Do you enjoy foraging for food? Do you find it relaxing to get away from the noise of your smartphone and eat what nature provides? If so, wild edibles might be for you. But you should know that many edible wild plants lose their flavor or become less flavorful as they age. Luckily there are methods to preserve wild edibles and complement your everyday eats.
One of the simplest preservation methods is drying wild edibles. Lay cleaned and thoroughly dried plants in a single layer on a tray or hang them in bundles in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Once completely dry, things crispy, store them in airtight containers in a cool, dark spot so they can keep their flavors and textures.
Freezing is an excellent method for preserving the freshness of wild edibles. Blanch the prepared plants briefly in boiling water, then move them into an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain well and place in freezer-safe containers or bags. Label and date them before storing them in the freezer. This method works well for greens, berries, and certain mushrooms.
Pickling wild edibles preserves them and adds a tangy and flavorful twist. Prepare a brine of vinegar, water, sugar, and spices, and heat it until the sugar dissolves. Pack the cleaned and trimmed wild edibles into sterilized jars, pour the hot brine over them, and seal them tightly. Allow the flavors to develop by letting them sit in a cool, dark place for a few weeks before consuming them.
Learn More: Easy Pickled Red Onions
Fermentation is a traditional preservation technique that imparts unique flavors to wild edibles. Prepare a brine solution with salt and water, and submerge the cleaned and trimmed plants in a fermentation vessel. Keep the container at room temperature for several weeks, allowing the beneficial bacteria to transform the flavors. Once fermented, transfer the wild edibles to the refrigerator for longer storage.
Learn More: Lacto-Fermented Brussels Sprouts
Canning is a reliable method for preserving wild edibles. It involves placing prepared plants in sterilized jars, sealing them with lids, and processing them in a water bath or pressure canner. Follow canning guidelines and recipes for each plant to ensure safety and quality. Canned wild edibles can last several years when stored in a cool, dark place.
Learn More: Wild Black Raspberry Jam
Infusing in oil or vinegar
Create flavorful infusions by packing cleaned wild edibles into bottles and covering them with oil or vinegar. Seal the bottles tightly and store them in a cool, dark area to allow the flavors to develop over time. Infused oils and vinegar can be used in dressings, marinades, or as finishing touches to dishes.
Learn more: How to make infused vinegar
Making preserves and jams
Preserve the sweetness of wild berries or fruits by making preserves and jams. Cook the cleaned and prepared wild edibles with sugar and lemon juice until thickened. Pour the mixture into sterilized jars, seal them, and process in a water bath to extend their shelf life. Enjoy the preserves on toast, pancakes, or as a filling in pastries.
Learn More: Jelly vs. Jam and Other Types of Fruit Preserves
Salt preservation works well for sure wild edibles like wild mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms, then layer them with salt in a clean container. Cover and store in an away from direct light for several weeks. Rinse off the excess salt before using. The salted wild mushrooms can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for longer-term preservation.
Making herb-infused salts
Combine wild herbs or edible flowers with coarse sea salt to create flavorful herb-infused salts. Spread the salt blend mixture on a baking sheet and let it air dry for a few days. Once dry, store the infused salts in airtight containers. Use them to season dishes or as a finishing touch to elevate flavors.
Learn More: How to Make Herbed Salt
Dehydrating with a food dehydrator
Invest in a food dehydrator for efficient and consistent drying of wild edibles. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to prepare and dehydrate the wild edibles. Arrange the cleaned and sliced plants on the dehydrator trays, ensuring proper airflow. Set the temperature according to the specific plant's requirements and let the dehydrator do its work.
Once dried to the desired texture, allow the wild edibles to cool before storing them in airtight containers. Dehydrated wild edibles can be rehydrated when needed or used directly in recipes.
Remember, for optimal storage and shelf life of preserved wild edibles:
- Choose high-quality, fresh specimens for preservation.
- Properly clean and prepare the wild edibles before preserving them.
- Label all containers with the name and date of preservation to keep track of freshness.
- Store preserved items in a cool, dark place to maintain flavor and quality.
- Consider using vacuum-sealed bags or containers to remove excess air and minimize moisture.
- Regularly inspect preserved items for any signs of spoilage or deterioration.
- Rotate your preserved stock, using older items before newer ones.
- Follow recommended preservation times and methods specific to each wild edible.
By employing these preservation techniques and storage tips, you can extend the life of wild edibles and enjoy their flavors throughout the year. Experiment with different methods to find the ones that best suit the characteristics of each plant and your culinary preferences. Happy preserving!