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Forage to Feast with Marc Williams

Marc and sign

One of my favorite WILD peeps

My dear mentor, Marc Williams, came to my house to do his thing! Which is to lead us on a Forage to Feast wild foodie event!   In 2009 I attended a wild feast Marc hosted with his mentor, Frank Cook, and that began a wild fire that has been blazing ever since!  Marc is a renowned ethnobotanist, wild plant authority, author and teacher extraordinaire, world traveler, gourmet chef…to name a few of his virtues. 25 of us enjoyed his fascinating plant walk and then we all cooked up a storm with the wild edibles that I had been ‘buying’ from nature’s supermarket in preparation for this event in my wild kitchen.

First, Marc led us on a plant walk around our land. Each person was given a recipe to be responsible for and to forage for.  Marc’s talk added a new edible possibility to my bucket list: making nut milk from my Shagbark Hickory nuts!  After we  garbled our catch (my term for sorting our weeds), we cooked our entree for the big meal. Finally, we feasted on nature’s bounty and enjoyed each other’s company as we sipped Dandelion root coffee, wild meads and enjoyed a Queen Anne’s Lace carrot cake for dessert.

Pretty sure that everyone’s horizons were expanded as we rediscovered the green gifts that God has so generously provided for our food and medicine… reconnected to our roots and reclaimed some knowledge that will feed our bodies and spirits.

Marc teaching

Getting to know each other’s stories and hearing Marc launch us into the world of wild edible weeds. So fascinating!

Plant walk with Marc

Marc teaching us about the plants as we walked around my house. Interesting to note, that Lambsquarter is the weed responsible for turning him into a wild foodie! He spent an entire Winter making cold frames to grow spinach, tending the seeds and spacing them, cultivating and in the Spring the baby Lambsquarter was far more vibrant and abundant, 7 times higher in nutrition than Spinach and it was FREE. Sold!


The Process

Preparing for a Forage to Feast is a bit like giving birth to a unicorn.  It is a LOT of work.  Fortunately, I love this kind of work and I have an artist husband who is always willing to go ‘shopping’ with me to an organic farm of grocery store for the photo ops it affords him.  And Max (our Jack Russel terrorist) likes the adventure as well! 


I dug up Burdock roots at an organic farm in Valle Crucis,  plucked Milkweed buds and pods from several Milkweed patches, snipped Plantain seed stalks from a lush patch along the New River, collected green Cattail cobs from the swamp with my new wild friend Louise Klein, dug up Wild Carrot first year roots at Molly’s Branch farm, gathered a bushel of Amaranth and Lambsquarter leaves at another nearby farm, clipped green Elderberry umbels, snipped a LOT of Purslane…and that is just the shopping part…

Burdock root FIG

Shopping for Burdock root is WORK…but so worth it!

Cattail swamp

I love this place! I love Cattail!

Milkweed patch

Milkweed at the potato stage. I can never have enough! Stocking up for pickles and other goodies for the Winter.


Once I am home with the free food the real work begins….  Garbling each wild edible, getting rid of buggy parts, a few bugs, yellowed leaves, anything that doesn’t pass my inspection.  Then the roots need to be scrubbed, although this time I scrubbed the Burdock roots in the cool mountain stream which made it EASY!

Burdock and Max

Max helped me cleaned the roots in the creek. I found that by shoving them point first into the sand it did a fine job of scrubbing! I will remember this!

Ready to Boil and Eat

Green Cattail Cobs ready to strip their meat off and marinate


Everything is gathered, inspected, sorted, cleaned, bagged and then comes the preparation.  I made Elderberry capers with their green berries a week in advance of the Piccata recipe so they’d be pickled just right.  Marinated the meat of the green cattail flowers. Destrung the stringiness of the Burdock stems, Parboiled the Milkweed flower buds and pods so they’d be ready to cook with, made Beebalm, Peppermint, and Goldenrod tea from last year’s tea stash, Elderberry, Beauty Berry and Kudzu Flower Spritzers with water kefir grains.  Cheryl came over the day before and helped me make the Wild Carrot cake and the Wild Seed Crackers.  Thank you Cheryl!

MW flower buds

Milkweed flower buds ready to use in cooking. Boil for 3 minutes in salted rolling boil. These were used in our Spaghetti sauce.


A cuisine theme of Mediterranean was chosen…so now to choose the recipes to feature the wild delectables in….all non wild ingredients need to be purchased…recipes need to be printed out for the cooks to refer to…stations need to be set up in my kitchen and porches to put all ingredients and utensils for each cook to have easy access to…. steeping teas need to be refrigerated…mason jars labeled with each name…the house prepared for guests…flower picked and arranged for centerpieces…table set…the welcome sign on the road…water boiled for the air pot… last minute phone calls of people canceling or asking it there is still room for a wild foodie to attend….


One of my wild apprentices, Hannah Hengst, arranged our centerpieces for the long table.  She has that knack!

Are you tired yet?  And to think I used to do these Forage to Feast events once a month!  Phewww!

Set table

One of my MOs for cooking and eating well, is to have the table set in advance of the meal. Makes everyone think dinner is going to be awesome, even if I haven’t decided what to cook yet!

Marc feast table

Just a few of our wild dishes: edible flower salad, purslane quinoa salad, burdock stem pizza rolls and wild carrot cake….the milkweed lasagna, chicken and portobello piccata and cattail polenta were on the stove and the drinks at the drink bar.

Portabella Milkweed pod piccata

Portobello Milkweed Piccata with Elderberry capers!


WIld dinner on a burdock leaf

Burdock leaves make lovely plates


Wild Mediterranean Menu

 click on the links for the recipes and some of Holly’s wild cooking tips

Wild teas: Beebalm, Peppermint, Goldenrod Punch
Wild Sodas: Kudzu Flower Grape Soda, Beauty Berry Soda, Elderberry Spritzer
Hot drinks: Dandelion Root Coffee
Wild Meads

Violet Leaf Hummus & Carrot Sticks
Wild Seed Crackers & Brie

Wild Leaves & Edible Flowers 
Purslane Quinoa Salad

Main dish
Chicken or Portobello Cap Piccata w/ Elderberry Capers, Milkweed Pods & Burdock Root Mushrooms

Cattail Cob, Amaranth Polenta
Pizza Rolls w/ Burdock Stems
Milkweed Bud Lasagna

Wild Carrot Cake w/ QAL Cream Cheese Icing &  Edible Flowers
Plantain & Lambsquarter Seed Fudge


Wild Carrot Cake, decorated by Brook Brown with edible flowers. Brook also made the Queen Anne’s Lace jelly that I mixed with cream cheese and butter for the icing. Beautiful!

Thank you everyone for the lovely evening!  We were a team!!  Thank you Marc for your wild wisdom and caring heart!  Thank you God for the variety of green gifts that you have hidden for us in plain view!

Wild Blessings abound!


“We all wait for You to give them our food in due season.
You give to us, we gather it up;
You open Your hand, we are satisfied.
You send forth Your Spirit, and we are created;
And You renew the face of the ground.”  Psalms 104:27-30

Marinated Green Cattail Cobs

Cattail swamp

Finding just a few ‘green cobs’ left in the swamp before the ‘hotdog’ stage

I have spent a lot of time at the Cattail swamp, lots of crazy memories and good times (losing my boot to the muck, being stung by hornets, collecting crawfish to surprise Justin with in the shower, collecting throughout the seasons from Nature’s Supermarket)  You can read about some of those times here.  If you are lucky enough to have access to this green gift be sure that the environment is a healthy one as cattails are notorious for soaking up the toxins.  Which is good…and bad.  Bad because it makes the plants food toxic to us and good because you can use a cattail stalk to clean dirty water… Just sayin…

Fleshy Green Cattail cobs (mid July offering)


Sumacade (or juice from a lemon)

Dash of olive oil

Chopped Ramps (or garlic)

Wild Onions (or onion)

Salt & Pepper

1 t of dried Wild Oregano, Bergamot or Italian seasonings

Collect the GREEN COBS of the Cattail in July when they are firm and tasty.  The green cob is the female flowers of the Cattail, the male part of the Cattail is the golden pollen on top of the green cob. (I love to use the pollen for other purposes because it is beautiful and highly nutritious)

Scrape the green flesh off of the Cattail Cob in long strips

Combine the marinade and paint the cobs with this flavorful oil

Cook in an Italian casserole

I made an Amaranth, Cattail Polenta for my August 1rst Forage to Feast, actually Lauran Holton made it, but I had harvested the Cattail cobs and marinated them in advance of her culinary creation.  The Amaranth I weeded out of Mollie’s Branch organic garden (being helpful).

Mollie's Branch

Mollie’s Branch farm is a gorgeous slice of HEAVEN

Here is that recipe

Cattail Amaranth Polenta

Amaranth, Cattail Polenta

2 t extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1 lb of sweet Italian sausage (optional)

Wild Amaranth Leaves (before the seed head appears is best)

2 garlic cloves or ramps (if you saved any from Spring)

1 tube 18 ounces of prepared polenta, cut into 1/4 inch rounds

1/3 cup bone broth

1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes.  Add sausage and cook till browned. Add finely chopped Amaranth leaves and stir fry till wilted.  Add ramps or garlic and cook  30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and stir in Cattail meat. season with salt and pepper
  2. in a 2 quart baking dish, layer polenta rounds and spoonfuls of sausage Cattail and Amaranth mixture.  Pour stock over top and bake until bubbling and polenta is pale golden 20-25 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.