Sunday, August 11, 2019

Buckwheat Berry Buckle -- The Fruit Forager's Companion -- #bookgiveaway

LESLIE: Our guest today, Sara Bir, is a delightful chef, cookbook author, and teacher whom I met, virtually, through a mutual friend who lives in my neck of the woods. When we chatted about possibilities for her guest post and she suggested a Buckwheat Berry Buckle, my mouth started to water. You don't even have to know what a buckle is to love it, do you? The name alone will do the trick. And Sara's gorgeous pictures and fun description seal the deal. Plus, you can use whatever berries you've got on hand, even if you confine your foraging to the garden or the farmer's market!

Talk berries to us in the comments for a chance to win a copy of her newest cookbook, The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond.

SARA BIR: I started foraging because I am nosy and cheap. I noticed free fruit, and I took it.

But I fell for foraging because of the mystery. I’d see trees in yards in my neighborhood and think, “What’s up with that tree? Why aren’t they harvesting those quince?” Or sometimes, “How are they able to grow figs in Zone 5?” And, occasionally, “What the heck is that fruit?” That’s how I found out about white mulberries. I didn’t know they came another way besides purple ones until I saw them. I put a few in my pocket and, once home, set about to research.

By observing plants over the seasons as I went about my daily walks, I was able, slowly, to solve those mysteries. Sometimes I’d give in and knock on a door—I always get permission before gathering fruit from any property—and I’d get into conversations I’d never have otherwise.

“My grandma used to make mulberry jam,” said one woman when I inquired about her white mulberry tree. (Grandparents often come up in conversations with strangers about weird fruit) White mulberries can be bland, but in my few snatched nibbles I’d found the berries from that specimen to have a nectared essence. We both tasted the berries, and soon she, too, was seeking out ripe ones, which stood out because they gain an almost iridescent purplish tint. And then we were just two people quietly picking mulberries, as if we’d done it together for years.

Another mystery can be what to do with this stuff once you get it home. The white mulberries I added to an elderflower cordial, since they had a complementary floral vibe. Black mulberries are a whole other ball of wax. Yes, they make a fine jam, but what berry doesn’t?

I’ve taken to baking with them, particularly in instances where their thin green stem is hidden under a top crust or mound of batter. I used them in this buckle, a rustic cake that’s part gooey cobbler, part giant muffin. But you can use most any berry, and the one that makes the most sense is what’s in season close to you.

Buckwheat Huckleberry Buckle
Serves 8 to 10

Buckwheat flour has a strong but sophisticated flavor. A little nutty and a little fruity, it goes great with berries. Here it adds mystique to a buckle, so named because the berries make the cake buckle in its center. Think of it as a giant muffin. I love this with a gob of plain yogurt at breakfast, or as a midday snack.

This recipe is flexible. If you don’t have buckwheat flour, sub an equal amount rye flour (it likewise flatters fruit) or just make it using only all-purpose flour. No huckleberries? Try raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. I had black raspberries and mulberries in the freezer, so I used those. In scaling out my fruit, I discovered 435 grams of black raspberries and mulberries is, by volume, way more than the three cups listed in the recipe. But fruit is delicious, so I went with it. How did it turn out? See for yourself. The photo is all that’s left.

For the streusel:

1/2 cup (50 g) rolled oats
1/4 cup (45 g) buckwheat flour
1/2 cup (110 g) packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature
For the cake:

1-1/4 cups (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (90 g) buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (160 ml) buttermilk
435 grams (3 cups) huckleberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and set the rack in the middle. Grease a 9 x 9-inch pan. (Note: In the photo, I used an 11 x 7 dish. That’ll work, too—they both have a 2-1/2 quart capacity.)

Make the streusel: Combine the oats, buckwheat, brown sugar, nutmeg, salt, and butter in a medium bowl. With your fingertips, work the mixture until it’s crumbly. Set aside.

Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.   

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until lightened, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each, and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in half of the huckleberries.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter the remaining berries over the top, then the streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. Covered with plastic wrap, the buckle will keep for up to 2 days. After that, it tastes a little stale.

The above recipe is from Sara Bir’s book The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. 

What fruit mysteries have you stumbled across in your daily journeys? Solving them is half the fun. I’d love to hear your fruit foraging adventures, whether they happened years ago or only yesterday. Share them in the comments for a chance to win a copy of my book, The Fruit Forager’s Companion: Ferments, Desserts, Main Dishes, and More from Your Neighborhood and Beyond . It’s a cookbook and foraging guide with harvesting tips, stories, and tons of lore about fruits that grow across North America—both everyday and esoteric. I’m thrilled to say it recently won an IACP Cookbook Award. Comment below with your email address for a shot at winning a copy (continental US only). The winner will be chosen Tues, Aug 14. 

More about The Fruit Forager’s Companion, from Publisher’s Weekly:
This charming and eminently useful guide from Paste magazine food editor and writer Bir deserves a spot on the bookshelf of any foraging foodie. Instead of serving up a simple list of fruits and vegetable with tips on canning, Bir weaves in personal anecdotes and trivia about, among other things, the advent of commercial pectin (patented in 1913) and the curious history of key limes (once pickled and served as snacks for schoolchildren). Bir offers solid takes on such standbys as lemon bars and sour cherry scones, but her ingenuity and the value of foraging comes to life with recipes like mulberry and peach cobbler with an almond topping, habanero crab apple jelly, and a pawpaw gelato. Bir also takes time to make sure foragers are clear on manners and ethics (“Forage legally and mindfully, on both public and private land”), as well as which poisonous plants and fruits to avoid (such as honeysuckle and pokeweed). Even if readers don’t have a lemon or apple tree in the backyard, they’re sure to find some useful advice, as Bir does an outstanding job of illustrating how to get the most out of simple, often neglected or discarded ingredients.

Sara Bir is a chef, writer, plant nerd, and culinary educator. She’s the author of two cookbooks: Tasting Ohio: Favorite Recipes from the Buckeye State and The Fruit Forager’s Companion. She lives in southeast Ohio, where she skates with her local roller derby team as Carrion the Librarian. Visit her website to learn more, or follow her on Instagram for tons of geeky foraging photos: @sausagetarian.


  1. Yum! I have wild dewberries in my freezer that would work. In my neighborhood you can find figs, oranges, pomegranets, on the trees.

  2. I just returned from my annual trip to Oregon, where I forage for wild blackberries with my sister. It makes the best jam. I need to use some of the blackberries in your buckle recipe. It sounds amazing! Thanks for the chance to win a copy of your book! kimdavishb (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. Love fresh fruits but get most of ours at a farmer’s market

    1. Hey, foraging takes all forms! Enjoy wherever they come from!

  4. Two stories--
    We discovered morel mushrooms in my mother's backyard years ago! They are amazingly tasty and really expensive, if you can find some to buy.
    I went to college in central Pennsylvania. Euell Gibbons was a local there and gave lectures on foraging. "Stalking the Wild Asparagus"

    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    1. Morels in the yard? Lucky you!
      I remember Gibbons' TV commercials for Grape Nuts well, and his book was popular in the bookstore where I worked as a teenager. We had wild asparagus in our yard!

  5. I buy my berries at the store. And, I only buy what I plan to eat because no one else will eat them here. Except blueberries. I buy enough to freeze them for later. They seem to be the only ones that taste fresh when thawed. lkish77123 at gmail dot com

    1. Blueberries do freeze beautifully, don't they? I've had good luck with raspberries, too, esp when I freeze them on a tray then -- quickly -- get them into bags, so they keep their shape a bit.

  6. Lovely to see you here, Sara. Of course your post reminded me of when I was in Ireland last summer almost exactly a year ago, and picked loads of blackberries in the hedgerows across from my cottage there--free for the taking (and they were nice and ripe).

  7. I love berries and I grow raspberries in my garden. It is so nice to be able to pick fresh raspberries in the summer. Being raised in Michigan we had lots of strawberry and blueberry farms in the area and there is nothing like getting fresh berries from the field.

  8. Taylor R. WilliamsAugust 11, 2019 at 1:54 PM

    I love berries ! all kinds - can't get enough. Thanks for the chance to win what sounds like a cookbook made for me. trwilliams69(at)msn(dot)com

  9. I love berries, but do not cook with them. I do like to add them to plain non-fat Greek yogurt as a snack or breakfast meal.

  10. I did not come across any mystery fruit while foraging, but have enjoyed foraging and snacking on wild blueberries, huckleberries, and blackberries during hikes. Thanks for sharing your recipe, it looks delicious!

    1. Oops, forgot to add:
      little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

  11. Your recipe is appealing and enticing. Perfect for summer. Berries are so healthy and refreshing. Thanks for this lovely giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  12. I have blackberry and blueberry bushes and love collecting those in the summer! JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)com

  13. Used to forage a couple of miles away for red raspberries at an old mill
    Had a great time

  14. When my children were young we lived next door to a wonderful family who had a bountiful garden and grew veggies, fruits and enjoyed the fruits of their labor. What a yummy recipe for summer. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  15. I grew up in the country in Connecticut and in the 50’s my sister and I would go out in the stone walled fields and pick wild strawberries and blueberries in the fiend behind our grandparents home “next door”a9 (a 1/2 mile away). The strawberries were tiny but soooo full of flavor and the blueberries were bigger than wild MAINE blueberries but still small and bursting with flavor. That was when everything had deep flavors with no fertilizers or sprays but they grew so abundantly well that two little girls could each bring home a big coffee can tin tied with string around our necks in very short order. We also picked wild grapes and my mother made the most delicious grape juice and grape jam that no products bought since has ever come close in flavor! Cynthia Bayer Blain on Facebook please.

  16. I love wild raspberries. I thought we had some bushes growing in our front parcel, unfortunately I never got the chance to see. The city cut them down. Thanks for the wonderful recipe and chance to win your book. It sounds delightful. kayt18 (at) comcast (dot) net

  17. I love all kinds of berries! Legallyblonde1961 at yahoo dot com

  18. I have some wild black raspberries in some bushies. They are positioned so the birds can not get them.

  19. My grandparents had several kinds of berries and fruits growing. We had all flavors of jam, pie, and juice when I was a kid. We still have some growing at their old farm now.

  20. Hey, there, berry lovers! I've been without power much of the day and finally checking back in with you. I'm sure our guest will be checking in soon, too. Loving hearing about your berry tasty fruit adventures!

  21. My dad used to grow berries. They are delicious! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

  22. My mother made blueberry buckle when I was a child. Now I must share this recipe with my daughter who is the best baker in the family!

  23. I grew up with lots of berries and fruit growing trees so foraging for pies was easy.

  24. When growing up my Grams and Mom often took us kids out walking. We often came home with a bunch of stuff that were turned into savory stews. the fruits were often made into hand pies. Grams made just about everything with the stuff. chutneys, sauces, were used on & with everything. She introduced me to Euell Gibbons books early on back in the 60's. Still have his books. deepotter at centurylink dot net

  25. My grandparents grew Raspberries
    Strawberries and apples. We froze and canned them all. Also made applesauce and jams.

  26. Sadly, Blogger would not let Sara play with us, but she's enjoyed hearing your foraging adventures and urges you to berry on!

    I've notified the winner and will announce the name when we've connected.