Archive for the ‘Wild Foods’ Category

Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily



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I have invited and openly welcomed quite a few weeds into our yard over the past 5 years. A few of my friends shake their heads and can’t quite figure out why I would get so excited about weeds. You know, things like dandelions (taraxacum officinale) and lambsquarter (chenopodium album), or plantain (Plantago major) and purslane (Portulaca oleracea), and those are just a few of the edible and useable weeds I get excited about growing on purpose.



Then there is straggler daisy (calyptocarpus vialis). I did a post on it over on my personal blog this past week. There are a lot of mixed reviews on it in my area. Some LOVE it, others absolutely HATE it. That is one weed I wasn’t sure about when we moved here, but then again, it was spreading all through every garden and choking out other things. Once I got it out of the garden areas and started planting the herbs and natives I wanted I was much happier. It took a lot of work to get it out of the places I didn’t want it, but I do like it in my yard. It is a great ground cover.

Straggler Daisy

Straggler Daisy

One weed we struggle with is the Coastal Sandspur (Cenchrus spinifex Cav.) That is one weed I could do without completely.

Sandspur 1Some of the other “weeds” that make up our yard I have spent some time identifying… others, I have not taken the time to figure out yet.

An assortment of "weeds"

An assortment of “weeds” – lambsquarter, henbit, larkspur, thistle and poppy

It is always interesting to see what pops up each year. It is amazing how much it can vary. One year we may have a particularly pesky weed and some very pretty flowering ones and the year after there are new things out there.

Some years I have to pick my battles with things I really don’t want out there. I haven’t come up with a great way to get rid of the coastal sandspurs, other than hand digging them.

Where do you draw the line? What weeds do you embrace?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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Have you ever grown anything specifically with wild birds in mind? Many people plant things like thistle, cone flower, rose and various berries specifically to invite their feathered friends to grab a snack as they’re passing through. Even if you’re not a bird watcher (or “birder”) it is definitely nice to have the flit of movement across your vision in the dead cold of winter. We are often seasonally visited by juncos, ceder waxwings and Boreal chickadees, and the cardinals, gold finches and blue jays rarely leave for the winter.

I have always made sure there were plenty of prickly seeds and squishy berries for the little guys, but it wasn’t until this year that I decided to try growing so of my own birdseed to put up for winter.Of course, I’ve grown sunflowers in the past, but the chickadees and finches always managed to pluck all of the tiny morsels from their seats before I was able to bring them in to dry for the winter (this year I did manage to get a few, though!)

Millet. It’s a humble grain, often forgotten, and it has to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever grown. In fact, prior to this year I had been pulling it out of the flower beds in a futile and tangled war between myself and those-things-I-used-to-call-weeds. This year I decided that as long as it wasn’t killing anything else with it’s unruly sprawl, I would leave the volunteer army of millet in various places in the garden.

It isn’t a small plant, mind you. The one I have out front is more than six feet tall and sprawls roughly four feet in diameter, but it is a beautiful plant to see nodding it’s heavy, sleepy seed heads in the late summer breeze. This morning I began cutting the largest of the seed heads and drying them. For now I’ll be drying them in our kitchen, but as the season progresses I’ll be moving the millet and sunflowers to the barn to hang where they will season until the birds need them most: the dead of winter.

Millet is not a particularly palatable grain for birds, but it does provide protein and vital energy for them in the cold shivery months. The way I have always fed it is mixed with a bit of sunflower seed to encourage them to try it. Once they realize that it’s a source of food, despite not being terribly tasty, they are on the feeders regularly as soon as the wild sources of food run out.

The one thing I try to do above all else is keep the feeders full during the winter. The birds that come to your feeders are there specifically because there is a food source. If the food source stops, they move on, but they don’t always make it to the next food source, especially in some of the nasty Michigan weather we get up here.

I’m sure I’ll be buying birdseed from the store this winter (many stores sell it in bulk and you can bring your own containers!) but I’ll also be supplementing with what I’ve grown. If you have the space for it, give it a shot. This year my millet required absolutely no extra effort at all, except to cut it and hang it to dry. Planting it was simple – in most cases the birds took care of that for me. If I really wanted to plant a patch, I’d just scratch up the dirt a bit and sprinkle it with millet seeds. It’s a pretty intense little booger, so  once you grow it plan to have it around for years to come.

Next year I plan to try a few other bird seeds as well as some millet for our own personal use. I did plant some sorghum this spring, but its long season requirements might mean it doesn’t finish developing before it conks out for the year. Ah well. The point is, while you’re putting up food for yourself this fall, considering putting some up for the feathered folk as well!

Have you ever grown your own wild bird seed? Which varieties have you grown?

Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens, her livestock and her leased historical home in SE Michigan.

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Back in Tennessee our property was covered with groundcherries (sometimes known as stone cherries, husk tomatoes, and sometimes Cape Gooseberries). Had I known how absolutely wonderful they tasted I would have taken full advantage of this free resource. I should have taken the time to identify the differences between the nightshade plants and the groundcherry instead of ripping out every lookalike for fear that my daughter would find the colorful fruit irresistible. After all, I could easily tell the difference between a tomatillo and Chinese lantern. They’re all part of the Physalis genus, and in the Solanaceae family which also gives us peppers and tomatoes. In my defense, our property was also covered with the smooth ground cherry – a known hallucinogenic (smooth groundcherry leaves are almost hairless and given the Latin name P. subglabrata).

When picking wild foods education is everything.

I said they were delicious, didn’t I? Yes, yes indeed. But it seems they’re a bit like cilantro. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. They have an evolving flavor. For me, they start of tasting like a pineapple, then mellow out a bit like a tomato with a distinctive flavor from its relative, the tomatillo. Hubby thinks they taste like bacon and pancakes, and finish like a tomato. The Kid despises them, but then again she is revolting against all fruits and vegetables at this time. If you can find them in your yard or in the wild, consider yourself lucky! I was fortunate to find them at the farmers market. I hope you get the chance to sample one this summer as they’re not only tasty, they’re rich in provitamin A – a healthy sweet and tart treat. If you get them, buy some up as they can last in cool storage for 3-6 months.

groundcherry salsa

Groundcherry Salsa

(Phenomenal on fish, chicken, or chips)

  • 1 cup groundcherries, sliced in half
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup (about three large) tomatillos, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, smushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (optional: green chilies, jalapenos, and/or cilantro)

Remove husks from ground cherries and tomatillos and wash them along with the tomatoes. Chop, dice and mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Ta Daaa! Couldn’t be much easier or healthy to add some flavor to a simple dish.


Chocolate covered Groundcherries

  • Melting chocolate such as bark
  • Groundcherries
  1. Pull husks of groundcherries up, but do not remove. Wash fruit and allow to dry. Try not to get husks wet.
  2. While they’re drying, melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Use husks as a handle and dip the cherry in the chocolate, then set on parchment to cool completely.
  4. If hard chocolates aren’t your thing, consider fondue!

Jennifer can be found at Unearthing this Life; her blarg about self-sustainability, gardening, cooking, and family.

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elder blossum, Sambucus

The end of cool, spring days are long gone here in the southeast (and most of the Midwest for that matter), and we’re working our way into a hot and dry summer. Though the days may be thick with heat, we’re fortunate that the fragrance in the air is sweet, making odoriferous (read: sweaty) outdoor life a little more bearable. Between the honeysuckle, magnolia blooms, the last of the spring roses, and now elderflowers (also known as Sambucus), the perfume outdoors is downright heavenly.
elder flower, just opening

In the past I’ve talked about elderberries,  but the flowers that make those berries are just as – if not more than – extraordinary, and dare I say: exquisite. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to sample the blossoms in liqueur form (aka St. Germain) you’d recognize the slightly lemon and honey undertones in the air. It’s a sweet, heady, and perfumed flavor, but not quite cloying. Elderflower liqueur or syrup is definitely spring in a bottle. The liqueur or syrup is gorgeous mixed with champagne, it makes a lovely iced tea, and numerous other cocktails. Just don’t consume too many or the alkaloids will give you an upset tummy*.
elderflower stars

If you do happen across some elder, be sure to leave plenty of blossom heads to produce berries in another month, and then leave some of those berries for wildlife and to produce new shrubs. The berries are an important resource for many critters including birds and many moths. Pick the blooms that are open as it’s the pollen that helps to flavor and color your cordials – avoid those that are already forming berries and blossoms not yet open.

Elderflower Syrup

  • 10 large flower heads, largest stems removed, bugs shaken off
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced – avoid bitter pith
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp citric acid

Bring water and sugar just to a boil, then combine remaining ingredients. Allow to steep for 12-24 hours. Strain through muslin, then bottle and keep in refrigerator for up to a week.

Elderflower Syrup Ice Cubes

lavender and elderflower syrup

Simply pour your cooled syrup into ice cube trays and freeze. An excellent way to keep your wines or punches chilled this summer. Also a fabulous

way to extend the life of your syrup which will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Elderflower and Lavender Syrup

Follow directions for Elderflower syrup, but add 5 stems of lavender to 1 pint of liquid. Strain through muslin before bottling.

Elderflower Liqueur

  • 5 large flower heads, largest stems removed, bugs shaken off
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups vodka

Strain vodka through a water purifier if you have one available. Put flowers into quart-sized jar then cover with vodka. Allow to steep for about three to four weeks, then strain through muslin cloth. Return vodka to jar and add sugar. If 1/2 cup isn’t sweet enough, add more.

I’ve got all of these above in process currently. Next up is a recipe for elderflower& vanilla panna cotta I found at the River Cottage blog. The apple elderflower jelly and the strawberry elderflower jam both sound divine but I’m afraid those will have to wait until next year because I’m reserving the rest of the flowers for elderberry jam!
elderflower syrup

*Concerning toxicity via Wikipedia:

The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body. In addition, the unripened berry, flowers and “umbels” contain a toxic alkaloid.

Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, “herbal teas” made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanide inducing glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat”

Information and history of the Elder via the USDA plant guide.

A lovely guide, history, and some recipes vie A Modern Herbal at Botanical.com


You can also find Jennifer blarging along at Unearthing this Life when she’s not too busy wrassling turkeys and guineas, chasing chickens, playing with a seven year old, and working her (now) massive garden. She even sometimes tweets her nonsense @unearthingthis1 on Twitter.

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possum grapes

And just like that Elderberry season is gone! It’s time to move onward in our winemaking extravaganza, for it’s now the season for Possum Grapes. These tiny, buckshot-sized, purple grapes are mostly seed. They grow wild and can engulf entire trees in a season. Most people will cut them back before they have the chance to produce fruit, but if you’re like me you can’t resist any chance to harvest something wild (or free!).  Many people confuse Muscadines (larger and bronze when ripe) with Possum grapes (small and purple when ripe), but one you identify one, the difference will be obvious.

possum grapes

If you’ve read any of my other winemaking posts, feel free to scroll down to the actual recipe. If you’re new to winemaking be sure to read over some of these helpful hints and explanations before moving forward.

Country Wine: Equipment and Ingredients

It is possible to make wine with minimum equipment and purchases. The bare necessities (in my humble experience) that you’ll want include:

  • Food-grade bucket, preferably 5-gallon. Check with a local bakery or deli.
  • A large strainer or sieve plus some cheesecloth.
  • About 4-5 feet of food-grade tubing. Look in the plumbing section of a hardware store.
  • Gallon-sized glass carboys or 5-gallon collapsible water cubes. Carboys can be saved from juice purchases. The water cubes are fantastic for making odd-sized batches of wine and can be found at camping supply stores.
  • Balloons and cotton balls, or  airlocks.
  • Yeast. You can use regular baking yeast, but if you want a better flavor you can opt for different “wine” strains of yeast found at winemaking/brewing stores. I’ve used Montrachet as it’s recommended to balance the flavors of berry wines.
  • Bottles and Corks. I save all my bottles from other purchases like wine, vinegar, juice, and so on. I purchased “mushroom” corks since they don’t require a tool to insert them into the bottles.


  • Campden tablets to sterilize equipment, remove stray yeast and bacteria (highly recommended unless you have problems with sulfites).
  • Tannin, citric acid, or Earle Grey tea for flavor balance in sweeter wines.
  • Extra sugar or wine conditioner to sweeten and brighten finished wine.
  • Pectic acid for removing extra pectin and “clarify” wine.
  • Yeast nutrient to feed yeast. Recipes without nutrient require extra sugar.

You can purchase all of these items from a wine and beer making supplier or spend a little more energy and locate many things locally. I purchased my airlock, water cube, yeast, campden tablets, and corks from E.C. Kraus. for less than $50. The rest I found locally or did without.

Possum Grape (Wild Grape) Wine

I altered this recipe based on my purposes, though it’s roughly based on one I found at Wildfoods.info. I highly recommend that you read that entire article before proceeding here. I honestly could not give anywhere near the amount of fabulous information that is offered.

  • 1 gallon wild grapes with vine will make about 1 bottle of wine. Multiply recipe as needed.
  • 1 gallon Possum Grapes
  • 1/3 lb granulated sugar
  • 1 campden tablet (1 tablet is good for up to 1 gallon of liquid. One tablet should be enough for up to 3 gallons of grapes)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  1. Wash grapes. Wrap fruit in cheesecloth or muslin and squeeze as much juice as possible. Alternately you could crush them in a china cap with a dowel, but avoid crushing the seeds. Strain fruit overnight. Add one campden tablet before completing this portion.
  2. The next day, add sugar and yeast and mix well. Cap holding container (glass bottle, carboy, watercube) with airlock. *We are very prone to mold and mildews thanks to our humidity. If you have a drier season and desire a more natural wine, you can omit the campden tablet and yeast altogether. Prior to airlocking your wine, allow it to capture a wild yeast. You’ll know you’ve captured one when you see your wine bubbling and have no signs of bacteria. When it begins to bubble you can close your container with your airlock.
  3. When the wine stops bubbling you can siphon off the liquid from any sediment with your tubing. Siphon the wine into your sterile bottles and cork. Allow to rest about 6 months before consuming.

Possum grapes

Possum Grape (Wild Grape) Jelly

  • 1 gallon fruit, stemmed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 5-1/2 cup sugar
  • Pectin if desired
  1. Wash grapes. Pour 1 quart boiling water over fruit. Wrap fruit in cheesecloth or muslin and squeeze as much juice as possible. Alternately you could crush them in a china cap with a dowel, but avoid crushing the seeds. Strain fruit overnight.
  2. Take four cups of grape juice and mix with remaining ingredients. Bring quickly to soft-ball stage and skim any foam before pouring into sterilized canning jars.
  3. Let boil in hot water bath for 15 minutes.
  4. Check seals on lids before putting jars in storage. 

Possum grapes

Ta daa! You have scrumdillyumptious homemade grape jelly and wine for the price of sugar and some easy pickin’.

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September collage
So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.


September is the time of year that we begin to feel the crisp air of Autumn moving in. Evenings are chilly even though afternoons can be very warm. Autumn fruits are beginning to ripen and the thought of spiced cider seem to warm spirits. September is the time for clear skies, bonfires, and wrapping up Summer’s last duties. It’s a big month for tidying up the garden, so hold back those nesting instincts for another month and enjoy the clear, bright skies and cool air.


  • Be sure your root cellar is ready to accept produce. If you’re using boxes with sand or sawdust make sure they’re clean, sanitized, dry, and critter-proof.
  • Be sure your deep freezer is cleaned out. Remove past date items and make room for Fall’s harvests.
  • Complete any chores that require you to keep your windows open. Painting, cleaning carpeting, cleaning ovens and so forth should be finished before it gets cold during the daytime.
  • Wash items that require long, outdoor drying times or those that can only be taken care of outside. Litter boxes, garbage pails, sanitary pails, area rugs, pillows, and so forth should be washed while the remaining warm air can help with drying.
  • Air out winter clothing, blanketing, and other items you may have kept in storage over the warm seasons.
  • Be sure your fireplaces are in working order before you need them. Check that wood stacks are staying dry and are easy to get to.
  • Check fire and carbon monoxide alarms before lighting up your furnace or fireplace for the first time.


  • Be sure your cold frames and greenhouses are airtight and ready to go for the cooler nights. Daytime temperatures can become very hot in these locations, so be sure to open and close windows as needed. Consider investing in a self-opening elbow for your windows. They can save many trips back and forth throughout this fickle weather.
  • Leaves will begin to fall soon. Make sure your compost bins or piles are ready to accept fresh materials.
  • Give one last inspection to your windows and doors in case you didn’t get to them last month. Be sure that they’re air tight and sealed before cold weather really sets in.
  • Change air filters on furnace.


  • Herbs can be cut and dried for saving. Remember to bring some in to create a window garden for a fresh Winter source of Summer’s flavors.
  • Seed saving and dead-heading can begin once again. Remember to allow some of your perennial seeds to self-sow by leaving only a few “dead heads” or by sprinkling some seed. Save some seed for finches (they adore Echinacea) and other seed lovers. Too many dead heads can lead to disease.
  • Don’t prune rose hips yet if you plan on saving them for jellies or medicinal purposes.
  • Bring in your more sensitive plants as the nights get cooler. Stevia, ginger, and other tropicals don’t like colder weather. Many other herbs can stay outside until the first frosts.
  • It’s a good time to take cuttings of woody plants and shrubs.
  • If you’re planning on dividing or planting bulbs for next year now is the time to do it! Also divide shrubby herbs like lemon balm, oregano, mints, sage, fennel, tansy, and marjoram.
  • Harvest frost-sensitive plants and Winter keepers before your first frosts. Put green tomatoes in paper bags to ripen slowly and use later. Potatoes, onions, and other keepers should be kept in a cool dark place.
  • Cut back dying foliage. Burn diseased foliage as soon as possible. Healthy plants can be put into compost as long as they are seed-free. As fun as it is to have a surprise potato plant sprout from the compost bin, you don’t want those plants (or weeds) to use up all that energy you’ve been saving for your garden!
  • Green manures for cool seasons can be sown.
  • Strawberry runners should be rooted and transplanted by the end of the month.
  • Shrubs and trees, fruiting or not, can be planted now that the cool weather is setting in. Fall is an excellent time for transplants since most trees are storing or spending energy in and on their root systems.
  • Speaking of fruiting trees and plants, remove mulch and prune those that need it.


  • Put in your orders for Winter supplies of food, straw, and hay.
  • Give a good cleaning to coops and barns to try to avoid housing mice and other small, unwanted critters.
  • September and October are good months for building. If you’re planning on adding to the animal family next year, consider any outdoor units that may need to be added.
  • Repair coops, lean-tos, stables, and other shelters before cold weather sets in. Keep your animals happy and warm at night.
  • Start considering mating sheep and goats for Spring kids and lambs. They’re both on about a 150 gestation cycle so a late month conception would lead to a late February birth.
  • With birth also comes death. Start planning for cold weather slaughters. Animals are best harvested when the weather is below 40 degrees. The cooler the better, especially if you’re inexperienced or have a lot of work to do. Research your product and begin gathering needed items. Mise en place. Have stock pots, seasonings, casings, sharpening stones, recipes, packaging, and tools all ready prior to harvesting.


  • Continue to feed your hummingbirds and other songbirds. Migrations will begin this month and you may have a few unusual visitors to your feeders.
  • Like us humans, wild critters are beginning to stock away for the colder seasons. Allow seed heads to remain on natives and refrain from too much tidying up of acorns and other nuts, seeds, and berries. Skunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and other small animals need to fatten up to keep warm through the Winter.

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