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Tasty dishes for all year long that clear out your pantry and use foraged plants.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRUCE INGRAM
Egg dishes are all-season, any-meal entrées that go well with any number of meats, vegetables, mushrooms, and wild edibles. My wife, Elaine, and I are locavores and delight in eating wild game that I’ve harvested, vegetables we’ve grown, and mushrooms and other wild foods that we’ve foraged. Before Elaine shares some of her favorite seasonal recipes, here are brief descriptions of some of our favorite natural foods she pairs with egg entrées.
Stir frying wild mushrooms lessens the possibility of any possible gastrointestinal issues. Never eat a wild mushroom the first time you’ve gathered it until an expert has identified it.
Oysters. The oyster name is well-earned as their fan-shaped appearance and smooth, wavy margins make them look something like this creature. Colors are highly variable from white to brown and various shades in between. A late fall to spring fungus.
Chicken of the Woods. Identifiable by their bright yellow and orange colors and fan-shaped lobes with wavy edges, COWs appear as early as mid-to-late May and as late as early November. In our opinion, the best-tasting wild mushroom.
Morels. Oblong caps with honeycomb appearance is a morel marker. In the Mid-Atlantic where we live, morels start to appear in late March and can be found as late as early May, but April is the best month.
Watercress. Three main traits are smooth, dark green leaves; delicate, white flowers; and growing in colonies in water. They are supercharged with vitamins C, K, and A. Because of the danger of water-born illnesses, stir fry or otherwise cook before eating. Available all year throughout most of the U.S.
Dandelions. Long, toothed, deeply cut leaves are diagnostic; canary yellow flowers are edible as well. Like watercress, another widespread superfood rich in vitamins. At its prime in flavor from late winter through mid-spring.
Hairy Bittercress. Small, heart-shaped leaves are characteristic; plant appears in early February and grows in much of the U.S. Seeds explode outward when touched.
Wild Onions. Grow in clumps with long green stems. Appear in late winter.
Clean Out the Freezer Frittata
Every year around Memorial Day, it’s time to clean out the freezer. This past year on one of those freezer-clearing expeditions, we found a lone squirrel (legs and tenderloin) in one bag and a single deer tongue in another. But any meat, domesticated or wild, can be substituted.
Yield: 2 Servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup sliced fresh asparagus
1 deer tongue, cooked, outer sheath removed, and diced
Squirrel legs and tenderloin, diced
½ cup chicken-of-the-woods, morels, or any other mushroom
1 cup fresh watercress, whole
¼ cup wild onion stems, sliced into 1-inch pieces
⅓ cup dandelion greens
⅓ cup grated mozzarella cheese
Either the day before making the frittata or several hours before, cook deer tongue and squirrel parts, covered with water, in a slow cooker on low for four hours, or until meat comes easily from bones. Dice meat.
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium.
Add asparagus and mushrooms. Sautée 3 minutes.
Add meat to skillet and mix in. Cook until meat is heated through.
Add watercress, wild onion, and dandelion leaves. Cook until somewhat wilted, about 2 minutes.
Beat eggs and pour over contents of pan. Cook until almost set, about two minutes.
Flip once, and top with cheese and continue cooking until set.
Season with salt and pepper as
desired. Garnish with dandelion
flowers, which are edible.
Spring Tonic Quiche
Traditionally, rural folks served a vitamin- and mineral-packed meal to celebrate the end of winter and fulfill the dietary needs of a body that had experienced the ravages of cold weather. These meals typically consisted of a number of greens, and so does this one. Deer heart, as is true with this organ in other mammals, is a rich source of vitamins, phosphorous, zinc, and COQ10.
Yield: 4 Servings
1 prepared pie crust or puff pastry sheet
¼ cup cream
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup precooked diced, deer heart (or heart or meat from another mammal)
½ cup wild mushrooms
1 cup fresh of spinach — if using frozen, thaw and squeeze to remove water
½ cup fresh cleaned watercress
¼ cup hairy bittercress leaves
¼ cup dandelion leaves
Handful of wild onion stems, enough that when cut into inch pieces you have about ¼ cup.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prebake pie shell or puff pastry placed in pie pan for 15 minutes. It may help to put pie weights inside the shell while baking to keep the center from puffing up too high.
Remove baked shell from oven. Remove pie weights if used. Reduce heat to 375 degrees.
Blend eggs, cream, flour, salt, and pepper with whisk until smooth.
Spread 1 cup grated cheese in bottom of baked shell. Sprinkle deer heart, mushrooms, spinach, watercress, bittercress, dandelion leaves, and onions evenly over cheese.
Pour beaten egg mixture over contents of shell. Top with remaining ½ cup of cheese.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until center is set. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
The Fully Loaded, All-Natural Summer Burger
The theme of this entrée is to use, as much as possible, ingredients coming from things Bruce has hunted (venison), we’ve raised (zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, mild white onions, eggs from our chickens), gathered (chicken of the woods mushrooms), or baked (sourdough bread). But, of course, you can substitute store-bought items.
Note: These burgers are huge, you might want to eat them with a fork.
Yield: 4 Burgers
1 pound venison burger
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon steak sauce
1 tablespoon avocado oil
4 slices sourdough bread
12 slices zucchini
4 slices Monterey Jack cheese
4 slices of mild white onions
1 cup fresh spinach
4 or more tomato slices or use cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup wild (or store-bought) precooked mushrooms — we prefer chicken of the woods
Condiments of your choice.
Heat cast iron grill pan to medium. Add avocado oil.
While pan heats, combine ground venison with mustard and steak sauce. Mix and shape into four patties.
Slice zucchini. Salt and pepper as desired.
Place meat patties into grill pan. Add zucchini slices around meat.
Cook meat about 8 minutes on first side, and 5 minutes on second side. Burgers should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Turn zucchini slices. If they get to desired doneness before burgers, remove and set aside.
While meat patties are cooking on second side, heat a skillet and add butter. Cook fried eggs to desired firmness.
Assemble burgers. On top of sourdough bread, spread condiments of your choice. Layer onion, spinach, grilled zucchini, sliced tomato, burger, cheese, and cooked egg. Sprinkle wild mushrooms on top.
Bruce and Elaine Ingram are authors of Living the Locavore Lifestyle, a book on hunting, fishing, and gathering for food, plus chapters on raising chickens. For more information, email them at