Oh, the humble dandelion.  Dandelions are so under-appreciated in our age of pristine grass lawns!  I'll save the lawn rant for another day - for now, let's appreciate the glory of this well-known 'weed'. 

Dandelions are edible and medicinal, and easy (so easy!) to find.  Their uses range from wine to salads to medicinal tonics, and they are perfect to harvest this time of year.
One of spring's first blooms, down by our creek bed.

Spotlight on Dandelion

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), gets its name from the French 'dent-de-lion' or 'lion's tooth', and is related to chicory and wild lettuce.  Dandelion leaves, flowers, and root are all edible, and are also useful to make herbal remedies, especially tonics for liver and your overall health.

There's Bessie!
It's finally happened.  I caught the raw milk bug.  Yep... I'm into it.

Ask anyone who knows me - I can be stubborn.  Alternative health and food trends often leave me skeptical at all the hype.  It took me 3 years to start drinking kombucha, and another 4 months after that to even research its health benefits.  Now, I'm so 'into' it that I make my own kombucha.

So how did I become a raw milk convert? This morning I got an email from a local dairy owner, offering a (raw) milk share from her soon-to-be lactating cow, Bessie.  Shares are about $3.50/gallon, 50 cents more than the local organic milk I've been getting from the grocery store.  Usually the cost (and having to drive 30 miles pick the milk up) would be enough to tip the balance towards store-bought. 

But... I looked at the pros and cons between store-bought and farm share, and raw milk won out:

I just came back from the Florida Gulf, visiting my partner Morgan.  It was an exotic tropical vacation for me, since I'm used to the dry climate of the Rocky Mountain foothills.  The Gulf is a very different world! 

In a lot of ways, the Florida landscape felt very alien to me - lizards clinging to the curtains, Spanish moss hanging from telephone lines, and the scent of saltwater forever on the air. 

The feel and flavor of the Gulf is so very different from my landlocked Rockies home, and the local food was a deliciously exotic treat. 

One word:  Seafood.  Oh my... peel n' eat shrimp, mango tuna tartare, oyster shooters, fried shrimp with hot sauce, raw oysters on the half shell, triggerfish tacos, spicy ginger shrimp ka-bobs, seared tuna with cilantro...

It's making me drool a little just thinking about all the seafood. 

Here in the Rocky Mountain foothills, spring pulled a sneak attack.  All sorts of growth erupted from the earth, which means I can get back to foraging for wild edible and medicinal plants.

In December, Morgan gifted me with a trio of useful books:  The Forager's Harvest: Edible Wild Plants, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, and a homemade native plant observation journal.  Awww... so sweet.  But I've been waiting all winter for our native plants to revive so I could actually use her gifts!

So, without further ado:  Today's spotlight is on mullein!

Spotlight on Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) - also called Golden Rod, Shepherd's Staff, Cowboy Toilet Paper (awesome) and about a million other names - is from the Snapdragon family and is best known as a medicinal herb that aids coughs.

Squash is a winter staple around these parts, but I never quite know what to do with it.  Spaghetti squash, on the other hand, never fails to deliver! 

Introducing spaghetti squash as... what else?  Spaghetti!

Vegan, gluten-free, seasonal spaghetti, that is.  I used all local and gifted ingredients for this squash-ilicious spaghetti.

~ spaghetti squash, local and organic
~ garlic, local and organic
~ yellow onion, local and organic
~ green onion, dehydrated, gifted
~ green onion, fresh, gifted*
~ garlic-infused olive oil, gifted
~ RealSalt, sourced near my home state
~ black pepper, from bulk into a reusable shaker

* You can keep green onions growing for a long time in a jar.  Keep them in sunlight and replace the water frequently.  Trim off the tops and they'll grow back!

Red Wagon Organic Farm
I just got offered (and accepted) a full-time job as a farm hand at Red Wagon Organic Farm.

Who knew?  When I was a kid, I never liked helping my mom in her veggie garden (I blame the Michigan mosquitoes for that), though I did always love to eat peas fresh from the vine. 

Then, when I was 20, I was a guest at an off-grid organic (& bio-dynamic) farm.  When I ate freshly picked herbs from that land, I could feel their life force radiate into my veins.  I know that sounds strange, but there's an incredible difference between fresh, local, lovingly-grown food and trucked-in, several-week-old produce from the grocery store. 

Since then, I've become passionate about local food

Well... I'm going to be a farmer.

I confess, I'm not very good at making up new recipes.  I like eggs, nachos, and leftovers - and if there are no leftovers, I'm likely to fry a single ingredient and simply salt it to edibility.

Pretty lame cooking tactics, I know.

I called Morgan (my personal chef) for a little help, starting with one ingredient:  beets.

After asking what other ingredients I had on hand, she made the call:  Casserole

There's something so wonderful about arugula.  It tastes like spring and fall at the same time, and pairs perfectly with parmesan cheese...

Though my cold frame experiment went downhill, I salvaged the arugula.  Excellent! 

Fast-forward through a successful container transplant, and I've had windowsill arugula for the last 3 months.  I harvest here and there, and stage periodic ladybug (actually, West Asian Beetle) coups to stave off the aphid infestation.

Lately, my arugula has begun to flower!

Before each meal, Morgan and I look at each other and say, "Okay, let's talk about this."  We go through each ingredient, and think about its source - local, organic, gifted food is ideal!  Sometimes we're lucky enough to have an all-local meal, which feels amazing.

Today, my refrigerator was sparse.  It's been a week and a half since my last CSA delivery, and I'm running out of ingredients and ideas!

Enter IngredientPairings.com.  I often need a little help imagining how things will taste together.  So, I entered in an ingredient:  'leeks'.  From there, I found that leeks go well with pasta - I just happen to have pasta!  I added 'pasta' to the search, found that tempeh goes well with leeks & pasta, and the recipe snowballed into a local, organic, gifted, (vegan!) confection.

I recently watched "Radically Simple", a short documentary about a man Jim Merkel & his quest towards sustainable living.  Merkel teaches and exemplifies a simple lifestyle, one that will allow all Earth's billions of beings the space and resources to live
Ever seen the bumper sticker, "Live Simply So Others May Simply Live"?  That's his whole point. 

Merkel leads workshop participants through a painstakingly detailed assessment of their Ecological Footprints, an estimate of how many resources you use, versus how many we each can afford to use.

Essentially, your ecological footprint is how many pieces of chocolate mousse pie you're taking at the party.  Turns out, I'm a little glutton and I'm eating three pieces of pie... but there's only enough for everyone to have one!

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