More Foraged Favorites

Our dear Tori is a master forager.  She’ll steal unreservedly from the melon and berry patches to the fig and mulberry trees, to even the unripe cucumbers and squashes.

Equally in the forest she is clearly divinely inspired–the perfectly ripe passion fruit she’ll scout, the bones get unearthed as her possessions no matter who has buried them, and she leads me to all the best bramble patches.  The forest and our garden are her perpetual oysters–and while to see my melons walk away makes me want to cry, to her happy prance with edible treasure, well there is only to laugh!

And, apparently she’s not the only astute forager.

I love seeing how many foraging sites and blogs are currently flourishing.  They inspire me to add on and spread the wealth.

Indian Strawberry

indianstrawberries

We have a big patch of these amiable volunteers just adjacent to the asparagus patch, natural companions, perhaps?  In Scandinavia I met gardeners who insisted on planting their strawberries and asparagus and dill in the same space. I  While these taste pretty bland compared to our cultivated varieties, they are still quite pretty, which is enough for me to spend the time to gather and prepare them.

I toss them in a salad with mulberries coming ripe at the same time. Or use them as a garnish with a spring weed pesto, along with the leaves, in moderation.  Here’s a variation using chickweed, but it’s fun to get creative with whatever is in abundance.

https://nittygrittylife.com/eat-weeds-wild-weed-pesto/

 

Honeysuckle

honeysuckle1

While it is an invasive species for us in the southern U.S., at least it’s a useful one!  While I’ve only made tea with it, some are patient enough to make jam.  Maybe this will be the year I give that a try.

It’s also prized in traditional Chinese medicine.
(From: Dr. Mercola https://articles.mercola.com/herbs-spices/honeysuckle.aspx)

In TCM, the honeysuckle flower is commonly used to help ease the flu, colds and sore throat. According to Science Alert,11 this plant has the ability to prevent the influenza virus from replicating. An animal study published in the journal Cell Research supports this, as it found that honeysuckle, when combined with a plant microRNA called MIR2911, was able to suppress swine flu and bird flu viruses effectively.12
Xiao Er Ke Chuan Ling Oral Liquid (KCL), an herbal preparation that uses honeysuckle and nine other plants, was found to help treat acute bronchitis in children. A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine said KCL has antiviral, antibacterial and potent pharmacological actions.13
Honeysuckle was also found to have wound-healing properties in rat models, according to the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal.

Sassafras

A quite undermined tree of the South, considering its illustrious origins and conspiratorial fate.  It is a tree widely cultivated in Asia-Pacific as an essential ingredient to the popular drug, or versions of it anyway, generally called “ecstasy”.

At first, like cannabis, it was classified among the most harmful of substances by the FDA, though our ancestors had previously been very acquainted and attached to these and so many other suddenly ‘dangerous’ plants. Then while they were deemed “carcinogenic” by our government, simultaneously expanding was its cultivation in foreign countries.  This was actually before “Poppy Bush” but perhaps setting that very precedent for the former president?!

While I’ve no idea how to make the popular street drug, I can assure you it makes a deliciously fragrant tea, traditional root beer, and gumbo filé powder.

Mullein

mullein

One of the few things growing strong all winter in the South is one of the classic remedies of the typical seasonable winter ails–upper respiratory infections,  cough, sinus, and so on. Go figure, mother nature to the rescue.

Yaupon

yaupon

As a tea it rivals the Lipton or Lausanne you are paying good money for, it really does.  It does contain caffeine and was used among the native populations regularly and as an alternative to coffee in hard times among new settlers.  Drying it for a just a couple of days before roasting makes the process quicker, but roasting isn’t necessary if you like a more mild ‘green tea’ taste.  The beauty is, it’s prolific and harvestable all-year-round for humans, and for the bees they have a reliable early forage in spring.  Just don’t eat the berries!

Spring weed pesto and/or chimichurra sauce

Of course we love our traditional basil-based pesto with pine nuts, such a classic.  But, whatever’s available in our time/space, we use it!  Walnuts or pecans can replace the pricey pine version, or skip the nuts altogether.  I often leave out the parmesan too (my own homemade of course), and either add that last minute, if appropriate, or make more of a  chimichurri-style sauce, so yum!

We both love a combination of wild and cultivated plants and I let them blend altogether in the garden and in the sauce.  Chervil, parsley, cilantro, or maybe arugula generously and gorgeously partnered with wild violet, chickweed, wild rose petal, or whatever is out there! Once prepared it’s a delicious condiment for meats, a base for dressing and marinade, or a sauce, stand-alone or blended, an instant topping for eggs or toast.  It freezes really well too.

https://draxe.com/recipe/chimichurri-recipe/

Let your local, seasonal nature be your greatest guide. 🙂

A few favorite resources:

Idiot’s Guides Foraging by Mark Merriwether Vorderbruggen, PhD
http://www.foragingtexas.com

https://www.growforagecookferment.com/forage

https://sustainabledish.com

Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer

 

 

 

Hunt-Harvest Happiness

There is a special kind of euphoria that comes from harvesting my own food that I have not felt in any other productive endeavor. I read somewhere that the worst day working in cooperation with the land is better than the best day in the office, and I must wholeheartedly concur.

If only I’d learned that sooner, I would not have such steep learning curves to navigate in middle age!

Mushroom hunting is certainly on the top of that steep learning curve list, not to mention a potentially deadly hobby. While there are actually only a few truly deadly mushrooms, there are many that will make you sick and quite a few choice species that are so similar to poisonous species that even experts are occasionally fooled.

For the novice mushroom hunter there are only a handful of no-brainer finds, and as the dogs and I walked our trails this morning, I spotted one of the choicest of these, the Hedgehog. Actually there were three, and I took the biggest, a whopping one pound ten ounces. Interestingly, the season of these mushrooms is winter, which makes me wonder, when it’s still an unseasonal 85 degrees Fahrenheit here and hasn’t rained in many weeks, how do they judge winter exactly?

hedgehog2

In the garden it’s the summer crops that are thriving—to accompany my Hedgehog mushroom I harvested some cucumbers, radishes, basil and Napa cabbage. The second crop of tomatoes this year are nearly ready too. If Handy Hubby were home I’d add to that some thinly sliced duck breast. Then I’d look at our plates and think wow, I can’t believe how often now our meals come from our own land, our own hands. What amazing peace of mind this is considering how unhealthful and/or expensive food in the grocery stores has become, with the distinct impression it’s only getting worse.

If I turn on the TV or read a newspaper I’m reminded I once considered the daily grind and the endless mindless consumption ‘reality’.  Now I often watch and read the various panic porn channels online and sometimes they get me pretty riled up.

Then I walk out to our garden or through our woods and I remember what is really reality. Civilization is not realty. And what we are currently calling civilization is about as far from reality as it gets.

Y’all can keep it! My happiness is in the hunt and the harvest and of course, Handy Hubby. All the rest of it is worth less than a hill of beans.

pttrail

Our faithful and exuberant foraging, hunting, harvesting companions. 🙂