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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wild Pancakes!

Seed Stalks

Wild Pancakes!
  Yellow Dock and Curly Dock are two very common  plants on the East Coast of the USA. Both plants are Edible and Medicinal. In the early Spring when the leaves are young and tender they can be used as a potherb or as an addition to a salad.  Personally I don't like eating these Docks very much so I don't collect the leaves very often. I guess I think of them as a survival food.
   The seeds on the other hand are a different story. Normally the seeds aren't ready till later on in the season but I guess the very hot dry weather has affected them and the seeds are turning brown and crunchy already. To make sure they were dry I cut the seed stalks off the plant and laid them in the Sun for a couple of days. Once dry, I simply ran the stalks through my fingers over a large bowl to remove the seeds. The seeds develop in a covering that turns papery when dry. To remove this chafe, rub the seeds between the palms of your hand to dislodge the seeds and winnow the chafe away. I winnowed the seeds a bit but it was too windy today and I started to lose too much seed so I left the chafe on. The chafe is edible anyway and it adds alot more fiber and bulk. Once I picked out the big stuff, like leaves and branches, I ran the seeds through a coffee grinder to make dark brown flour.
  I mixed this flour with an equal amount of Organic Spelt flour; added baking powder, an egg, a few drops of Vanilla extract, a touch of Stevia and enough soy milk to make a pancake batter. I heated up the pan and made a bunch of pancakes for lunch! The batter and cakes reminded me of Buckwheat Pancakes, they were a dark brown in color and had the texture of whole grain pancakes.
  Though they weren't 100% wild, I still felt good going through the process of using these wild plants as part of my food source. Besides they were REALLY good!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's Summer!

  Today at 12:17pm  the Sun reached the end of it's northern migration towards the Tropic of Cancer, or 23.5deg. North Latitude, making today the longest day of the year. From this day forth the Sun will start it's trek South again and the days will be getting shorter, only a little at first, but by July the change will be approximately 2 min. a day.
 Most of the Spring plants have gone to seed by now and many plants die back rather than deal with the hot dry weather, only to return at the end of summer and beginning of Autumn. Today it's 97deg. Most plants that supplied ample greens all Spring are withering away because of the heat, or their leaves too tough to be palatable. There are many plants that don't mind the heat, and some, actually like it, though the bounty is definitely dwindling.
  Keep checking back to follow along with my Ethnobotanical Pursuits of the Summer Plants.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Asiatic Dayflower

Day Flower
  I have recently learned about another Wild Edible! If you have been following this Blog you know how excited I get when I learn something new.
  This is a plant that was not common where I used to live so I never really learned much about it. It is somewhat common where I live now and I find it in several places on my property, including a large patch in my ex-vermiculture compost area (my chickens eat all the worms). The whole aerial part of the plant is edible. I was not expecting much the first time I sampled it because usually by the time a plant is in flower the leaves and stem are too tough and too bitter to be palatable. Not only that, the leaves felt very "papery" and dry and I expected to have to tare them apart with my teeth. I was surprised to find they were succulent and very mild tasting. So much so, that I picked a hand full and eat them, flower and all. I was excited at my new find.
 I started thinking of ways to use this new found plant and I realized it would be good in a salad with the flowers added as a garnish, sauteed as a vegetable, in an omelet or added to soups. Since the first time I tried it, I have eaten some everyday when I go out to work in the garden or tend the chickens. A great new wild snack for me!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mimosa Water

Mimosa Tree

Flower Water in the Making

  I remember when I moved to the Burbs from the "City" when I was about 9 yrs. old. I already had a strong interest in nature, and plants in particular, when we moved to the "country". To me it was like being in the country, especially coming from the asphalt and concrete where I lived before. We actually had a lawn and trees on our property!
  The tree I remember most from those days was the Mimosa Tree that grew in our backyard. It had the most exotic looking flowers I had ever seen and I couldn't believe it was in MY yard! Unfortunately all the Mimosa Trees died in our neighborhood, must have been some kind of disease or something.
 So, the Mimosa has been a part of my life for a long time and through out my life, anytime I saw one I admired it. When I moved to NC, on the front lawn of our property were seven of what looked like trees that were severely pruned back to the point of just being ugly skinny trunks. We just figured  they were dead and I would have to cut them down in the Spring. Well, the Spring came and the trees started to sprout some green growth and to my amazement they were Mimosa Trees! Now after almost five years of letting them grow, they have become the most beautiful sight you can imagine when they all flower at the same time. They are in bloom now and the sweet intoxicating smell permeates the air, and sitting on the front porch is like being in Mimosa Heaven!
  The fact that I have had a relationship with this tree for such a long time, and the fact that I love learning about Plants and their uses, it blows my mind that it never occurred to me that the Mimosa Tree had any uses. I don't know why, maybe because when I was young I was told that it was poisonous, or, just admiring it's beauty and fragrance was enough for all those years. 
 Recently I got together with a group of people that have a strong interest in Edible and Medicinal Plants. It's very cool being able to share the combined knowledge and experience of a bunch of like minded people. It is there that my interest was sparked to learn more about the Mimosa Tree. It was there that I learned about making Mimosa Flower water.
 Simply put a bunch of Mimosa Flowers in a jar and cover with water, its that simple. I have been experimenting with how long to keep the flowers in the water and I find that about 36hrs. seems to be good. I keep the jar in the fridge for the whole time and the water comes out a slight pink color and has a nice taste and fragrance. 
  Through my research  I have found that in Asia, where the Tree is originally from, it is highly prized as a Medicinal Plant. The Chinese call it the 'Happiness Tree' because the flowers and bark are both used to combat depression and anxiety and are used as a calming sedative. According to Michael Tierra some modern Chinese Herbalists even call it "Herbal prozac"
 I highly recommend doing your own research on this magnificent Tree as there is alot more  to learn and I am just getting started on this new, and long over due, Ethnobotanical Pursuit.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Milkweed Flowers

 The Common Milkweeds are blooming and their sweet aroma fills the air in as I walk past my  garden. As I have mentioned before, Milkweeds are useful in different ways at different times of the year. Now is the time for the flowers. Before the flowers completely open, they look a little like broccoli heads, especially if you get them when they are small. There are many ways to prepare them, like breading and frying them or using them in a stir fry or stew or just simply steaming them, but today I decided I was going to boil them. Its a quick and delicious way of using the flowers. The flowers don't seem to have the bitter principal that you find in the rest of the plant at this mature stage so no need to boil them twice. Once they boiled for a couple of minuets you can strain them and add a touch of salt and some pats of butter and you have a healthy vegetable for your meal.
 When the flowers open, the scent is quite intoxicating, and the open flowers attract lots of butterflies, bees and other nectar loving insects. The individual open flowers can be nibbled on raw or put in salads. The nectar gives them a sweet taste and they are quite good. The open flowers make interesting fritters also, or can be added to pancakes and muffins. Just don't forget to leave some flowers for the insects and for the plant to produce seed pods, which will be the next Ethnobotanical Pursuit the Milkweed has to offer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Daylily Flowers

Day Lily's
Unopened Flowers
Fried Flowers
  The Day Lilies are exploding around my house!
  The Common Day Lilly is found in many a garden. They are reliable, beautiful , disease resistant and attract humming birds. They will come back every year with little care to brighten your late spring day. Each flower will open for only one day, than be replaced by another, hence the common name. There are many cultivars of Day Lily and they come in many different colors.   Be careful with common names, many plants have Lily in their common name but are not edible. Lily of the Valley is a good example, it is a very toxic plant.
  In many parts of the world Day lilies are considered a delicacy. All parts of the plant are edible, but the flowers are the part most used. The flowers are often found dried in Asian markets to be used as a soup thickener and to add to soups and stews.
  My favorite way is to use the unopened flowers breaded and fried. Simply dip the flowers in egg and then in bread crumbs, flour or corn meal and fry in a little bit of oil of your choice. They make great appetizers and are a great addition to a Wild Edible Meal!