Beyond Ramps and Fiddleheads...
May 10, 2017
Spring ushers in the season of wild edibles - starting with ramps, fiddleheads, and the hunt for the elusive morel. While it's a treat to see these delicious gifts of nature on menus each spring, they are certainly not the only wild edibles worth celebrating. We spoke to Chef Steve Atkins of the Kitchen Table Bistro, Doug Paine from Juniper Bar & Restaurant at Hotel Vermont and Bleu Northeast Seafood, and Chef Kevin Lasko of Vermont Farm Catering and The Backroom about their favorite, less celebrated wild finds.
Itadori - Japanese Knotweed
Living on the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest means Chef Kevin Lasko finds his wild edibles on his morning run. A favorite is Itadori, commonly known as Japanese Knotweed or Red Asparagus -- this edible is an invasive species so harvest away! "The plant is heavy-duty and looks like asparagus when it's young." Chef Kevin described, "the flavor is very acidic and identical to rhubarb." Chef Kevin likes to make a jam out of the knotweed for a knotweed jam and fresh ricotta toast that he serves as a cocktail hour hors d'oeuvre.
Chef Steve Atkins calls purslane "a fun little weed that thrives in garden environments." He commissions friends and farm partners Mara and Spencer at Half Pint Farm to collect the delicious nuisance for his menu. Inspired by a dish of his youth, Chef Steve likes to pair purslane with cherry tomatoes in a simple salad at the Kitchen Table Bistro.
"Wild Ginger has a heart-shaped leaf and purple flowers, it tastes like ginger only sharper and not as spicy," Chef Kevin shared. Wild ginger is the secret star ingredient in Chef Kevin's tartare. Here's a video explaining how to sustainably harvest wild ginger.
Chef Doug Paine chose wildcrafted angelica as a botanical for Hotel Vermont's custom-made gin
produced for them by SILO Distillery
. "It adds a really unique floral aroma," he describes, "wild angelica is amazing and quite different than the garden variety. You definitely need to have someone who is an expert harvesting
, as there is the potential of confusing it with the fatally toxic water hemlock."