Eliza Frey with wild mustard in Frey biodynamic Cabernet vineyard.
After weeks of rain and the chill of the polar vortexes, spring is arriving in Mendocino County. One of my favorite spring pastimes is taking to the fields and gathering wild spring greens, or edible weeds – a tonic to the body and the spirit. With their beautiful shapes, shades of green and wide array of flavors, they make a wonderful addition to springtime cuisine. Wild edibles spice up any salad or sandwich, add layers of flavor and texture to stir fries, deepen the flavors of soup or provide a unique garnish for any dish.
Wild edible plants connect us back to the abundance of Mother Nature, and to our ancestors, who relied on foraging for survival. Wild plants don’t need humans to help them grow, and there is something beautiful and complete about their ability to get what they need and thrive on their own. Gathering wild greens is easy and fun as long as you follow some common sense guidelines.
Make sure you know what you are eating! Never eat any plant without first knowing that it is edible. Many wild edibles have close look-alikes, so make sure you are well informed before ingesting any new plant. The information below does not include identification details for the listed plants. A great way to make sure you’re being safe is to find a friend or neighbor who is knowledgeable and invite to come forage with you. Local foraging classes and groups are popping up all over the nation. There are countless websites and books about gathering wild plants, and a quick internet search can connect you with plenty of resources.
Edible weeds are only healthful when harvested from areas free of chemicals and pollutants. Avoid harvesting from chemically maintained lawns, near motor roadways, non-organic farms or in areas where there may be high dog traffic. After harvesting wild greens, make sure to wash them thoroughly.
Never harvest an entire stand of wild plants. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least 2/3 of any given patch untouched, allowing the species to complete its life cycle and reproduce, and ensuring that there is plenty for wildlife.
The abundance and variety of wild edibles varies greatly among different climates and regions. While the varieties listed below are available and abundant for Mendocino County, California, in spring, your location will ultimately dictate what you have access to and when.
Here are a handful of my favorite green treats to gather on the Frey Ranch in late winter and early spring:
Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)
Miner's lettuce, an annual flowering plant, is also known as Indian lettuce, spring beauty, and winter purslane. Native to the west coast of North America, it prefers cool wet areas, and in inland Mendocino County it is available from Late January to April. Fleshy stems lead to rounded rosette leaves that cup the morning dew. White or pink flowers develop on a slender stem that grows out of the center of the leaf. It is abundant at the edges of our vineyards, in shady areas at the forest’s edge.
It is best picked when fresh and green, before flowering. The stems are crisp and juicy, and the leaves are tender with a mild watery flavor, well suited as the base of a salad, or used as a substitute for lettuce in any context.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is a low growing annual that reseeds yearly and emerges in late winter, as rainfall and warmer temperatures allow germination. Its tiny leaves climb wispy mats of stems in semi shaded edge areas and sunny fields. As it matures tiny white flowers form at each leaf node.
It has a pleasant, mild flavor and is a great substitute for sprouts on sandwiches and in wraps. It is also lovely in salad. It gets slimy when cooked so try enjoying it raw. For larger, leggy plants, you may want to use only the leaves, as the stems can be a bit fibrous. Chickweed doesn’t store well, and is best eaten within a few hours of harvest.
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale subsp. vulgare)
This is the most common variety of dandelion, although there are thousands. Dandelion is a perennial plant native to Europe. In California jagged leaves re-sprout from taproots in the late winter. In wetter climates the greens can be harvested throughout the growing season. A thick, fleshy stem develops and forms bright yellow, multi-petaled flowers that eventually turn into globes of fluff that scatter on the wind with our wishes. Dandelion’s nutritional value eclipses most of the fruits and vegetables you can buy in the grocery store. It is recognized as a tonic to the liver, kidneys, blood and digestion.
Dandelion has an intense bitter flavor that is somewhat of an acquired taste. The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots, is edible and nutritious, packed with vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta-carotene and fiber. Due to their intense flavor, greens are often cooked, and are delicious with a bright lemony dressing. The flowers of dandelion are also beautiful and pungent before they start to form seed heads, great as a garnish or sautéed with garlic. Dried and roasted roots can be ground and brewed as dandelion coffee, and are an ingredient in traditional root beer.
Wild Mustard (Brassica Spp.)
Wild Mustard is found all over the world and mustard and its cousins radish and turnip have been grown since ancient times. Here in Mendocino County the spring brings an explosion of color as the bright yellow flowers fill the vineyards, delighting bees and foragers alike. Mature plants can be up to 4 feet tall, but they are tastiest when harvested young.
The mustard flower is a beautiful garnish on salads, with a rich pollen-like flavor and gentle heat. The greens need to be harvested young, as they get spiny as the plant reaches maturity. They are a wonderful addition to any stir fry, chopped fresh in potato salad, or served wilted with a vinaigrette dressing.
As flowers drop and the plant forms seed-pods, the tender green pods can be harvested and pickled. As the plant finishes its life cycle the mature seeds can be harvested and ground into mustard.
Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Sheep's sorrel is a low growing perennial herb in the buckwheat family is native to North America. It makes its home in disturbed soils and spreads from seeds and fleshy, horizontal roots. Clumps of green arrow shaped leaves form at the base of the plant, which redden as the plant grows and forms upright flower stalks for tiny reddish-brown flowers and seed pods.
Tender green leaves have an intensely tart lemon flavor that is a great accent in salads and soups, and adds pop to pesto. Its seeds are also edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Winter Pea Shoots (Pisum sativum)
While winter peas are not wild in our vineyards, they are part of our annual cover crop mix. Peas are legumes that fix nitrogen into the soil. They grow tendrils that help them climb amid ryegrass and bell beans and have fleshy silvery leaves that form in whorls along the rigid stem, and they form beautiful edible pink flowers as temperatures rise.
Harvest the top 2-4 inches of the pea shoots to enjoy their distinctly sweet and nutty flavor that is wonderful raw or cooked. Try them sautéed with garlic and olive oil or in place of spinach in your favorite soup. The flowers are tender and mild and gorgeous as a garnish or salad ingredient. Consider adding them to a winter cover crop for a delicious supply of late winter greens!
By Chef Tamara Frey
Enjoy lightly braised asparagus and wine-infused Portobello mushrooms in a basket of flaky filo, blanketed with a tarragon hollandaise. The steps are simple and the medley of flavors will wow your guests. We served it with a bottle of Frey Organic Pinot Noir. So good!
1 box filo dough
5 large Portobello mushrooms (can use other mushrooms)
2 pounds fresh asparagus
2 pounds unsalted butter
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 large lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon
2 pinches cayenne
1/2 cup Frey Pinot Noir
salt and pepper for seasoning
Make the filo baskets
Filo dough comes frozen, so leave the box in the refrigerator for a day to thaw before gently unrolling the sheets. The sheets I used came in rectangular size of 13 x 18 inches, so after applying the butter and stacking, I cut each in half to 13 x 9 inch rectagles. While working with one sheet, cover the rest with a cloth to prevent from drying out.
Melt 1 and a half sticks of unsalted butter in a sauté pan. Start by gently laying out one of the filo sheets and brush on the melted butter with a pastry brush. Take another sheet and put it on top of the buttered sheet. Continue layering the filo sheets this way, with the melted butter in between each sheet until you have 8 layers. If a sheet tears, as it often does, just patch it up with a piece of filo using a dab of melted butter as glue.
With your 8 layers stacked, cut in half down the middle. Grab one of the stacks and fold the sides in at about half-inch increments until you build up the sides a bit to create a simple basket about 4 x 5 inches. Bake in oven at 375-degree for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, until top and bottom are nicely browned and the basket has puffed up. Set cooked filo baskets aside. (If making the baskets a day ahead, store in a cool place covered with plastic wrap, then flash heat in a 300 degree oven when ready to assemble.)
Prepare the mushrooms
Thinly slice the mushrooms. Melt in a sauté pan 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Sauté the sliced mushrooms a few minutes until done. Add 1/2 cup of Frey Organic Pinot Noir and reduce the juices until a bit thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (May need to reheat when it is time to assemble the baskets.)
Prepare the asparagus
Rinse the asparagus. Holding one spear in both hands, gently crack it where it naturally breaks. Repeat with all the asparagus spears and discard the bottom parts. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a sauté pan, add the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and sauté the asparagus on medium heat until al dente, which is still a bit crispy, or you can cook it to your liking. Set aside. (May need to reheat when it is time to assemble the baskets.)
Prepare the hollandaise
Hollandaise can be tricky as we all know. People are afraid to attempt it. The following is a simple hollandaise recipe using a Cuisinart that I’ve had immense success with. Years ago when I had a little cafe and labored over the classic water-bath hollandaise method, one of the other cooks gave me this fabulous recipe. I have never gone back to the classic French method I learned in culinary school. I love that the consistency of this recipe holds its own every time. It is the one-one-one method: 1 egg, 1 yolk, 1 lb. butter. Here it is:
Melt a pound of unsalted butter in a saucepan on medium to low heat. The melted butter cannot be too hot, nor too cold. Lukewarm is perfect. While the butter’s melting, put the large egg and the large egg yolk in the Cuisinart. Let it run for a minute or so until the mixture becomes light-yellow and creamy, and warmed by the Cuisinart. Then, very slowly, in a thin stream, pour the warm melted butter into the mix while Cuisinart is running. Turn off machine and test for thickness by carefully putting a spoon in the hollandaise. If the spoon comes out coated, without the hollandaise running down the spoon, then consistency is good. Turn on the Cuisinart again and add the juice of half a lemon, one and a half teaspoons of the tarragon, a pinch or two of cayenne and salt. Pulse the Cuisinart and mix, then taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed. You might enjoy more lemon juice or more of a kick with the cayenne.
Prepare the Roasted Red Peppers
Slice in thin strips and set aside.
Assemble the asparagus baskets
Best to serve the filo basket, mushrooms and asparagus piping hot, as all three cool quickly.
Place a filo basket on a plate.
Place two or three spoonfuls of mushrooms in the filo basket.
Then 4 or 5 asparagus spears.
Partially blanket the mushrooms and asparagus with the warm hollandaise.
Lay 2 roasted red pepper strips in an X pattern across it all.
Serve and enjoy!
Copyrighted 2019, Tamara Frey
A wonderful recipe from an Organic Wine Club member. Cover a 12 oz. bag of organic fresh cranberries with Frey organic red wine of your choice. Simmer a few minutes, until berries swell. Off heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup (or less) raw sugar, zest and juice of one lemon. Cover and let sit a few minutes, and enjoy!
Perfect for a summer’s evening is this refreshing twist to the classic beverage, white wine peach sangria!
3 ripe peaches
1 handful fresh mint
1 bottle Frey Organic Viognier
2 table spoons simple syrup
¼ cup Elderflower liquor
Lots of ice
Slice 3 ripe peaches. Put peaches, mint, a bottle of Frey organic Viognier and the syrup into a large mason jar or pitcher. (Optional: a splash of St. Germain, ¼ cup or more, to taste.) Refrigerate and marinate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. As the sangria marinates, the peaches may turn a little brown after a few days. This may look unappealing, but the flavor is much improved. If serving to guests we recommend straining out the browned peaches and adding fresh sliced peaches as well as a handful of fresh mint. Serve over ice and enjoy on a warm summer evening!
This delicious, hearty soup is full of flavorful Italian sausage, kale, and potatoes. It’s sure to warm your soul and it is a quick and easy recipe to share with your family. Pair with Frey Organic Sangiovese.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound baby bella (or crimini) mushrooms, minced
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup Frey Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc wine
1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
2 sheets thawed puff pastry
A homemade flaky pie crust with creamy ricotta cheese and ripe heirloom tomatoes. Perfect during tomato season, and with a glass of Frey Organic Sangiovese.
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound heirloom tomatoes
1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Fresh chives and basil, garnish
Coarse salt and pepper
Crust: Start the crust by stirring together the flour and salt and then cut in the cubed cold butter until pea-sized pieces. Mix in the ice water by the tablespoon. The dough should be a bit shaggy. If you press it together it should stick, but just barely.
Scoop the dough out onto a clean surface and fold it over itself a few times to form a loose ball. Wrap it tightly in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You know you did it right if you can see chunks of butter in the dough.
Filling: The most important part of this recipe is to salt and drain the tomatoes of any extra liquid. Slice the tomatoes and line a colander with them. Then sprinkle them with salt and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes.
When you’re ready to make the tart, roll your dough out into about a 14-inch round. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Then drizzle the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta cheese. Leave about a 2-inch border around the edges so you can fold the dough over later. Add some slivered garlic to the cheese and top with tomatoes. Carefully fold the dough edges over the top and sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper and put it in the oven!
Bake the tart at 400 degrees F. for about 50 minutes. Rotate it once halfway through to make sure it’s cooking evenly.
After out of the oven let the tart rest for about 10 minutes to allow the filling to set up. Sprinkle chopped chives and basil on top and serve with a glass of Frey Organic Sangiovese.
Use fresh heirloom tomatoes in season, if possible.
Fresh basil, garlic, and chives.
Tomatoes ready for topping.
Ready to roll!
Ricotta cheese spread on the dough, then the garlic...
...and tomatoes on top. Ready for the oven.
The eyes get the first bite!
These delicious, flaky, chewy, sweet fig bars are nothing like the store bought cookies. These are easy to make and a perfect treat when paired with Frey Organic Pinot Noir.
3 cups organic almond flour
4 tbsp organic unrefined coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh organic figs
2 tbsp organic apple or lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all biscuit dough ingredients in your food processor until it begins to stick together and forms into a ball. In a bowl, put the ball of dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
Place figs in your food processor and finely chop. Add in other filling ingredients and blend to a paste. Set aside until ready to assemble fig rolls.
Divide dough in four and roll each between two pieces of parchment paper.
You want each bout 1/2 an inch thick, rectangular in shape, approx. 10 x 4 inches. Leave the dough lying on the parchment paper.
Divide the fig filling into four and place each along the inside edge of each rectangle of biscuit dough. Leave a little gap of the biscuit dough, ¼ inch, on the inner side. Spread the filling evenly length-wise and thickness-wise as much as possible. See photo.
Fold over topside of the roll by lifting up the parchment paper. Seal the edge tight. Remove parchment, slice each roll into 6-10 fig rolls.
Place on a non-stick baking tray lightly greased with coconut oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow cooling for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully. Serve with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Noir.
Fresh spring rolls should offer a pleasing contrast in texture (soft wrapper, chewy noodles, and crunchy vegetables) and flavors (fresh mint, basil, and cilantro; peanuts, spicy chilies, and salty sauce) which will pair perfectly with a cold glass of our Organic Pinot Grigio. Try to source organic ingredients for the health of farmworkers, your own health, and for future generations.
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into matchsticks
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup fresh basil and/or mint leaves torn into ½ inch pieces
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup lettuce leaves chopped
2 cups cooked rice noodles
8 (8-inch) round brown rice paper wrappers
Peanut Sauce Ingredients and Recipe
¼ cup creamy organic peanut butter
1 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cream together peanut butter and brown sugar, then add vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and soy sauce. Blend together to make a rich & creamy peanut sauce perfect for dipping in your Spring Rolls.
1. Prepare all ingredients in individual bowls.
2. Spread clean, damp dishtowel on counter. Fill 9 inch pie plate with 1 inch of room-temperature water. Submerge each wrapper in water until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Lay softened wrapper on towel. Scatter about 4 basil leaves, 4 mint leaves and 6 cilantro leaves over wrapper. Arrange 5 cumber sticks horizontally on wrapper, leaving 2 inch boarder at bottom. Top with carrots, lettuce leaves, green onion, and about 2 tbsp noodles. Fold bottom of wrapper up over filling. Fold sides of wrapper over filling and then roll wrapper up into tight spring roll.
3. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Serve immediately with peanut dipping sauce and a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
This tofu has a wonderfully soft, silky texture that contrasts nicely with the crisp, sweet and spicy Asian style grilled glaze. Enjoy this tasty meal with friends, family, and a bottle or two of Frey red wine. Cheers!
5 cups water
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian Chili-garlic sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup mirin
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
28 ounces firm tofu, sliced lengthwise into 1 inch think planks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
1. For the Marinade: bring water to a boil, add soy sauce and chili garlic sauce, turn off heat and add tofu. Allow tofu to marinate for 20 minutes.
2. For the Glaze: simmer the soy sauce, water, sugar, mirin, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, and chili-garlic sauce in small saucepan over medium-high heat until thickened and reduced to ¾ cups, for 5-7 minutes.
3. For the tofu: Drain tofu from marinade and spread over paper towel-lined baking sheet, let drain for 20 minutes, then gently press dry with paper towels. Brush tofu with oil and season with salt and paper
4. For the Grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
Clean and oil cooking grate. Gently place tofu on grill, perpendicular to grate bars. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, 6-10 minutes. Gently flip tofu halfway through cooking using 2 spatulas. Next, turn all burners to medium and brush tofu with glaze and cook until well browned, 1-2 minutes. Flip tofu, brush with glaze and cook until well browned. Transfer tofu to platter, brush with remaining ¼ cup glaze, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with Asian coleslaw and a glass of Frey organic Sangiovese or Zinfandel. Enjoy!