So the weather is being finicky again! Luckily, I was able to peruse the scene when I got to work. Baby Dandelions, 2 baby Yellow Dock, some woolly lettuce (can't remember her name at the moment and I even checked my blabberings here on the diary but it seems I didn't mention her name, zukes!), Violets (of which I collected a handful), Strawberry leaves (not many, but I took a small pinch's worth to add to the soup pot later on) and tons of Creeping Charlie. I had to relook over that creeper, such pretty flowers! Delicate and small, but showy too somehow. OK, I figured, I can add her to the soup pot. So I collected a big bunch and took off the leaves and flowers from the stems (too much fiber in those stems for me!).
I'm sure my neighbor won't mind at all if I come plucking out all her Ground Ivy ;) Last year I was helping her do just that, as well as Forget-me-nots. She told me last year she had such a fierceness to rid them all of her garden, and this year, looking down at three small clumps of them, she said, "What pretty flowers!" I told her you could add the flowers to salads, but we both feel it's still more soup kinda weather. Anyway, I'm sure her "how cute" attitude towards the flowers will change when she sees how much they've spread in her garden!
Today, I indulged in my first wild pickings of the season:
Simple Dandy Juice Recipe
To do: Juice 2 small Dandy plants, 1/2 kale and 1/2 honeydew melon. Serve and drink on up!
Mmm-mmm! There was a slight bitterness at first from the Dandy greens, but then I realized that the green juice was sitting on top of the melon juice, so I popped my finger in there and swirled...aaah! Tasty good! I really like juicing melons because they offer up so much juice and water in the morning :)
Have been progressing along in my Botany class :) We're in week 4, taking it nice and slow, and just getting to the good parts now...the plant families, eek! That was where I had gotten last time, during the wintertime, when I figured I should actually get myself more embedded into the plant world than just sticking in a toe or heel ;) Yep, and I got that far, looked outside at the snow, and closed the book back. Nuttin' out there but lots of trees and more trees!
Honestly, it's true: I feel much more interested in herbs and plants when it's foraging time. Even when it's cold out, I realized I don't much enjoy gardening! Although I must say I spent several hours the other day getting the pots ready for planting, and just the front balcony too. I used about 6 bags of compost in total, mixing in 1/3 part compost to 2/3 part old potting soil. Some of the pots had really awful soil, so for those I mighta added a touch more.
All the pots in the front are on the stairs, ready to have some seeds added! No squirrels have come digging into my pots, those clever rodents. They must know there's no food added to them. And my one plant that I do have out, dear sweet Wormwood, has remained unscathed. Hm, wonder why ;)
I gave a good pruning to Sage and Rosemary. Sage was growing topsy turvy and they both just need to get a pruning to grow more prolifically from time to time. I believe I have some Rosemary seeds, not for Sage though.
Anyway, when I was out doing that putting-in-the-earth-in-the-pots thing, I saw my neighbor and she seemed keen like she wanted to start planting. She knows I usually start some plants indoors and then give her some, although I confess that they seem like they are hovering in baby stage and I have yet to move them to bigger pots with fresh earth. Yep, on my to-do list, as well as redecorate the bottom of a ferret cage I've been using as a huge planter, redecorate another urn-shaped planted and then add fresh soil to all the pots on the back balcony. I know, I can hear the hours whiling away ;)
I've been hemming and hawing on my Permaculture class, just been busy with other things. Life can get so hairy sometimes, especially when you get bogged down in research. What I'm referring to is that I've been doing research on lighting, audio equipment, cameras, video recording, etc. Asoka gave it a go by answering a question and making notes on a whiteboard behind her. Ooh boy. The audio wasn't the best quality and the let's just say the words "B movie" came to mind.
This type of equipment can get pretty expensive, and just when I thought I'd figured out to attach an external mic onto the DSLR camera, turns out that the model I have doesn't have a jack for an external camera. And when each piece of equipment costs a few hundreds dollars, things can add up pretty quickly!! Long story short (too late, I know), Asoka's going to have to record the audio and video separately and then put them together. Good luck with that Asoka!! Sigh, I know, I'll prob be helping her to figure it out all ;)
Anyway, that's it for now, sunshine! Seems bright weather lies ahead :) My neighbor's son was saying to wait 2 more weeks still, that's when the Botanical Gardens does their big plant fest, and there's a local one in my area too. Well, I'm still going to get to plantin' and let the seeds decide ;)
Stay bright, sunshine, because your light is always appreciated :)
Ps. Here's some pics of Coltsfoot and that Garlic Mustard I was telling you about last post. The Garlic Mustard this time around had no flowers, but don't you worry, I saw a whole bunch growing at Bellefield with flowers. Speaking of which, will be time to pass a visit to old friends, such as Nettle :)
There's good news and there's bad news. I know you want to hear the bad news first, so here goes: it ain't time to make rose hip oil yet. I know, I know, I thought I'd be making some oil for my face too, but the hips just ain't ready! Some are still green, some are reddish and a few are red, but -just-not-yet. The good news is that after a spell of some serious rain, I finally made it to Dandyfield. Yahoo! Good finds, too, so gather 'round and let me share.
Staghorn Sumac. Oh yeah, baby, she's ready now. I licked her drupes to make sure and she's sweet 'n' sour. They grow in colonies and there's a whole family, lemme tell ya! Yeah, there's also a few loner Sumacs in this same field, and I visited them too :) Got Sumac on my table drying as I write, but gonna make some fresh Sumac-ade tomorrow probably.
Why yes, dearie, she makes a nice lemony-ade! Real simple, too.
Take the berries off the stem, add to a bowl, and then add finger hot to tepid water, enough to cover the berries. Let them sit 15-30 minutes, then pour through a nut milk bag (or sieve lined with a coffee filter). The berries have fine hairs, just like those tiny flowers when you make chamomile tea, so you want to make sure you've got a good method to filter them out. I like using a nut milk bag for...well, multiple uses!! Next, add sweetener to taste. Mine of choice: stevia! And, that's it :)
Sumac has a tangy, lemony taste and she is rich in tannins. Some have made a tea using hot water and enjoyed the taste while others haven't. I have dried Sumac in my pantry right now from the same family of Sumacs from last year (those generous gals, I know!!).
Here are a few other ideas from Leda Meredith you can check out.
To Dry Sumac:
Take the berries off the stems. Let the berries dry on solid sheets in the dehydrator. I let mine air dry for several days before using the dehydrator on the lowest setting, but you can choose to dry them using the dehydrator right away. Once dry, crush them to a powder in a high speed blender. If you read my recipes on the site, you know I recommend using the Vitamix, but a Blendtec or other high quality one will do. If you find the powdered Sumac is humid/damp from being processed in the blender, then re-dry the Sumac in the dehydrator. Store in a glass container in a cool dry place and use in recipes.
Rowan or Mountain Ash Berries. I like how my new reference/field manual says they are ready at the end of summer. Uh, no. They are tart by nature, but they are VERY tart right now. I've read that their taste mellows in winter and some have frozen the berries before use. I did that with last year's batch which I harvested in September (froze them) and they still have quite the toot-toot-tart-tart taste! Maybe I'll wait 'til October this year and see how they taste. October puts us into fall, so that reference book needs a-tweaking ;)
Wild Apples or Crabapples. They taste sweet and just slightly sour, but they are small and immature at this stage. I asked one of the trees if I could have some and the apples were so good! They are tiny things, 4 bites and you're done, but let me tell ya, I was high on apple love all afternoon and evening! She was such a sweetie, this one tree. I guess she shared her sweet, loving nature with me and I was most grateful! Actually, I was grateful for all the goodies I collected and for all trees and plants and bugs sharing their energy with me!
Which reminds me, take a peek-see at the bottom of this post of these two furry creatures. Neat-o, huh? I'm thinking, sleeping caterpillars, perhaps?
While the first wild apple tree had greenish-yellow with some reddish-pink baby apples, there was another type of apple tree. These looked more like wild crabapples. They were tiny, smaller than the first type of apples and their coloring showed a darker red. They were sour, too :P
And yes, there was a third type of apple tree! And yes, yes, there was more than just 1 tree of each type!! I know, I called this Dandyfield but I think it should be renamed Apple Blossom or Apple Heaven or Appley Love ;)
This third type of tree had me stumped because her apples are small and look like tiny cherries but when you bite into them, they are dark purpley, like plums. I was looking into all my books to see what I could find and getting frustrated at no identification. In a sudden bout of insight, I took a bite into one of the fruits to see her seeds. Was this a wild currant? A wild plum? Nope, an apple. Seeds of an apple, my dear. Leaves, too. All the other berries just didn't fit with her because the leaves or the shape of the fruit were all wrong. Nope, apple! Just another variety :) Makes sense because Dandyfield is actually an abandoned lot. There's a dumpy building in the middle and tons of large cement blocks, which make it great to reach up and get to the fruit :)
I spotted at least 3 trees of the last variety. I was munching on the 1st tree's bounty when I spotted another.
"Hullo, hullo," I said.
I proceeded to take a sampling of the bounty of this second tree, but no sooner had I chomped down on the fruit when I spat it out.
"Ack!" I exclaimed.
I compared the leaves of the trees and the fruits. Yep, they were the same, all right. I asked the tree why her fruits were still so sour, still unripe. Silence. I looked around and figured it might be the location. I thanked the tree anyway and continued foraging around. It was when I encountered yet another tree of the same variety that I understood. I was hesitant to try her fruits with my unpleasant taste experience with the last tree. This tree stood shining, waiting for me to decide.
I reached out and tore a plum-looking apple from the tree. I bit in.
Yep, she was ripe just like the first tree. I collected some of her fruits and munched on several at the same time. It came to me why the second tree wasn't "in her prime" yet: the leaves of the 1st and 3rd trees had changed color. Not only were many of them reddish, but many were yellowed and signified their death.
"Aaaaah," I said.
It was nice to be able to understand.
I collected several apples but told the trees I would come back later when their fruits had more fully matured, perhaps in 2 weeks. Yes, now I feel that there are many plants to be explored in the woods, which I haven't frequented much this summer. Flipping through my reference books to identify that apple tree, I saw all these pictures of plants that I'd like to be able to meet plant-to-person! I remember seeing a bush last year that I didn't know what she was. She had dark berries and her fruits were bitter. I asked her if they were edible or not, but she remained silent. I didn't get a feeling that she was a hostile or poisonous plant, but all the same, because of my lack of knowledge (and field guide), I didn't disturb her further. But this year I will because I'm baaaaaaaacccckkkk!
Which reminds me that there was another tree that bore dark fruits that I'm still not sure who she is yet. I thought she might be Elderberry. I've only seen Elderberry once before, but her fruits are not arranged in the same dangling manner as Elderberries are. She had green berries and dark purple ones, bitter tasting, but arranged in a cluster like the other apples were. Hm, and I think she had one tiny seed, come to think of it...Anyway, that's my homework for today. I took pics of her, so time to figure out her identity! Ooh, on seeing her pics, she looks like another kind of apple, not elderberry at all (see below).
It's so much fun, I find, meeting new friends and discovering their unique gifts and properties :) And by friends, yes, I mean plant friends! And so much fun getting creative in the kitchen and coming up with healthy recipes!
Who else was in Dandyfield? You know, I should really call it Appley Love, it really is much more suiting. Appley Love it is then :)))
Goldenrod. Oh my god, tons and tons of Goldenrod! Some in small baby stage, some with yellow buds, some with yellow flowers, some that had progressed to having red flowers, some with gall balls, some with different kinds of insects on them (a great mating place, no doubt about it!), and some that were taller than me (see pic below). I collected some, I did, I did!
Wild Grape. Yep, she was here, too. I dropped some Sumac at one point and lo and behold, what was this creeping vine on the ground and growing around the cement blocks but wild grape. I took a sampling of some of her berries, mmm good, but I wasn't attracted to her berries or leaves at that point in time. I was getting tired and was hoping to head back home soon. I did thank her, however, for showing herself to me. No worries, I'll be revisting Appley Love soon enough :)
On that high love note, time to sign off. Work tomorrow and good news: there's a ladder apparently and I can collect the apples and chokecherries from on high! Yippee! Can't wait to go collecting!
I cooked the chokecherries from last time with some cranberries, then mashed, strained and turned the liquid into a jello. I must say, I was a bit disappointed, because the high live vibe that I had experienced when eating them raw and right off the tree, was nowhere to be found in this cooked recipe! Which is why this time, I'm gonna crush her raw fruits with water, strain the liquid and use that high vibe into yummy recipes!!
Stay high vibin' on love, sunshine :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: