Spring Edibles

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Fresh chives and thyme in the garden

Michigan spring weather is a constant flux of beautiful sunny days mixed in with gray, rainy days along with the ultimate possibility of wet snow. Every day is a surprise. In spite of all the weather challenges, my garden consistently provides me with some hope for summer. This time of year, my perennial herbs appear—bright, strong and green.

The first to poke through the ground are the chives. Ready to use just as soon as they sprout, chives will grow tall and flower staying hardy until the winter. Once I clean up my garden, the fresh thyme perks up and is also ready to be harvested. These common herbs are familiar spring edibles and are widely consumed. Looking around my yard, I also notice a variety of wild spring edibles.

The dandelion is the most common wild edible much to the angst of my family and neighbors. They are the unwelcome invaders of the perfect suburban lawn and garden. Introduced as salad greens by European settlers, dandelions are a great (and inexpensive) source of antioxidants and nutrition. The leaves, flowers and roots are all edible raw or cooked. The leaves and flowers can be added to soup, sautéed, fried into fritters or made into tea. The roots are commonly dried and roasted for a coffee or tea substitute. Be sure to only consume dandelions that are not treated or sprayed.

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Dandelions in my front yard

I also have found growing wild in my garden purslane. Found close to the ground in shady areas, purslane is often just picked and discarded. It had thick red stems and succulent green leaves shaped as tiny spoons. Purslane can be eaten raw or cooked adding a peppery flavor and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Lastly, the other most pesky but noticeable wild edible, are nettles. I inevitably find these by accident and end up quite itchy. Though, nettles can be easily disarmed then consumed like any other edible green. Most importantly, pick the nettles while wearing gloves, then just pour boiling water over them for 30 seconds. You can consume without any problems once disarmed.

I have learned to embrace our Michigan “spring” weather and revel in the daily changes. I’m pleased to have a few homegrown items to eat before the traditional bounty of Michigan edibles become available. As with all wild edibles, be sure you can positively identify what you are picking and eating. Michigan State University Extension is a great resource for gardening and agriculture. Check out their spring wild edible workshop.

Dandelion Flower Tea
8 to 12 dandelion flower heads, gently rinsed
10 to 12 ounces boiling water
Slice of lemon, lime, fresh ginger or sprig of fresh mint
1 teaspoon Whitfield’s Raw Honey

Place dandelion flower heads in a heat safe mug. Pour boiling water over flowers; steep 5 to 10 minutes then remove dandelions. Add lemon, lime, ginger or mint. Stir in honey. Drink hot or cold over ice.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

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Honcho

A new job relocated my family to the suburbs of Detroit. Even though this was a great opportunity, moving 700 miles away from friends and family required some convincing on my husband’s part. So, when we landed in Detroit for my first trip to Michigan, he took me right out to eat. Smart man.

We drove right from the airport to a place called the Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen. Not kidding—right off the plane to lunch in Clarkston. I enjoyed eating and drinking there from the very first visit.  They have a creative menu of well-made food and a slew of beers on tap. And now, almost 15 years later, I have had the pleasure of seeing the opening of four additional Union Joints.

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Rice Bowl with Battered Fish

The latest delicious eatery is called Honcho. And, lucky for me, it is also right here in the Village of Clarkston. Honcho is a mashup of coffee house and Latin Street food. They are open in the wee morning hours for house roasted coffee and freshly baked pastries. Then a full spread begins at 11 a.m. with yet another clever menu highlighting the flavors of many cultures. I enjoyed their take on a rice bowl that had Asian inspirations with jasmine rice, nori and kimchi which I topped with Honcho’s battered smoky tilapia and a fried egg. My lunch mate had an arepa—a cornmeal patty—stuffed with shaved caramelized Brussel sprouts.

We have since made Clarkston our home enjoying the balance of country living and urban access. I believe Honcho’s eclectic menu will fit right in to this Detroit suburb.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

Home Grown Raspberries

 

july2016 147I now know why my neighbor kindly offered some of their raspberry plants for my garden. Raspberry plants have a habit of growing abundantly causing the need to share. Fast forward four years later and I now have a bounty of plants to manage all my own. Still not quite enough berries to preserve raspberry jam—though plenty to eat, share and bake.

 

Even my dogs have gotten into the joy of picking and eating fresh raspberries. They walk right out into the backyard with me patiently waiting for the few overripe, squishy raspberries to be thrown their way.

The raspberries that remain after snacking go right into my bakery items. Raspberry Dutch Baby—courtesy of Cooking Light—is a quick and easy breakfast favorite that can be made with any seasonal fruit. Delicious dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with maple syrup, a Dutch Baby will be your go to family favorite.  My raspberry chocolate chip muffins are also perfect for breakfast but freeze really well and can be eaten anytime. They are particularly good just slightly warm right out of the oven.

I stowed away a small container of fresh raspberries in my freezer for a sweet summer reminder during our extended Michigan winter. When ready to use, toss frozen raspberries lightly in flour and fold right into your baked good. Or use straight from the freezer in a thick and frosty smoothie.

Michigan summer raspberries are available for picking for about 2 to 3 weeks and are a wonderful addition to my home garden.

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Raspberry Dutch Baby, Cooking Light Way to Bake, 2011 

Ingredients

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon grated lemon rind

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup 2% reduced-fat milk

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Instructions

Place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in oven; preheat oven to 450o.

While pan heats, combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Add flour and milk to egg mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Melt butter in preheated pan, swirling to coat pan. Add batter; sprinkle with raspberries. Bake for 12 minutes or until puffed and browned.

Dust pancake with powdered sugar and cut into 6 wedges. Serve immediately. Yield: 6 servings.

Cook’s Note: Use whatever milk or milk substitute that is in your refrigerator. I used 1% low-fat milk and the Dutch Baby was still delicious.

 

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Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

½ cup sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

½ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup fresh raspberries

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or ½ cup mini-chocolate chips

Additional sugar for topping

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350o. Coat 18 muffin cups with vegetable cooking spray; set aside.

Whisk together flour, pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Place eggs, sugar and brown sugar in another large bowl; whisk until well combined and light yellow. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla to egg mixture and whisk to incorporate. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Gently fold in raspberries and chocolate chips. Place batter evenly into 18 muffin cups and sprinkle each muffin with sugar.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden on top and inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in muffin tin then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 18 muffins.

—Pam Aughe, R.D.

 

Chive Blossoms

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While patiently waiting to plant vegetables in my outdoor garden, the returning perennial herbs having kept me busy. Fresh thyme and chives have returned bountifully and can be found in many of the foods I prepare. Recently, the tops of the mild oniony fresh chive have a beautiful blossom. I have found a great use for these purple beauties that highlight the onion flavor along with the lovely color—chive blossom vinegar.

 

Chive Blossom Vinegar

2 to 2 ½ cups chive blossoms

1 clean pint jar with screw top lid

1 ½ cups white distilled vinegar, white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar

Parchment paper or wax paper

Decorative bottle to store flavored vinegar

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Fresh chives and blossoms

 

Place chive blossoms in a bowl of water and stir gently to remove dirt. Remove blossoms with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain; shaking gently to remove excess water. Pack blossoms into a clean pint jar; set aside. Heat vinegar in a small saucepan until hot, but not boiling. Pour warm vinegar into pint jar filled with chive blossoms. Press blossoms down with a spoon to immerse in vinegar; cool slightly. Top jar with parchment paper and screw on metal top. Place in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks then strain vinegar into a decorative bottle. Store in a cool, dark place and use within 6 months.

 

 

 

 

Cooking Note: Use the chive blossom vinegar to make vinaigrette with additional chopped chives from your garden.                                                                                        —Pam Aughe, R.D.

 

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Chive Blossom Vinegar