Nature’s Grocery

These easy-care native edibles are so delectable.

By Andrea DeLong-Amaya

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Grapes
(Vitis spp.)
Grapes are most commonly used for making jelly, juice, and wine. But have you ever tried tart green grape pie? Leaves are also tasty; in midspring when tender ones emerge, you can brine them for making dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves. Young leaves wrapped around chicken, then grilled, impart a mild tangy note to the meat and help keep it moist. Note that only female vines will develop fruit. When choosing a garden location, keep in mind that ripe fruits are messy.

Photo: Rob Cardillo

Several species of wild grapes are native to North America


Peppergrass
(Lepidium virginicum, L. densiflorum)
Another plant high in vitamin C, and iron, too, is one of my all-time favorites: peppergrass. It’s a member of the mustard family, and as the name hints, it is spicy but with a sweet and nutty undertone. When peppergrass is in season, no salad should be without it.

Photo: (cc) Annie Roonie/Flickr

peppergrass

The correct way to consume wild edibles: Harvest from sizable colonies and always with permission from the landowner. Understand that whether collected from natural areas or from plants in your garden, otherwise safe and nutritious foods may become toxic in large amounts. As with any new addition to your diet, add small amounts at a time until you know how your body will respond. Before eating any wild food, be absolutely certain of its proper identity. Many plants have lookalikes. When in doubt, do not eat it.

Wild Green Grape Pie

Shift away from the usual thinking about grapes, when they are dark, sweet, and summer-ripe, to the tiny immature fruits that are pea-to-not-quite-marble-sized. Pay close attention to the window of development before the seeds get crunchy. This is when they are just right to harvest for making this deliciously tart green grape pie that pairs nicely with vanilla ice cream. Recipe courtesy of Larry Butler and Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, Texas.

  • 2 pints tiny fresh green grapes (1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for topping
  • 1 tablespoon flour (for thickening)
  • Freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1 9-inch double piecrust

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a pie pan with one of the crusts. Destem (twist stem off instead of pulling) and wash grapes. Simmer with the sugar and water in a pot for 15 minutes. Mash with a potato masher, then stir in the 2 tablespoons butter and the flour. Pour into prepared piecrust and top with lattice. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and dot with additional butter. Bake for about 45 minutes.

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