Earth Boxes, Wild Strawberries & Baby Fig Trees

Wild strawberries are just about through fruiting for the year.

Wild strawberries are just about through fruiting for the year.

The invasive, tasteless Indian strawberries seem to fruit all season.  Their job seems to be to take over the wild strawberries' habitat, and they are doing a good job of it, unfortunately.

The invasive, tasteless Indian strawberries seem to fruit all season. Their job seems to be to take over the wild strawberries’ habitat, and they are doing a good job of it, unfortunately.

The rain has been so dependable that I haven’t had to water anything yet this year.  Both the things I planted and the wild things I didn’t are thriving.

We have been eating salad from our Earth Boxes for several days.  All of the lettuces are going strong.  I did have to pull up the radicchio because it bolted and turned too bitter.  It certainly was beautiful, though.

The patio tomatoes are fruiting, and the bell peppers have little peppers on them.

I planted cilantro and marigolds in two empty Earth Boxes.  I also have green clumping onions planted in one.

I have put off doing anything with the square foot gardens because my heart is just not into it.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Life is in a holding pattern until our next trip, it seems.  🙂

Little Gem lettuce starting to head.

Little Gem lettuce starting to head.

Baby romaine

Baby romaine

Patio tomatoes in Earth Box

Patio tomatoes in Earth Box

Baby  bell peppers

Baby bell peppers

 

The cold spring killed the fig trees, but new shoots are coming up from the base of the trees.

The cold spring killed the fig trees, but new shoots are coming up.

 

 

 

Foraging in My Mind

wild persimmons

Wild persimmons

Today it has rained all day, and it’s predicted to rain all night.  So it’s been a grey, cold day, and the yard is getting mushy.  I’m not complaining, though.  Hopefully this will go a long way toward breaking our persistent drought.

There seems to be some interest in one of the forums I post on in wild edibles.  So I was going through my files tonight to find pictures to share with them.  It was fun remembering the days I found the different plants, how much I enjoyed discovering them, and remembering how alive and happy I felt.

Black cherries

Black cherries

Since I have no camping or Casita news to share with you, I’ll let you go along with me as I recall happy foraging days in the past.

If there is interest, I’ll keep going through my files and posting more of these photos.  If not, then this is a one-day trip!  🙂

Wild strawberries.  My favorite!

Wild strawberries. My favorite!

Baby oyster mushrooms

Baby oyster mushrooms

Wild violet leaves

Wild violet leaves

Wild violet flowers

Wild violet flowers

Poke salad shoot (poke salat up north)  :)

Poke salad shoot (poke salat up north) 🙂

Bracken fiddleheads

Bracken fiddleheads

Bull thistle flower stalk. Cut the stalk and hold it in a gloved hand. I use Leatherman pliers to peel the bristly skin off the stalk. What is left tastes like celery and can be eaten raw or cooked. The stalk becomes woody and inedible once the flower starts blooming.

Indian putty root.  This plant is too rare to use for food.  I did once, just to see what it was like.  The raw bulbs taste like a starchy, crunchy water chestnut.  Cooked, it will stick your teeth together, and is best used as a glue.

Indian putty root. This plant is too rare to use for food. I did once, just to see what it was like. The raw bulbs taste like a starchy, crunchy water chestnut. Cooked, it will stick your teeth together, and is best used as a glue, which is what the Indians did.

Daylily corms

Daylily corms

Mild, oniony-tasting daylily shoots

Mild, oniony-tasting daylily shoots

Pipsissewa.  This is a medicinal plant, not an edible.  But I just loved this picture, so am posting it, too.  The Native Americans used to make a lung tonic tea with it.

Pipsissewa. This is a medicinal plant, not an edible. But I just loved this picture, so am posting it, too. The Native Americans used to make a lung tonic tea with it.

Roses, Antique Mall, Wild Strawberries & the Uke

My Mother's Day roses

Not only were my Mother’s Day roses beautiful, but they also have that sweet, old time rose fragrance.  I bury my nose in them every time I pass them.  I think these were the prettiest roses I’ve ever received.  They were beautiful before they opened, but I like them even better now.

After my dental appointment today, we stopped by the antique mall.  I was looking for a

Aren't they gorgeous? 🙂

very special teacup and saucer to pamper myself with.  I didn’t find any teacups I liked, but I saw these mugs and I was smitten.  I love old fashioned romantic rose patterns.  Drinking my morning coffee in these will be a real pleasure.

When I got home, I walked around the perimeter of our property and found the wild strawberries and Indian strawberries are ripe.  The wild strawberries have an exquisite flavor.  The Indian strawberries are edible, but tasteless.

Almost ripe wild strawberries

Indian strawberry -- beautiful but tasteless

Unfortunately, the Indian strawberries are thriving and spreading, but the wild strawberries seem to be losing ground.  There aren’t as many plants this year as there have been in previous years.

About the ukulele — I am getting really weary of playing scales and songs like Are You Sleeping and Wildwood Flower.  I’m mixing in some chording and playing by ear to keep from getting too bored.

But I really need the practice reading notes, so I’ll finish plowing through this book.  Then I can start the fingerpicking book, which should be a lot of fun.

Wild Edible Plants & Tulip Trees

Baby wild blueberries

I walked down our dirt (gravel) road today to deliver an Easter basket to my neighbor.  Just that short distance provided me with a treasure trove of interesting (to me) photos.

The wild blueberries have appeared!  It won’t be long until blueberry dessert time!

I also found a rare (in this area) Solomon’s Seal.  A few years back I dug one up to sample the tubers.  But since I hadn’t seen any for several years, there was no

Solomon's Seal

way I was going to disturb this one brave little spray of leaves that grew along the roadside.

I also found some wild strawberry plants that are a lot larger than the ones that grow on the edges of my yard.  I wonder if the strawberries will be larger also.  They are usually so small that I eat them as fast as I pick them and never have enough left over to

These wild strawberry plants are much larger than the ones that usually grow around here--more than double the size that I'm used to seeing.

make dessert with.

The Japanese honeysuckle blooms are getting ready to open.  It’s actually a noxious weed around here, but the blossoms are so beautiful and the scent so heavenly that I love them.  I haven’t yet made tea from the flowers, although I have intended to.  This year I will finally do it!

And I couldn’t resist more greenbrier photos. I think the shoots and tender new, almost translucent leaves are beautiful.

I used to pick and cook a lot of poke salad shoots.  But an odd thing  happened

Young greenbrier leaves

to the flavor.  The ones in our area used to have a wonderful taste that was a cross between asparagus and green beans.  Last year, when I was in Florida, I picked some  to cook for my sister to introduce her to them.  But when they were done, they were completely tasteless.  I threw them out.  Then when I got home I picked some and they had the same puzzling lack of flavor.

I believe that it may have been due to all the rain we had.  Steve Brill in New York has described poke shoots as having a pungent taste.  Ours never did–they were always mild tasting and good.  So climate must have a big bearing on flavor.  I’ll cook

Young poke salad plants

some tomorrow and see how they turn out this year.

If you want to try poke salad shoots, only use the shoots with small new leaves at the end.  The mature plant is poisonous.  When the leaves lose their new green color and translucence, they are no longer edible.  Also avoid shoots that have a lot of red on them.    To remove the small amount of water soluble toxins in the young shoot and leaves, bring a large and small pot of water to boil.  After the water in the small pot is boiling, add the shoots and cook for 5 minutes or so.  Drain and pour more boiling water over the shoots and cook for two or three minutes more.  Pour that water off and cover them with boiling water once again and cook a couple more minutes until done.

Wild lettuce bolting. This one had been run over by a lawn mower.

The water from the first two boils will be reddish and cloudy.  The water in the last boil will remain clear.  At this point, you have a safe, very healthy vegetable that was once a staple food in the Deep South, particularly in the war years.   Brush with butter and salt lightly when done.

My older neighbor remembers her mother cooking poke salad for dinner.

Up North, they call the cooked greens poke salat.  Down here, it’s still poke salad.  🙂

I also stumbled upon a wild lettuce bolting.  This is the sweetest, tenderest variety of wild lettuce.  Even though it

Baby black cherries

was bolting, the leaves only had a tiny, pleasant tinge of bitterness.

The blackberry flowers are beginning to lose their petals, which means small green blackberries will be appearing soon.  And the black cherries continue to grow in abundance.  I made syrup with them last year.  This year I’ll probably make jelly.

This post is getting WAY too long, so I’ll add the rest of the photos without comment.

Blackberry flowers are beginning to lose their petals.

Red clover. Their red blossoms are nutritious in teas and recipes.

Yellow clover. When wilted, it develops coumarins, so I avoid it.

Yellow poplars (tulip trees-not edible) grow all over our property, but I had never noticed flowers on them. Today I found several fallen blossoms where branches had been knocked down. Will have to go looking for flowers on the trees tomorrow.

I don't think birdsfoot violets are edible, but wanted to post this picture anyway!

And finally, another strange, bulls-eye looking leaf parasite. Will have to research what it is. On edit - this is a maple eyespot gall. It is caused by a midge and it does not hurt the tree.

Lunch with the Girls, Bracken Fiddleheads & Luna Moth

Lunch with the girls. Left to right are Evelyn, Teressa and Julie.

Yesterday I met with friends at the Square in Carrollton.  We had such a wonderful time together.   We did decide that we are going to have to do it a lot more often.

After I got home, Ron and I went out to dinner, then shopping.  I found three beautiful blouses at Goody’s.  Very unusual as I have an almost impossible to fit shape that is a mixture of petite and normal.

Then we went to Walmart for Easter Basket supplies.

Bracken fiddlehead beginning to unfurl

I’m planning to make baskets for a neighbor who is single and doesn’t have family to celebrate with, and for Ron… just because everyone needs an Easter Basket on Easter!

I still have to decorate eggs this afternoon — something I haven’t done in many years!

In between trips, I wandered around the property to spot new wild edibles.  The bracken fiddleheads are up now.  Ron and I used to love them.  They turn a beautiful burgundy color when cooked and taste just like asparagus.

However, I’ve read a lot of material on how carcinogenic they are–enough that it has scared me away from enjoying them anymore.  But Samuel Thayer, who is the modern day wild edible plant expert, who has studied and thoroughly debunked many wild food myths, states that the carcinogens are no worse than those in grilled meat, potato chips or coffee.  The plant does become poisonous after the green fronds begin unfurling, though, so if you experiment, make sure the fiddleheads are still all gray colored.

Bracken fiddlehead

Nevertheless, I think I would only eat them if I were truly hungry.  But I still get excited when I see them emerging from last years dead bracken fern. (For more information, see the quote at the end of this post.)

The little wild strawberries are plentiful, but the ones along the edge of our property grow among young poison ivy plants.  Very fortunately neither Ron nor I are affected by poison ivy.  But I have read that can change, so I still am very cautious around them.

Wild strawberries and poison ivy growing together

Last night we got home pretty late.  I was in the kitchen and heard something hitting the kitchen window.  It was a huge luna moth trying to get closer to the light.  So I went outside and turned the deck light on to attract him to the wall so I could get a photo of him.   It worked!  Here is a photo of it next to a smaller, “normal” sized moth.

Luna moth

And finally, I just want to post a picture of a beautiful hosta that has lived in this same pot for 9 or 10 years.   It has survived drought and all the difficulties of container growing and still emerges beautiful and unscathed every year.

It also has beautiful blooms when I remember to pamper it with liquid organic bloom booster fertilizer.

Note:  Further information that puts the carcinogenic properties of bracken fern in perspective:

“Bracken fern contains a chemical, ptaquiloside, that is known to be carcinogenic to mammals in high doses. The International Agency for Research on Cancer places it in the same risk category as coffee and sassafras. This doesn’t mean that if you eat bracken you’ll die of cancer; many things that we commonly eat contain carcinogenic chemicals, such as char-broiled meat, potato chips, and all smoked foods. I still occasionally eat bracken fiddleheads.” — Samuel Thayer

Hosta - a long term container resident

Nature’s Splendor at Home

Yellow rose

I have been pretty down lately trying to figure out how to get a new camper this year, and finally coming to terms with the fact that I will have to rebuild the old one.  But getting outside and seeing what is going on as nature shows off her spring productions really helps lift my spirits.

Not only are flowers blooming and fruit trees putting on fruit, but the wild edibles are popping up everywhere, too.

Baby Japanese plums

I took 125 photos yesterday, but will post the ones that symbolize the season best.

Pine

Young poke salad plant

Rosebud

This is where Metamucil comes from (psyllium husks)

Wild strawberry flowers

Our neighbor raises honey bees. I wonder if this will give an oniony flavor to his honey! 🙂

This greenbrier shoot was so tender and juicy that I broke it off 8 inches down the stem. The whole thing was tender and sweet. A real treat!

Blackberry flower beginning to unfold

Blackberry flower

Indian strawberry flower and caterpillar

Flowers fading and fruit forming. Not sure if these are crabapples or hawthornes.

Baby black cherries

More Wild Edibles on Our Property

yellow clover

Yellow clover has killed livestock when molded leaves were mixed with their hay. It produces coumarins when wilted or molding. So I avoid it, although technically it is edible.

young poke weed plant

Young pokeweed plant. Shoots must be cooked in three changes of boiling water before eating. Highly nutritious.

wild lettuce bolting

Wild lettuce bolting. Only the tiny leaves in the center of the top are good at this stage.

baby crabapples

Young, green crabapples

japanese honeysuckle

Japanese honeysuckle. Heavenly smelling noxious weed. Can make tea from blossoms.

wild strawberries

Another wild strawberries photo. They are so photogenic!

These photos were taken Friday, Saturday and today.

They are not intended to be a tutorial — just to share with others who love finding wild edible plants as much as I do.

greenbrier shoot

Tender, juicy greenbrier shoot

bullbriar shoot

Tender, sweet bullbriar shoot

bull briar leaves

Tender, mild baby bullbriar leaves

lowbush blueberries

Young lowbush blueberries...goodness to come!

baby sassafras tree

Baby sassafras tree

white clover

I no longer harvest white clover due to its potential for developing coumarins when wilted or beginning to spoil.

Wild Edible Foods in My Yard

Wild strawberries in my yard

Delicious, sweet wild strawberries

Our land is completely surrounded by forest.  We keep the area as natural as possible, which leaves a transition area between the forest and the yard where all kinds of wild plants thrive.

Since we were out camping, the yard went a couple of weeks without mowing.   This also allowed all kinds of cool edible plants to do their thing.

Late this afternoon I took the camera out to see what had sprouted up in our yard in our absence.  I was amazed at the variety I found.

best kind of wild lettuce

This is the best variety of wild lettuce. Tender, and not a hint of bitterness.

There were all kinds of greens at their prime.  I also noticed that the blackberry bushes were covered in little green blackberries, and the blueberry bushes had tiny little green blueberries.

There were many wild strawberries fruiting.  The ones that are reddish orange are not quite ripe.  The ones that are a deep red are beyond description.  Sweeter than any domesticated strawberry with a burst of intense, fruity pleasure.

I have noticed something odd about the poke salad.  It used to have a scrumptious flavor that was a cross between asparagus and green beans.  But this year it is very bland.

I noticed that when I was in Florida, too.  I had picked poke shoots to cook for my sister to show her how good wild edibles could be.  They were so bland I threw them out, rather than introduce her to something that wouldn’t impress her.

I know that Steve Brill says poke salad in New York has a very pungent flavor.  So the taste must vary from location to location.  Maybe all the rain we have had has affected the taste.

The blog editor is  not letting me insert photos where I want them, so they will be out of logical sequence.  For some reason, it is inserting the last photos here instead of at the end.  Hope it’s not too distracting.

wild salad greens

Wild salad greens. I threw the plantain leaves out as they were too tough to serve raw.

Another variety of wild lettuce... slightly bitter

Another variety of wild lettuce. This one is slightly bitter, and is best mixed with other greens.

sheep sorrel with wood sorrel in background

Tangy sheep sorrel with lemony wood sorrel in background

unripe blackberries

Little green blackberries, soon to be fat, juicy, purple blackberries!

unripe highbush blueberries

Little green blueberries

passionflower vine

Passionflower vine promises maypops in a few months

poke salad

Poke salad

common plantain

Common plantain. A decent cooked vegetable. Also edible raw when very young, although I don’t care for it raw.

poke salad shoots ready to cook

Poke salad shoots ready to cook

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