How to Cook & Eat Crawfish

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Crayfish are easy to catch and are a great source of protein!

It couldn’t be easier to cook up a tasty batch of crawfish.  You can pay a premium for them at a fish market, or just invest in a $25 crawfish trap and catch them yourself.

How to cook Crayfish:

Once you have a fresh batch, here’s the simplest way to prepare them:

  1. Place the crawfish in a large container and rinse them with fresh water until the water runs clear.

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    Wash the crayfish in clean water until the water’s clear

  2. Fill the container with water, and remove any crayfish that are floating.  (Their meat goes bad quickly when uncooked, which is why crawfish and lobster are cooked live.)
    ***Do not cook and eat any crawfish that were dead before you cooked them***
    Note:  as long as you’re cooking a fresh harvest, this won’t be an issue for you.  It really only matters when you’ve purchased crawfish that may not be as fresh, or have let your harvest sit a bit. (We keep ours on frozen “icees” in a cooler, and (so far) they’ve been fine for up to 36 hours.)
  3. Select a cooking pot that’s large enough to hold your harvest, with some room to spare.
  4. Place 4 or so inches of water in the bottom of the pot, add a little salt, and bring the pot to a rapid boil.
  5. Dump the crawfish quickly into the pot, reduce heat to a low boil, and cover the pot.
  6. Depending on how large the crawfish are, let the pot simmer for 8-15 minutes.  (overcooking them can make them tough and chewy though)
  7. Drain the water, and serve with melted butter.  Enjoy!

How to Eat Crawfish

How to eat crawfish, is a different matter.  It does require a bit of effort, and is messy… but worth it.  And, as long as you consider it entertainment and part of the fun, you’ll have a good experience!

  1. Have plenty of napkins available, and a bucket or bowl to place the scraps in.
  2. Select a cooked crayfish.
  3. Remove the tail by grasping the tail near where it joins the body.  Then just gently pull.  It’ll separate pretty easily.
  4. To get the meat out of the tail, just peel the shell off.  Dip the meat in butter and enjoy!  (if the “mustard” bothers you, you can always wipe that off)
  5. If large enough, you can also crack the shell and remove the meat from the claws.
  6. Toss the rest and the shell scraps into the bucket.
  7. Pick up another, and repeat!

If you have extra, you can refrigerate or freeze the cleaned meat.  Use the crayfish meat instead of shrimp or lobster in your favorite recipes.  Or, try some other crawfish recipe ideas that you might enjoy:

Crayfish Nutritional Value

There’s some good and some bad about eating crayfish.  The worst is that a single serving makes up 40% of the average daily recommended cholesterol allowance.

But on the positive side, they are surprisingly low on fat (1% of the average daily allowance).  They’re also a good source of protein (a 3 oz serving has 15g of protein).  The meat also contains potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and a high amount of vitamin B12.

Foraging Fun – Dandelions

One of the most common and most nutritious wild edibles is right under our feet!

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You’ve, no doubt, heard about dandelion wine.  But have you heard about all the other ways that you can use dandelions? Or about how amazingly nutritious they are?

Believe it or not, the very same weed that plagues your lawn was grown as a food (and medicinal) crop for centuries in Europe and Asia.  It was so important to the early colonists that they brought dandelions (on purpose!) with them to North America. As a result, dandelions became a staple food for many pioneers.  Later, they were a survival food during the Great Depression when food was scarce and expensive.

Now that food is so abundant, we think of them only as weeds.  But dandelions are actually are a tremendous blessing in disguise.

For starters, dandelions are a perfect plant for beginning foragers since the plants are so common and there are no poisonous look-alikes.  For any foraging that you do, please use at least one field-guide to make sure you’re identifying your plants properly.  Better yet, use two!  You’ll also want to avoid picking dandelions on treated lawns (to avoid eating the herbicides and pesticides).

While foraging is a popular trend these days, it’s always something I’ve been interested in.  And, even more so now that hubby and I have embarked on our new nomadic lifestyle.  We love the idea of being able to supplement our diets with locally provided truly natural foods!

Dandelion Nutrition Information & Uses:

Dandelion Leaves:

  • has more iron and calcium than spinach, and more beta carotene than carrots.
  • contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, biotin, potassium, zinc,  phosphorus, copper, manganese and inositol.

Harvest dandelion leaves for use in salads or as cooked greens (like you would spinach).  They’re tastiest when picked in either early spring (before the outside temperature gets hot) or late fall (after the first hard frost).  You’ll want to harvest leaves from plants that have not yet flowered or they’ll be tough and bitter.  Tea can be made from the leaves at any time in the season.

Dandelion Root is reportedly one of the safest and most popular home remedies.  The root decoction is a tonic that has a reputation for strengthening your whole body system.  It’s also known for cleansing and reducing swelling in the liver and helping to get rid of gallstones.  It helps with jaundice and indigestion.

Tea made of the root and leaves act as a gentle diuretic, helping your kidneys cleanse your blood and recycle nutrients (without removing the potassium from your system).

Dandelions are also supposed to be good for your bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines.

The leaf’s white milky sap has a reputation for removing warts, moles, pimples, calluses and sores.  It’s also supposed to soothe bee stings and blisters.

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Dandelion roots can be harvested at any time, but are best when the plant is dormant (fall to spring).  Dandelions often grow in very close proximity to other plants, so just make sure that the root you take home is from the dandelion plant you identified. Use the roots in soups, teas, steamed,roasted or sautéed.

Dandelion flowers contain antioxidants.  They are the most tender when used early in their bloom cycle (when the petals are still yellow).  The flowers and blooms can be cooked in stir fries, pickled, battered and fried, an ingredient in bakery, to make a sunny tasting sweet syrup, or to make wine. If using the flowers, only use the yellow part of the flower (the green part is bitter).

Dandelion Recipes

I’m just getting started with dandelions, so we’ll have to take this adventure in recipes together.  So far, I’ve taken the easy route by mostly just using the greens in tossed salads.  I’ve also been enjoying a nice hot tea simply by steeping chopped dandelion leaves in hot water.

Most recently, I tried a simple Summer Cucumber Dandelion Salad.  It was very easy and tasty.  Just slice a cucumber into thin discs.  Place them in a bowl along with thinly sliced sweet onion (like Vidalia) and julienned dandelion leaves.   Stir in just enough sour cream or plain yogurt to make a dressing.  Salt and Pepper to taste. (See photo below.)

 

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Cucumber Dandelion Summer Salad Recipe

 

Here are a few other dandelion recipes that you might have fun with:

**If you have favorite recipes, please don’t be bashful!  Share them so that we can all enjoy them too!

Foraging Fun: Wintergreen

Foraging for the healthful abundance of natural foods that God & nature have provided for us has been an idea that’s fascinated me in recent years.  I have many books that I’ve read till the covers have worn thin.  I have a gazillion websites that I watch about it.

I’m reminded that one of the purposes of this simple living approach to life is to have more time for the things that we choose to do.  So, I think it’s high time that I stop reading about it, and get to it!

First, lets start with some basic rules for foraging:

  1. Always, always, always make sure you have a positive identification of a plant before trying to eat it.  Use a couple of different field identification guides to make sure you’ve properly identified the plant.  This is very important.  Some wild edibles have very poisonous “look alikes” that are not to be trifled with.  (I tend to stick to only plants that are easy to identify without any scary look alikes.)
  2. Be respectful and only harvest in areas that are legally allowed.  If it’s private property, ask permission first. Most property owners consider these plants weeds and are more than happy to have you harvest them.  Plus it gives them something funny to talk about with their friends!
  3. Avoid areas that have been treated with herbicides, chemicals, or that are right on a roadside.  You don’t want to consume plants that have been contaminated.
  4. Be respectful of nature.  Don’t destroy the patch or area around it to get what you want.  Don’t take more than you can realistically use.  Don’t take more than  20% of the patch (this allows nature to keep the patch going for future use).  And don’t take more than 1 leaf from any one plant (to let the plant continue to live and grow).

We’re in northern Minnesota for the summer, so for now, the wild edibles will be what I can find up here.  And they’ll be ones that I can easily identify.  I’ll share my experiences with them, and the recipes (if they turn out well).  Some of these edibles will be things that you’ll find in other part of North America also.

Wintergreen is a good place to start, primarily because it’s what I found on my hike the other day.

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Wintergreen, with a few other wild plants growing in close proximity.

Wintergreen has thick, shiny, leathery leaves that are slightly toothed.  The leaves are 1 to 2 inches long, and are clustered together at the top of a short but woody stem.  Younger leaves are yellowish-green.  Older leaves are dark green.  The entire plant is perhaps 6″ tall.  (The western states have a different variety of wintergreen called western wintergreen that grows as a tall shrub.)  Here’s a map showing the general area that creeping wintergreen grows in:  USDA Wintergreen Habitat Map

The red ripened berries hang under the leaves, and have a cross on the bottom.  Berries ripen in the fall, but winterover and are often still on the plants in the spring.

Wintergreen goes by many different names including checkerberry or tea leaf.  It’s an evergreen shrub that spreads by a complex root system (the plants in one area tend to be from the same root system).  Wintergreen loves poor and acidic soil.  It prefers clearings.  It is a cousin to blueberries and cranberries which also prefer the same soil and climate.

Please note that there are other plants that produce red berries that can grow in the same areas, so make sure you have a positive identification before eating them.  The best way to know for sure, is this:  pick a berry or leaf and crush it.  If it smells like wintergreen, it is.  If it doesn’t, toss it aside.

Wintergreen berries are very high in vitamin C.  Wintergreen is reported as being helpful for those suffering from arthritis.  Wintergreen was used by the American Indians for pain and fever.

For a refreshing trail nibble, nibble on a few.  Chewing on the berries or leaves will freshen your breath.  Supposedly it will also bring relief to irritated gums and canker sores.  You can successfully freeze the berries and leaves.

Don’t dry or dehydrate the leaves or berries – it changes the oil, and leaves them tasting very bland.  Steeping them in hot water for tea doesn’t work well either.

Also, unless you’re a trained professional, it’s best not to try to extract oil from wintergreen.  The extracted oil is extremely powerful and lethal even in small doses.  Don’t ever use wintergreen oil internally.  Avoid altogether if pregnant.

What can you do with wintergreen (besides freshen your breath or nibble a couple of berries)?

  • Make a fermented wintergreen tea that’s tasty and restorative.  Simply fill a glass jar with freshly picked and washed wintergreen leaves.  Cover with filtered water.  Cover the jar with a paper towel or other breathable fabric, and secure with a rubber band (keeps bugs and dust and such out).  Let it sit on the counter for 3 days.  As long as you didn’t use chlorinated tap water, you should see bubbles forming from the fermentation.  You can now strain out the leaves, and drink the tea (cold or warm).  If warming it, just barely warm it (do not boil), or you’ll ruin it.  It’s a very refreshing drink for a hot summer day.  Drink it warmed, and it’ll warm you up from the inside!
  • Make an extract (similar to vanilla extract that you buy at the store for baking, but that’s wintergreen flavored).  Use it for making cookies or candies, or flavoring drinks.  how to make a wintergreen extract
  • I haven’t tried this one, but here’s a recipe from another blog that used wintergreen berries to flavor muffins.
  • And a recipe of my own creation:  Cranberry Wintergreen Breakfast Cake (Gluten-Free)

Please share if you have other favorite recipes or uses for Wintergreen!  Happy foraging!

Cranberry Wintergreen Breakfast Cake (gluten free)

This gluten-free wintergreen recipe was a homemade experiment, but I like how it turned out. (It did also get good reviews from hubby and my co-workers at the seasonal resort we’re at this summer.)

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Cranberry Wintergreen Breakfast Cake Recipe (Gluten-Free)

Although, a bit crumbly, it’s a decadent breakfast cake using frozen wintergreen berries harvested in the wild.  Perfect for today’s overcast and chilly morning.

Mix in a large bowl:
–  2 1/2 cups almond flour
– 1/2 cup sugar (or sweetener of choice in proportion)
– 1 tbsp. baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt

Add 6 tbsp. of cold butter, cut into thin slices.  Toss in the flour mixture, and using a pastry blender (or two butter knives side by side), cut in the butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas.

Add 1/2 cup cranberries (halved), and 2 tbsp. wintergreen berries (halved) and stir in until evenly mixed through.

In a separate container mix 1/2 cup whole milk with 2 large eggs until blended.  Add all at once to the dry mix, and stir until batter is thoroughly mixed.  The batter will be very moist, but should be able to hold it’s form somewhat.  If not, add more flour as needed.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet and form into a rectangle.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 -40 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch.

Note:  This makes for a very mild and subtle wintergreen flavor. I intentionally wanted it as a subtle flavor, so that the bakery wouldn’t taste like toothpaste.  If you’d like it a bit stronger, add more wintergreen berries.

Also, I used wintergreen berries that were harvested in the spring (hold-overs from fall in the wild).  I don’t know if freshly ripe berries harvested in the fall would have a stronger flavor, so you may want to experiment a little.