A conversation between the farmwives…
Obviously, we are all eating a wide diversity of garden grown goodness from the cultivated areas of our farms right now. I’m wondering what y’all harvest from the more wild areas on your farms… what wild foraged/harvested foods do you regularly include in your diets? What wild foods grow on your homesteads that you aspire to learn more about? I’m currently reading My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George to the children, and every time I read it am re-inspired to do more wild harvesting of our food.
As for the wild fare that we eat here, it’s a seasonal dance. In the spring, there’s morels. And with the morels, we love to make our “spring tonic” omelet: morels sauted in butter with wild onions, wood nettles, fiddleheads and our own eggs. Right now, we are hot on finding chanterelles. Again, we love them with eggs. And the blackberries are ripening with a fervor right now, too. With them, we’ve made jams, pies, meads & wines, and of course eaten oodles fresh. The elderberries along the creek are setting fruit and will be ripening towards the end of August. I’ve used these in making jam before, which wasn’t very good, but years ago we made a delicious fortified (with brandy and spices) wine which was an excellent medicinal tonic. I would like to make more kid-friendly medicine with the elderberries, as they seem to lend themselves to that, any suggestions? The pawpaws are a late summer treat that we always seek out, using them to make puddings and smoothies. Yum. And probably my most favorite wild fruit is the persimmon. And in a good persimmon year, I’ve put the fruit through my little hand-crank food mill to separate the pulp from the seeds, and then frozen the pulp. If you want a decadent treat, add a scoop of frozen persimmon pulp to some cream. Add a little maple syrup and cocoa powder… stir it up and you have an amazing ice cream. I’m seeing lots of beech nuts on the trees this season, and I look forward to autumn walks where we snack on the nuts as we amble along. I’ve never gathered these in quantity, but would like to, and I suppose, freeze them for storage? I also aspire to gather acorns in quantity for flour making, but it’s quite a process and I’ve only ever done a little. There’s so many more that I know I am leaving out… I would love to hear what wild harvested food you creative ladies include in your own diets.
Coree adds… Poke sallet is one of our favorite Spring greens. Yes. it has to be boiled, rinsed and cooked again, but it loses nothing in the process. It emerges at the time of year that we’re tired of our old garden fare and glad for a deep green, especially one sauteed with butter, wild onion, and scrambled eggs. Mushrooms are great fun, and we’re watching for the chanterelles right now too. What we’re really watching are the Mayapples. This year has been good for them and we may actually get to eat a few!
We just finished snacking up the wild black raspberries along our driveway. There’s never enough of those! As for elderberries – the kids eat them fresh by the handful. We always dry a few of the flowers to put by for tea. It’s a pleasant tea and also soothing for colds and flues. The berries work well in a honey. Maybe 1/4 jar of berries then fill it with honey. Store it in a dark cool place for a few weeks then strain it out and keep it for a syrup (refrigeration stays the fermentation). I’m sure elderberry would be an interesting mead, for that matter. Maybe we could just cook off the alcohol to use it medicinally? Worth some investigation, I think. We also make a wild rose honey that is nothing less than heavenly.
I love that there are so many edible wild flora around here. Seems like the wild fauna eat a fair amount of it. So we harvest the wild fauna, too. Since we do not have pasture space for more than poultry, venison is on the menu here. Being surrounded by several square miles of woods helps us feel good about their quality of life as well as the quality of their meat. If folks are interested, I’ll post some recipes as that season comes around.
That’s my two cents – happy harvesting!
how on earth i can add to this? my two other farmwives have it all covered. clearly jumping out of the rain into this tea time conversation before i did! when this conversation began with cher, i noted to myself, although not in words on the screen, she has touched on all the wild delights: the berries, the mushrooms, the nuts, all of it. i would add, i thought to myself, the wild game that grazes these lands. then i fell to sleep thinking of our virtual conversation. when next i returned to the computer after a damp mid season harvest, dear coree talked about the venison! that leaves me, the last to arrive to here with nothing to add but the thrill that i know such lovely wild harvesters and share this space with them.