Discover the delicious world of wild edibles on the grill! Our guide explores grilling techniques for wild foraged ingredients. Grilling wild edibles is a great way to make use of foraged foods, adding a smoky flavor that can enhance the natural tastes of your finds. However, just as with eating these foods in any other form, it’s essential to be sure you’ve correctly identified any wild plants, fruits, or mushrooms before you cook them. Here are some techniques and tips for grilling wild edibles in the outdoors:
Prepping Wild Edibles
Cleaning: Wash all items thoroughly to remove any dirt, bugs, or other contaminants.
Chopping: Depending on the plant, you may need to chop it into smaller, more manageable pieces for the grill. Some leaves and herbs can be left whole.
Marinating: A good marinade can bring out the flavors of wild edibles. Consider marinating items like wild mushrooms for a few hours before grilling.
Wild Edibles on the Grill Techniques
Direct Heat: Suitable for items that cook quickly. Examples include young dandelion leaves or thinner mushroom slices.
- How-to: Place directly on a clean grill over high heat. Cook until you see grill marks and the edges begin to crisp.
Indirect Heat: Best for items that need slower cooking, like tubers or larger mushroom caps.
- How-to: Place on the cooler side of a two-zone grill. Cover and cook, turning occasionally until tender.
Foil Packets: Useful for items that might fall through the grill or those that benefit from steaming, like wild onions or ramps.
- How-to: Place the edibles in aluminum foil, add some oil or butter, and season. Seal the foil and place on the grill, flipping occasionally.
Skewers: Good for small items that might otherwise fall through the grill, like berries or small mushroom pieces.
- How-to: Thread items onto skewers and place them over direct heat. Turn frequently to cook evenly.
Smoking: Imparts a smoky flavor to wild edibles.
- How-to: Use a smoker or make a makeshift smoker using aluminum foil and wood chips on a regular grill. Place edibles on the grill grates away from direct heat, cover, and allow to smoke.
Seasoning and Spices
- Salt and Pepper: Sometimes simple is best. A sprinkle of salt and a dash of pepper can go a long way.
- Garlic and Herbs: Wild garlic can be an excellent addition, as can other foraged herbs like wild thyme or oregano.
- Citrus: A squeeze of lemon or orange can brighten the flavors.
- Make sure your grilling area is clean and free from any toxic plants that could contaminate your food.
- Always have a fire extinguisher or water source handy in case of grill flare-ups.
- Many wild edibles will shrink considerably when grilled, so gather more than you think you’ll need.
- Some wild plants can become more palatable and easier to digest when cooked, but remember that heat won’t neutralize poisonous substances in misidentified plants.
Advanced Flavor Techniques
- Infused Oils: For an extra layer of flavor, consider using infused oils like garlic or rosemary oil as a brushing liquid during grilling.
- Glazing: Towards the end of grilling, you can apply a glaze made from reduced fruit juices, perhaps even from other foraged items like wild berries.
- Spice Rubs: A dry rub using foraged herbs like wild sage, oregano, or even dried mushroom powder can add a rich, aromatic component.
Pairing with Other Foods
Wild Edibles on the Grill
- Meats: If you are also grilling meats, consider how the flavors of your wild edibles can complement the dish. For example, grilled ramps or wild onions are excellent with steaks.
- Fish: Delicate greens and herbs can pair wonderfully with fish. Consider a bed of grilled wild fennails with a fish filet on top.
- Vegetarian: If you’re going all-in on the plant-based front, think about texture contrasts. Grilled tubers can serve as a hearty base, while crispy leaves or charred fruits can add contrast.
- Herbal Teas: Foraged herbs like mint or chamomile can make refreshing iced teas to accompany your grilled feast.
- Wild Berry Lemonade: Utilize foraged berries to create a homemade lemonade, a perfect drink for a hot day and grilled foods.
- Infused Waters: Simple but refreshing, water infused with slices of wild fruits or even cucumber can be a hit.
- Plating: Consider using large leaves like burdock as natural plates or platters.
- Garnish: Small edible flowers or herbs can add a pop of color and additional flavors.
Tools to Consider
- Grill Basket: Useful for small items like berries or chopped vegetables, keeping them from falling through the grill grates.
- Heat-Resistant Gloves: Useful for handling hot skewers or foil packets.
Brush: For applying oils or glazes during the grilling process.
- Grilled Fruits: While not ‘wild,’ traditional fruits like peaches or plums can be grilled and then topped with a sauce made from wild berries.
- Smoked Nuts: Some foraged nuts can be lightly smoked for a unique dessert or snack.
Grilling Safety Revisited
- Temperature Monitoring: Use a food thermometer to ensure everything is cooked to a safe temperature, especially if you’re also cooking meats or fish.
- Resting: Allow grilled items to rest for a few minutes after cooking. This is particularly crucial for meats but also helps the flavors of grilled vegetables to meld.
- Avoid Cross-Contamination: Keep separate utensils and plates for raw and cooked foods.
- Multiple Grills: If you’re cooking a variety of wild edibles along with meats or fish, consider setting up multiple grills to prevent flavors from mixing and to manage different cooking times more efficiently.
- Portable Grills: For the more adventurous, portable grills can be brought directly to the foraging site, allowing you to cook your finds right where you found them. This is especially rewarding for fish if you’re near a water source.
Custom Cooking Equipment
- Custom Skewers: Instead of traditional metal or wooden skewers, try using sturdy branches of non-toxic, flavorful trees like rosemary or apple for added flavor.
- Stone Cooking: Hot, flat stones can serve as a rustic cooking surface for certain wild edibles, offering a unique flavor profile.
Grilling with Liquids
- Steaming on the Grill: Create a foil packet and add a small amount of liquid like wine or broth along with your edibles. Seal the packet and place it on the grill. The steam will help cook the edibles and infuse them with flavor.
- Beer-Can Technique: Though usually used for chicken, you can apply the beer-can technique to large mushrooms or bundles of wild greens. The idea is to stand the edible on a half-full can of beer, which provides moisture and flavor as it steams the food from the inside.
Fruitwood: If you have access to apple, cherry, or peach wood, these can impart a unique, sweet smokiness to your wild edibles.
Herb Branches: In addition to using them as skewers, branches from herbs like rosemary or thyme can be added to your charcoal to add fragrant smoke.
Sauces and Sides
- Wild-Edible Pesto: Utilize foraged herbs and greens to create a unique pesto sauce that complements your grilled items.
- Foraged Berry Compote: Cook down wild berries with a bit of sugar to create a delicious compote that can be used as a sauce for grilled desserts or meats.
- DIY Grill Stations: For a more communal experience, set up a grill where people can cook their own foraged finds. Provide a variety of marinades, rubs, and sauces for guests to experiment with.
- Grilling Classes: If you’re experienced, consider offering a short class on grilling wild edibles. Teach your friends or family how to identify, prepare, and grill various items.
A Note on Sustainability
Always remember that sustainability is key when foraging. Take only what you can use, and strive to forage in a manner that leaves minimal impact on the environment.
Wild Edibles on the Grill.Grilling wild edibles can be a culinary adventure that marries the thrill of foraging with the primal joy of cooking over an open flame. However, the rules of safe foraging still apply—never eat anything you can’t positively identify, and when in doubt, consult experts. With caution and creativity, the world (or at least the woods) can be your culinary oyster. Happy foraging and grilling!
Grilling can be a rewarding way to enjoy wild edibles, but always exercise caution both in identifying your foraged finds and in safely operating your grill. Happy grilling!