Around age 9, a teacher introduced me to wood sorrel. The fact that there was a plant, out there, in the woods, that was edible, completely blew my mind. I started going into the woods as often as I could to eat wood sorrel. And by 'eat' I mean, to wipe out the entire population (knowing nothing about ethical harvesting and biodiversity and all that stuff). And when I’d munched my way through those, I’d take a packet of chips with me, build a little fire, and roast them, having pretended that I hunted them down and slaughtered them with my bare hands. I think that other girls might have been sitting around planning their weddings, but not me: I planned my next slaughter. Sizzle, crunch.
When it comes to decimating plant populations, I'm not really much of a fan of that anymore. Its one of the reasons I like teaching how to gather and eat conifer tips. Where with some plants you have to watch how much you gather, its really hard to get to that point in a coniferous forest. And then there's the added benefit of the act of pinching tips off being good for the trees-- it encourages them to grow bushier and healthier every year.
So here's your homework, should you choose to accept it: go for a walk and see if there are bright green tips on your local conifers, and if there are, pinch one of and give it a nibble. Good? Then gather a few, bring them home, and then make this shortbread, because its spectacular.
Next batch, I’m going to whip up a fir icing and drizzle that over the top, to emphasize the firry-ness of it all. But this batch was plain. And delicious. Crispy and buttery, just like shortbread should be, but with that hint of citrus and conifer from the fir.
Fir tip shortbread
adapted from Delia Smith
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 oz (1/3 cup) sugar
8 oz (1 cup) flour (or 5 oz gluten free flour mix plus 3 oz white rice flour)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup finely chopped fir tips
Preheat oven to 325.
Beat the butter until creamy, and add the sugar. Add the flour, cornstarch and fir tips, and mix until crumbly. Then turn it out onto a surface and bring together in a big ball. The mixture will come together, even if it doesn't look like it at first.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Then roll out, and cut into shortbread shapes-- I use a round mason jar because I don't have cookie cutters :).
Bake at 325 for about 25 minutes, until barely golden brown. They'll feel soft when you pull them out, but don't worry, they'll harden as they cool.
Sprinkle with extra sugar as soon as they come out the oven, then try to wait for them to cool before eating.