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Saturday, March 30, 2013

What gets praise from some and cursed by others? Costs $15 per pound to buy and kill?


       THESE LITTLE WEEDS!

 

While reading online I realized some farmers are growing dandelions ON PURPOSE! Most local folks I know cuss this weed every summer as they try to keep it out of their manicured landscaping. I've been caught "looking normal" several times picking these weeds out of my yard too, but little do they know, I have been forcing my family to eat these little flowers, their leaves, and roots for a few years now.  Actually, I only had to "force feed" them once, then they were hooked!  "Tempura Dandelions" seems to be the favorite around here! And with our five year old, anything he can dip in ketchup is a BIG HIT!  Just get a Tempura batter recipe you like and dip the flowers and greens in the batter, fry, and you have a great snack that beats tater tots!  Plus, It's a great conversation piece!!  "What are you cooking tonight, Jane?"...."Oh, I don't know, maybe some yard clippings, Bob."  

If you're into the healthier non-deep-fried treat, not to worry, try picking a few of the leaves and new flowers to add to your favorite green salad for additional vitamins and color!  Also, the greens on these little weeds are great cooked just like spinach or sauteed with some olive oil and onion.   The flower buds can be made into pickles and there are numerous recipes for dandelion wines, jelly, root tea, and anything else you can imagine out there on the internet. 

Bewildering as it is, some people spend $15 per pound to kill the dandelions from their yard while others buy the teas and roots for about the same price to increase the health of their livers and digestive system....GO FIGURE! Actually, with the cost of Garden Weasels, Weed Whackers, Roundup, and intensive labor invested in the destruction of this deep rooting, fast growing plant, I'm sure the price-tag to destroy the dandelion FAR exceeds $15 per pound!  
So, let me offer you the following solution:  Take-a-break, America!  Sit back, relax with some dandelion root tea, enjoy the beautiful yellow speckled yards, mix up a pot of dandelion greens and BE VERY THANKFUL you never have to worry about killing this wonderful, culinary herb ever again!  


Sunday, March 17, 2013

IT'S ABOUT TIME THE ELDERBERRY SHINED! GO MISSOURI SAMBUCUS!!

http://muconf.missouri.edu/ElderberrySymposium/
Photo: An International Symposium on Elderberry!!  IT'S ABOUT TIME!  These small tree's grow wild all over Missouri, I have a couple favorites along an unmentioned roadside here locally I like to harvest from.  I'm always afraid ambitious road crew will chop them down.  Maybe as the health benefits and uses gain international attention the plant will be a protected, cherished species instead of a disposable ditch weed!




An International Symposium on Elderberry!! IT'S ABOUT TIME! These small tree's grow wild all over Missouri, I have a couple favorites along an unmentioned roadside here locally I like to harvest from. I'm always afraid ambitious road crew will chop them down. Maybe as the health benefits and uses gain international attention the plant will be a protected, cherished species instead of a disposable ditch weed!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

SUMAC RECIPES AND KNOW-HOW! Sumacade, sumac shoots, Sumac Smack Snacks and more!


Sumac:  The red sumac ain't poison...IN FACT I EAT IT!!  


Most of us grew up thinking sumac was a plant to stay clear of, much like we steer clear of poison ivy or poison oak, but it doesn't have to be.  American Indians and early pioneers frequented this plant for medicine, food, hide tanning, and dye.
 
 Red sumac like Staghorn Sumac (in photo to left) are not toxic plants to most of us, in fact, they are very useful, yummy plants when prepared and utilized correctly.  Several red sumac varieties exist around my home in, Nevada, Missouri, but the plant is widely naturalized throughout much of the USA.  Wikipedia and the USDA have great pictures and information on types of Sumac if you're interested.
 
Poison Sumac isn't a myth, it DOES EXIST, but it has white to white/green seed heads instead of the burgundy and red seed heads that fall sumacwe see all over Missouri.  To be honest, poison sumac is really in rare supply throughout the Midwest.  
**(DISCLAIMER TIME) NOW, LISTEN CAREFULLY!  I'm not saying people can't be allergic to edible sumac because they can.**  Red sumac varieties are in the same family as CASHEWS, PISTACHIOS, MANGOES, and many other items....So, be careful!!  Do your research!!  If you know you are HIGHLY allergic to any related items the chances of having a reaction to the edible variety of sumac is likely. As always when wild crafting, foraging for wild foods, or trying new things  BE SAFE!
 
Sumac seeds taste like lemon Kool-aid mix, they are VERY tart no matter what time of year you harvest them!  They are full of vitamin C and other acids that make you pucker and this treat is available all winter long if you can beat the deer and birds to it!  

middle eastern market sumac The young tree shoots can be eaten in the spring as you would asparagus or raw like celery. The shoots have a sweet taste when they are young.  The berries can be eaten whole in trail mix or ground up for fish or meat seasoning.  The Sumac spice is a staple in the middle east where it is used to flavor meat dishes.  American Indians chewed the berries, smoked the leaves for lung ailments, drank root tea and leaf tea for healing of parasites, and made seed head tea for just for the simple enjoyment and, I'm sure it beat down the winter vitamin C deficiency so many experienced (scurvy) prior to the advent of supplements and grocery stores! 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fun uses for a Cat's Tail!!! I like mine roasted with butter!

The Many Uses of a Missouri Water Weed:  Typha latifolia a.k.a Cattail.


No other plant on Earth provides more useful substances than the common Cattail.  Euell Gibbons, called it the Supermarket of the Swamp!  The more I study the plant the more I tend to agree that this plant is a miracle!  So why isn't it more popular?    

Note the spikes on the top.  This is where the "male flower" sat  in  May and June!

This little plant has been found, scattered throughout history and used by our ancestors, worldwide, for thousands of years.  Powdered remains of the plant were found on stone grinders from ancient Egypt. Indian tribes in American used cattail as food, insulation, lighting, and herbal medicine.  I believe the cattail's heyday is not long-gone!  Products made from the cattail seem like a more healthy alternative to many industrial products offered today!  



 Uses for the Cattail in 2013

The cattails root or rhizome harvested through ice.   
1.  FOOD.  The male flower (the top portion of the cattail harvested in May and June here in Missouri) can be cooked and eaten like "baby corn on the cob".  The inner stalk at the base of the plant tastes like bamboo shoots shoots or firm asparagus.  Just cut off the plant at the base, peel off the outer leaf layer and munch the white center pieces.  Eat it raw, in stir fry, or as you would any other veggie. The new spring shoots can be eaten just like asparagus and in the book Stalking the Wild Asparagus they are referred to as "Cossack Asparagus".   The Root or rhizome can be peeled, dried, and ground up for flour or used in much the same way as the potato.  The root is about 60% starch and can be harvested year round!  A great winter food source that literally grows like a weed and really needs no upkeep.  (Remember:  when harvesting any wild food, stay away from roadside sources and highly polluted areas.  Plants are natural filters...so, you're eatin' what your car is spittin'!) 

2.  WATER PURIFICATION!  These plants seem to just suck away bad stuff.  The cattail is being used right now among many others filtering plants in Arcata, California's constructed wetlands.  This area was once an eyesore and a trash heap the townspeople dubbed "Mt Trashmore". Now, the Arcata Constructed Wetlands houses thousands of marshland flora and fauna while naturally managing the areas sewage and pollution issues (without the use of typical purification chemicals like chlorine)

3. FUEL!  To be exact bio-fuel / ethanol!  Cattails are an abundant and rapidly replenished resource throughout the world.  They grow everywhere a little damp soil can exist. The cattail root and shoots are so full of carbohydrates they are a natural for ethanol production.  PLUS, they grow like a weed which means they take root anywhere without the use of fertilizers and pesticides! 
According to David Blume, author of Alcohol can be a Gas, "If each county were to cultivate a five-foot wide strip of cattail on each side of only 1000 miles of county-maintained roads,....mowers could shred up and harvest up to three crops of cattail each year, producing in theory up to 61 billion gallons of fuel(40% of the U.S. gasoline consumption)...."