All acorns can be eaten, but the type of tree dictates how much work one would have to do to make them edible.
Fresh uses: Acorns can be used in a variety of baked goods to add a nutty flavor.
Applications: Rob Connoley, chef/owner of Bulrush STL in St. Louis and author of Acorns & Cattails: A Modern Foraging Cookbook of Forest, Farm & Field, makes a classic financier using acorns. Houston Chef Jordan Asher grinds dried acorns into a flour that he combines with black sesame purée, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a touch of water and all-purpose flour, creating a “soil-like” consistency that is plated with roasted, fermented carrots, candied orange rinds, and a salad of pea shoots, nasturtium petals, fennel fronds, and green coriander seeds.
These grapes are sweeter and tarter than their industrialized cousins, with a robust and rich texture.
Where to find: The vines grow in wooded areas throughout the Midwest and into the East, wherever there’s lush, undisturbed soil.
Fresh uses: In salads or as a sweet and tart garnish for savory dishes.
Applications: Chef Shane Graybeal of Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago makes a sweet, tart, and creamy sauce as a crème fraîche for fish, chicken, and even steak. He’ll often serve the sauce atop roasted bass and celery root, with a salad of the grape tendrils and wild dandelions.
This relative of tropical fruit is native to North America and most closely resembles cherimoya because of its taste—a cross between a banana, pineapple, and mango. It has a super-short two-week season.
Where to find: Papaw grows wild along riverbanks from northern Florida to Canada, in Kentucky and surrounding states, and as far west as Texas and Nebraska.
Fresh uses: Simply dice and serve in fruity salads.
Applications: Chef Anthony Lamas of Seviche in Louisville, Kentucky, uses the papaw fruit in flan for its creamy, custard-like texture and tropical taste, reminiscent of his Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage. He uses frozen papaw pulp for an habanero pepper–spiked jam spread over warm brie, in ice cream topped with bourbon dulce de leche and toasted marcona almonds, and for a beurre blanc sauce served with halibut and couscous.