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Archive for the ‘Wild Foods’ Category

Now that blackberries are done for most of us, Elderberries are the next wild fruit in season. I can’t just sit by and watch good food go to waste, so of course I must climb through the remaining rose and blackberry brambles to reach the tiny purple fruits of the Elderberry. Poke berries are also starting to ripen so be sure to avoid those!! Know how to identify your berries before consuming. Poke is poisonous!

Elderberries should be picked and consumed with some knowledge as well:

According to 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.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to this wonderful plant, I suggest taking the time to prepare one of these tasty recipes. The sweetened berries taste a bit like a cross between a cherry and a blackberry. Who could go wrong with that?!

elderberries

 

Elderberry Wine

  • 3 lbs fresh, ripe elderberries
  • 1-1/2 lbs sugar
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • Campden tablets (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1 tsp citric acid (optional)
  • 1/2 lb sugar
    1. Wash berries and pick out any green fruit and stems. This can take quite a while for 3 pounds worth of fruit. I suggest pouring the berries onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (for contrast) to make the job easier.
    2. Sterilize all equipment with boiling water. If you purchased campden tablets you can crush one per gallon of water to ensure sterilization.
    3. Boil water and  1-1/2 lb sugar until well dissolved. Pour into elderberries and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
    4. Put elderberries into a food mill to release juices. Return berry skins to liquid. Alternatively, wear rubber gloves and smoosh with hands.
    5. Add crushed Campden Tablet and citric acid then allow to rest for 24 hours.
    6. The next day, add yeast to your soon-to-be wine and mix well. Top off your carboy or watercube with an airlock and allow the juices to do their work over the next 2 weeks.
    7. After 2 weeks, strain berry pulp from fermenting liquid using a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Make sure you use sterilized equipment! Add final 1/2 pound sugar and close your container with an airlock or balloon.
    8. Allow to rest 10 days.
    9. Ten days later, use your original bucket (cleaned and sterilized) and tubing to siphon the fermenting liquid from the sediment. Place your bucket on the floor and your carboy/watercube/jug on a table or counter. Insert one end of tubing into the wine and suck just a bit to get the siphon action going.
    10. While the siphoned liquid is resting in the bucket, clean your carboy/cube/jug and re-sterilize along with your tubing.
    11. Siphon the liquid again – back into the cleaned carboy/cube/jug .
    12. Close container with airlock or balloon as before.
    13. Let rest for 3 months or longer so that the yeast can work its magic. Once the mixture stops bubbling (if you’re using an airlock) or the balloon deflates the wine is ready to be siphoned into your sterilized bottles and corked.
    14. Allow to age an additional 3 months minimum (9 months to one year is best) before drinking.

    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.

    Optional:

    • 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.

    elderberries

     

    Elderberry Jam

    from the Ball Blue Book, yield about 3 pints

    • 2 quarts crushed elderberries (ripe berries, stemmed)
    • 6 C sugar
    • 1/4 C vinegar
    1. Combine berries, sugar and vinegar. Bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.
    2. Cook rapidly until thick. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
    3. Pour, boiling hot, into sterilized jars. Adjust caps.

    Yield: about 3 pints.

    I hope you get the opportunity to sample some elderberries in one form or another this year! The purple stains are worth it!!

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    We live on 10 acres, mostly pasture with a small stand of evergreens and lined at the edges with wild blackberries.  Our property is a perfect square, with our house smack dab in the middle.  To the north of our farm is a small family run dairy farm.  To the south is my mom’s acrage  To the east is another 10 acre farm that raises beef and sheep.  To the west…well to the west used to be over 50 acres of just open space with a creek and an old dilapidated saw mill.

    Now it is a housing development with homes on lots from 1 to 2 acres.   On our Western flank we have 3 neighbors.  It is the #3 neighbor that I will be speaking about today.

    As I was driving home the other day I noticed that the blackberries along the fence line bordering #3 neighbor were turning yellow.  I stopped the car and got out to take a look.  As I got nearer it became obvious they had been sprayed with some sort of herbicide (all of our roadways around our town are sprayed the same way so I knew immediately how it looks)

    I got back into my car grumbling about the nerve of someone to spray the blackberries on my property.

    The next day and the day after that I visited #3 to speak to her about spraying on property that wasn’t her’s.  She was never home.

    Meanwhile I have called the county to find out the rules about this.  They were clear that no one had the legal right to spray on another’s property, even if it was blackberries (which if you lived in Western Washington you realize that they are considered a nuisance plant.)

    Anyway on the 3rd try I stopped by her daughter’s house at the beginning of the housing developement and was going to leave a message to have her mom call me.

    Of course the daughter was concerned about what I was wanting to contact her mom about (I would be to if a neighbor wanted to talk to my mom who lives on her own)

    So I proceeded in the nicest way possible to tell her daughter that I was concerned that her mom was spraying my blackberries.  I explained that not only did my kids pick and eat the blackberries all over our property but we also were beekeepers and that these berry bushes were an outstanding source of pollen for them.

    I was clear that there no legal standing to do this.

    The daughter although polite kept asking me “you mean you want blackberries?”

    I explained to her about making jam and gardening organically and feeding bees.

    She told me how she and her husband had spent months and months clearing their 2 acres of the native ‘weeds’ so they could put in their expansive lawn and borders.  She certainly didn’t want my blackberries infesting her mother’s equally manicured lawn and she didn’t blame her mom from spraying.  She frankly thought I had a screw loose…

    It finally boiled down to yes I want those blackberries and they are on my property and could she please tell her mother to call me when she returned from vacation so I could speak to her.

    Why do people want to move to the country and then clear out all vestiges of said country and plant lawns that look just like those in town?

    Why would someone think that just because they want to keep their perfect lawns that it could possibly ok to use killer spray on someone else’s ‘weeds’?

    Have we come so far from our roots that the manicured lawn is now the norm and I’m the oddball?

    Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!

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    Winemaking: Dandelion

    dandelion

    If you’re like me, you enjoy seeing the happy yellow flowers of dandelions blooming in your yard. They bring back memories of childhood games, of rubbing pollen on my chin and nose. I’ve also come to adore dandelion greens in my salad and still believe that wishes will come true when dandelion seeds float through the air.

    Perhaps one of those wishes was to give me more dandelion blossoms – if so, it definitely came true this year!

    Next year when spring is closing in but when winter still has us in it’s grasp, I’ll be enjoying a glass of spring to get me through those last chilly days. Here is the recipe I’m using this year. Several online friends shared their recipes and I picked out some of my favorite bits, making my own conglomeration. I froze my dandelion heads, keeping them in the freezer until I had accumulated enough to make a large batch of wine.

    frozen dandelion

    Dandelion Wine

    • 3 cups packed dandelion flower petals – remove as much green as possible.
    • 1 medium club ginger, sliced
    • 1-1/2 cup sugar
    • 6 cups boiled, chlorine-free water
    • juice and zest of two oranges
    • juice and zest of one lemon
    • 1/2 t. yeast
    • campden tablets

    ginger with orange

    1. Sterilize all equipment with boiling water. If you purchased campden tablets you can crush one per gallon of water to ensure sterilization.
    2. Pour boiling water and campden tablet (optional) over flower petals, sugar, and ginger slices.
    3. Allow to cool to room temperature then add citrus juices and zest as well as yeast.
    4. Let steep 8 hours or overnight.
    5. Strain solids from liquid with strainer or cheesecloth, then siphon into clean, sterilized carboy, watercube, or bottle. Close container with airlock or cotton stuffed balloon.
    6. Allow to ferment for about 1-2 months. When fermentation stops (the wine will stop bubbling if using an airlock, or the balloon will collapse), sample the wine to sweeten if necessary. Siphon wine into two sterile 750ml bottles and cork.
    7. Let the wine age for another 3 months before drinking, although it should be better if it ages at least another 6 months.

    Here are some recommended equipment and guidelines for brewing wine at home. Also, be sure to reference the other wine recipes I’ve shared: blackberry and plum.

    dandelion wine

    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.

    Optional:

    • 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.

    *****

    Do you brew anything at home?

    You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life trying to take each day as it comes.

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    Winemaking: Plum

    plums

    When we moved into our house on 4th of July four years ago we had three cultivated plum trees and two peach. That first spring living there we had a late winter freeze followed that summer with a severe drought. Our trees were badly damaged and we actually lost one of the peach trees. The next spring a late frost hit the blossoms. The third summer brought us no peaches, but tons of plums – all spoiled with worms. Which brings us to this year. We had the perfect spring, thousands of blossoms, lots of fruit … until the Japanese beetles created lace out of the leaves, stressing the trees so that they dropped every single fruit.

    Fortunately we have many wild plums of the Chickasaw variety. The fruits are small, about the size of a grape with an almond-sized seed inside. They’re ripe when they start turning orange, and they have a sweet and pungent flavor. Even our dog would get excited when we’d start harvesting because he’d pick up the fruits we’d drop on the ground! The small plums aren’t much for more than snacking on, but they should make a tasty summer wine.

    Even if you don’t have access to wild plums, you can use a cultivated variety for wine making. You may find, however, that you’ll want to add some citric acid to balance the flavors out a bit since cultivated plums aren’t quite as tart.

    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.

    Optional:

    • Campden tablets to sterilize equipment, remove stray yeast and bacteria (highly recommended unless you have problems with sulfites).
    • Tannin, citric acid, or Earl 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.

    Plum Wine:

    • 3-1/2 lb ripe plums
    • Campden tablets
    • 1 tsp citric acid – not necessary with wild plums
    • 4lb granulated pure cane sugar
    • 3 quarts distilled, or boiled chlorine-free water
    • 1 package yeast
    • 1 quart distilled, or boiled chlorine-free water

    mushed plums

    1. Sterilize all equipment with boiling water and Campden tablets.
    2. Wash plums. Remove any spoiled spots or fruit.
    3. Smash fruit with hands, food mill, or potato masher. Be sure to keep skins in the mixture – they’ll add a bit of body to the final product.
      Add 3 quarts water and one Campden tablet and mix. Cover loosely with a lid or cheesecloth.
    4. Allow to rest in a warm, dark room for ten days.
      At the end of ten days skim any residue off the top. Remove fruit with a slotted spoon or spider, draining well. With a cheesecloth, strain and squeeze liquid into a sterile carboy/watercube.
      Dissolve sugar in 1 quart boiling water. Once it is cool add to fruit with yeast and citric acid.
    5. Close container with airlock or a balloon stuffed with cotton ball.
    6. Cover and stir daily for three days.
    7. use your original bucket (cleaned and sterilized) and tubing to siphon the fermenting liquid from the sediment. Place your bucket on the floor and your carboy/watercube/jug on a table or counter. Insert one end of tubing into the wine and suck just a bit to get the siphon action going.
    8. While the siphoned liquid is resting in the bucket, clean your carboy/cube/jug and re-sterilize along with your tubing.
    9. Siphon the liquid again – back into the cleaned carboy/cube/jug
    10. Close container with airlock or balloon as before.
    11. Let rest for 3 months or longer so that the yeast can work its magic. Once the mixture stops bubbling (if you’re using an airlock) or the balloon deflates the wine is ready to be siphoned into your sterilized bottles and corked.
    12. Allow the wine to rest for at least another 3 months before sampling, but it will taste better if you let it age longer.

    pour

    Come back next week when I share some dandelion wine recipe I’ll be using for brewing. Visit my previous post for information on making blackberry wine.

    You can find Jennifer over at Unearthing This Life where she blargs about life in rural Tennessee while waxing poetic (or whining miserably) about growing up in suburbia south of Chicago.

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    wine

    If you’ve read some of my previous posts you’ve probably gathered that I enjoy a glass of wine every now and then (read: “now” as 4:30 and “then” as 5:00 pm). I really can’t think of a much better way to keep my wine guzzling sipping experience as local as possible other than making it myself. Sure, we have several good vineyards and wineries in our region and I love to purchase from them when possible. Keep in mind, though, that many wineries import some of their fruit to blend with their local selections.

    Homemade berry wines are often referred to as “country wine.” I began brewing my own wine last year as an experiment. I had so many blackberries that I couldn’t give them away. I had jars and jars of jam that were given freely as gifts. I think my poor mail delivery gal was bursting with my jam. I have perfected several types of cobbler (which the mere thought of still makes me quiver from having eaten so much). My hands and arms are permanently scarred from last year’s harvest simply because we were so plentiful! So being a wine lover I couldn’t think of a better way of using up my bounty than to experiment with wine. I will admit that I am barely practiced on this subject, but I thought I’d share my learnings and experiences thus far in hopes of building upon all of our practices. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions!

    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.

    Optional:

    • 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.

    One note about sugar – many of us prefer to use honey or raw sugars in our every day cooking in order to stay away from processed foods and HFCS. I have read that professional beverage makers use white sugar because the sweetness levels are more predictable to work with. I honestly don’t know if there’s any truth behind this or if it’s a matter of expense. For my recipes I’ve used granulated cane sugar. As I get into more honey I will be trying a few batches made with honey in place of sugar.


    IMG_2579
    Blackberry Wine (1 gallon):

    • 4.5 lb fresh berries
    • 4 cups distilled or boiled, chlorine-free water
    • Campden tablets (optional)
    • 1-3/4 cups granulated cane sugar
    • 6 cups distilled or boiled, chlorine-free water
    • 1 packet yeast
    • 1-3/4 cups granulated cane sugar
    • 2 cups distilled or boiled, chlorine-free water
    • 1-1/2 cups granulated cane sugar
    • 2 cups distilled or boiled, chlorine-free water
    1. Sterilize all equipment with boiling water. If you purchased campden tablets you can crush one per gallon of water to ensure sterilization.
    2. Wash berries and pick out any spoiling fruit before crushing in your bucket. Using bare hands is tons of fun, but you can use a food mill if you prefer to keep your nails stain-free. Be sure to add the pulp back into the juice if you are using a mill.
    3. Add one quart of water – cooled – and an optional campden tablet. Wait 24 hours.
    4. Boil 6 cups water and 1-3/4 cups sugar together for 1 minute. Allow to cool to room temperature.
    5. Activate yeast in small amount of warm water.
    6. Add cooled sugar-water and yeast to fruit mixture.
    7. Cover and let rest one week.
    8. One week later, strain fruit from mixture with cheesecloth and sieve being sure to get every ounce of juice from the berries. Put liquid in clean and sterilized carboy or water cube.
    9. Boil 2 cups of water with another 1-3/4 cups sugar for one minute. Allow to cool to room temperature before mixing into fruit liquid.
    10. Close container with airlock or a balloon stuffed with cotton ball.
    11. Allow to rest 10 days.
    12. Ten days later, use your original bucket (cleaned and sterilized) and tubing to siphon the fermenting liquid from the sediment. Place your bucket on the floor and your carboy/watercube/jug on a table or counter. Insert one end of tubing into the wine and suck just a bit to get the siphon action going.
    13. While the siphoned liquid is resting in the bucket, clean your carboy/cube/jug and re-sterilize along with your tubing.
    14. Boil 2 cups water and 1-1/2 cups sugar for one minute and allow to cool to room temperature.
    15. Siphon the liquid again – back into the cleaned carboy/cube/jug and mix in the last of the sugar-water.
    16. Close container with airlock or balloon as before.
    17. Let rest for 3 months or longer so that the yeast can work its magic. Once the mixture stops bubbling (if you’re using an airlock) or the balloon deflates the wine is ready to be siphoned into your sterilized bottles and corked.

    winemaking collage

    I highly recommend waiting at least 6 months from the original date before drinking your wine. This makes a fabulous gift for the holidays. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with all of our friends across the country by opening the wine at midnight. This year I believe I’ll add a bit of conditioner or glycerine to add some extra sweetness to the finished wine since my batch was dry.

    I’m already anticipating New Year’s Eve this year. Winemaking definitely gives me a local, homemade something to look forward to during the bleak, chilly months of winter. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a few more winemaking recipes including wild plum and dandelion.

    What are your favorite Country Wines?

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    Compared to the start of our Real Food Challenge, getting local food is a breeze this time of year. How much more local can you get than your own backyard? Spring is good for items like ramps and morels. Summer in our region has quite a few beauties to look out for. If you don’t have immediate access to wild foods ask around. Sometimes people are happy to share their sources. If you find a source of wild food be sure that it’s not on private property before harvesting. If in doubt, ask the owner for permission.

    Disclosure: Please note that I am not an herbalist or a doctor and trying any new and/or wild foods should be done with caution. I highly suggest having an experienced someone help you forage until you are comfortable with your own knowledge. Just like other foods, wild foods can cause allergic reactions and even death in some instances. Please proceed with caution.

     

    blackberries

    wild blackberries

    Wild berries are a must! Blackberries and raspberries are starting to come in here. I picked my first ripe blackberries yesterday. I’ll be hitting the hillside every few days throughout June and deep into July to get bucketfuls. For what? Oh, let’s see – there’s cobbler, buckles, sorbet, syrups, jams, and my favorite, wine. Whatever’s left gets frozen for fruity toppings for pancakes and smoothies later in the year.

     

    Sassafras

    sassafras

    Sassafras grows like mad on our property. The roots can be used to make tea, root beer, candy, and jelly. It can even be used to make mead and wine! (See a connection here?)  Sassafras was at one point completely banned because it was linked to cancer in lab rats. If you ask my opinion anything can cause cancer when given in such large doses. Even if you don’t feel like consuming sassafras I recommend at least picking off a leaf or two just to smell the amazing fragrance!

     

    chickasaw plums

    Chickasaw plums

    Fruit trees are a glorious source of nommy goodness. Down here we’ve got Chickasaw Plums which are a very small fruit in comparison to the cultivated or imported types. What are they good for? Jam and … can you guess? Yep! Wine!

     

    dandelion

    dandelion

    While springtime is fabulous for dandelion green salads, in late spring and summer I like to pick the flowers to reserve for tea, jelly, and you got it: wine.

     

    sumac berries

    sumac berries

    Last but not least is the Sumac family. Not to be confused with Poison Sumac, these trees can grow upwards around 30 feet and have brilliant red berry cones that ripen in early to mid summer. You know they’re ripe when you can touch the outside of the berries and get a tart flavor. Note that if you are allergic to cashews or mangoes to avoid the sumac tree. Native Americans use the sumac to make a type of lemonade. The fruit contains high levels of citric acid giving it a tart flavor. Native Americans also used a brew to treat blisters and sunburns. I have yet to try either of these recipes. I wonder if it can be used for wine?

    What kind of wild edibles do you look for this time of year?

     

    Jennifer can be found at Unearthing this Life where she snarfs and blargs about her life in the country with a Kid and Hubby.

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    Foraging for Wild Food

    Here at Chiot’s Run, we love finding foods that we can forage from the wild without having to cultivate them. Each year we learn more and more about wild edible plants and we’re enjoying the nutritional benefits they add to our diet. It can be an overwhelming and scary thing to learn about wild foraged food. Knowing what you can and can’t eat from the forest is one of those skills that’s been lost along the way. There are plenty of books you can read and websites where you can learn how to identify free edible wild food (see below for a few that you might find useful).

    Of course you want to make sure that you’re correct on your plant identification before harvesting and eating something since some plants are poisonous. It’s also wise to harvest and eat just a small amount to make sure someone isn’t allergic to the new wild food.

    I’d also suggest taking it slow and learning a few new wild foods each year. When you do it this way to learn to properly identify different edible plants during the entire growing season and you can practice cooking and using them medicinally. It can be overwhelming to try to learn them all at once and the information is often forgotten. You also run the risk of making a mistake when harvesting if you’re not 100% percent familiar with what the plants look like during each season. We make it a point to learn a few more wild foods each year. Several years ago we started eating morels that we find and last year we started eating a lot of garlic mustard as well as bittercress. We started using plantain for medicinal purposes and a few other weeds. This year I’m hoping to harvest some nettles for tea.

    This summer we’ve been enjoying a lot of wild greens and flowers in our spring salads. Since I didn’t get any spinach overwintered, we’ve been relying on garlic mustard, bitter cress, wild violets, and dandelions for our salads. We’ve also been enjoying wild flowers, they really make the salads beautiful (who wouldn’t want to eat one of these salads). The wonderful thing about wild plants is that they’re nutritional powerhouses. This is one of the reasons we started eating more wild foods. We’re always looking for ways to ramp up the nutritional quality of what we eat.

    As with plants you grow in your garden you want to make sure the wild plants you harvest are not in an area that is sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. I’d stay away from plants in ditches along the road as well since they’re most likely covered in exhaust and chemical and salts from the road. I’d also stay away from gathering near large commercial farms since they use lots of chemicals. I found a few nice stands of wild asparagus, but they’re in a ditch right by a field that they spray with sewer sludge, so no wild asparagus on our plates.

    Do you harvest any foods from the wild? What’s your favorite wild food to eat?

    Susy can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op.

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