foraging, The Great Outdoors

Foraging for Blackberries & Elderberries {and what I made with them}

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Ah berries. One of summer’s sweetest, yummiest and healthiest gifts. Berry picking in the summer always brings back wonderful memories for me.

Did you pick berries in the summer as a child? If so, you probably remember the sweltering heat, berry stains on your fingers, pesky bugs and sneaking some fruit before it made it into the bowl.

And when you take the berries home…oh then the fun begins. Party with the berries! Haha. There is really nothing that compares with those fresh, juicy treats.

What to do with them?

I’m really into foraging (I’m sure you haven’t noticed 😉) Foraging in itself is great fun. Even better is a chance to preserve that harvest a bit longer and turn it into something scrumptious.

The photos below show the progression of the elderberry tree from flower to fruit.

The elderberries pictured are from harvest #1 and the blackberries are from harvest #2. And there are still more berries! It’s good to leave some for the “critters” anyways ☺

 

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Now I had some berries. I had nearly 2 cups total and then I did a little research.

Ugh.

Many of the elderberries I had painstakingly plucked were not ripe enough. None were green, but some were red and I didn’t want to make anyone sick by using underripe berries.

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Ripe berries are on the left, unripe on the right. The difference is subtle but important enough to take note of. ⤵⤵

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After properly separating the berries, I decided on making a syrup as per the recipe for Elderberry Syrup on the blog Wayward SparkI loosely followed the recipe and ended up with a tasty finished product. 😋

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Here’s what I did. I ended up with a little less than 1 cup of ripe berries. I had a few blackberries in there after *cough* eating some.

They were then mashed a bit, boiled, simmered and strained through cheesecloth.

At this point I had a bit less than 1/4 cup of juice. I neglected to add water at the beginning so I added a bit to make it a full 1/4 cup.

I added a small splash of lemon juice and 1/8 cup of raw honey to the warm juice and then froze attempted to freeze it.

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Psyche! Honey won’t freeze. Good try though I guess. *pats self on the back* I tried to make an apple and elderberry jelly earlier this week and I ended up with caramel-elderberry flavored candy! 😰 Boo. I like these results better.

There it will sit, in the freezer. I’ll take a bit as a tonic now and again to keep colds and flu away. Isn’t it awesome that elderberries can do that?

Ever wondered why?

This article from Huff Post says that the pigments, or “molecular chains known as anthocyanins…[are] capable of preventing viruses from reproducing and infecting new cells. They also kill many of the bacteria that cause chest and respiratory infections.”.

Cool, eh? Nature’s little wonder, the humble elderberry.

Hope you guys are having a good summer ☺ Have you had a chance to go berry picking yet this season?

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A few helpful references for you

https://www.talesfromthekitchenshed.com/2016/09/harvesting-elderberries-picking-preserving-recipes/

(Lots of info on harvesting and preserving.)

http://waywardspark.com/2013-food-preservation-season-elderberry-syrup/

(Recipe I followed.)

foraging, The Great Outdoors

More Spring Foraging Fun: Dandelion, Violet and Skunk Cabbage

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Dandelions

There are a ton of things that can be done with this common “weed”. You can use all parts of this plant. Blossoms, leaves, roots.

I’ve blogged about my experiences with roasted dandelion root tea. And as I’ve been expanding my garden this year, I’ve saved all the roots I’ve found for tea making.

I’ve also added some greens to my salads. They are best (I feel) when they are very tiny. Otherwise they are a bit too bitter for my liking.

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This time of year, I’m concentrating more on the blossoms. A few days ago I (with help) picked a ton of flowers. Why so many, you ask?

Here’s a few reasons:

  1. Dandelion wine
  2. Dandelion salve
  3. Dandelion bath blend
  4. Baked goods with dandelion
  5. Dandelion jelly

I (again, with help!) picked the petals from enough flowers to get 3 quarts needed for wine-making. Then I filled up my dehydrator and dried as much of the rest as I could. (5 hours @ 135ºF.)

I picked the petals from those flowers and stored them away for later use in salve and bath blends.

 

Violets

Aside from their obvious beauty, here’s another reason, nutrition-wise, why violets are so awesome….

According to Euell Gibbons in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs, just one half-cup of violet blossoms have as much vitamin C as 4 oranges!

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I haven’t done a lot with violets thus far aside from eat them in salads. But I would like to try to make a violet syrup, as well as dry some for bath blends and tea.

 

Skunk Cabbage

For the record, I did not eat any. Just want to get that out there haha.

Story time. There is a creek bed not far from my home that has these absolutely gigantic plants that fill the area, beginning in early spring.

I have been dying to know what they were. I knew they looked like cabbage. I asked everybody. I asked google. I asked my grandma. Could not find out…what it was.

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And then I read a very entertaining chapter (again from Stalking the Healthful Herbs, by Euell Gibbons) all about skunk cabbage.

I smelled a fresh cut leaf. It did have a bit of an odor, but not as intense as I thought. It did smell a bit like actual cabbage and a bit skunky. My husband agreed with the verdict.

How about you? Have you seen any interesting looking plants about?

Happy Spring everyone!

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foraging, The Great Outdoors

Two Ways to Eat Chickweed {spring foraging fun}

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It was about 2 weeks ago and I decided it was time. After a long, dreary winter that never seemed to want to stop…it was time to commence spring foraging.

I’ve been watching, waiting…observing the subtle signs that spring whispers to those who choose to listen.

Robins. Little green sprouting things poking through the earth.

Buds forming on the trees in my backyard.

Geese flying through the sky.

The sweet spring sun has come. Easter has passed and brought joy in so many different ways.

I’ve always seen Easter as the tipping point for the winter season. February is that first ray of hope and then it’s Easter and I think, “Almost. We’re almost there. Full blown spring is quite close”.

And it’s a time of celebration and joy and thanks for newness of life. All of nature brought together to celebrate the victory of life over death.

Ah me. I’m turning reflective. When this post is to be about foraging. Haha. Continuing.

One of the earliest plants to grow and really thrive in my backyard is chickweed. I’ve recently learned to really love the stuff.

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Until recently, I’ve really only looked at chickweed as a flat spreading weed with tiny leaves and pretty little white flowers. I never considered the benefits of chowing down on it.

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I’ve purchased a few foraging books over the winter. They are:

  • Stalking the Healthful Herbs, by Euell Gibbons
  • Midwest Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Burdock to Wild Peach, by Lisa M. Rose.

From those books I learned a myriad of things about the plant in question but mainly:

  1. It is called chickweed because baby chickens/small birds love to eat it.
  2. It has a ton of vitamin C.

It’s easy to find. It’s free. And super-healthy. It has a bland spinach-like taste, but not quite as strong.

Ok great. But how to eat it? Glad you asked 😊 Lately I’ve had 2 ways I love to fix chickweed.

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First off, salad. Here I combined beet greens, a bit of chickweed and some baby dandelion greens. Then I topped it off with some cucumber and radish slices.

It was pretty good and a nice way to get a mixed greens salad without buying a big container of expensive organic salad that I can never seem to finish.

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Next I decided to use a handful of chickweed as the greens in my smoothie. It accompanied frozen bananas, strawberries, quick oats, cocoa powder and almond milk.

And I threw in a few pieces of cantaloupe because I wanted something different.

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And it was! But in a good way. 😊😊 I loved adding in super fresh greens in place of my usual spinach leaves.

**I will post the recipe tomorrow for you guys. 😊🍓🍌🌱

Thus concludes my adventures with chickweed…for now…..

Do you enjoy foraging for spring plants? Any particular plants or recipes you wish to try?

Let me know, I’d love to hear about it. Everyone’s foraging experience is unique and I love learning from others. 😄😄

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foraging, The Great Outdoors

Summer Nature Walk (Learning to Rest and Gearing Up for Foraging)

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Last weekend I went for a walk. Is that odd? No! But I was blessedly alone. Which is odd. I am never alone.

I’m learning that I do need alone time and relax time to thrive. To be better at well, everything. I’m learning to take charge and implement more time for quiet and reflection. I need more of it in my life.

What better way to spend a blissful cloudy afternoon than on a stroll through nature?

I’m currently reading a good book on foraging by Lisa M. Rose called Midwest Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Burdock to Wild Peach. So I thought it would be good practice to look over the area where I live and see what plants I could find and name and if they were edible or not.

I didn’t harvest any of these plants. Most of them were near the road (not especially good to harvest from) but others I believe were on private property. So I admired from a distance 🙂 It’s very important to respect private property when foraging.

Below are some pictures of 10 plants I came across along with their name, family, habitat and whether and what parts are edible. Ready? Lets go!

 

Habitat: Yard

 

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Yellow Wood-sorrel (Oxalis dillenii)

Yellow Wood-sorrel is a member of the wood sorrel family and is related to the Wood-shamrock and Pink Wood-sorrel. It is a very common, delicate looking plant.

Edible: leaves, flowers, immature seed pods

~~~

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Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

Elderberry is a member of the honeysuckle family. There isn’t a whole lot of it in our yard but I’ve enjoyed watching this one flower and bloom. It appears the birds are loving it so I just let it be.

Edible: flowers and ripe berries only (no stems). The berries are usually cooked and sweetened as they are rather bitter.

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Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Sheep Sorrel is from the buckwheat family. This was the first plant I came across..right underneath my toes on the porch step.

Edible: leaves (tart) and seeds

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Habitat: Roadside/Woods

 

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Pale Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida)

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This plant is from the Touch-me-not family.

Note: this plant is not edible but the crushed roots make a nice poiltuce of sorts that will help relieve itchy skin. I tested this out once and it did indeed soothe my skin.

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Wingstem or Yelow Ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia)

Wingstem is from the sunflower family.  (Asteraceae). This shouldn’t suprise me as the plant was very tall. Finding the name of this plant was quite tall. It wasn’t in any of my books. Finally I was able to find some websites with information. This was definitely one of my favorites.

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Sulfer Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

These beautiful cream/yellowish flowers hail from the rose family (Rosaceae). It wasn’t very widespread and it was difficult to get a picture of. Next time I’ll bring my better camera.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

This common plant is a member of the legume (Leguminosae) family and pea subfamily. I’ve always thought it was a cheery little plant and the name is fun to say as it rolls off the tongue.

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Habitat: Damp/Wet Soil, Visible from Roadside

 

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Joe-pye-weed (Eupatoriam purpureum)

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Joe-pye-weed is from the Composite family, Thoroughwort tribe (Eupatorieae). It is very tall and has pretty purplish-pink flowers that were just beginning to open up.

Some of the plants further away appeared to be very popular with the butterflies as I spotted at least 2 yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterflies congregating on the flowers. You can just barely see one in the 3rd photo.

Edible: most parts classified as edible by ediblewildfood.com.

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Common Cat-Tail (Typha latifoia)

From the cat-tail family. Aren’t you shocked?? This is a very familiar plant that usually is found in ditches and on the outskirts of lakes, creeks, etc.

Edible: certain parts are edible in springtime.

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Towards the end of my walk, I spotted this wild apple tree peeking out from the edge of the woods.

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Tasty looking apples! No idea what kind but I was suprised to see them.

Do you enjoy going for nature walks? Have you seen anything interesting lately?

~Rachel

All photos were taken by me.

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Resources:

1. A Guide to Field Identification: Wildflowers of North America (1984), by Frank D. Venning

2. http://www.ediblewildfood.com

3. http://www.dpughphoto.com

4.https://www.prairiemoon.com/actinomeris-alternifolia-wingstem-prairie-moon-nursery.html