Category Archives: health and nutrition

Wild Watercress Potstickers

I love potstickers so much that—until the other day—I had never cooked them at home. Make sense? They occupied a place in my mind that was beyond the kitchen, or at least my kitchen. They were enshrined, enshrouded, holy.

But the other day I came home with a big bag of wild fall watercress and decided it was time to expand the repertoire.

Watercress is one of those weeds that mocks us for our stupidity. It’s incredibly tasty, loaded with nutrients, and available much of the year in many parts of the country. It dares us to act sensible and…eat it. Here in the Pacific Northwest there are viable patches of watercress nearly every month of the year. Some of those patches will grow, flower, die back, and then grow again, all within the same calendar year.

The key is to find watercress upstream of livestock and development. It’s a common weed of roadside ditches, but make sure those ditches aren’t beside busy highways or visited by the pesticide sprayer.

While hunting mushrooms the other day I stopped at a watercress patch. The patch was so robust that, at 50 miles per hour, you wouldn’t believe it was watercress at all. It looked more like planted shrubbery. Filling a grocery bag took about 30 seconds. I nibbled some on the way home. The peppery flavor was intense. If you like arugula, you’ll love watercress.

I guess I was craving potstickers, and the watercress seemed like a good flavor to match with either ground pork or tofu. In the end I made two separate fillings to keep everyone at home happy, a meat filling and a veggie filling. The wrappers were easier to make than I had expected, though I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the technique.

Meat Filling:

1 lb ground pork
2 loose cups watercress, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
white pepper

Mix ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Makes enough for 24 potstickers.

Vegetarian Filling:

1 14-oz package firm tofu, finely chopped
2 loose cups watercress, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
white pepper

Mix ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Makes enough for 24 potstickers.


1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup boiling water

Mix flour and salt into large bowl. Measure out a 1/2 cup of boiling water and add to bowl of dry ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon until cool enough to work with hands. Knead 5 minutes over  a lightly floured work surface until smooth. Divide into two equal balls. Roll each ball into a 12-inch snake. Slice each snake into 1/2-inch sections, about a dozen per snake. With a rolling pin, roll out each section into a round wrapper, about 3 inches in diameter. Makes about 24 wrappers.

To fill and cook potstickers:

1. Use a teaspoon to scoop a heaping amount of filling onto the middle of a wrapper. Fold over and pinch edges. Put aside. Repeat.

2. Add a 1/2 tablespoon of peanut oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Arrange a dozen potstickers in a single layer. Fry a couple minutes uncovered until golden brown on bottom. Drizzle a 1/2 cup of water into the pan and cover. Cook several more minutes, until water is absorbed and cooked off. At this point I like to flip the potstickers to lightly brown the other side before serving.

Makes about 24 potstickers. Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, and hot oil. You can also add chopped scallion and ginger to the sauce.

My New Column!

In their infinite wisdom—or maybe a moment of deadline and coffee-induced weakness—the editorial folks at Seattle Magazine have handed over a few column inches to this here foraging scribbler. It’s called…drumroll…”Cook’s Adventures.” Every other issue I’ll be taking readers on a jaunt to some of my favorite outdoor grocery stores to sample the wild foods therein.

For the inaugural column we stay close to home, just sticking a toe in the swirling currents of adventurous gastronomy. “Weed Eater” is a tour of my backyard—and probably yours too. Bottom line: Don’t compost those dandelions. Eat them!

Yesterday on Seattle’s King 5 TV, I spoke with Margaret Larson on New Day Northwest about the new column, taste-tested a few backyard weeds with the studio audience, and cooked up a batch of Stinging Nettle Soup. Coming in May: Morels!

Bracken Fern: To Eat or Not To Eat?

The other day I ate a known carcinogen—a juicy char-grilled burger. I’m not alone in my cancer-baiting, certainly not this time of year when hamburgers and hotdogs are mainstays of the backyard barbecue.

But to eat a handful of stir-fried bracken fern is to seemingly court disaster in some quarters. You see, bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is also known to contain carcinogens, specifically a substance called ptaquiloside. Never mind that bracken has been a food staple of Native Americans for centuries if not millennia, or that the Japanese also have a yen for this common fern and consider it a delicacy of spring. In fact, we might just call out these two populations on purpose, since studies have suggested their higher rates of intestinal cancer could be linked to bracken.

On the other hand, there are plenty who are suspicious of inconclusive studies and the advice of nutritionists. In his book Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, Steve Brill says: “I wouldn’t be afraid of eating reasonable quantities of wild [bracken] fiddleheads during their short season.” And on his web site, Florida forager Green Deane says: “I think nearly everything causes cancer and I am willing to risk a few fiddleheads with butter once or twice a spring, which is about as often as I can collect enough in this warm place.”

What to do?

I’ve been avoiding bracken for years because of these studies, but in the end I’d heard enough positive reports from trusted sources that I decided to give the fern a try. I’m not planning to eat huge quantities of bracken anytime soon, but to banish this ancient food from the table strikes me as equally rash.

Most of us have seen bracken before. It’s a hardy fern that sometimes covers acres of land. Generally it emerges later in spring than other fern species. Its fiddleheads—if they can be called that, since they hardly resemble the typical fiddlehead form of the ostrich or lady fern—are claw-shaped, like a hawk that’s squeezing its fist around around an unlucky mouse. Collect bracken when it’s still tightly coiled, about six to eight inches in length; the picture above shows a specimen that is just slightly past its prime for the pot.

How I Cooked My Bracken

My friend Jon Rowley passed along these instructions from Seattle’s premier sushi chef, who serves bracken at his eponymous restaurant, Shiro’s.

Salt a pot of water generously and bring it to boil. Stir in the bracken, kill the heat, and allow the water to cool. This will take a little while. Next wash off the bracken under cool running water before serving. For my dish I gave the bracken an additional stir-fry with spring porcini mushrooms, a little ground pork, and splashes of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine (Xiaoxing).

The flavor is delicate. I liken it to the taste of kale or chard in the package of thin asparagus.

So what about you? Do you eat bracken or have an opinion about its edibility or lack thereof? I’d like to hear from you.

A Dandy Day in the Neighborhood

This post is featured in Volume 7 of the Good Life Report. Subscribe here.

Ray Bradbury famously waxed nostalgic about his family’s love of dandelion wine. The story first appeared in Gourmet magazine and conjured a mostly lost bucolic America where everyone owned a wine press and the hated weed of today was thought of in much gentler terms. Bottled sunshine he called the tonic they made in the cellar. Even though dandelions are predominantly harvested in spring, the writing evokes thoughts of endless summer days, backyard baseball games, and kids with fishing poles riding bikes down to the local pond—the sort of stuff our current crop of post-structuralists might call a simulacra.

Sometimes I think I caught the tail end of that America in my own childhood, when there were still woodlots to roam near my family’s home and fireflies lit up the nighttime sky. Now most of us live in planned communities or the city. It’s paved. It’s crowded. But there are still plenty of dandelions.

The other day I went looking for six cups worth of the jaunty yellow petals in order to make wine. I started in my own tiny backyard, picking every one in sight. Then the front yard and down the block. Soon I was in front of the local elementary school, where last year I struck a bonanza of dandies, but a groundskeeper had already beat me to it with his John Deere. I continued on toward busy Rainier Avenue, once the gathering arterial for Italian immigrants in Seattle. They called the Rainier Valley “Garlic Gulch” back then. Now, after several successions, it’s largely Southeast Asian.

I walked through the community garden and found some beautiful bloomers. A middle-aged Laotian woman tilling her plot wanted to know what I was up to. I explained the culinary and medicinal benefits of Taraxacum officinale, how it’s much more nutritious than virtually anything we can grow ourselves, and she pointed me toward a burned-out husk of a house down the block. She told me an involved story about the fire and how her people wanted to help the owner rebuild but instead he was sitting on his hands. “He lazy but he good man,” she said. “I tell him you pick there.” This seemed like a legitimate enough invitation to me.

Indeed it was a dandy heaven. When not molested by the mower, dandelions grow tall and robust, angling their Cheshire Cat grins toward the solar life-force. I picked the front and then slipped around back, which is where Dandelion Nirvana truly opened up before me. There was an abandoned car and a loud autobody shop on the other side of the fence. A black cat prowled a hedgerow. This yard hadn’t been attended to in years! It was a sea of warm, inviting yellow.

I must have lost myself in the picking, because when I looked up I saw an old man sitting on the back stoop pulling a Budweiser out of a paper bag. It was 11 in the morning, and I decided this was a fairly valid maneuver on such an unseasonably hot April day. I picked my way over to him. He offered me the other can of beer in the bag, which I accepted.

“You police?”

No, I assured him, I was not. He was Laotian, too. His name was In Keow and he was 69 years old. Though the language barrier between us was tough, we persevered. His grandfather had once owned this home, he said. Next door lived a Vietnamese man. He said he was retired, that he had worked very hard, and that he would still work—but only for cash, no check. He was adamant about this last point. We sipped our beers in the hot morning sun.

In Keow was amused by my stoop labor in the dandelion patch. He had social security arriving once a month and some other unspecified payouts. Making wine—and spending hours plucking little dandelion petals to do it—was definitely not on his agenda. “I go to store,”he said proudly. “I buy beer.” As for me, I wasn’t about to argue with that logic. Springtime in America has never quite been what they say it used to be.

To make a simple Dandelion Wine, I followed the instructions of Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling in Making Wild Wines & Meads. Combine 6 cups dandelion petals, 1 lb raisins, 2 lbs sugar, 1 tbsp acid blend, and 1 gallon boiling water into sanitized bucket. A day later mix a starter culture of 1 1/2 cups orange juice, 1 tsp yeast nutrient, and 1 package wine yeast in a jar, shake it up, and let it sit until bubbly, one to three hours. Pour starter culture into the vat along with 1 tsp pectic enzyme and loosely cover. Rack after three days into air-locked container, then rack again three months later and bottle. Wait another six months—until the depths of gloomy winter—to enjoy a taste of bottled sunshine.

Salad Days

The salad days are here again. Now is the time to take advantage of all the fresh new growth bursting with the sun’s energy. If you’re in California, the salad days have been on for a while; in the Great Lakes region you’re just off the block. Wherever you are, enjoy those early greens. They were important—sometimes life-saving—for our ancestors and should be just as revered by modern Homo sapiens.

Want to commit a radical act? Step outside your back door and pick some weeds for the table. That’s a metaphorical rock through the window of Big Ag and a first step toward putting our hopelessly effed-up food system on notice. As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts, many of the weeds we spend countless hours and dollars trying to eradicate are actually more nutritious than the stuff we grow on purpose. Think wild, think local, think seasonal. Think for yourself. You don’t need some massive head of corporate-sanctioned lettuce from the supermarket to get your greens on.

Today’s salad includes a mesclun-like mix of tender young greens: Dandelion, cat’s-ear, chickweed, and bittercress. The rest is miner’s lettuce, a native plant in my region. All are tasty and nutritious.

Bittercress: A Misnomer

I’m in Arkansas for spring break visiting the inlaws and loving the 70-degree weather down here. This place is a forager’s paradise. I’ll have more to say about that in future posts, but in the meantime I had a post about eating your weedies queued up minus the photos. Turns out all the shots are safe and sound in my camera…back in Seattle. So without further ado, Plan B.

See that weed at top, growing between the rungs of my ladder in the backyard? It’s all over Seattle. Apparently it’s all over Fayetteville, Arkansas, too, according to my limited canvassing of this university town in the Ozarks. In fact, various representatives of the genus Cardamine are common across much of North America and the world. And we might consider using that pinch of Latin when we talk about it, even if it makes us feel professorial and a bit much, because the common name is flat out wrong.

Bittercress. Whoever gave it the name bittercress never actually tasted it. According to Arthur Lee Jacobson: “Over 200 years ago, Linnaeus named a related English weed Cardamine amara, meaning bitter. Writers subsequently transferred the inaccurate name Bitter cress to ALL Cardamine species, and it is one of the largest genera in the mustard family.”

There are some 200 species of Cardamine. Like many other Brassicas, these little annuals and perennials are high in nutrients and have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. In my region Cardamine hirsuta is the most common species, although I’m pretty sure the robust one in the photo is a different species, possibly Cardamine flexuosa.

All Cardamines are typically hot and peppery in a pleasant way that brings a simple salad to life. This is a plant to know and enjoy regardless of its misleading common name.

Gobo Mojo

Got a tip on a burdock patch in Seattle the other day. Burdock (Arctium sp.) is a Eurasian weed now common across much of North America. It’s a biennial and can grow to immense size, with two-foot leaves and flower stalks up to nine feet tall. Like stinging nettles and poison ivy, many of us have memories of encountering burdock as kids—a sweater covered in burrs, say, or the chore of taking a wire brush to Fido after a romp in the patch. Rumor has it the inventor of Velcro™ had burdock stuck on his mind when he came up with his very lucrative invention.

But like so many things, when I actually wanted to find me some burdock…you know, to eat…it suddenly became elusive. Burdock is a weed of fields, margins, and waste areas; the city offers prime habitat for many of our tastiest weeds, but burdock? Not so much. Which is why I followed up on this tip right away. And it proved a good one. Just as the tipster had predicted, there was a tangle of burdock infesting a hillside adjacent to a soccer field in the heart of Seattle. The dead stalks from last year’s crop were easy to spot with their clusters of burrs waiting for the unsuspecting.

I located some fresh rosettes of leaves and went to work with my shovel. Burdock roots grow deep, often more than two or three feet beneath the surface, and need to be coaxed out of the ground so as not to break. First-year roots are the ones to target for food; once the plant forms a flower stalk in the second year the root turns woody, though these can be thinly sliced and dried to make tinctures. Today’s were mostly younguns and relatively easy to spade out of the ground, but longer roots in compacted soil can be quite an effort. In a matter of minutes I had a bunch of dirt-covered roots in my bag and walked back to the car.

In the parking lot I saw a city parks employee picking up trash with one of those mechanical arms. My shovel and roots were already safely tucked away in the car, but as he came closer he noticed me checking out a patch of bittercress where I was parked. I picked some and nibbled, earning a look of speechless shock from the gentleman that I will not soon forget.

Kinpira Gobo

The Japanese are great lovers of burdock and ascribe many medicinal values to the root. It’s reported to be beneficial for your skin and your liver. I’d say it’s beneficial for your taste buds too. It’s starchy like a potato and has the round, buttery flavor one associates with artichoke heart; there’s also a sweetness and even a faint citrusy edge. Kinpira Gobo is a traditional Japanese dish and easy to make. The addition of shichimi togarashi is recommended here and is a good call.

1/2 lb burdock root
1-2 carrots
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice blend), to taste (optional)

1. Lightly peel the burdock root, then julienne and remove to a bowl of water for 10 minutes.
2. Julienne carrots.
3. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan and stir-fry burdock for a few minutes. Stir in carrots and cook another minute or two before adding the remaining ingredients.
4. Stir-fry until the liquid has evaporated, leaving a glaze on the vegetables.
5. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and shichimi togarashi.

You can also find commercially grown burdock in many Asian markets. The root will be longer, straighter, and prettier than wild burdock, but a chef I know checked out my recent batch and pronounced it more complex smelling than any of the commercial stuff she had used in the past. Plus, there’s the added incentive of freaking out your local groundskeeper.

Nettle Pesto Pops

I found a frozen packet of nettles from last year’s harvest in the freezer the other day. With all the fresh nettles we’ve been eating lately this seemed like an opportune time to see how a year-old hunk of frozen nettles tasted in comparison. I’m happy to report my dinner companions up the street didn’t blink. Not for a second did they wonder whether my potluck contribution of Cream of Stinging Nettle Soup wasn’t made from nettles picked that day (and I didn’t tell—shhhh). The day-glo green color and signature flavor would have fooled me too.

Score another point for free, nutritious food.

Speaking of frozen nettles, I wouldn’t have been able to make a soup with fresh nettles anyway because all of my harvest has gone into pesto production. There’s a reason for this. She’s four going on fourteen, cute as a button when she’s not terrorizing her parents or building elaborate homes for ponies and princesses out of the furniture, and she loves her daddy’s nettle pesto.

I’ve already posted a recipe for Stinging Nettle Pesto, but here’s more info/photos about putting up your pesto. Use a Ziploc with a corner cut off to fill each cavity of the tray, then put in the freezer for several hours. Once frozen the pesto cubes can be easily removed from the tray and stored in freezer bags, ready for use throughout the year.

Whenever Ruby wants her pesto fix, I simply grab a pesto pop from the freezer, heat it up in the microwave, and toss with a bowl of cooked pasta. A single cube is enough to coat a few servings of pasta.

If you want to make a large batch of nettle pesto just remember to harvest enough nettles. A grocery bag packed with freshly harvested stinging nettles yields about two ice trays of pesto plus a small tub.

Few meals are healthier or easier to make.

Magic Mushrooms?

Here at FOTL Headquarters we’re mostly into outdoor fun, good eats, and wild foods that have more than merely survival appeal. True, we’ve been known to expound on the nutritional benefits of weeds and concoct the occasional tonic, but we leave the wild medicinal trade to those herbalists, shamans, witchdoctors, and other alternative health practitioners who supposedly know what they’re doing.

However, like the law, there is a time to take one’s own personal health and well-being into one’s own hands. And so it is with my ornery lower spine, specifically the troublesome connector at L5-S1. That’s the vertebra where your lumbar and sacrum meet, an intersection of misery for many a modern human that has come down from the trees only to sit at a desk or drive a car. Mine’s been hassling me for about five years now and I’m looking at drastic measures, though before such measures can be implemented I’m going to try one last crazy off-the-wall treatment…

…a drop of fly agaric for what ails me. Also known by it’s scientific name, Amanita muscaria, this totemic toadstool from temperate woodlands around the globe was called “fly agaric” by the Romans for its use to ward off winged pests. It hails from the dreaded Amanita genus, home to the most deadly mushrooms in the world, such as the death cap (Amanita phalloides) and destroying angel (Amanita bisporigera et al).

The fly agaric isn’t deadly poisonous except in the largest doses, but it packs a wallop just the same, a hallucinogenic brain warp that is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll to send Alice down the rabbit hole. Accounts vary. Some have reported transcendent spiritual experiences, others talk of nightmarish fits and vomiting. A forager friend of mine believes the North American variety doesn’t contain enough pyschoactive ingredients to do much at all.

I write about this beautiful mushroom’s sketchy history in my book. Quickly: Its psychoactive compounds have been known for millennia and nomadic Siberian tradesman reputedly ate the mushroom for the buzz when their beloved vodka was in short supply. Their reindeer ate it too, and both parties apparently ate the yellow snow around them that contained traces of the excreted drug. More than a few ethnobotanists have suggested that certain forms of Christmas iconography might derive from this behavior: jolly man dressed in red, flying reindeer, and so on.

As for me, my interest was piqued after reading this page on Henriette’s Herbal pages. According to Henriette: just rub “2-3 drops of tincture on the spine, when sciatica hits. Relief is pretty much instant.” She posits that the tincture “relaxes the muscles around the spine, where the hurt comes from, and when those muscles are finally allowed to relax they stop clamping bone all over the pinched nerve, which means the nerve can finally relax.”

I’ve made my tincture according to the instructions, first chopping up a bunch of nice Amanita muscaria buttons, then packing them into a half-pint canning jar and covering with vodka.

So, dear readers, should I go ahead and try a topical application the next time I feel stabbing pain down my left leg? What do you think?

I went down to the crossroads…

Imagine stumbling through a jungle of malicious trees in a strange, foreboding place, trees that move underfoot like snakes and try to wrap thorny arms around you in a sinister embrace. Brush up against one and it leaves a rash of spines—the floral equivalent of miniature porcupine quills. Its broad, prickly leaves hang like prehistoric green parasols, shutting out the light and obscuring your vision. You half expect to see a giant dragonfly buzz by.

Did you land in one of the nine circles of Hell? Nah, just another ill-advised attempt to bushwhack through a patch of devil’s club right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) is a shrub endemic to this region and a few other isolated pockets of North America. In rainforest conditions it can grow to a height of 15 feet but is more commonly three to five feet tall. The spines are no joke. They cause excruciating pain until you take the time to carefully tweezer them out like splinters.

As my friend Judy once said while hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, that’s one club we don’t want to join. Yet devil’s club has its uses, medicinal and culinary. Native Americans of Alaska and the Northwest have long used the plant for a variety of ailments and as food. The root can be eaten, and in spring, the new buds make an aromatic addition to sauces, sweets, and side dishes.

I first learned about the edibility of devil’s club buds last year from the blog Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska and a post about Devil’s Club Gnocchi. By then the devil’s club patches in my own stomping ground had mostly leafed out, so I vowed to get some the following year. Fast-forward to mid-May of this year when I realized I’d already missed the expansive patches of lowland devil’s club in the west slope Cascade foothills. Undeterred, I went higher in elevation while foraging fiddleheads and found a bunch right at snowline.

The window of opportunity is ridiculously narrow. You want to get the buds while between 1-2 inches in length, before the leaf has a chance to uncurl and its spines harden. If you go a-devil’s-clubbing, wear appropriate clothes and a thick pair of gloves. I forgot mine—the gloves, that is—and suffered a few puncture wounds in my fingertips that drew blood. A worst case scenario is losing your footing and tumbling into a thicket of the stuff. The other rookie mistake is bending back a stalk to relieve it of its green shoot only to have the thorny branch snap back in your face when the bud comes free.

My next problem was figuring out how to cook them. These buds, barely an inch long, had just emerged from the papery sheath at the tip of the stalk. At this size they weren’t suitable as a side dish, but as an aromatic they packed a flavorful punch, a cool, resiny, evergreen sort of flavor. I learned from Ron Zimmerman, owner of the Herbfarm restaurant, that he buds can be used to give woodsy depth to savory meat sauces and sweet dessert sauces alike.

In the end I decided in favor of a chocolate sauce. I’ve never actually made my own before, so it was something of a comedy of errors, but I think I learned enough during the process to offer a recipe here. Chocolate sauces are fairly forgiving when all is said and done. Like the budding period of a devil’s club, the window for serving a homemade chocolate sauce is narrow, but you can always add a little warm milk or cream and stir it back into a reasonable viscosity.

Devil’s Club Chocolate Sauce

1 dozen small devil’s club buds, chopped
1/2 cup half and half, plus extra just in case
1/4 sugar
4-8 oz bar baker’s chocolate*, chopped
1 tbsp butter

* I used a 4 oz Ghirardelli 100% cacao unsweetened baking bar. If using a bar with, say, half the percentage of cacao you’ll want to double the amount to 8 oz.

1. Infuse the half and half with devil’s club by covering the buds in a bowl with the cream and refrigerating for at least an hour.

2. Strain half and half into saucepan. Add sugar and bring to gentle boil, stirring. Remove from heat.

3. Off heat, mix in chocolate and butter and stir vigorously. Keep a 1/2 cup or so of warm milk or cream on hand for thinning.

4. While warm and viscous, pour over ice cream or fruit.

Here’s the thing about devil’s club: You want to be careful about heating it. Too much heat and it loses that remarkable aroma. Used properly, the devil’s club buds will add an extra dimension of flavor to the chocolate sauce, a cool, piney flavor that deepens the sauce and imparts the mystery of the woods to whatever you’re serving.

Did I sell my soul to learn the dark secrets of devil’s club cookery? You be the judge. In the process of making this simple chocolate sauce I burned my hand, nearly set the house on fire, and threw our Memorial Day Weekend to the mercy of the traffic gods by delaying our departure time, all in the service of squeezing off a half-decent photograph of the final product. By the end I was sweating profusely, cursing on the front lawn, and making everyone around me extremely uncomfortable. But boy was that sauce devilishly good…

Second photo from top by skagitstan.