Saturday, June 30, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
On this particular morning, I was possessed with the desire to go find some berries. The blueberries have been giving me a handful each day to nibble on while weeding. There was some discussion on The Essential Herbal Yahoo group the other day about mulberries, and that made me think of the tree just out by the end of the near field. That - of course - reminded me that Bob had mentioned that the raspberries were starting to ripen over on the edge of the next field. So, 6:45, basket in hand, I set out.
Now mulberries are a funny thing. They are so common as to be a nuisance plant around here. The birds feast on them, and splatter cars with the magenta after-effects. The trees pop up everywhere, due to said after-effects. Some people don't even eat them, and I think that is because they are so common.
But to children (my sister excluded - she doesn't like them) they are a miracle! When Molly was a toddler, I could look out the kitchen window, and see a trail of clothing. That meant that I'd find her down by the mulberry tree. She was nothing if not tidy, and mulberries are very juicy. She'd be standing under the mulberry tree naked, eating her fill and singing to herself - smeared with juice from head to toe. The tree would be so laden with fruit that the boughs bent down almost to the ground. The best way to find mulberries is to stand under the branches where the fruit dangles under the leaves.
Just a couple years ago, a city-boy friend, who I happen to know LOVES berries told me he'd never had them. At that particular moment, I spied a tree just across the parking lot and swerved on over to pick some for him to try. They are a much under-rated fruit.
Mulberries can be used like any other berry, but has no tartness, so maybe a few drops of lemon juice might be required for some recipes. The stems are edible. Here's a recipe using mulberries along with other berries...
From Wild Foods for Every Table
from Geri Burgert
1 c fresh ripe wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius)
3 c fresh ripe dark mulberries
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
1 - 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 c whole milk
2 T unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put berries in an ungreased 5 to 6 cup deep-dish pie plate and sprinkle with 3/4 cup sugar.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar into a bowl. Add milk and butter and stir with a whisk until smooth, then pour over berries.
Bake slump in the middle of the oven until the top is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a raack and cool 20 minutes. Serve warm.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Along the way this morning, I picked some wild flowers. There is a whole drift of them that were planted last year, and have spread and continued to grow. The coreopsis and blanket flower have done the best, but blue cornflower, flax, heart's ease, batchelor's buttons, yarrow, and poppies didn't do too shabbily either.
It was a glorious stroll. The neighbors weren't up yet, and the dogs didn't notice me. At some point, I rounded a corner and surprised the guinea hens. Sensing the quiet of the morning, they didn't even set up their usual squawking.
There are a couple other flowers I snapped along the way. The first picture is Lupine. These are sweet spires of various colored flowers. Very striking. After a couple of tries with these at the old house, I almost gave up, but these did ok, so maybe we'll have them around. There was a book we used to read at bedtime called "The Lupine Lady" about a woman who lived in a little town, and people thought she was odd and stand-offish. Her main activity was to spread lupine seeds, and at some point in the story the kids wander over the top of a hill and find lupine spires for as far as the eye could see, giving them a different perspective of the old woman.
Lastly is the picture of Blue-eyed Grass. I can distinctly recall the first time I ever saw this plant. It was growing along the side of the road, in a ditch on the dirt road leading to our house in VA. There were so many of them, and the color is so vivid, that I screeched to a halt. I may have screamed too... you'd have to ask Molly. We dug up a little clump to transplant by the door, but (of course) the goats ate them. So this year, Putnum Hill had the plant for sale at Landis Valley, and I scooped one up, feeling like I'd found a box full of sapphires. They've bloomed everyday since they got into the gardens. No goats - hee hee hee.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
We've taken a series of photos to show you how to make your own. If you miss a stem, or it doesn't look quite right, don't fret. It's LAVENDER, for Pete's sake! It's supposed to be relaxing. The first one will probably not turn out very well. Do a second, and you'll see improvement. Also, even though they take longer, it is actually easier to do the ones that have more stems.
To begin, choose an ODD number of stems of lavender. Grosso is a good choice because the stems are long and straight. Let the stems wilt - but not dry. These were left on the counter overnight.
Choose a ribbon to weave. For beginners, try using 1/4" rather than the 1/8" I've used here. You'll need a good yard of it to weave with, and another couple of feet for finishing.
After you've tied the ribbon snugly at the base of the blossoms (use one end of the ribbon to tie, leaving the rest of the ribbon free for weaving), begin bending the stems down over the blossoms. Try to bend them evenly so that they are spaced well. Enclose the short end of the ribbon inside the stems.
You'll wind up with a cage around the lavender flowers.
Begin weaving in and out. It is easiest to lift the stem, and slide the ribbon underneath. The first two rows are the hardest.
When you reach the bottom of the blossoms, it is time to tie it off. You'll find that it gets very confusing as you get to the bottom, because all of the stems are close together.
Cut another length of ribbon, and center the wand on it, tying the leftover weaving end along with the new ribbon. I used a square knot.
Twist one end down to the bottom of the stems.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Here's what we have inside:
July/August 2007 Table of Contents
Crossword Puzzle – Welcome Summer!
Field Notes from the Editor – Why do we garden?
Essential Oils and Eczema – Sarah Menefee
Never Enough Thyme – Susanna Reppert
Traveling Herb Seminar to some Herbal Treasures
Book Review – Katherine Turcotte
Botany in a Day: The Patterns of Plant Identification
Down on the Farm – Michele Brown and Pat Stewart
Native Plants in Tennessee
Salads for Summer Sizzle – Susan Evans
Delicious Dining from the Garden
Suburban Herbie – Geri Burgert
Slow State, Taking the Time to Look
Aromatherapy & Essential Oil Quality – Katherine Turcotte
Mountain Mary – Sue Hess
Legendary Healer of Olden Times
Hex Signs – Maryanne Schwartz
A Lesson on the Barn Décor of Lancaster County PA
List Article – What did you wait for all winter long?
An Herbal Garden Party – Betsy May
Recipes for the Perfect Picnic under the old maple tree.
The Pleasures of a Fragrance Garden – Mary Ellen Wilcox
Description of some fragrant plants, and some delightful uses
The Twisted Sisters Ride On – Tina Sams
Our trip to White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge
Louisiana Lagniappe – Sarah Liberta
She named a recipe after the Twisted Sisters!
The Angel’s Plant – Maureen Rogers
Profile and recipes for Angelica
Bloody Marys on a Stick – Maggie Howe
Wild About Food – Kristine Farley
Eating local and wild!
Mother and Child – Pam Ferry
An Herbal Pregnancy, The countdown has begun.
Herb or ‘Erb – Bertha Reppert, submitted by Susanna Reppert
How do you say it?
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
You may have been following along with my blueberry saga. If so, you may be amused by the shelter we built - we being Molly and me.
The resident FAT groundhog has been eyeing up my berries, and there are legions of birds in the trees, so it was starting to keep me awake at night, worrying about those berries and the tiny plants that won't bear til next year.
I should allow that I am a thrifty person. Ok, ok, I'm cheap. We had some bamboo poles from the bamboo that grows down on the farm, and there was some old bird netting around, so gradually this plan formed in my overactive imagination. The main problem (up until the storm today that brought high winds and hail, that is) was that the bird netting was used before, and was in several pieces. It needed to be "sewn together in places - note the white string. It still needs to have bricks placed around the perimeter, but so far the ground hog has not ventured a try. I did see a bird trying to take some of the netting for a nest. Guess that's where the term "bird-brain" comes from.
Here is one of the plants in fruit. Some of the others won't be ripe for another month or more. Next year....
But alas, the storm came.
A couple of the poles decided that it might be easier to become a lean-to. We went out between storms and took the mallet to them. It is standing once more, but I need to think about this for a bit. Obviously this requires more planning. Or maybe an actual outlay of money.
Let's not talk about this anymore.
They'll be fine until tomorrow, and then I can devote more attention to a bigger and better plan.
Instead, let's move on to some of the plants that look like marijuana here on the property.
The first one is a plant that my mother planted. I don't have a clue what it is. At first, I thought it was a variety of elderberry. There is one with leaves that are cut like this, but as the summer wore on last year, there were no frothy blooms. In late July or August, it started to put out beautiful hibiscus-like flowers in the deepest of reds. There were only a few flowers and only one bloomed at a time, each for just a day or two. In winter, it dies back completely, leaving only a single tawny stalk. The new growth ignores that stalk, and sends out new ones.
Next we have the lovely little vitex tree-to-be. There is a second, larger vitex in the front yard, but neither is large enough to blossom this year. The leaves of these also made my daughter giggle, because they too resemble Marijuana leaves. This little beauty took forever to leaf out this spring, and I was just about to give up on it, thinking it had died. It went into the ground in late October last year, and had been an indoor potted plant that outgrew it's welcome at a friend's house. It has such a lush, beautiful growth habit, I'm happy it made it through its first winter. That bodes well for future winters.
Although this doesn't look like anything illicit I snapped a shot of the pink larkspur. There is deep purple right beside it, but that isn't blooming at the moment. Larkspur is one of my favorite flowers. It doesn't really have a scent that I can discern, and it doesn't "do" anything, but it is such a happy little flower with the lacy foliage, and the stalks of cheerful flowers.
Last but certainly not least, a report on the Mountain Mint that came back on the plane from Baton Rouge in my stuffed suitcase. For several weeks, it looked pretty raggedy. Can't blame it really, being smooshed in there for a whole day, with just a wet paper towel in a baggie. But to my great delight, it has rebounded and is making itself right at home by the railing next to the thyme and tarragon. It is the strongest mint I've ever smelled. Here's hoping there's enough next year to try a distillation! Maggie at Prairieland does a mountain mint distillate, and gets so many raves on it. Either way, it's a beautiful little plant, and very brave to travel so far from home.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Wild Blackberry Cordial
This delicious, nutritious, and very simple recipe literally spans the growing season here in northern New England, combining one of the glories of the late summer harvest with the very first taste of early spring. I make it in gallon batches and decant into interesting little bottles for holiday giving, but you can easily make less-- or more!-- using the same proportions of ingredients.
Pick enough berries to fill a clean glass jar in the size of your choice at least a third, and up to a half, full. I use about two quarts of berries for a gallon of cordial. If those lovely wild blackberries don't grow in your neighborhood, you can substitute raspberries or blueberries. The little wild blueberries will give your cordial a more intense flavor than the larger cultivated ones, but either way blueberries are relatively tough-skinned and you will need to macerate them - crush or grind coarsely - before adding the other ingredients.
Fill the jar to the top with equal parts of maple syrup and brandy. I usually use E&J brandy, but any decent variety of 80 proof brandy will do fine. As for the maple syrup, I like the dark, late-season Grade B syrup because it has the strongest maple taste and contains more minerals than the three lighter Grade A syrups produced earlier in the sugaring season. You can use whatever grade of maple syrup you prefer, but please make it real. Don't use the artificial stuff!!
Put the cover on the jar and shake to mix. Label, date, and leave the fruit to infuse for at least 10 days, and up to 6 weeks. Shake occasionally when you think of it. Strain out the fruit (marvelous over ice cream) and decant the cordial into glass jars or bottles. Keeps for years without refrigeration - but I guarantee it won't last that long!