Sunday, June 28, 2015

Berry Picking Time in Tennessee!

This week begins blackberry picking season. It is one of my favorite foraging times of year. Blackberries are prolific in my area. They are actually, in my opinion, the kick-off of fruit season.  Mulberries, which were the first to ripen, were really just a teaser. Sometimes I feel like the friend of Forrest Gump...blackberry jelly, blackberry applesauce, blackberry pie filling, blackberry lime syrup, blackberry ketchup, blackberry barbecue sauce.... What's really funny is that I can go into Publix and buy 6 oz of blackberries for $4 or I can go into the field next door and pick a gallon for free!

Right now my plan is for blackberry jelly. It is fortunate that crab apples are at the right stage for jelly making when blackberries are ripe! Young green crab apples are best because they have the most pectin in them.  They are tart so don't think you will love the apples raw, but they make fantastic jelly.

If you haven't scouted your nearest blackberry patch, now is the time.  Look for them at edges of fields and islands of vegetation in fields. Often you will find wild grapes growing nearby as well.  Note the location because you can go back at the end of summer to collect them!  Look for crab apples around business buildings, shopping areas, and schools (I have found them in all three locally). They are often planted because of their attractive flowers in the spring.

Starting at noon and going clockwise: Dock seeds for grinding into flour, milkweed flower buds for soup, a gallon of blackberries, perilla to dry for seasoning, three gallons of crab apples and center is wood sorrel for soup seasoning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Time to Pick Dock Seeds!

If you want to be able to use dock seeds for flour this year, now is the time to go out and pick them!  Many have turned red and are perfect for collecting.  If you find some that are almost red, go ahead and pick them as well.  They will finish turning red after you pick them.

To process, rinse the still stemmed seeds off when you get them home.  Place on pizza pans and heat in a 170 degree oven until dry.  Get your rubber gloves because de-seeding is abrasive on the fingers! 

Remove seeds from stems and put into a bowl.  Pick out any leaves (edible as well).  Leave bowl on your table for several days, occasionally mixing.  That way you have perfectly dried dock seeds.  Don't feel guilty if you leave them there for a week! Store in an airtight container until you are ready to grind for flour.  I use a small coffee grinder which works really well.

That way, you can make Black Russian Bread this fall!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Canning Pickled Milkweed Bud Capers

I tried unopened milkweed flower buds several years ago and since then they have been one of my favorite wild edibles.  They grow abundantly here (as in fields of them) so I am not concerned with depleting the food source for butterflies.  I usually only take one pom pom of buds from each plant leaving the rest.  They taste like mild asparagus.  Pickling them produces a strong similarity to capers. 

Pickled Milkweed Capers


1 loosely filled gallon baggie of milkweed bud pom poms (do not remove individual buds yet)
9 cups of water (using 3 cups per day)
12 tablespoons kosher salt (use 4 per day)
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
Buds after boiling.
bay leaves (1 per jar)
fresh thyme (1 per jar)
5 teaspoons of sugar


Day One:

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Wash milkweed buds and boil for 2 minutes (no longer).  Drain and spray cool water on the buds. Carefully trim individual buds from the pom pom into a bowl with clean scissors.

Mix three cups of water with 4 tablespoons of salt.  Pour over buds.  This should just cover buds.  Place paper towel over and allow to sit until the next day.

Day Two:

Drain.  Mix three cups of water with 4 tablespoons of salt.  Pour over buds.  This should just cover buds.  Place paper towel over and allow to sit until the next day.

Day Three:

Drain.  Mix three cups of water with 4 tablespoons of salt.  Pour over buds.  This should just cover buds.  Place paper towel over and allow to sit until the next day.

Day Four:

Drain and rinse buds.   Prepare half pint canning jars and lids.  I finished with five half pint jars filled.  Per jar, you will need 1/2 cup of vinegar, one each bay leaf, one stick of fresh thyme and one teaspoon of sugar.  Adjust accordingly.

Bring vinegar, bay leaves, thyme and sugar to boil.  In each jar add a bay leaf and stick of thyme.  Add buds.  Pour vinegar over buds to 1/2 inch head space.

Waterbath for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Canning Common Plantain!

Canned common plantain! I already know I like it used as a cooking green and I wanted to be able to preserve it. You can can greens using a pressure canner but some greens are not sturdy enough to withstand the process (like dock). I am happy to say that plantain works great!  You can also dry and freeze it.  However, I wanted something I could drain and throw into a pan with bacon and onion for a quick side dish.

Canned Common Plantain


  • common plantain leaves (just fyi, one gallon baggie of leaves makes two pints)
  • salt


Wash and slice plantain leaves against the grain of the leaf.  There are strings in the leaf which are bothersome unless they are cut and then you will not notice them at all. 

Parboil Leaves on simmer for ten minutes. Drain. It will not be soft but just wilted enough to easily place in jars.

Loosely place in jars (not pressed down).  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint jar. Add boiling water to cover greens and leaving 1 inch headspace.

Pressure can 70 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs. Don't forget to add a little vinegar to your pot's canning water to avoid the film on the outside of the jar.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Foraging in Tennessee!

There are some great things growing right now!

Concord Park:

Teasel,  a medicinal plant that is said to help cure Lime disease.
Horsemint, the flowers and young leaves of this plant add a wonderful herbal/citrus flavor to tea.

Auricularia auricula (brown wood ear). They will be gelatinous and maintain their texture in soups!
Physalis sp., Ground Cherry, berries are yummy - especially dried as raisins! It makes a tasty syrup or jam, too. Otherwise known as cape gooseberry or Chinese lantern fruit (due to the little papery cases that the berries grow inside).  Do not eat the berries when they are green.  Cherries will ripen to yellow, orange or even red.  Some say ground cherries are particularly good for diabetics.
Pasture Rose, Rosa carolina. Rose petals and hips can be used to make jelly.
Growing Paw Paw fruit!
Elderberry Blooms, can be used for jelly, liqueur, or battered and fried.  However, if you want the berries, don't touch the blooms!
Lamb’s Quarters, the leaves make an excellent potherb that is considered by many people to be superior to spinach. 

Harlinsdale Park:

Poke plants are still shooting up. 
Common Plantain, makes a nice cooking green or medicinal plant.

Perilla, in the mint family, makes a nice seasoning.
Mulberries are beginning to ripen!

Winstead Park:

This is going to be a banner year for grapes!  You can also use the grape leaves to make dolmas.

Staghorn Sumac beginning to ripen.  It makes a great drink which tastes like lemonade or you can make Za'atar seasoning with it!

Blackberries will be prolific this year!  Leaves can also be used to make a tea.

Have you found anything interesting so far this month?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Common Plantain in Peanut Sauce

Plantain was one of the first wild edibles that I learned.  There are two types that grow in this area, Common and English.  Common plantain is the type with the wide leaves while the English variety has narrow leaves.  Once you connect the picture to the name, you will see these everywhere.  English plantain tends to linger all winter, though the color turns a bit muddy green.  You can actually dig through snow and still find it, if you were desperate.  Common plantain disappears and does not return until spring. It is more tender.

This is a great plant to know for relief from skin irritations.  You can chew the leaves and place the wad of green pulp on a bug bite to take away the sting or itch.  However, making a salve out of it is much preferred.  I use the salve on everything and am always amazed about how well it works.  I prefer to use the English plantain for salve and the common plantain for eating. 

Both types have lines or veins that run the length of the leaves.  Within each vein is a string, which makes eating a whole leaf unpleasant.  However, if you cut against the grain of these veins so that you have strips of green leaf to cook, you will not even notice a string.  You want to choose the youngest leaf available as they are the most tender.

Common Plantain in Peanut Sauce


1 gallon baggie of plantain leaves
salt for boiling water

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t dried ginger

handful peanuts for garnish (optional)


Bring a pot of water to boil.  Wash plantain.  Stack leaves to slice against the grain of the leaves into strips.  Repeat until all leaves are cut.  Boil in salted water for 10 minutes.

In a sauce pan, add remaining ingredients (except peanut garnish) and mix until smooth.  Heat until warm.

Drain plantain and mix in peanut sauce.  Place into serving dish and top with loose peanuts for garnish.

Savory Rosemary Pumpkin Casserole

Remember in November when the stores were selling huge pumpkins for .99 just to get rid of them? Those carving pumpkins?  Well, those are edible.  And they taste good.  You can even forage them from your neighbors with permission after Halloween since they will be wanting to get rid of their decorations!  Just collect the uncut ones.  I grab a bunch and cube and freeze or can.  This past year, Kroger had 50 - 70 lb pumpkins.  That's a lot of vegetable for .99!  So I have a freezer shelf full of pumpkin.  I use the frozen raw cubes in stews like I would potatoes, and the canned cubes for pumpkin bread, cake or brownies.  I really wanted a side dish that uses the frozen cubed pumpkin that I could make occasionally without have to make a stew.  This is a great alternative!

Savory Rosemary Pumpkin Casserole


1 quart bag of frozen cubed pumpkin (can use fresh)
1 onion chopped
2 T melted butter
garlic salt

3/4 c ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
3/4 c Parmesan cheese
1 t dried rosemary


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place pumpkin and onion in baking dish.  Pour butter over.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes. Drain after baking since pumpkin will release a lot of liquid.

In a separate bowl, mix ricotta, eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese and rosemary.  Spread over pumpkin mixture.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until golden.