Hikers throughout Alaska and much of the Pacific Northwest share a common foe: the ever-aggressive devil’s club. This tall, wide-leafed, spiny plant does not hesitate to let you know where it’s personal bubble begins. Covered in sharp, detachable thorns, most people stray away from this fierce forest guardian. The native people of the Northwest, however, have known for centuries the healing power of this grumpy looking herb. If you catch the spring shoots early enough you can even enjoy the culinary benefits of this delicious little devil.

When tiny green shoots protrude from the spiny branches, it is the perfect time to very carefully harvest this soft little morsel. With a bit of a bitter floral aroma, this herb would pair well with any number of dishes, such as vegetable sautés, mac and cheese, stews, curries and my personal favorite: with butter and pasta. I make mine with fiddlehead ferns and fresh pasta but this recipe works great with store-bought pasta as well.

spiky thorn
Devil’s club thorns and a small green shoot ripe for harvest. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

For the homemade pasta

  • 1 ½ c semolina flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp water

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the remaining ingredients, mix with a fork until liquid begins to incorporate into the flour. Once dough begins to form, work dough with your hands for a few minutes until uniform and relatively smooth. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Roll out in a pasta machine or with a rolling pin to a very thin sheet (#7 on a pasta machine), cut pasta into quarter-inch strips and lightly dust with flour before hanging over a rack or even the back of a chair to slightly air dry. To cook, simply bring salted water to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Bowl full of devil's club shoots
Carefully harvest the small, green devil’s club shoots for a tasty morsel. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

For The Devil’s Pasta

  • 1 recipe for homemade pasta or 4 servings of fettuccine
  • 2 c devil’s club shoots
  • 1 c fiddlehead ferns
  • 6 anchovy filets, diced
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • ½ c breadcrumbs
  • ⅓-½ c grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 c cherry or grape tomatoes

Clean the devil’s club shoots and ferns of debris and ensure there are no residual thorns. In a large skillet, melt the butter until it is foamy and slightly browned, immediately add ferns and devil’s club and sauté for a few minutes. Add anchovy and bread crumbs and cook over medium heat until toasty (this is also the best time to drop the homemade pasta into salted, boiling water as it will only take a few minutes to cook).

Once pasta is tender and breadcrumbs are toasted, drain the pasta, reserving a half-cup of liquid and add it to the skillet along with the parmesan and the tomatoes. Cook while tossing the ingredients together until the cheese begins to melt. Taste for salt and pepper, chances are it won’t need much salt with the anchovies and the cheese. Serve it up with salad and sourdough garlic bread.

Image from above of black bowl with pasta, green shoots, and tomatoes inside
The Devil’s Pasta. Photo by Andrew Maxwell.

Andrew Maxwell is the chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Email Andrew at [email protected]

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