (Foraging video with Born to Run author Christopher McDougall)

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer

 

Foraging with Christopher McDougall for Natural Born Heroes

Twice now I’ve had the chance to go foraging with Born to Run‘s bestselling author Christopher McDougall. He was a novice as far as edible wild plants when we met, but he and his family have been enjoying foraged fare ever since I cooked up some of their backyard last fall. Here’s a quick video about that day.

The reason Chris became interested in foraging was that it was part of the research for his soon to be released book Natural Born Heroes

heroes cvr

I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but from what Chris told me it follows the history of a man known as The Cretan Runner. This fellow lived off the land in World War II while running the equivalent of almost daily marathons for the resistance.

Natural Born Heroes is also about modern day folks who are keeping alive some of the skills and qualities that enabled The Cretan Runner and his companions to survive. Foraging was one of those skills, and that’s why Chris contacted me to learn more about it.

I’m honored to be part of this project, and can’t wait to read the book this spring!

Speaking of the spring, I’ll be back in the States and already have some foraging tours and classes lined up. Hope to see you at one of them!

How to Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and MorePreserving Everything

“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries

Northeast Foraging 

“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” – Sam Thayer