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Archive for the ‘Foraging’ Category

It’s October.  Last year I realized of all the months of the year October is the busiest.  I’m ready for you October.  All the food is coming in, canning season is in full swing and there are lots of birds that are ready for harvesting.  I’m working through my share of the crate of pears.  Looking for Autumn Olives when I can.  Scheduling butchering days with my friend.  Trying to get the farm cleaned up and organized for Winter.  Yes, there is a lot to tend to this month.

Today the focus was corn!  A local farm, Tuckaway in Lee, was offering pick your own corn for $3.00 a dozen!  25 cents an ear for fresh ORGANIC corn.  Brilliant!  I scooted over there with mom and Jessica and we all picked to our hearts content.  I came home with 6 dozen.  Most veggies are best right after picking.  They contain the most nutrition and flavor they are going to, so last night, mere hours after picking, I shucked with the help of Christopher and the girls, blanched and removed the kernals on all but 6.  Those will be for dinner tonight!  The rest have been put into food saver bags and are in the freezer!  I used a corn zipper to remove the kernals, and what a brilliant little tool that is.  It takes off the kernals, then you can turn it around and use it to remove the little hearts and milk left on the cob.  If you do that into a separate bowl you have harvested “cream corn”!  So I have 9 pints of that frozen, too.

On my way home from the corn fields I found a great Autumn Olive tree, that had a good amount of very tasty fruit!  Awesome because this year is a bad year for Autumn Olives.  My usual spot had some, but not many at all. It was disappointing.  It’s unclear if they dropped fruit due to the very dry summer, if the birds are stocking up for the predicted hard winter, or what is going on, but my reports from friends and acquaintances all over the seacoast is the same.  There are not many Autumn Olives to be had this year.  So finding that tree was a great treat.

The tree was clearly on someone’s property, so I drove to the house to ask if I could pick.  I believe Stacy was quite sure she was encountering crazy, but at least not the dangerous kind.  She gave permission immediately to this cheerful beggar on her doorstep sporting a long linen dress, hand knit sweater, bog boots, and a vintage hat.  She did ask what an Autumn Olive was, at which point at a rate of speech brought on by the coffee I just drank which was not decaf…did I forget to ask for decaf?  At any rate, I rapidly and enthusiastically started to explain what they were, the health benefits, what I did with them.  She wanted to join me to see what I was talking about.  And how I know she didn’t think I was dangerous, she hung out with me while I picked for about 15-20 minutes.  But the amused facial expression makes me think she did tell her husband about me when he got home.  She said I can pick from any of her bushes, which I will go back to see if any more have berries, since I picked from that one until dark.

We did have a great conversation, really.  She and her husband garden, so we talked about that, and where to find local food, and all sorts of fun things. Stacy will be receiving goodies, sometime in November.  October and I still have many rounds to go, but all in all it was a first good day of the month.

Oh, and how do I get all this done?  My husband is awesome, supportive, helpful, and encouraging.  This is what I found on my Facebook page today…

 

 

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I thought I had posted these before, but can’t find them, so here is a post with my favorite things to do with Autumn Olives:

Autumn Olive Fruit Leather:
4 cups of Autumn Olive pulp
1 Tbsp Lemon juice (optional)
2 Tablespoons local honey, or to taste.  It helps make the leather more pliable, as well as adding sweetener.

Combine one half cup of water to every 4 cups of berries and boil on the stove until the seeds have separated from the berry. You can add fresh mint if you want.  Run through a food mill or a sieve and return pulp to a saucepan on the stove. Add the honey.  Pour onto mad for your Dehydrator, or parchment paper, will work fine too.  You want it to be about 1/4″ thick, and even as possible.  Place in Dehydrator on 140 degrees for 10-12 hours. Or you can use your oven on the lowest setting, checking for doneness. You can tell if it is ready by peeling it from the parchment and by touching it in the center of the tray. When it is done it will be tacky but not sticky. Also when it has cooled it is more likely to be less sticky than when you test it when it is warm.

To store, I cut mine into strips and roll in parchment paper.  I’ve been successful storing it in the cupboard just wrapped in the paper, in the fridge, and in the cold room.  We love to eat the leather as is, or cut with a pizza cutter, into little squares and add to cookies, or muffins.  I love Autumn Olive Oatmeal cookies!
Autumn Olive Shrub

Makes on very generous quart

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh autumn olives
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (I prefer Braggs, or another brand with the mother, that has not been pasteurized.  You can use anything but the health benefits are greater when you use raw ACV.
  • 3 cups water

Instructions:

  1. In a large non-reactive pan (stainless steel, or enamel coated), combine all ingredients, except ACV.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until autumn olives are soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Strain mixture through a food mill over a large bowl.  Allow to cool.
  3. Add ACV.
  4. Transfer to clean glass bottles.  Keeps for one month in the fridge.  Shake before using.

Autumn Olive Sauce

Add 10 cups of autumn olives to 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil on medium heat.  Once the berries open, all the juice comes out.  Lower heat.  Simmer 15-20 mins.  Run the juice through a food mill to remove pits.  You can add this to apple sauce, or leave as is.  I like to combine in recipes.  You could use it in a muffin recipe, too!

Autumn Olive Wine Jelly

This uses Pomona’s Pectin so you can avoid sugar, and use the honey instead.  You will need 1 box of the pectin for this recipe and it’s prepped as outlined.

Predissolve Pectin:

Bring 1/2C autumn olive pulp to a boil and put in blender/food processor.   Add 1t Pectin and process on high for 1 min. until Pectin is totally dissolved.

Make Calcium Water:

Mix ½ t calcium powder to ½ cup water.

 Make jelly with:

  • 1 1/2C chardonnay or white zinfandel
  • (or any blush or white wine)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 t calcium water
  • 1/2C Pectin-autumn olive
  • 1/4C honey (or to taste)

Combine wine, lemon juice, calcium water and honey to the pan, dissolve honey and bring to a boil.  Add Autumn Olive/Pectin to the pan.  Stir 1 minute, return to boil and remove from heat.  Fill ½ pint jars leaving ¼” headroom.  Water bath 10 minutes.

 

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Fiddlehead season has come and gone in my little corner of the world.  I picked a few days ago…wanted to go back two days ago but couldn’t…and this is what greeted me today.

Very pretty, and I do love the smell of ferns, but not the greeting I hoped for.  I was able to pick a few more, as some come up slower, but the picking is pretty much over.  Next year I will do what I did last year and I will be going down every other day, to stay on top of them.

I found a cute little idea on Pinterest…too many cute ideas, I’m on hiatus from that site for a little while…but anyway, I found a cute idea of taking an old drawer and some jars and turning them into an herb garden.  I had the drawer, paint jars, oh and of course the incentive to make a knob and plant labels didn’t hurt.

Thyme, Basil and Sage.  They will head out to the garden when things warm up, but for now they do look awfully cute on the counter.

I’m working on labels for the Fiddleheads, which are available, at the farm, for $4.50 per 1/2 pound bag…this is what I came up with.

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There is a cranberry bog in my town, on land that is owned by a friend of a friend.  Jessica and I have picked it for 4 years, and normally we get enough to make a modest batch of Cranberry sauce, yielding about 12 pints total.  We cherish this sauce, and it’s rarely shared…it won’t find it’s way to a food swap, for sure.

Last year, the bog was so dried out we didn’t have any, and I gave Jessica one of the pints, that I had hoarded from the year before.  Well, I’m hear to tell you that for as bad as it was last year, it’s 100 fold better this year!!!  We picked for an hour yesterday and a couple today, and our current haul is 31.5 pounds!!  That is about 7-8 gallons of cranberries!!  We are so excited, since we have barely made a dent in what is there.  Our plan is to go back tomorrow, for more, and we’ve decided we are going to try a batch of cranberry wine, along with cranberry sauce, cranberry juice,dried cranberries,and cranberry mustard for the after Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches!!

The other difference between this year and last year, is the water.  Last year it was dry.  Normally it’s squishy to walk, but there isn’t water climbing the side of your boots.  This year, however, the water to reach the cranberries is over the knee, and the water around the berries is about ankle deep.  Many of the berries are floating on the surface, while many still remain on the water logged plants.  The plants don’t mind one bit.  It does make for cold wet picking, but we are Hardcore New England Foraging Yankees and up for the challenge!

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We went to my parents for a picnic and while I was down on their lawn scouting out a good place to tether Nellie, I spied some wild strawberries.  I fetched Eowyn to show her the happy little patch of summer sweetness.  “Mama, Can I eat them?”   “Sure”, just as one was popped into her mouth.  We picked a few, when I offered to grab a cup for her.  She was delighted with the idea, and squatted on that lawn for nearly 1/2 an hour picking strawberries the size of her finger nail, and putting them in a cup.

 

After she deemed the area to be picked clean she sat among the visitors, amidst a smorgasbord fruit and tasty treats,  hulling and eating to her heart’s content.  “Mama, thank you for showing these to me.  They are DE-LISCIOUS!”  A happy mama, indeed.

 

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The Seacoast Permaculture Group set up an event, Bringing wild food into your everyday life.  I am very interested in foraging so headed over to Wells Maine to check it out.  I was reminded of Wintergreen, and the glory of eating wild berries in the woods, as a child.

You can eat the berries, and you can chew on the leaves, which are a combo of bitter and minty.  The berries are more fun.

Learned the name for this little favorite of mine:

Wood Sorrel

We walked through 4 different ecosystems to see what was growing there.  The emphasis was more on understanding the idea of foraging, than doing a lot of actual foraging.  It’s important to be aware of your surroundings.  Learn how to clearly identify a plant in question.  Understand a given plant.  When learning to forage, some plants are far more obvious than others, and with any given plant, spending time with it is the best way to really know it.

In my own foraging, I am more confident with the plants that I am very familiar with.  I am also better able to identify them once I have seen them at all the different stages of development.  Right now the Autumn Olives in this area are in bloom.  Knowing them as well as I do when they are loaded with berries has helped me to identify them when I see them in flower, even though they look different.

We saw a porcupine climbing a tree.  I didn’t know they did that…I guess I really know nothing about porcupines, other than not to get to close.  He looked like a baby bear, in the way he climbed the tree.  It was neat to see.

The highlight was the potluck. The food was fabulous, and creative.  There were several items made from foraged/hunted goodies.  Venison Stew, Wild Maine Rice, and I brought fiddle heads.  There was cornbread with a rhubarb sauce and some rhubarb bars that were delicious.  It reminded me that I’m letting this year’s rhubarb crop pass me by, and I should remedy that.

The host and hostess also walked us around their property.  They are doing some very cool permaculture projects, including a creative way to get rid of pine brush left from logging off 22+ pine trees that were all in one stand in what is now their field.  They just piled the brush in one area, and brought in 5 dump trucks of horse manure from a local horse farm that was just happy to get rid of it.  They covered the brush with the manure, then covered that with straw, and planted a cover crop of peas, oats and vetch on top.  Over time the brush will be composted, creating wonderful soil in it’s place, no burning needed to take place, and in the mean time it will still provide a place for growing animal fodder.  It has me thinking about my little tree clearing project…

I love seeing what other people are doing on their land.  It can be very inspirational, as well as informative.

A lady slipper.  Always a delightful sight while walking in the woods.

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I finally got around to making one small batch of Violet Jam.  I used syrup as the sweetener, and it tastes good, but lost it’s bright magenta color, as a result.  I feel as though Spring can continue on, as I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy both fiddleheads and violets.  I don’t want Spring to make way for Summer just yet, but I don’t feel a sense of urgency to gather.  This will free me up to move into the garden…hopefully.  I did spend time this afternoon potting up all the great plants I bought through the Strafford County Conservation District Plant Sale.  We got apple, peach and pear trees, hazelnut starts, Concord Grapes, Elderberries, Black Currents and a couple pussy willows.  We will have fruit and nuts in a few years.  I’m so bad at buying things that I have to wait so long to benefit from, but my friend pointed out if you don’t at least start them, you will never have your own fruit.  I took that good counsel and have officially “started”.

The permaculture group had a swap tonight, with a focus on plants, though there were other fun treats that were moved about as well.  I brought some  fiddleheads, peppers, a small jar of violet syrup and some basil.  I came home with rhubarb, comfrey, mullein, 2 different varieties of eggplant seedlings, mangle beet seeds, bell pepper seedlings.  It was fun to chat with everyone, and the trading was fabulous.  It’s a great group of people, with a wide range of experience, knowledge and interests.  A great way to spend an evening.

Well, off to bed early tonight, in anticipation of my favorite place to bring the girls…the Tidewater School May Faire.  It’s a fund raiser for the Waldorf School in Eliot Maine.  I have several friends and acquaintances who have children who attend the school, and between them and my own experience with the events the school has hosted or participated in, I’m immensely impressed.  We are very happy homeschooling our girls, and Eowyn has taken very well to “working on lessons and projects” with Mom and Dad, but Tidewater certainly seems like a lovely place to be a child.

The May Faire is taking place at Tuttle’s Farm in Dover NH.  I’m a little sad it’s not on the lovely school grounds, but excited to go to the new venue.  I think I might be more excited than Eowyn, in fact.

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