jam mama (part 2)

Ten years ago almost to this very day I wrote a post on my blog which was untitled but included the words…..JAM MAMA……

“You should have seen small Grace
diving into the warm cup of jam
that I set out on the table,
with a loaf of soft white bread from the bakery.
She tore of big chunks of bread
and dipped the majority of it down
into the bright red jam. . . .
there is just nothing like that warm, strawberry taste
. . . .it’s heavenly.

She called me ‘jam-mama’.”
July 12, 2008

Ten years have come and gone……

Grace is 18 now and was at work (as a cashier downtown at the grocery store) yesterday when I walked up the road to “see if there were any raspberries left”.  I determined to really look and really pick every single good enough berry I could find.  This involved lots of bending over and looking underneath the tangle of vines and briars and taking my merry ol’ sweet time.

IMG_8823

I eventually came home with 6 cups.

Incidentally, these berries grow on the side of the road, free for the foraging!  I already have a gallon of them frozen in our chest freezer in the pantry.  Once they ripen, we have to go back every couple of days to pick some more until they are finally all done.  They are productive!

We have a small patch of wild raspberries over by the chicken coop, too, which the chickens love to jump up and eat off the cane.  Then they lay us the most lovely eggs out of appreciation.

The black-cap raspberries grow on the bank by our drive way and under the dead pine tree at the bottom of the yard by the pond.

IMG_8824

I always pick clean but you never know what little creatures may have taken a ride home with the berries.  So I dumped them out to look through them.

I put them in a pan and simmered them until they released all their juice.  I strained out the seeds, measured the juice (2 cups) and added them back to the pan with the same amount of sugar (2 cups).  Brought to a rolling boil for 3 minutes and then beaten with the mixer for another 3 minutes.  Done!  So easy, so satisfying.

I was given the recipe by my very own jam mama, Cindy.

IMG_8825

Jacob said the jelly would taste good on “that cake you made the other day” and Ethan suggested some other baked good and I said “How about homemade biscuits?” And he said YES PLEASE.

I made a double batch of biscuits and we all ate them up right away with the homemade jelly on top.

Everywhere I looked there were children grabbing  another and another biscuit, slathering it with butter and jelly, and walking away with it………

This morning my feet are sticking to the carpet and the floor.

life in the sunshine

DSC_1066

DSC_1067

DSC_1072

Cardinal flower, a wildflower that grows on the edges of the stream.

DSC_1073

DSC_1075

This sort of thing made lovely “flour” in my outdoor kitchens growing up.

DSC_1076

The buds of a Cardinal Flower.

DSC_1078

Arrowhead, an aquatic wildflower, according to the nature guide, “Beneath the muck, rhizomes produce edible, starchy tubers, utilized by ducks and muskrats and know as “duck potatoes.”  Native Americans are said to have opened muskrat houses to get at their cache of tubers.”

I find this sort of thing utterly fascinating, do you?

DSC_1081

I was walking through the stream in my flip flops and noticed reflections of cardinal flowers.

DSC_1084

Checking on my three little human fishes.

DSC_1085

Goldenrod, with lots of little bugs on it.  “As suggested by their showy flowers, goldenrod are insect-pollinated.”  You can always see some neat insects on a goldenrod.

DSC_1086

Common Thread Waisted Wasp; more info here.

DSC_1089

DSC_1090

DSC_1092

Queen Anne’s lace is everywhere.  “it’s long, first year tap root can be cooked and eaten.”

hmmm, I should try it.

DSC_1095

Daisy Fleabane, “the common name fleabane originated from a belief that the dried flower heads of these plants could rid a dwelling of fleas.”

Perhaps I should decorate my cats with them.

DSC_1096

Cardinal flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and I caught a glimpse of two tiny birds becoming territorial over them…..so I sat on a large rock and waited for one to come back.

It’s a photo that I never did get to take….they won in the “patience game”.

DSC_1097

I thought the shadows on my legs were pretty cool.

DSC_1087

You don’t see the hummingbird moth everyday.  They are so neat!

DSC_1124

DSC_1126

 

Swallowtail butterfly.

The thing is, if you just slowly walk near tall wild grasses, through fields, through any wild place, or even in the city…look carefully at the leaves and flowers of any plant you see…it will be such a interesting experience for anyone.  I took most of these pictures within one hour of time, and I saw many more insects and birds that I wasn’t able to get photographs of; grasshoppers, hummingbirds, the caroline wren (a sweet little bird), and others.  Then, there are caterpillars, so many different ones, and all so interesting.

Yesterday the children and I walked around with Sarah’s little bug container and we caught a ladybug which she named Red, a small butterfly which she named Orange (it was….orange), and a grasshopper she named Grass.  We put a head of goldenrod in it.  It had such tiny black bugs on it that they were able to escape through the mesh of her container.  She kept these little pets for a couple hours, and then released them again.

“Out here you can hear the rhythmic hum of silence.  Listen, there’s music in the grass.”

I think the music comes from all the little insects and butterflies, and our hearts as we enjoy making wondrous discoveries.

Nature-Love (my board on pinterest)

violets

“Who bends a knee
Where violets grow
A hundred secret
Things shall know”

 

  DSC_2033

The flower for the month of February is the violet.  My birthday is in February, so it is always a treat to see the first spring violets appear.  We have them growing wild in spots around our property, including down in the grass by the playset.  I sat with Seth and Sarah on Friday, admiring the pretties.  I saw a brilliant patch of them in a field the other day, a hundred dots of deep blue purple, in a sea of green. 

Violets are edible, a simple but lovely feast for the senses..sight, smell, and taste.  They would make a pretty addition to any spring salad.

 DSC_2066

Happy Thought

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings
.

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

 

why, WHY eat wild edibles?

Because it’s fun, that’s why!

My son Ethan and I are both very interested in wild food.  The two of us have been checking out books from the library for about a year now.  You might say we are “foraging” for information about foraging.

We don’t have plans to make entire meals out of wild edibles.  For now, our goal is to simply taste things to see if we think they are worth eating more of.

I recently found an interesting book at the library.  Stalking the Wild Asparagus was written in 1962, by the late Euell Gibbons.  295 pages are devoted to Mr. Gibbon’s charming and fascinating identifications and observations on “natural health foods that grow all around us.”  He describes how to gather and prepare each food.  For someone who is interested in the subject, it is impossible not to be inspired by his encouragement to get out and try some of this food. 

From the back of the book:  “Euell Gibbons once reached through the fence that surrounds the White House and harvested four edible weeds from the President’s garden.  Gibbons has found light but satisfying snacks in concrete flower tubs in the mall at Rockefeller Center, and he once bagged fifteen wild foods in a vacant lot in Chicago.  Foraging in Central Park, he collected materials for a three-course dinner, which he prepared and ate in a friend’s apartment on East Eighty-second Street.”  John McPhee

Fascinating, don’t you think?  (By the way, his MOTHER taught him to forage.  He dedicated his book to her.)

So that’s a little background information about why Ethan, Jacob, and I ate wild Day Lily tubers last week. 

First, we dug up a single day lily, which was a four inch tall baby shoot.  As you can see, the clump of roots underneath was large and contained a mass of little tubers:

DSC_1077

After Ethan washed them off in the stream, they looked like this:

DSC_1080

We took them into the house and scrubbed them until they were nice and clean.  After we trimmed them, we had handful of little tubers.

DSC_1083

The three of us each ate one raw.  They were crunchy and similar to a potato.

Then, we boiled the tubers, changing the water one time, until they were soft.

DSC_1086

The cooked tubers “were most disgusting” said Jacob and Ethan.  I personally could only eat one.  They had a strange, gas-like aftertaste.  Now, I admit I cannot base my opinion on just one experience.  So, I plan on trying day lily tubers again.  Perhaps we harvested them too early.  Or perhaps there had been a gas spill on the clump we harvested.  I also noted that I did not salt the boiling water, like the book told me to.  Maybe that would help their flavor next time. 

Day lily buds and blossoms can also be eaten, so we plan on trying those this summer.

Other things we plan on trying:  acorns, dandelion, burdocks, elderberries, cattails, wild grapes (if we can reach them), milkweed, hickory nuts, and frog legs.  (Just kidding on the frog legs, we do have an abundance of big frogs in our ponds but I’m not sure I could kill them…..……or eat their legs).  If we can identify any other wild plants, we’ll try those too but these are the ones I know we have on our property.

 

 

Indian Cucumber Root

“The more things thou learnest to know and enjoy the more complete and full will be for thee the delight of living”  ~Phalen

 

DSC_5327

The other day I was out walking with Caleb and I saw these plants in the woods.  I bent down to look at them closely and wondered what they were.  I had not noticed them before.  There were about 20 growing all together in one patch, and I also saw more of them growing in the other parts of the woods.

Later on that day, I got out my Eastern Wildflowers identification book to look up a different flower, when lo and behold, I opened the book right to the page with the mysterious plant from earlier in the day!  It was an Indian Cucumber Root.  I read this:

“The root, 2-3″ long, has a brittle texture and tastes and smells somewhat like cucumber.  It was used by Native Americans for food, but digging it for such purposes today is not recommended because the plant is scarce.”

So, I called to Ethan in great excitement and we went out to dig one up!  There were so many, that I didn’t think it would do any harm to study one.

This is what the root looked like:

DSC_5331

We brought it home, washed it (it was pure white!), sliced it long-ways to smell it (it really did smell like a cucumber) and then Ethan, Jacob, Grace, and I all had a bite.  It was crunchy and the texture was better than the taste (it was bland, but good). 

Whenever we find something new, I write about it briefly in our book:

DSC_5438

We have also recently tasted cattail.

There is so much to discover, and  I think that almost every time we go outside, I see something new.  God is amazing!