{the farmwives kitchen} american persimmon

IMG_8110The persimmons are ripening. Each day more fall to the ground and wait to be collected by my family or scavenged by the wild critters that I have to compete with for this very special wild fruit. The delicious American persimmon has come to be my favorite of all the native fruits. If you have never had one, I’m afraid to say that I wholeheartedly believe you are missing out. The trees are not at all hard to grow, and in fact can often be found growing at roadsides and neglected patches of ground, and of course in these eastern deciduous forests that I so happily inhabit. In fact, on the drive home from our vacation, we stopped at a gas station in Alabama and there at the edge of the parking lot was a laden persimmon tree. My family had a nice little snack before continuing our drive. (Should you be interested in trying to plant a persimmon cultivar, check out our nearby Hidden Springs Nursery.)IMG_8102Over the years, we have been selectively allowing wild persimmon saplings to take hold in our pastures. Not only will these trees provide shade for our livestock, they will provide food for my family and the domestic and wild critters that we share this farm with.IMG_8108One of my favorite culinary things to do with persimmons, aside from just eating them, is to run them through our small hand-cranked food mill. This separates the pulp from the seeds leaving me with a gorgeously thick, de-seeded pile of persimmon pulp that can be used in so many delectable ways. I will then put the pulp into containers for freezing and later use. Then, when the pulp is just starting to freeze but not yet solid, I will take a heaping tablespoon and add it to a mug or small glass of cream. Add a slug of maple syrup and a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Stir all of this together and enjoy an incredibly quick dessert. One that I’m pretty sure you won’t ever forget!IMG_8093IMG_8095We will also spread persimmon pulp on our sourdough pancakes and top with a drizzle of maple syrup for a supreme breakfast. (I’m really wanting to make acorn pancakes for this breakfast, but that is quite a process and will have to be in another post!) We have even made lacto-fermented chutneys by adding the pulp to chopped onions and apples! The persimmon-y possibilities are endless!!!IMG_8096After running the persimmons through the food mill, one is left with a pile of seeds that still have quite a bit of pulp adhering to them. Because this fruit is so precious to me, I cannot abide any waste! So I put the seeds into a large jar or crock, add some honey and water, and start a batch of persimmon mead!

So, friends, it is my supreme hope that you all have persimmon trees ripe and ready for the picking… if not, come on over! There’s a persimmon party just waiting to be had!!!IMG_8105

the farmwives kitchen… edible violets

IMG_6553 IMG_6554 IMG_6555In the spring, following a long winter, the hunger for freshness inspires creativity in my young ones. They have been going on big hikes to forage what they can, and then they bring it back to the kitchen for preparation (and in some cases, identification when they are not certain they have harvested an edible). While we haven’t found any morels yet, the violets are abundant right now. So that’s what we’re eating. On the menu today: egg salad on freshly ground whole wheat biscuits topped with violets. A wonderful spring tonic if ever there was one…

the fall

IMG_4790Nature is abundant. Some years the abundance is more apparent than others; some years you have to dig a little deeper to find it. But this year… this year here in Bugtussle is truly outrageous. Not only have our cultivated gardens been extremely prolific this season, the more wild offerings of field and forest are overflowing, too.IMG_4777The growing season itself has been fairly unusual, with lots of moisture early on, and cooler temperatures throughout. A slow and patient season it has been, indeed. We didn’t really experience the common (at least to us) mid-summer slump this year, when the spike of summer growth wanes and you’re biting your nails anticipating fall crops. We’ve certainly had some challenges along the way, but for the most part were able to roll with the punches and still come up smiling. IMG_4775Right now, our days flow from one nibble here to the next nibble over there. After a lunch of gorging on hot sweet potatoes fresh from the oven and laden with bright yellow butter, Eric and I stepped out of the front door to graze from the fig trees around our house for dessert. We both ate until we were nearly foundered, and Eric still had a shirt full. We have bowls and baskets full of pawpaws and persimmons, the two most divine native fruits imaginable, in my opinion. The children have been gathering nuts like frenzied little mice, leaving trails of brown-staining hulls and shells everywhere.IMG_4772There are pumpkins and winter squashes galore. The tomato vines are still laden. We are still eating watermelons, for crying out loud! And they are growing right next to a giant patch of kale that’s ready to be harvested! The clash of the seasons, indeed! We are harvesting our first hardy kiwi fruit (not the brown fuzzy offering found in grocery stores, but a small, smooth-skinned variety that grows well in our climate and with a taste quite similar to the more common kiwi) from the trellis around our outdoor kitchen. And earlier today, I harvested a basketful of shiitakes that had volunteered on logs that we had long since given up on trying to get to produce fruit, as they are rotting into the ground. There is food everywhere. You just have to stop a moment and look around. But if you stand in one place for too long, you risk getting hit in the head by food falling from the trees. This is the very music that fills our days (and nights!) right now: the sound of the acorns falling from the many oak trees that surround our house, hammering our tin roof. IMG_4771The children are able to snack so much while we are working in the gardens, that mealtimes have been a lot less pressured lately. And when they are creating the snacks themselves, it seems their palettes are so much more adventurous! While Eric and I were grubbing sweet potatoes (lots and lots of them, too!) this afternoon, the girls were busy picnic-ing on “tacos” consisting of a celery leaf wrapped around cherry tomatoes, celery stalks, and whatever else they deemed gourmet fare. I need not worry about them getting their daily quota of fruits and veggies! IMG_4750Sometimes, when my mind is clear to think it’s thoughts (this usually coincides with when the children are occupied elsewhere), I ponder what all of this abundance means. Are we just experiencing a little forgiveness for the especially challenging season of record high temperatures and drought of last summer? Should we be heeding a warning that this coming winter might be particularly brutal? (And that we should be sufficiently stocking up?) Is the pendulum going to swing the other way next summer, from abundance to absence? Obviously, I don’t know the answers to these questions. Time will take care of that. So, for now, I suppose I’ll just have to sit back and wallow in all of this glorious abundance and marvel at what is happening around me: the fallIMG_4788