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Frey Organic Wine Blog

Tamara Frey
 
August 7, 2020 | Tamara Frey

Ginger Peach Cobbler

Ginger Peach Cobbler

Freshly baked peach cobbler in a pie dish

Peach season is upon us!  A family member dropped off a box of them last week, fresh from our vineyard peach trees.  This led me to think of how the aromas of peaches are often detected in wines.  So I set out to include a wine reduction in this recipe, a Pinot Grigio syrup, to bring out even more complex and wonderful flavors in wine and bring them into this peach dish.  If you make this, we’d love to hear about it!

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Frey Pinot Grigio dry white wine
1.5 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 quart fresh sliced peaches, unpeeled
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 dash of salt
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°

Pinot Grigio Syrup
Mix together in a sauce pan the Frey Organic Pinot Grigio (or another dry white wine), 1/2 cup coconut sugar, and the grated ginger.  Mix and bring to a boil.  Simmer until it thickens and reduced by half, more or less.  Set aside to cool.

Prepare the Peaches
I do not peel them.  Instead I remove the peach fuzz by rubbing them on a clean dish towel.  Slice thinly and set aside.  (I prefer to leave on the skins to preserve the nutritional value in skins.)

Prepare the Batter
In a separate bowl mix together the flour, 1 cup coconut sugar, baking powder, dash of salt, milk, cooled Pinot Grigio syrup, lemon zest. I like making my own fresh lemon zest with a peeler, then chopping it fine. 

Slice up the butter and scatter across the baking dish (DO NOT rub it in), then place in the preheated oven until the butter melts.  Take out of oven and pour in the batter, distributing it as evenly as possible as you pour.  But DO NOT STIR the batter.  Distribute the sliced peaches over the batter.  DO NOT STIR the peaches either!

Bake for approximately 45 minutes to an hour, or until browned and bubbly around the edges, and the center is quite firm.

Peach Cobbler close-up

Freshly sliced peaches

Lemon zest slices

Fresh peaches in a dish

Molly Frey
 
June 22, 2020 | Molly Frey

Return of the Goats

 

Goats grazing next to burned pines

Frey Vineyards is well known as the first organic winery in the country. However, we’re also the first biodynamic winery in the country. In addition to turning organic grapes into wine, biodynamic practices foster a holistic approach to farming that cares for the land.  Over the years we have maintained healthy herds of cows, sheep, and goats on the home winery property.  These animals graze in the vineyards, providing essential nutrients for the soil while dining on the cover crops we plant between the rows of grapes.  Animal manures create vital compost which we then use to nourish our home gardens. 

In 2017, wildfires changed so much for the community of Redwood Valley where our winery is located.  We lost most of our homes on the ranch, and it has taken a few years and a lot of resilience to see us through to where we are now.  This year several families have moved back to the land in new homes that have been built.  As we are returning to our new/old places, we’re beginning to set down roots once more.  Earlier this Spring I had the extreme pleasure of taking in a herd of goats.  I walked the goats through the vineyards for the last few months before the grapes began to bud out.  For almost dozen years before the fire, I tended to goats here at Frey vineyards.  And, now I’m revisiting my former life full circle. The goats have given birth and we have three kids leaping about!  Eventually the mamas will head back to their home, but the babies mark a beginning for a new herd of goat husbandry and midwifery at Frey Vineyards. They go on walks in the wildlands, helping maintain trails during the summer months.  As soon as crush begins in the Fall, we’ll be back in the vineyards to clean up the grapes left behind. 

Additionally, I had a friend from the coast reach out about taking in a few goats as her herd has expanded rapidly.  Her goats have been dedicated “mowers” and we’re excited to put them to good use helping to repair the ecosystem.  They come from a firefighting family and are ready to be part of the fire prevention crew, munching their way through areas needing clearing. In general goats tend to be very happy eating a diverse forage.  They like to eat a little of this and a little of that.  However, some goats can be trained to graze down an area, and these goats have previous experience taking down a fenced area. Using goats to assist in the maintenance of fire breaks is a strategy that is currently being implemented across the globe!

All in all, we have eight goats on the farm right now. They’re a mix of different dairy breeds, and they have very particular personalities.  I’m learning the ropes with a new group of individuals.  And they’re getting to meet our local flora and fauna. They’re quite fond of eating the invasive blackberries.  I’m in the process of trying to remove broom from the home ranch, which has taken a strong hold since the fires. I’m hoping that the goats will be able to assist with my project of rehabilitating the wild by forging paths so that I can remove the broom.  The hope is that the native species will be able to move back in once this invasive plant has been subdued.

Newborn goat

Healthy and vibrant baby goat

Time Posted: Jun 22, 2020 at 12:53 PM
Lisa Batson
 
June 3, 2020 | Lisa Batson

Sweet and Spicy Noodles

Sweet and Spicy Thai noodles in a bowl with chopsticks

 

This sweet and spicy noodle dish is Thai inspired.  It’s light and fresh and pairs nicely with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
 
Serves 4
Ingredients:
o   16oz wide rice noodles or regular linguini pasta
o   4 chicken thighs, diced (optional)
o   3 tablespoons soy sauce
o   3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
o   4 tablespoons honey
o   2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
o   1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste
o   ¼ cup sesame oil
o   2 cups shredded carrots, about 2 large carrots
o   ¼ cup sliced green onion
o   1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
o   ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
 
1.     In a large sauté pan heat about 1 tablespoon oil and cook chicken thighs until golden, then set aside. (To make vegetarian you can omit from recipe.)
2.     Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles until al dente, approximately 6 minutes.
3.     Meanwhile, shred carrots, chop green onions and cilantro
4.     In a small bowl mix soy sauce, hoisin, honey, chili garlic paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  
5.     A couple of minutes before the noodles are done, in the large sauté pan, heat sesame oil over medium heat and add sauce and stir, and cook the garlic.  
6.     When noodles are done, drain, then add immediately to pan with sauce, add chicken, and stir until the noodles are well coated.
7.     Top with carrots, peanuts, cilantro, green onion.  Mix and serve with a chilled glass of our organic Pinot Grigio.  Enjoy!
We always try to use organic ingredients when possible.

 

Time Posted: Jun 3, 2020 at 4:41 PM
Eliza Frey
 
November 12, 2019 | Eliza Frey

Harvest 2019 Vineyard Report

Organic grapes in large harvest bin

After a busy spring of working the soil and tending to our 300 acres of established grapes, 16 acres of Chardonnay were planted at the Road D Ranch.  This was a large project that began years ago with the removal of a neglected vineyard from the previous owners.  The vines were removed, the field was ripped and smoothed, compost applied, cover crop seeded.  This spring the spacing for the vines was laid out, stakes, wires and irrigation were installed to support the baby grapes and finally the young vines were planted.  They put on good growth after planting.  It bodes well for a healthy vibrant vineyard.

Harvest started off in early September and a touch of rain freshened the air and gave the plants some ripening energy.  It looked like a great year for “hang time,” when the grapes get to linger on the vine and develop more flavor and complexity even after they are sweet enough to pick.  We anticipated a slow and steady harvest.

A frost on October 10th changed the plans.  The unexpected cold snap brought temperatures of 27 degrees, a month before our usual first freeze.  The leaves of the vineyards perished over-night, leaving little new energy to ripen fruit further.  Luckily the hanging fruit held up well until it was harvested.  The harvest crew worked several long days and compressed what would have been a month of picking into less than two weeks.

Following the early cold snap, unusually warm and dry weather has kept vineyard activities bustling even after the last grapes have been picked.  Cover crops have been sown.  A mixture of bell beans, winter peas and winter grasses are awaiting rain to germinate and grow.  Indeed, everyone in northern California is awaiting rain.

Grapevines will have a fall flush of root growth after they lose their leaves and enter dormancy, so the vineyard crew has been irrigating in some vineyards to give the vines a chance to take advantage of the warm weather while it lasts.  Again, we look to the skies for rain, to green up the landscape, freshen the air, and let winter groundcover get established before it gets too cold.

The dry weather has allowed for several acres of old vines to be removed at our Colony Ranch in order to make way for new plantings of various red varietals next year.  The vines were removed with an excavator and piled up in order to be burned.  Old stakes and wires were removed by hand.  Later, the field will be ripped and disked, compost spread, and cover crop sown.  Next year the vineyard layout and planting will take place in early summer. 

There is an abundance of bird life in the neighborhood, with great blue herons, kite hawks, snowy egrets and songbirds keeping the vineyard workers company. 

We hope this season finds you all in good health and spirits.  Best wishes from all of us at Frey Vineyards.

Organic cab grapes and olive trees at frey vineyards

Tamara Frey
 
November 4, 2019 | Tamara Frey

Chicken and Butternut Squash Tagine

Chicken tagine on a plate

A tagine is a delicious Moroccan-style stew that is slow-cooked in a ceramic pot of the same name, but you can also cook the dish in a regular baking pan as I did for this recipe.  I used a tagine pot for presentation.  Leave out the chicken for vegetarian version.  I hadn’t made a tagine for years until a client recently requested a dish.  It turned out so good I had to share!  It paired wonderfully with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.

Tagine pots are easy to find online.

Chicken and Butternut Tagine
Serves 6

Chicken: 6 wings & 3 thighs.
1 large butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded, chopped into 1 inch pieces)

Prepare marinade:
2 onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons chopped ginger
Half bunch cilantro, chopped coarsely
5 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons softened ghee
2-3 teaspoons salt
2 pinches saffron threads (about 1 teaspoon, don’t crush)
2 Meyer fresh lemons or regular lemons, de-seeded, coarsely chopped.

5 tablespoons ghee
1 can pitted green olives
3/4 cup blanched almonds (place in simmering water for one minute and remove skins)
4 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon (preserved lemons can be found online if your local supermarket has none)

Blend all marinade ingredients in Cuisinart or blender. Thoroughly massage marinade into the chicken in a baking pan and over the butternut squash pieces.  Let marinate for a few hours or even better, overnight.  For vegetarians, use butternut squash and leave out chicken.

Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.  After baking 20 minutes, and every 15 to 20 minutes thereafter, stir the dish in the oven.  Chicken should be nicely browned after an hour.

Pull from oven and immediately toss with 5-6 tablespoons ghee.  Add and toss the green olives, blanched almonds, thinly sliced preserved lemon, then garnish with cilantro.

Ceramic tagine pot for cooking
A ceramic tagine pot for cooking or for presentation, and a jar of home-made preserved lemons.

Peeled garlic and squash
Peeled garlic and squash.
 

Ingredieants in the blender
Ingredients in the blender.

Vegetarian tagine and chicken tagine, side by side.
Rub in the marinade.  Left is vegetarian version, right is with chicken.

Blanching the almonds in simmering water
Blanching the almonds in simmering water.

Removing skin from blanched almonds
Removing skins from blanched almonds.

Vegetarian tagine dish ready to eat
Vegetarian tagine dish ready to eat!

Frey Vineyards
 
September 30, 2019 | Frey Vineyards

Our Sense of Smell and Taste

Eva-Marie Lind is an expert in the field of aromatic raw materials and sensory perception.  A recognized leader in the art of perfumery, she has designed the aromas, scents and flavors of many perfumes, health and beauty products.  Frey Vineyards invited Eva-Marie to come to the winery as a sensory sommelier and merge the foundations of the art of perfumery with the art of winemaking.Diagram of the nose and nerves leading to brain.By Eva-Marie Lind

For a moment, let us explore our sense of smell and taste.  We each have our own genetic encoded odor print.  None of us, outside of identical twins, experience the sense of smell and taste in the same manner.  Scents and flavors elicit psychosomatic (mind and spirit) as well as physiologic (body) responses, which, beyond our awareness, imprint themselves onto our memory.  In addition, our perceptions are influenced biologically, by age, sex chemistry and environment.

We each respond to scent through a variety of circumstances unique to our individuality.  This theory, called ‘learned-odor response,” is why the same aroma (scent and flavor) can affect each of us quite differently.  An aroma that triggers good memories for one person, may revisit painful memories for another.  Our individual histories, locked within the recesses of our mind, govern our responses and our feelings.  

Of all our senses, smell may be our most acute; enabled and facilitated by the mysterious process of our olfactory nerves that, unlike most others in our physical make-up, have the capacity to renew themselves.  Each olfactory neuron survives a mere sixty days and is then replaced by a new cell.  When these cells renew themselves, the axons of neurons that express the same receptor always go to the exact same place.  This is why our memories are able to survive all this turnover of neurons.

Drawing of the nose and the mouth.

We have the capacity to smell and identify over one trillion odors in one square inch of the brain.  Smelling is rapid in response, taking merely 0.5 seconds to register as compared to 0.9 seconds to react to pain.

Our nose and its epithelium are an ‘organ’- one that digests, assimilates and transfers odor molecules to the brain to be further processed.  Registering odors is generally independent of our left hemisphere brain, which is the care-center of our mind and is responsible for our impartiality, examination and intellect. Our left brain is also responsible for governing language and speech which suggest why it is so difficult for many to adequately describe aromas with language. Odor recognition is predominately a right hemisphere brain activity.  This is the area responsible for our passion, emotion, creativity, and instinctive behavior.

The senses of smell and taste are tightly joined, however tasting requires tens of thousands more molecules to register, than does smell.

Taste buds are as fascinating as our olfactory neurons. In the 17th century, Marcello Maphigi identified the papillae of our tongue, each composed of taste buds, as “organs of taste.” Taste buds also reside on the soft palate, tonsils and the upper third of the esophagus. We have nearly 10,000 buds. Sixty -five taste buds fit into the space of one typewritten period. Each papillae contain about two hundred and fifty buds. Just like our olfactory neurons, taste buds are in a constant state of flux and regeneration, shedding and renewing every ten days.

Taste buds distinguish the four qualities of sweet, salty, bitter and sour.  In Japan they add a fifth quality of ‘karai, for spicy, hot and richness.  In India, within the Ayurvedic tradition, there are six “rasas,’ removing spicy and adding astringent and pungent.  All other tastes and flavors are detected by the olfactory receptors that reside within our nasal passages.  We smell odors and flavors through our nose, as well as the passageway in the back of the mouth.

Wine tasting can be enhanced with the unique vocabulary and experiential inferences of scent. My goal is to alter your perception, encourage your imagination and facilitate a (r)evolution between the world of perfume and wine.

Sampling wine.

 

 

Frey Vineyards
 
September 30, 2019 | Frey Vineyards

Sangiovese, the Classic Italian Grape

Cluster of Sangiovese berries

By Eva-Marie Lind 

I arrived at Frey Vineyards after three years in Italy researching the heritage perfume of the trees of Fiori d’Arancia amara.  This bitter orange produces the valued blossoms known to the perfume industry as Neroli.

So, it was with great enthusiasm that I discovered that the fields that welcomed me into the winery were planted with the classic Italian grape, Sangiovese.

Each morning with dense coffee in hand and then at dusk with my thermos of essence spiked sparkling water, I observed her (Sangiovese.) Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamic agriculture, advised visual and sensory observation of the farm and the crops.  Sunrise to sunset, I noticed the pollinators of the in between vine flora, the tilling and smell of the soil, as well as the fauna.  Bushy skunk, momma fox, deer and most recently, baby bear, all made appearances.

I had missed budburst and full flower, arriving as the flower caps were ever so slightly fading.  I watched as the caps fell away becoming joyful sets of berries.  I noticed the unique visual communities each cluster formed.

Sangiovese 2016- A visual delight in the glass of dense garnet with a thin pinkish- purple roof. Opening aroma of sweet earth holding hints of air cooled by summer evening breezes.  Violet leaf and blueberry with a touch of pink lotus absolute and a tinge of herb and pimento berry. The mouth feel is both light and full offering lively ripe raspberry, cherry, tea rose, pink pepper and young wild forest notes.

Opens robustly with black silky elegance, black currant and mulberry, a hint of tobacco and a feathering of licorice, clove and sweet saddle-leather.

Vineyard of Sangiovese grapes

 

 

Nicole Paisley Martensen
 
September 20, 2019 | Nicole Paisley Martensen

Frey Wines Are Keto-Friendly

Thee bottles of Frey Organic Wine

We love when customers contact us with questions about our wines.  If we don’t know the answers off-hand, it prompts us to geek-out on research, which is truly one of our favorite pastimes!

We’ve received several questions from customers lately asking if our wines are Keto-friendly.  While we’re familiar with the Keto diet as a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and boosts the body’s metabolism, we wanted to learn more about why Frey wines qualify as Keto-friendly.

Practitioners of the Keto diet aim to keep the body in the blissful metabolic state called ketosis, where the body is actually burning up stored fat.  Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.  Wine and light varieties of beer are relatively low in carbs, usually 3-4 grams per serving, but when you’re trying to clock under 30 carbs per day on the Keto diet, even a glass of wine could launch you out of ketosis.

So where do the carbs in wine come from in the first place?  Carbs in alcohol come from residual sugar, or sugars left over after the fermentation process.  Before grapes ferment into wine, they are sugary.  During fermentation in the cellar, tiny yeasts feast on grape sugar and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.  As the alcohol level rises it kills off the yeast, and any remaining sugar becomes known as residual sugar.  In some cases, a winemaker might desire more residual sugar in order to manipulate a wine’s acidity and will stop the process to prevent the yeast from consuming all the sugar.  In other cases, a winemaker might add sugar to ultimately increase the alcohol level in a process called chaptalization, although this technique is prohibited in California.

Because of the presence of sugar, whether residual or added, even wines that are classified as “dry” can still bring on the carbs.  Varieties with higher alcohol levels, typically Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel, will naturally harbor more carbs.  Although wine labels don’t list nutritional information like calories and carbs, if you know the residual sugar in grams per liter, you can do the sum on your own.  To calculate carbs per 5 oz. serving of wine, multiply the residual sugar by 0.15.  Dry wines are classified as wines with 30 grams/liter or less of residual sugar, so one glass of dry wine can contain between 0-4 carbs.

At Frey Vineyards, we allow the yeast to go through the full maturation process in the cellar and we produce our wines with very little manipulation.  ALL of our wines test for less than 1% residual sugar, which means they all contain less than 0.15 carbohydrates per 5 oz. glass.  So Keto friends can rest assured that our wines are low-carb and can be enjoyed while enjoying your fitness plan!

Time Posted: Sep 20, 2019 at 12:20 PM
Cathie Nicolaus
 
April 12, 2019 | Cathie Nicolaus

Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala

Bowl of Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala, filled to the brim with tasty garnish

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cups dried chickpeas, cooked and drained (2 cups cooked)
  • 1 small head Cauliflower, separated into flowerets
  • 1 large onion, diced
  •  5 fresh tomatoes or 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14 ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Ghee or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • lime juice and chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Salt to taste

Preparation Instructions


In deep skillet or Wok, fry mustard and cumin seeds in 1 Tbsp oil until the cumin seeds begin to pop and brown; then add onions and sauté until soft and translucent.  Add chopped tomatoes and cook until they are stewy.  Add sugar, turmeric, masala, curry, cayenne pepper and coriander; stir till completely combined.  Add Cauliflower and Chickpeas, cover and steam until the Cauliflower is just tender.  You may have to add a little water to steam.  (If not using coconut milk, let sit for 5 minutes before serving over rice.  Add salt to taste.)
If using coconut milk:  Add coconut milk and mix in well.  Let simmer for 4 minutes covered on low heat, then uncover, take off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving over rice.  Add salt to taste.  Garnish with a little lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro and enjoy with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.

 

Eliza Frey
 
March 18, 2019 | Eliza Frey

Wild Edible Greens

The author, Eliza Frey, in field of wild mustard.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)
Close-up of savory wild miner's lettuce with morning dewdrops.

A tasty patch of bedewed miner's lettuce, growing wild.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)
Flowering chickweek cradled in a hand.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)
Dandelion flower held between the fingers.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 patch of mustard blowing in the wind.

Mustard growing between Frey biodynamic cabernet vineyard rows.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)
Wild sheep's sorrel, close up.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!

Happy Foraging!

 

Additional Resources

Books
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair
Wild Edibles by Sergei Boutenko

Websites
Native plant Societies – connect with your state or local group.
Foragesf.com – offering foraging classes in the San Francisco Bay Area
Ediblewildfood.com

 

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