The flavour of morels varies; it may suggest warm autumn leaves, hazelnuts, or even nutmeg. As with truffle and caviar, tasting is believing.
The morel is a small, conical mushroom crisscrossed with irregular pale brown ridges and has a sponge like appearance. The flavour of morels is nutty and earthy, milder than that of most other wild mushrooms, and their honeycomb crevices and hollows have a great affinity for cream sauce or for stuffing.
Morels are usually between two and four inches long, and range in color from pale cream to almost black. They are often found at farmers markets and specialty stores and through numerous online mail-order sources. Select fresh morels that have a sweet, earthy smell and are firm but not slimy.
Whether wild or cultivated, mushrooms need circulating air when stored. They are best kept unwashed, in paper bags on a refrigerator shelf. To wash morels, drop them into a bowl of cool water and give them a good swish with your hands, letting any grit fall to the bottom of the bowl, them lifting them out of the water and pat them dry with a cloth.
Dried morels are also available and a good substitute when the season is over. The flavour is generally more intense than the fresh ones. After soaking, strain the flavourful soaking liquid and add it to your dish if possible or use as a broth to make soups.
Morels can be found under or around many trees such as tulip poplars, ash, hickory, dead or dying elms, cherry, old apple trees, striped maple,and sycamore. All types of morels may also grow in forests which have been burned by a forest fire. Other signs to tell when morels are ready are when the flowering quince, the dogwoods, the violets and the trillium blooms.If you decide to try foraging them for yourself, do so with an experienced guide.
Morels pairs well with asparagus, butter, caraway seeds, cream, garlic, lamb, pepper, shallots, ramps and thyme.
Like all mushrooms, morels contains small amounts of toxins, which are neutralized with thorough cooking.
Considered a tonic to the digestive system by traditional Chinese medicine, morels help resolve mucus and toxins. They are also a good blood and chi tonic. Mushrooms are a rich source of glutamic acid (the natural version of the flavour enhancer msg) and so enhance the flavour of any savory dish. They are high in protein and a good source of vitamin B2 and zinc.
The radish is an annual plant that is grown for its peppery edible root. They originated in Europe and West Asia and were used as food plants and medicine by many early civilizations.
Radishes are entirely edible, although the root is usually the preferred part. Roots can be eaten raw, pickled, or added to stir-fries. Young greens can be added to soups, steamed or stir-fried.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, radish is a cooling food, it support chi circulation, help remove toxins, and dispel excess heat and mucus. They also act on the lung and stomach meridians and are an excellent digestive aid.
Radishes are a good source of ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They also contains vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium.
New Radishes and Morel Salad
Radishes are commonly eaten uncooked. Experience how delicious they are when lightly sautéed. The pungent flavor and cooling nature of the raw radish disappears and the texture becomes soft and moist.
1½ pounds morels (or any wild mushrooms), thickly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or duck fat, divided
Coarse sea salt, freshly ground pepper
1 large head of chicory, or mixed greens, torn into small clumps
2 bunches small new red radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1 whole garlic clove
3-4 strands of red dulse seaweed, rinsed
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Make the dressing:
1.Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil with lemon juice, garlic and honey in a large bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Leave the garlic infuse until serving.
2.Place the mushrooms in a large bowl. Toss with 4 tablespoons butter or duck fat. Scatter mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Roast until tender, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.
3.In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoon butter or duck fat, add the radishes and sauté 3 or 4 minutes, or until lightly softened.
4. Remove the garlic from the dressing. Add lettuce, radishes, dulse and mushrooms to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. Adjust salt and pepper.
Asparagus has often been praised as one of the most refined and delicious vegetables. Asparagus is a member of the lily family and a distant relative of onions. The cultivars range in colour from dark to light green through to violet and white. White asparagus have a milder flavour than the green asparagus and are more popular in Europe. In it’s growing stages, the stems are heaped with sandy soil to block out sunlight, preventing the chlorophyll to develop. The purple asparagus, less fibrous and higher in sugar is becoming more available at specialty food markets.
Asparagus botanical name “Asparagus Officinalis” means “from the dispensery“. It was a favourite among the Romans for it’s medicinal virtues and was used as a diuretic and a laxative. It was also thought to help with toothache, cramps and sciatica. Asparagus contains asparagine, an essential amino acid and the first to be isolated from it’s natural source early in the nineteenth century. Asparagine is also a diuretic that gives the urine a characteristic odor in people who lack the gene to break it down. This was first recorded in eighteenth-century Britain by Queen Anne’s physician!
Asparagus has remarkable immune-strengthening, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties due to the bioflavonoids rutin and glutathione. It is high in protein, an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid, vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamine, and B6.
In traditional Chinese medicine, asparagus are said to be a cooling yin tonic that energizes the kidneys, lungs and spleen. It also helps to dispel heat, damp and water.
In Ayurvedic, Asian asparagus are used for strengthening female hormones, promoting fertility, increasing lactation, and relieving menstrual pain. ~Shatavari is the Indian name and it means : she who possesses a hundred husbands.
The young stems of asparagus are preferably steamed, grilled or quickly boiled and served with butter, vinaigrette or hollandaise sauce. Asparagus pairs well with goat cheese, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, chervil, omelets, lemon, olive oil, shallots, pancetta, tarragon, and, white wine.
Asparagus, Lemon and Wild Rice Salad
This salad is a great way to signal that spring is here. The mung beans, wild rice and asparagus create a flavour that is both earthy and delicate while the lemon zest enliven the dish. Wild rice is very high in protein, minerals, and B vitamins. The small khaki Mung beans are the perfect beans for Spring; easily digestible, they are beneficial for the liver and gall bladder and detoxifies the body.
1 pound asparagus
2 cups steamed wild rice ~I used a blend of red rice, quinoa and wild rice
1 cup cooked mung beans~ you can cook the mung beans with the rice, add a little more water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoon finally chopped green onions or spring onions
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Unrefined sea salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Making the dressing:
Whisk together green onion, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl; season with pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until emulsified. Set aside.
Making the salad:
1.Snap of the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the asparagus into 2 inch long pieces. Drop them into boiling salted water and cook for 1 minute, or until bright green and tender but still a bit firm. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
2.Combine the asparagus, wild rice, parsley, mung beans, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
3.Pour over the dressing and toss to combine.Adjust salt and pepper.
4.Line a serving platter with greens and put the rice salad on top.
Once again we shall
See the snow melt
Taste the flowing sap
Touch the budding seeds.
Smell the whitening flowers
Know the renewal of life.
~From an Anishnabeg (Ojibway) thanksgiving for spring.
Rhubarb has been grown for a long time in Asia as a medicinal plant. It originated from Siberia or Tibet and its Latin name signify barbaric roots. It is likely due to it’s infamous name that was not used in cuisine until the early 1800s. Today, there are two main species grown for culinary usage, Rheum Rhabarbarum and Rheum Rhaponticum.
Even if rhubarb is a vegetable, it is almost always used as a fruit to make pies, jams and compotes. Rhubarb may be harvested in the spring or fall but in the spring the quality is at its best. It is appreciated for its acidulous taste and the tannin that makes your mouth pucker up. Only the stalks are eaten and you should never eat the leaves; they have been associated with cases of poisoning due to their high concentration of oxalic acid.
Rhubarb is rich in potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and in vitamin C and A. It is said to be astringent, laxative and purgative.
In Chinese medicine it is used as a cooling food to remove toxins and heat and helps blood circulation.
It also reduces vata when use a little at a time.
Creamy Roasted Rhubarb with Maple Syrup.
1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 teaspoon unsalted butter
Plain or vanilla yogurt
Preheat the oven at 400 f. Place the rhubarb in a lightly buttered roasting pan, drizzled with maple syrup, and toss well. Roast for 15 to 2o minutes until tender. Place the rhubarb and juices in a bowl, drizzle with maple syrup and let cool completely.
Serve over yogurt with fresh mint, or add to a smoothie with blueberries, orange juice, roasted rhubarb and cinnamon.
Tender-handed stroke a nettle
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains
From the nettle’s lesson. Proverb, 1753.
Nettles (Urtica Dioica) are worth searching for; used throughout the world to build vitality, they are delicious and once cooked they have a delicate flavour and a pleasant texture. I always look forward to finding the first young nettles of spring to make soup, infusion or pesto; it’s a great way to mark the start of the growing year.
Nettle tops are best gathered- carefully- before they set flowers, nettle stings causes temporary burning and irritation so make sure to wear gloves. Avoid nettles close to roadsides and select only the fresh, young top growth. If nettle doesn’t grow where you live, you may find them at farmer’s market. Nettles lose their sting once chopped, dried, or cooked.
The nettle is a perennial plant full of iron, calcium, magnesium and nitrogen, which makes it incredibly nutritious for both plants and humans.They also increase circulation and provides external treatment for arthritic pain, gout, sciatica and neuralgia. Rich in minerals, they increase the hemoglobin in the blood, purify the system and have a generally toning effect on the whole body.
According to Chinese medicine, nettles are a yin and blood tonic that support the bladder, kidney, spleen, and liver. They also have diuretic properties and enrich the blood, thicken the hair and may help reduce blood sugar levels. Nettles reduce pitta and kapha and can be used, in moderation, by vata.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 large potato, diced
2 cups blanched chopped nettles (if you can’t find nettles you can substitute them for more watercress, sorrel or chard)
1 cup parsley
1 cup radish greens, chopped
2 cups watercress
2 cups arugula or spinach
2 cups vegetable broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Few stems of fresh marjoram or oregano
1 inch stick kombu seaweed (optional)
Crème fraîche, chive blossoms or sweet violet for garnish.