Foraged Cocktails: Forest-Infused Vodka
Living in the Northwest has opened my eyes to the world of foraging. I moved to Oregon from Florida in 2007 and had never gone out into the woods, picked something and ate it. I remember the first time I tasted wild huckleberries and how good they were! Or my first adventure mushroom hunting and what a thrill it was to find a bright orange chanterelle or an oblong, honeycomb-shaped morel. I was hooked.
Fast forward a few years, when my son Wolf was two, he developed an extreme passion (more like obsession) with picking flowers. Needless to say, we had to set some ground rules so that he wasn't tromping through the neighbor's gardens or picking something that could harm him. Here are a few good rules that we stand by when foraging:
1. Be 100% sure that you know what you're picking. Many plants have harmful or even deadly lookalikes. For example, Water Hemlock, which can be deadly even to the touch, looks a lot like Queen Anne's Lace to the untrained eye or ingesting a false morel can make you violently ill. Educate yourself - if you don't know for sure, don't pick it!
2. Never take more than you need. Don't just pick for picking's sake. Pick with intention and leave the rest for wildlife or someone else's viewing pleasure.
3. Never pick if it's alone. You might be coming across a rare specimen or new growth.
4. Never pick anything that's "planted nice" aka flowers or other botanicals that were deliberately planted in someone's yard or along a public trail. This one is great for little pickers and saved us many embarrassing moments! And many times newer trail systems will have native plants put in to look like a natural setting or to establish regrowth from development.
5. Leave some behind. This differs depending on what you're picking. For example: when picking wild roses, only take a few of the petals from each flower, leaving behind some for the pollinators. And never clear an entire plant or area.
6. Spend time getting to know your area. Get a guide book on edible plants and learn to identify them in the wild. Don't be too ambitious and pick the first thing you come across. Learn which plants are edible, palatable, medicinal, therapeutic and more.
And now for the fun part! I was interviewed this past week for an article in The Source Weekly about foraged cocktails - thanks to Lisa Sipe. She asked me to come up with a cocktail using foraged plants for the article and being that it's still mid-winter, it challenged me to think outside the box! Using fir for my the base of this infusion, I added a few spring-blooming wildflowers that I'd dried last summer. But lucky for you, these flowers will all be blooming in no time which means you can use them fresh!
FIR-INFUSED VODKA 12 oz Wild Roots NW Vodka 5 branches of Douglas Fir, needles stripped and lightly chopped (you can also use blue spruce or juniper berries here. Just be sure to check that what you're using is edible as some conifers are not.) 1 branch of Douglas Fir, with needles intact a small handful of wildflowers (I used wild violets and Oregon grape blossoms but more great additions could include wild roses, yarrow, red clover, pineapple weed or dandelion! If you're using fresh botanicals, make sure they're completely dry and allow them to wilt just slightly before adding them into the infusion.) Submerge the fir needles in vodka and store in a dark place. Shake daily and allow to infuse for at least 7 days. After a week, add the flowers or any other soft botanicals and allow to infuse for 1 more day. Strain and enjoy in a cocktail or over ice! The fir adds a nice citrusy botanical flavor making the vodka smell and taste a bit like gin. It works nicely into any recipe that calls for gin but here’s how I’m enjoying it: INTO THE WOODS 1 1/2 oz fir-infused vodka 1/2 oz green chartreuse 1 oz green juice (I used pineapple, celery, spinach and kale) 1/2 oz fir simple syrup 3 muddled and juiced kumquats Slice kumquats in half and juice into a shaker. Lightly muddle the skin with the juice. Add vodka, chartreuse, green juice and simple syrup and shake over ice until the shaker is chilled. Pour over crushed ice and garnish with kumquats, Oregon grape flowers and pineapple leaves.
You can see the full article in this week's issue of The Source Weekly.