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.)

The Great Outdoors

Lazy Summer Happenings

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Hey everyone! I debated whether or not I should post today…I’m getting a little lazy about blogging.

One of the reasons is that I’m devoting more time to my kids and family and to keeping my home in nice shape. It has been a good decision ☺

I do miss blogging more than 1x a week, but my kids are still rather young and have a lot of demands needs at this stage in life.

Plus, you know, getting one post per week gives me time to brainstorm a good post for you guys. Everyone has been loving the food posts lately and I Thank-you for that 😄

Summer can be such a lazy time, but it can also be a time of high energy. When I think of summer, the words “lazy” and “productive” come to mind.

I’ve been both so far. I’ve got my garden and garden beds, my sewing and knitting projects, fun places to go, people to visit with.

Annndd..you know. Sometimes I like to be lazy, sitting on the couch with my knitting or a good book. I have to get up a million time to break up fights, get snacks and so forth. But whatever. Life with kids is mayhem sometimes.

Anyway…enough of my rambling. Here is a bit of what my family and I have been up to this summer.

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Making dandelion wine.

This was the last step before bottling. All of the ballons had to be flat for 24 hours before we could cork them. (Shows that the fermentation process is complete.)

We bottled these in early June, so they should be ready in early December. I can hardly wait! My husband and I have always wanted to try this and I’m so glad we did.

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Harvested this bunch of sheep sorrel from the garden.

I ate some of it fresh and some in a smoothie. It has a nice tart taste and tons of vitamins.

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These itty bitty radishes were so cute.

I was impressed with how fast they grew. They literally sprouted the day after I planted them and were ready to harvest in about 3 weeks.

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This little wonder is a garlic scape.

I harvested about 3 of them from my garlic plants about a month or so ago. I had read a post about garlic from two branches homestead that discussed how to grow garlic. One step is to cut off the curly garlic scape so that the plant’s energy will go toward growing the garlic bulb and not the flower. The light green part in the photo is where a flower would appear.

I cut up some of the scape, like a green onion and had it on my salad. It was good!

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Joy of joys, elderberry blossoms!

There are so many this year that I think I can safely harvest some to use in a recipe.

Last year, there wasn’t many, so I let the birds have their fill.

The flowers smell so beautiful! There should be berries in another month or so…you know I’ll share if I make something ☺

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Most recently, I made these little treats for the 4th of July.

I used a tiny star cookie cutter to cut out peices of watermelon, then piped on a bit of almond yogurt, then a blueberry on top.

Magnifico!

(My daughter just liked licking the yogurt off. She let me eat the rest 😆)

What about you? Any lazy summer happenings of note where you are? Stay cool & enjoy this beautiful summer that He has provided. God bless!

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Beverages, Food

Chickweed and Cantaloupe Smoothie {with banana, strawberry and oats}

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So. *glances at clock* It is rather late on this Friday night but a promise is a promise. I said that I’d share my chickweed smoothie recipe today.

And so never fear, my loyal readers. I shall share it! *cue superhero music* To the blender!

(This recipe was alluded to in my last post: Two Ways to Eat Chickweed {spring foraging fun}.)

If you didn’t read the post, here is a quick summary⤵⤵⤵

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This⬆⬆⬆  and this ⤵⤵⤵ is chickweed.

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  • It grows in your yard.
  • It is an edible weed.
  • Birds/chicks like to eat it, hence the name.
  • It is full of vitamin C.
  • It tastes a little like spinach, but on the bland side.

Perfect for smoothies. And so I came up with the………..

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Chickweed and Cantaloupe Smoothie

Servings: 1-2

Cook/prep time: 10 minutes or less

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole frozen banana, diced
  • 4 frozen strawberries, diced
  • 3 smallish cubes cantaloupe
  • a handful of well rinsed chickweed, torn into a few pieces
  • a handful of *quick oats
  • about 1/2 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1-2 cups (240-480mL) unsweetened vanilla almond milk

*gluten-free oats will make this recipe gluten and dairy-free.

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender from first to last. (Fruit first, almond milk last.) I poured in almond milk until it reached the 2 cup line.
  2. Give it a quick stir.
  3. Blend on high until you reach your desired texture.

Cost:

I calculated that this smoothie cost me no more than $1.40. And that is probably overestimating. That’s about 70¢ per 8oz/240mL serving. Pretty good deal, eh?

Enjoy your smoothie! Let me know if you try it with the chickweed. It’s totally worth looking ridiculous for as your neighbors stare at you ripping it out of your yard. Haha! Promise! 😝😉

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Beverages, Food, Reflections

Roasted Dandelion Root Tea {First Impressions}

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The foraging adventures continue! I wanted to harvest some dandelion roots this fall with the intention of making roasted dandelion root tea.

It sounded interesting. And every single source said the health benefits of the plant were numerous.

According to learningherbs, dandelion roots are good for liver health. And because the liver affects many other parts of the body, dandelion root helps with a lot of different things. (The recipe I used can be found through the above links as well.)

As livestrong mentions, dandelion root has a lot of potassium and “It also contains high levels of iron, boron, calcium, silicon [and] vitamin C.”

Super-healthy? Sign me up. I can get it for free from my own yard? I’m on it.

And so I grabbed my shovel and I wandered about outside looking for some good-sized dandelion roots. The kids were mostly good enough not to wander too far from sight 🙂

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Here are some of the largest roots from some of the biggest plants. I harvested about 7 or so roots total.
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After scrubbing, chopping and air drying the roots completely they were ready to roast.
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The finished product. I sorted the pieces and discarded the blackened ones. I had exactly 2 Tablespoons the recipe called for.
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Here you can see the difference in color.
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After simmering the dandelion root for about 20 minutes I had a very dark tea, similar in shade to coffee and somewhat similar smelling.
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I blended the liquid with about a Tablespoon butter as directed.

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And then I took a sip. I immediately made a face. It was very bitter. As I expected. Somewhat like coffee but not as…warm? Flavorful?

I had to add things to it to make it drinkable. First, a bit of vanilla, cinnamon and honey.

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It was still too bitter. More honey and a lot of unsweetened vanilla almond milk were added. And then I ended up adding a spoonful of coconut palm sugar before I was happy with the taste.

I’m trying my best to avoid refined sugar. It’s been hit-and-miss so far. But this time…victory 🎉

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Afterwards…heavy on the sweeteners and milk.

Oh my it was so bitter. But tasted rather good in the end.

I couldn’t help but think about bitterness as an emotion, as opposed to a taste.

I remember my son when he tasted cocoa powder for the first time. It smelled like the chocolate he loved but left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitter rot.”

from Uninvited, chapter 7, by Lysa TerKeurst.

But tempered with sweetness and mixed into the cookies he loved, the bitterness was transformed. It was the same for the tea. Bitterness transformed was a pleasant thing instead of a thing almost poisonous to swallow.

As I battle bitterness threatening to overwhelm me, this lesson hit quite close to home. I’m grateful for the lesson so gently revealed.

And I enjoyed my cup of tea 🙂

Any coffee drinkers out there? Have you ever tried roasted dandelion root tea? If so, what was your impression?

~Rachel

Natural Skin Care

Healing Sunshine Salve {with Calendula, Dandelion and Goldenrod}

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I made a lovely Autumn inspired salve yesterday and I had a lot of fun with it 🙂 Sometimes I just need to create something. You know what I mean? It’s therapeutic. And its good to invest in hobbies.

In this diy I am combining several hobbies and passions of mine. Foraging, gardening and herbalism all come into play here. Plus a bit of aromatherapy as well 🙂

Foraging: I found the dandelion in my backyard and the goldenrod in a family member’s yard.

Gardening: I grew the calendula 🙂

Herbalism: What benefits will result from the infused oils used in this salve?

Why calendula? 

-it is gentle to use on children, helps skin heal and good for inflammation.

Why dandelion?

-it is good for sore muscles and rough, chapped skin.

And lastly, why goldenrod?

-it helps heal wounds and burns. It also helps with muscle aches and arthritis pain. And most interestingly, it is said to help with winter blues.

Step 1: Harvest and Prepare Plant Materials

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Goldenrod. I hung it upside down inside a small paper bag to minimize messiness.
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Lovely brilliant orange calendula.
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Dandelion flowers. These ones I foraged from my backyard last spring.
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Ready to make the infused oils!

Step 2: Prepare the Infused Oils

Sweet almond oil allows the delicate scents of the flowers to shine, without altering the golden colors.

I filled the jars with oil. The dandelion jar got about a 50/50 ratio of sweet almond oil to extra virgin olive oil because I ran out of almond.

To make my infusion I followed the “fast way” directions as per The Nerdy Farm Wife.

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Before infusion.
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After infusion, ready to strain.
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Coffee filters with canning rings worked well.

 

Step 3: Assemble and Prepare Ingredients

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Oils ready for measuring. From left to right: Dandelion, calendula, goldenrod.
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Other ingredients: lavender and neroli essential oil blend, cocoa butter, beeswax, argan oil.
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Cocoa butter, beeswax, infused oils and argan oil measured out.

Step 4: Melt and Pour

I don’t have any pics (of good quality that is) of this part. This is a fairly fast step. Melting the beeswax will take 5 minutes or so. The cocoa butter melts within minutes and it all comes together rather quickly.

Be careful and quick when pouring. Melted beeswax can be troublesome to clean up.

Step 5: Let Set

Here are some pics of the gradual cooling process. I love the change of colors.

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Healing Sunshine Salve {with Calendula, Dandelion and Goldenrod}

Makes: 4oz

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons+2 teaspoons calendula infused sweet almond oil
  • 1 teaspoon goldenrod infused sweet almond oil
  • 1 teaspoon+1/4 teaspoon dandelion flower infused sweet almond oil/extra virgin olive oil (I used a 50/50 ratio because I ran out of almond oil.)
  • 11 drops argan oil
  • 4 drops lavender and neroli essential oil blend (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons+1 teaspoon+1/4+1/8 teaspoon cocoa butter
  • 1 Tablespoon+1 teaspoon+scant 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped beeswax

Supplies/Kitchen Equipment:

  • A medium saucepan
  • 2 glass jars, for cocoa butter and oils
  • A clean tin can
  • A wooden or metal skewer
  • An oven mitt
  • A small clean glass jar, for the finished salve

Directions:

1. Measure cocoa butter into a glass jar. Measure oils (all except essential oil) into a separate glass jar. Place the chopped beeswax into the tin can.

2. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and turn the burner on medium high heat. Melt the beeswax in a tin can submerged in the hot water. It will float so you will need to hold it with an oven mit. Stir with the skewer till melted.

3. Melt cocoa butter in a glass jar, next to the can of beeswax. Remove from heat when almost melted. (Some small peices will remain but they will melt.)

4. Add oils to beeswax. Stir and allow beeswax to re-melt before adding melted cocoa butter. Stir and remove from pan.

5. Stir well and pour quickly into prepared salve jar. Add essential oils quickly and stir well.

~~~

Cost:

It cost me $2.39 to make this salve. That’s about 60¢ per oz. The jar was gifted to me so that cost was excluded.

So yeah that sounds pretty cheap, right? But a salve like this is most cost effective when you collect the ingredients over time. All of these ingredients, minus the sweet almond oil I use for other things. I would have paid $31.33 if I bought everything all at once.

I loved it that I was able to save money by foraging and growing my own flowers 🙂 It took a bit of patience to wait for the harvest, but it was worth it.💛💙

~Rachel

All photos are my own.

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

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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