Wild Chicago Dinner...for Free
A humble dinner of Stinging Nettle, Morels, Long Grain Brown Rice and Chive Blossoms sautéed in ghee and garlic!
Can you believe that this dinner came from plant allies that live here in Chicago?
Yes, the Windy City has much more to offer than just busy downtown cafes with imported coffees and processed cakes and more to offer than the pure aesthetics of a beautiful lakefront. And yes-I found, harvested and cooked this humble foraged meal myself…without money (or $.25 for the rice!? and perhaps $.75 for the scoop of ghee, totaling $1.00 dinner for items that were not foraged).
I honestly never thought I’d eat a morel, let alone find a one in the city! I’ve seen many pictures on IG of this funky porous friend and I’ve heard it was amazing, but I never thought I’d get the chance to confirm, that yes indeed, it is amazing.
A few weeks ago I was walking in Whole Foods and gasped when I saw morels; not so much because Whole Foods was carrying them, but because of their price. Nearly $20 for three mushrooms! I don’t know about ya’ll but I remember a time not so long ago when $20 was my budget for a week of groceries! I also felt a bit sad to see them all wrapped up in plastic wrap, not knowing where or when they were harvested, what woods or grasslands they came from. A week later, the price tag conveniently disappeared (nice selling tactic!), but they were still there, wrapped in plastic and looking “pretty” with all their labeling.
Living in the city can be tough, especially for folks who are not monetarily abundant, like me. In Chicago the economic divide is widely divided by race and even segregation to the neighborhoods we live in. I live on the south side, where plant allies are abundant in vacant lots and just around every corner. I don’t harvest freely here though, because soil contamination (environmental contamination period) is a real issue and concern when foraging in the city. But lets be for real- what is the balance between buying organic lettuce or morels from California when they’ve been packaged days if not weeks ago and shipped across the country so that I can buy “organic” and feel good. No, this isn’t sustainable. It's temporary and a privilege. Wild food is food for the people, for everyone. They are our allies whether we have a penny to our name or not.
Wild food is food for the people, for everyone...
I’m a woman who loves good, nourishing food. I know what it’s like to not have it. I’ve been on a self journey for over six years now learning to cook and grow my own food. Stinging Nettle has been a staple in my life for almost two years. She’s nourished and helped my gut heal and the inflammation in my hands and intestines subside…these are all side effects of growing up eating processed foods, exposing my artist hands to consistent turpentine use, and living an overly stimulated, bustling city life. I didn’t have balance. But I’ve learned. And I’m still learning how to live in Chicago and keep an abundant, thriving connection in respect to the Earth and to our land.
So, you can imagine my surprise when going for a hike with my best doggie friend, Aza, about an hour north from downtown and spotting these beauties! They weren’t growing under trees but rather along a quiet roadside next to cattails! I felt as though they were my friends, coming along the stroll with Aza and me and popped up to say hello.
In a daze I thanked the Universe, the morels, and Aza for this moment in life. I don’t need money to eat well, to nourish myself and to nourish the ones I love. I felt held, supported, and loved by the earth, and wow did I eat damn well, here in this busy city… for free.
Tips to Cook Everyday Forage:
How do I like to eat Stinging Nettle and Morels:
Boil Nettles for 3 min in rapid boil
Sauté in Ghee, Coconut Oil and with minced Garlic
Pinch of Salt
Eat hot/right after cooking
Drink water that was boiled as a Stinging Nettle Tea or boil eggs for a cool natural green dye<3
Clean morels either by a quick rinse and dry pat or by brushing off any soil/debris that got into the crevices and folds.
Sauté in Ghee, Coconut Oil and with minced Garlic (be generous with the Ghee or Coconut Oil)
Pinch of Salt
Eat hot off the cast iron skillet!
I hope you enjoy eating from the land freely while reconnecting and building relationships!
***Please note that I do not forage from Forest Preserves (It is illegal to do so here in Chicago: Please visit my post on Urban Foraging in Chicago to learn ow you too can safely eat and reconnect to the land while living in the city!)