This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nectar of the gods

It's fun to experiment, and try new things.
My Passionflower vines were all dead form the very cold mornings we have been having. They don't like frost or cold very much and even in the Spring they don't  start coming up till the weather has been warm for a while. Though the vines were dead there was still lots of fruit on them, though the fruit was starting to shrivel up and show the wear from the cold weather. I couldn't see them just shriveling up to nothing so I picked every one. There were about 50 of them! What am I going to do with 50 passion fruit? I thought about juicing them, though there was not enough "flesh" left around the seeds to make it worth taking out the juicer(and cleaning it of course),so, I wondered if I put them in the blender with some water if I would get a drink worth the effort. Since that was all I could come up with thats what I did. I added the seeds to the blender and added about twice the amount of water and put it on the lowest setting. After blending I thought it needed more water so I added about half again as much as I did before. It seemed OK so I strained out all the seeds and alot of the pulp and was ready to give it  try. It was pretty good! I like sour, but I thought it was a little much so I decided to add some Stevia to sweeten it up a little. This worked out well and the drink was really good! I poured it into jars and placed in the fridge and have been drinking it for three days now. The more I drink it, the more I like it and I think the acidic quality is mellowing a bit the longer it stays in the fridge(or I am just getting used to it).
  I would count this experiment as a success. It's fun to try new stuff, especially when it works out well.

Passionflower Nectar

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Todays Ethnobotanical Pursuit

Field Garlic Leaves
Cut, dried and ready to store.

  It was supposed to rain the next couple of days and the lawn needs to be mowed so I decide this would be a good time to collect some Field Garlic leaves to store for future use before they get mowed down. Field Garlic (many people mistakingly call it onion grass), is one of those plants that doesn't like the heat and dies back in the summer. This time of year they are plentiful in most non-toxic, non-pesticide laden lawns.
  This time of year is a good time for the amateur wild food enthusiast to collect Field Garlic as there are no toxic look-a-likes coming up like there are in the spring. In the Spring lots of bulbs with long narrow leaves are making there debut after a long Winters sleep that may be confused with Field Garlic to the uninitiated. Field Garlic has long narrow hollow tubular leaves that taper at the tip. They also have the unmistakable smell of onion when broken. If dug up, they have a small onion like bulb at the base which can also be used in cooking.
  The leaves can be used in anyway you would use chives. Use fresh or dried in soups, salads or any other dish that calls for green onions or chives. They are great with fish and on baked potatoes.
  This time I decided to dry them for future use. I thought I collected plenty but after drying I didn't have nearly as much as I thought I would (duh!), so I will have to collect more before I mow them down. To dry, all I did was cut them up into small pieces,  put them on a tray in the toaster oven on 150 degrees, the lowest setting I have, and left the door ajar to keep the temperature low and let the humidity out. They didn't take long at all. I placed them in a spice jar and stored them out of the sunlight with the rest of my spices. The next time I think I will collect some bulbs and make a field garlic soup!
 Field Garlic, being in the Genus Allium, also has the some of the same health benefits and medicinal uses as onions, leeks and garlic. I have used the crushed leaves as a poultice on an infected cut, and it worked very well, and as a gargle for a sore throat. Research how good onion and garlic are for you and you will see it is worth the time and effort to seek out Field Garlic. Besides, it will get you away from the computer and get you outside and dirty, what could be better than that!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thistle Roots

Jerusalem Artichokes

 Today was a digging day. Though it has been warm and many plants are confused about the time of year (I found three Sweet Violet flowers yesterday and Henbit is in bloom all over my garden!) the Jerusalem Artichokes are doing just what they should. They have completely died back and the tubers are ready for harvest. Jerusalem Artichokes, which by the way, have nothing to do with Jerusalem and are not Artichokes, are actually sunflowers and are often known as Sun Chokes. They bloom alot later than most other sunflowers and die off quickly after flowering. When collecting roots and tubers, a general rule is to wait till the plant dies back in the Fall or before it begins it's growth spurt in the Spring. At these times, the plant is storing all the nutrition and energy it needs to come alive and flower in the Spring and Summer, therefore you get the most nutritional and medicinal value if you harvest during these times. As I was digging the Chokes I ran into some good sized Dandelion and some Thistle that started from this years seeds so I decided to collect those also. Dandelion is such a nutritious and medicinal plant and I am lucky to have lots growing on my property and most people don't realize that the dreaded Thistle is not only good food but has medicinal value also.
 I decided to use the Chokes another time and  to make my lunch based on Dandelion and Thistle. The Dandelion were washed well and the roots were separated from the leaves which I used as salad. The thick part of the roots were cut lengthwise into four strips and placed in the toaster oven on very low heat to dry them out so I can make an infusion from them. If you want you can dry them than turn the heat up a little to roast them and make a much darker drink that many people call a coffee substitute. Besides the fact that it is dark like coffee, it has no other likeness and tastes nothing like coffee at all. It is way better for you though, as the medicinal and nutritional values of Dandelion root are many.
  I only used the roots of the Thistle this time, though the leaves, after some prep to remove the spines, are very delicious raw or cooked. I took the roots and cleaned them well, sliced them, than boiled them till they were soft. I added some butter and a pinch of salt and had a great addition to my meal. As seen in the photo above, cooked Thistle root, Dandelion leaf salad and Dandelion root infusion make a substantial very nutritious meal.