Q&A: Wildcrafter Amanda Adkins

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What do you think you might find this time of year at Fox Haven? Anything special that you hope to find?

This time of year, violets, chickweed, garlic mustard, possibly some rocket, a mustard as well, that might not have gone to bloom. Some land cress, ramps, morels, cleavers, nettle, catnip, mullein — goodness, so much!

Of course I would be overjoyed to find morels and ramps in abundance. I am always happy to gather violets, chickweed and nettle. They are my favorites.

What do you see as the difference between eating or using medicinally wild plants versus cultivated?

I feel it is important to eat wild for a few reasons. The main difference (if you know it is a safe — free of chemicals, not near a road, or a dog’s bathroom spot — gathering spot) between wild and cultivated is the minerals that are bioavailable in the wild foods, ranges of them that we don’t often get from a cultivated food. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this.

But perhaps the most important reason to eat wild is the connection to nature that comes from wild gathering. It nourishes us and connects us on a much deeper level. Minerals, vitamins … we can get these abundantly in wild foods (we can live with synthetic versions as many of us do with our supplements). However, in my opinion, wellness encompasses so much — and this time spent out of doors, in nature — really does help us mentally (and physically) on so many levels.

And back to wild foods and the minerals and nutrients we gain from eating them versus, say, a multivitamin. Wild foods, whole foods in general, have nutrients that our body recognize, process and use much more easily than a synthetic vitamin.

What got you interested in foraging?

I became interested in weeds when I became a farmer. I had an overwhelming desire to learn what every plant in my field was. I spent the summer with my Peterson’s Field Guide and my infants, sitting in the grass, looking up and reading all I could find.

Once I looked deeper into the medicinal values of the weeds, I learned that they work as medicine largely because of the nutrition offered.

A light bulb went off. And it became an important part of my life from that moment forward.

Do you have any interesting foraging/wildcrafting stories from regions outside of our own?

I am from Fayetteville, West Virginia, and visit my hometown often. … I thought once that Reishi was an Asian mushroom. Every time I go home there is a particular path I will always hike. In Fayetteville we have lots of mountain laurel, blueberry and hemlock forests. Acidic soil. As I rounded a corner, to head down the path to the water, I noticed a fallen log. Covered in Reishi mushrooms. Really, it’s like Christmas. This discovery, disbelief and then, realization … it really is! And I learn, hemlock is home to Reishi mushrooms. Right here in Appalachia. It is hard to describe the joy and excitement. Especially knowing that every time I see them, even now, I feel that same joy and excitement.

Can you share a recipe with us?

WEEDY PESTO
Pesto is such an easy go-to. So Weedy pesto. Substitute the basil for chickweed, chickweed and violet leaves, or nettle. Sub the pine nuts for walnuts. And follow a basic pesto recipe as such…
about 2 cups of fresh chickweed, harvested from clean land
1/4 cup of walnuts
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
a clove of garlic
salt and pepper
2-3 tsp. lemon juice
1-4 tbsp. olive oil (walnut oil or hempseed oil)
Mix it all up in a blender or food processor and try it out on pasta and breads.

NOODLES AND DANDY GREENS
1 tsp. oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (or flakes, whatever on hand)
2 tbsp. mirin (or dry white wine)
2 c. dandy greens, washed and chopped
1/3 c. vegetable stock
4 c. noodles (wheat, rice, your choice)
1/4 c. parmesan cheese (with wheat noodles)
fresh ground pepper to taste

Dandelions are abundant and we all should eat more bitter foods. The dandelion greens are a great start. This is one of my easy dinner go-to’s. I love it.
Saute on medium high heat, the oil, garlic, hot pepper or sauce, mirin and greens. Stir constantly for a minute, pour in stock and continue to saute until the greens are wilted but still bright green.
Immediately mix with the cheese if using, noodles and black pepper. Serve.

Originally published Thursday, April 30, 2015, in The Frederick News-Post

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