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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Elderberry Experiment

 This year I had a plentiful crop of Elder Berries. I made more tincture
( http://ethnobotanist128.blogspot.com/2011/08/elder-berries.html ) than I hope I will need this winter. So, what to do with the rest of the berries?
 I have been interested in Lacto- Fermentation and Wild fermentation for a while now though I don't do as much of it as I should. Fermenting vegetables helps bring healthy probiotics into your diet and helps preserve edibles for a longer shelf life. I got a ton of Cucumbers this year and of course they came all at once. I pickled some in organic apple cider vinegar for long term storage but Lacto-fermented the rest.
 I have a great book called Wild Fermentation that I have used in the past to make Vinegar out of the skins of organic Pineapple and the scraps of other fruits. The vinegars came out great with almost no effort on my part, the wonderful world of microbes floating through the air did all the work.
 So, this light goes off in my head, 'how about making vinegar out of the extra Elder Berries'! I figured I would kill two birds with one stone. I would get some unique vinegar and I would get the medicinal value of the Elderberries every time I used it. People who can't use alcohol for one reason or another make Medicinal Tinctures out of Vinegar. So rather than soaking the berries in vinegar why not make vinegar directly from the berries!
 I went to the Wild Fermentation book to refresh my memory on the procedure as it has been awhile since I have made Vinegar. I proceeded to smash up the Elder Berries in a bowl than added them to a couple of mason jars. Next I made the sugar solution., 1/4 cup organic sugar to a quart of water. I added the organic sugar solution to the berries being sure to cover them with the solution. Next, I simply cover the jar with cheese cloth and let sit on the kitchen counter, stirring every so often, for as long as it takes to get vinegar.

This batch took about 2 weeks to get acidic enough to strain out the berries. Once the berries were strained out, I placed the vinegar in an old milk bottle with a plastic cover so the acid doesn't eat away at a metal top.

From my experience in previous vinegar making, the longer it sits, the clearer the liquid will become.
 So, you are wondering how it tastes! Well, I have to admit it isn't the best vinegar I have made. If you have ever tasted ripe Elder Berries you know they have a weird almost nauseating taste to them. Drying them helps the taste a bit but they are not berries you can eat a handful of and want to come back for more. The vinegar has a slight hint if that aftertaste. I wonder if it would help if the vinegar was made from dried berries instead. Luckily I love sour stuff and respect the berries for their medicinal value. I can't wait to try it in some in a salad dressing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Lesson Learned

  As I usually do, last year I saved certain seeds from my garden.. I grew Melons of different kinds and cucumbers of different kinds saving the seeds so I wouldn't have to buy them again this year. Some of the things I saved were the seeds of Armenian Cucumbers and seeds from the Musk Melons.
  I planted the Cucumbers on a fence this year, the best thing I have ever done, saving lots of space and making it easier to harvest the cucumbers overall. The vines did really well and as the fruits started to come out I started to see what looked like Musk Melons growing where I planted the Armenian Cucumbers. Thinking I just mixed up the seeds, I thought "fine I will just have more Melons than I planned". As the "Melons" continued to grow, they began to get extremely elongated which baffled me as I had not planted these nor had I ever seen anything like them before. They looked like Musk Melons but were very long and skinny. I let them grow just to see what they would turn out to be but they just kept growing.
  I started to suspect there was some hybridization going on here so I started to research. Turns out that melons will cross pollinate with each other. The cross pollination actually happened last year and the seeds I planted were already destined to become a mix. But wait! Melons and Cucumbers don't cross pollinate so whats going on here! As I learned last year, Armenian Cucumbers are not really cucumbers, they are Melons! They are used more like a cucumber would be used, as they are hard and crunchy, than used as a Melon would be used. They can be used in salads or sauteed or pickled as a cucumber would.
  If left on the vine to ripen the hybrid will turn yellow and slip from the stem as a Musk Melon would but the flesh is not as orange or sweet as a Musk Melon is. You can definitely see and taste the influence of the Armenian Cucumber on this Hybrid. All in all they are not a bad thing to eat and they get huge so you have plenty of food. They go good in a fruit salad or a cucumber salad and are not bad eaten alone.
 The lesson? Don't grow different kinds of Melon right next to each other unless you are doing some genetics experiments!

Ripe Musk Melon

Armenian "Cucumber"
Hybrid Armuskian Cumelon!