Native Recipes with Natural Ingredients

Feb 15th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-3: Food Sovereignty, Spring 2011, Culture, Features, Health & Wellness, Web Exclusive

Wild Greens Salad

Despite the chill still in the air—and the snows occasionally falling—spring will soon be calling. So get ready to head into the forests and plains to harvest. You can find the fixings for a simple green salad – wild lettuce, sow thistle and dandelions—or else search out nettles and wild game. Whatever your preference, there are plenty of traditional food recipes to try—and the Northwest Indian College Diabetes Prevention Through Traditional Plants Program has shared these ten with readers of Tribal College Journal. To order a copy NWIC’s book, Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit, contact Tami Chock at (360) 392-4252 or

For more recipes, see the resource guide for this issue.

Disclaimer: Those who gather plants do so at their own risk. Some plants are poisonous, and some people are allergic to others. Plants can also interact with certain medications. The time of the year can make a difference in toxicity.


Creamy Nettle Squash Soup

Do not underestimate the basic nature of this spring soup.  The nettles and squash create a filling and healthy soup.  Many people say that this brilliantly colored spring tonic makes them feel energetic.

1 medium-sized butternut or acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
½ cup cooked nettles or 4 cups washed and chopped fresh nettles
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn oven on to 375 degrees.  Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and place the cut sides down on a cookie sheet.  Bake until the squash is soft when pressed, about 30 minutes.  Scoop out insides and reserve.  Heat olive oil in a pot on medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.  Add remaining ingredients including squash and cook 20 minutes.  Place soup in a blender or use a milkshake maker so the texture is smooth and creamy.

Cook time:  1 hour
Serves:  4-6

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Nettle Pesto

Nettles are a truly amazing wild vegetable that offers both blood cleansing and immune building properties.  They are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, making just a small portion incredibly nutritious.  Try tossing this with pasta or baked vegetables.  It can also be spread on crackers or fresh vegetables as a snack.

1 small bag (about 6 cups) of young fresh nettles, rinsed
1 bunch basil, stems removed, washed and drained (about 2 cups leaves)
½  cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
I clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil nettles in water (blanch) for one minute to remove the sting.  Drain well, let cool and roughly chop.  Place nettles, basil, nuts, cheese, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the pesto in a clean jar and pour a little extra olive oil over the top.  Cover with a lid.  This will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Cook time: 10 minutes

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Elizabeth’s Nettle Pine Nut Meat Loaf (Recipe from Elizabeth Campbell)

This meatloaf is lower in fat than your typical meatloaf and higher in protein due to the pine nuts and stinging nettles.  Fresh steamed carrots and oven roasted Ozette potatoes compliment this dish beautifully.  

1 lb. free-range ground elk, deer or turkey
1 cup chopped freshly blanched or frozen stinging nettles (thawed & drained)
¾ cup milk (hazelnut, rice, goat, cow)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dry ground mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon dry fennel
½ teaspoon dry rosemary
¼ teaspoon dry thyme
1 large egg
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 slices bread, torn into pieces, or ½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and spread in a rectangular bread pan.  Bake uncovered until loaf reaches 180 degrees, about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Let the meat loaf rest for 5 minutes, then serve and enjoy.

Cook time: 90 minutes
Serves: 6

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Smoked Salmon, Cattail and Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a nutty tasting grain that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates.  This recipe can be adapted with a variety of seasonal vegetables and is delicious served hot or cold.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 cup chopped spring cattail shoots, peeled salmonberry sprouts or leeks
2 tablespoons chopped wild onion tops or ¼ cup chopped green onions
1 cup smoked salmon, cubed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa.  Boil water in a medium sized pan, add quinoa, then turn down to simmer and cover until cooked, about 15 minutes.   Add olive oil to a medium sized sauté pan and heat on medium.  Add onions, garlic and carrots and sauté until the onions are translucent.  Add cattails and onion tops and sauté until tender.  Toss in smoked salmon and lemon juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Elk Roast

This easy recipe is the perfect solution to a busy schedule.  You will be deeply satisfied with the results.  Elk meat is low in fat and high in nutrients.  When it is cooked slowly it falls apart and melts in your mouth.

2-3 pound elk roast
1 teaspoon mustard powder or 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 medium-sized Ozette, red or yellow fin potatoes, cut in large pieces
1 large onion, cut in large pieces
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon each – dried rosemary, sage and thyme
3 cups water, vegetable broth or beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse elk and drain.  Rub mustard on each side.  Place vegetables, garlic and herbs in the bottom of a slow cooker or roast pan.  Put elk roast on top and cover with water or broth so the roast is just covered.  Bring to a boil on high, then turn down to low and let cook for 6-8 hours or until elk comes apart with a fork.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Cook time: 6-8 hours
Serves: 6-8

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Grilled Venison

Juniper berries give deer meat a sweet and savory taste.  This simple recipe was a favorite at the Tribal Cooks’ Camp.

About 2 pounds venison steaks, cut into ¼ to ½ inch strips
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 juniper berries, ground in a mortar and pestle or chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste

Place cut venison in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Add salt, pepper and ground-up juniper berries as seasoning.  Mix so the spices and olive oil covers the strips, then cover and let sit in the refrigerator for several hours.  Cook on a grate over the fire or on a barbeque, flipping when the meat is just done.  Serve with blackberry sauce.

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Blackberry Sauce for Wild Game

This sweet and savory sauce compliments deer and elk perfectly.  It can be drizzled over steaks or can be used as a dipping sauce for barbequed strips.

1 cup of wild blackberries (thimbleberries or huckleberries could also be used)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
4 juniper berries
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary or 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons of agave nectar or honey

Bring berries, vinegar, juniper berries and rosemary to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring consistently to crush blackberries.  Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and add agave or honey.  When cool, squeeze through muslin cloth to keep sauce and discard solids including seeds.  Drizzle on venison or elk.  This can also be used as a glaze for duck, goose or chicken.

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Spruce, Fir or Hemlock Tip Tea

In late spring the evergreen trees start to show their new leaf growth.  Tiny lime-green buds appear on the tips of branches, and as the heat of the season settles in, they open up and elongate.  These young tips can be eaten straight as a trail snack, put into salads, or made into tea.  Douglas fir, hemlock and spruce tips all have a good lemony flavor.  All evergreen tree tips are high in vitamin C and are very nutritious.

Pick young evergreen tips in late spring.  To make sun tea, add a large handful per quart of water to a glass container with a lid.  Cover and let sit in the sun for two to six hours.  Strain and serve chilled.  To make hot tea use the same amount of tips to water, but pour boiled water over them in a pot and let sit 15 minutes.  Strain and serve hot.

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Rose Hip Raspberry Soda

Both youngsters and adults enjoy this refreshing fizzy beverage.

2 teaspoons rose hips
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups raspberry fruit juice
2 cups sparkling water

Put loose tea in a teapot or pan and cover with boiling water.  Let steep 10 minutes then add honey and stir.  Allow the tea to cool and then combine strained tea with juice and sparkling water in a pitcher.  Serve cold.

Prep time:  15 minutes
Serves:  4

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Wild Greens Salad

Wild greens are packed full of nutrients and are so diverse in flavors your taste buds will sing. The golden rule with wild greens is to eat them as fresh as possible. Harvesting greens can be a fun-filled adventure for the whole family. 

4 cups chopped available greens that could include dandelion leaf, watercress, chickweed, spring beauty, miner’s lettuce, purslane, lamb’s quarter or violet leaf

1 cup edible flowers – salmonberry, thimbleberry, strawberry, calendula, violet or rose

Toss the flowers and greens in a bowl. You can add salmonberries to the salad if they are available. Dress with thimbleberry dressing or another dressing of your choice just before serving.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-5

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