I absolutely love wild foods. The fun of searching for them, finding them, cooking with them, and eating them, is a glorious event that always makes me feel closer to nature. Wild foods are also organic and free (of charge). When completing my PhD during some impoverished moments I was actually able to live almost solely on wild foods (yes as a vegan).
These days it’s from the fiddleheads I picked twice last week before dinner (just lightly sautéed with garlic with olive oil) to this risotto that I made last night after coming across a few patches of wild leeks and a single golden Morel…. wild dishes are good for the soul, and the planet (when harvested correctly). Wild foods add human ‘value’ to intact ecosystems; from grasslands, to forests, to ponds and wetlands—we convert those ecosystems to cultivate all our traditional food sources. This includes food grown on our lawns, balconies or farms. The land was something else before we changed it.
Anyway, back to the Morel. I hunted and hunted for more, without any luck, but considering the trilliums are still blooming they may just be starting to come up, so I will keep looking (daily). Despite finding only one Morel, it was a large one and chopped up into about a quarter cup.
When harvesting wild foods be sure to familiarise yourself with what you are eating (particularly mushrooms), and be sure to do so sustainably. In all reality I should not have taken the sole Morel, but I did try to shake off as many spores as I could, and there should be an intact mycelium mat underground. The rule of thumb I use is generally to leave at least one fruiting mushroom per patch (when you find them in patches). But I just couldn’t resist this baby… In identifying Morels, especially the golden ones, it’s quite easy—just make sure they are completely hollow before eating (and always cook wild mushrooms).
For wild leeks I never harvest more than 10% of a patch in total per season. They don’t reproduce very easily (it takes a long time), but I luckily have quite a few large patches just outside my door, and some I don’t touch. If you are lucky enough to find an abundance don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, you don’t need the full white bulb at the bottom—the green tops are delicious and remarkably tender and allow the plant to survive, but it you find a large and mature patch (80+), you can carefully harvest a few scattered bulbs. If it’s a small patch (< 50) please stick to the greens. I stick my index finger down along the stem and try to slide it along the sides to loosen the leek. I then pull firmly, but gently, and straight upwards, from as low down on the stem as I can get a hold of it without disturbing its neighbours. It may take some practice, and you may be disappointed when the first few times you only get the tops, but remember they too are delicious and the bulb in the ground will make more for next year.
The risotto has only five ingredients (plus water and sea salt) and is fairly quick and easy for a risotto—which usually takes hours. It is remarkably smooth and creamy considering the ingredients, a lovely quality of millet. I really wanted to taste the leaks and Morel so the only other added flavours are from nutritional yeast and sea salt. I usually over-herb my risottos, but this one doesn’t need it.
You can also make this dish with store bought leeks and mushrooms, and I would use a few more mushrooms if you can find them. I look forward to trying this recipe with wild millet. I used hulled millet, which I bought accidentally, but un-hulled should also work, it will just take a little longer to cook and have a different texture.
Happy wild eating!
3 cups of fresh water
¼ cup Nutritional Yeast
½ ts. sea salt (or more for taste)
1 ts. olive oil
1 cup millet (any kind, I used the yellow hulled) rinsed and drained
2 tbs. olive oil
1 ½ – 2 cups of finely sliced wild leeks (approx. 7 whole mature wild leeks)
¼ cup of finely sliced wild Morels or other mushroom
(optional) a sprig or two of parsley or another herb for topping
In a medium-sized pot add all stock ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer.
Heat a large (preferably cast-iron) frying pan to low-med heat.
Add 1 tbs. of the olive oil, the white (and purple) stems/bulbs of the leeks, and the rinsed/drained millet.
Toast/sauté for 10 min, stirring regularly.
Add the mushrooms and leek greens, stir in and drizzle over the remaining olive oil. Cook another 5 min—stirring/turning regularly.
Using a ladle or similar, add enough of the stock to cover the millet. Make sure the stock is boiling/simmering before adding, and that the pan is hot enough to maintain a simmer.
When the pan starts drying up, at more stock and stir.
Continue until either all the stock is gone or the millet is cooked to your desired consistency. Mine was a little mushy, but in a deliciously, creamy, cheesy, sort of way—I would cook it like that again. But if your millet is un-hulled, it may remain firm.
Once most of the moisture is absorbed (about 15 min.) add a lid with a vent-hole (or leave it slightly ajar) and turn off the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes, then serve and enjoy!
Serves 4 as a side or two as a meal.
Goes wonderfully with rhubarb-glazed tofu (coming soon/next and shown here), or with breaded tofu, a side salad, or on its own.