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: