Spicebush Ice Cream

Spicebush Ice Cream has a flavor unlike anything else you’ve had before. You can make the flavor strong or mild. Some people say it’s a little bit like nutmeg . . .  I think it’s a bit sweet and could possibly replace your need for sugar in your favorite dishes.

I recommend trying this recipe out ASAP while the red, spicebush berries are still available.

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You will need an ice cream maker.

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk

2 cups cream

1/2 cup sugar

A pinch of salt

8 spicebush berries

Step 1

First, gather the red, spiceberries. Don’t eat them plain! They are used as a spice . . . which means they are spicy. Okay, fine. You can nibble a teensy bit to test it out. But, bring the rest home. Eight berries will do for this recipe, but any extras you can lay out on a tray to dry.

Once gathered, you have three options.

a. Use immediately.

b. Dry and use.

c. Dry and use in an extract.

For this, I used 8 berries immediately, without drying.

Step 2

Slice each berry in half.

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Step 3

Simmer berries in 1 cup of whole milk for 30 minutes.

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Step 4

Strain milk and berries through a sieve.

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Step 5

Mix with 2 cups of cream (whipping cream) with the spicebush milk. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix until the sugar dissolves.

Step 6

Put in your fridge for 1 hour.

Step 7

Put in your ice cream maker and follow the directions that came with it.

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Step 9

Enjoy!

If you give this recipe a try or have any questions, please leave a comment below!

 

Amazing Weed Salad

I love weeds! There’s nothing like pulling weeds in your herb or vegetable garden and bringing them in to eat! If you eat your weeds, you can produce so much more food for your family and weeds tend to be chock full of vitamins and minerals.

This is an easy and tasty weed salad far tastier and more nutritious than your traditional lettuce salad.

Ingredients:

– Violet leaves (Available Year-Round; Pick the newest, healthiest-looking leaves you can find)
– Yellow Wood Sorrel (Available Year-Round)
– Purslane (Available in Summer Only)

 

Identification:

Violets (Violacea Viola spp.)

 

Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalidacea Oxalis spp.)

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Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalidaceae Oxalis spp.) 5 yellow petals, heart-shaped leaves in sets of 3

 

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

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Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Preparation

1. Gather. Gathering is easiest with scissors.

2. Wash. At least three changes of water is best.

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3. Chop finely.

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4. Enjoy!

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Common Violet

Violet (Violaceae Viola spp.) is a mild tasting and common plant in Central Virginia. You can collect the flowers and eat them raw or if you can collect 5 – 6 cups of them, you may want to try making violet jelly by following the mint jelly instructions in your pectin packet.

They also make a lovely, edible topping for a cake or salad.

Identification: The flowers have 5 purple, white, or blue petals. In our area, I only see the purple one, common blue violet, or Viola sororia. The leaves are heart-shaped with slightly serrated edges and have obvious veins on them. You can eat the leaves raw or cooked as well.

I hope you take the time to hunt for these easy to identify plants in your yard or a nearby park. The best time to find them is while they’re in bloom since the purple flowers are easy to spot.

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my free e-book, 10 Easy and Delicious Wild Edible Plants in Central VA or look for an upcoming Wild Edible Plant Course in Richmond, Virginia.

 

 

Fruit of the Gods!

Have you ever had a persimmon? What about a North American persimmon, Diospyros virginia?

These persimmons are similar to the Asian persimmons, but much smaller – only about an inch in diameter.

This misunderstood Virginia-native fruit can turn even the most adventurous eater away, and yet, they are also well-loved by those who understand them. They weren’t named the fruit of the gods for nothing, after all. The trick is knowing how to harvest and prepare them!

First, you’ll need to find a persimmon tree. It can be a tricky endeavor because they are rare in most Virginia forests today. But, luckily, it’s easy to recognize even at a distance.

Its bark is slate gray, almost black – which alone is unusual among trees in Virginia. It also has blocky, imperfect squares in the bark. The closest bark to it in Virginia are dogwood and loblolly pine, but dogwood has opposite branching and pine trees are, well, evergreen, with easily distinguished needles!

To Harvest:

  • Wait until the orange fruit falls to the ground.
  • If they are brown and mushy, you’re in lucky!
  • If they are hard, take them home anyway and wait for them to ripen.

To Process:

  • If you were overanxious and picked them straight from the tree or they were hard, DO NOT EAT THEM YET! They will be very astringent.
  • Put them in a paper bag with a ripe banana. After a day or so, try one to see if it is ripe. If it doesn’t make your mouth dry and feel awful, try another. If it tastes good as well, move on to the next step.
  • Next, put your persimmons through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. Follow the recipe below, or freeze until later.

Persimmon Pudding Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup very ripe persimmon pulp
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 pound butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Combine persimmon pulp with sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs. Mix in milk, then butter.
  3. Sift or stir flour with baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg.
  4. Mix with persimmon mixture.
  5. Pour batter into a well greased 9-inch square cake pan.
  6. Bake in a 315-325°F oven for approx 60 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

If anyone wants persimmons and wants to try this, please let me know! We collected a lot this year! If you do try this recipe, please comment on your results below . . .

Red Clover

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is a common weed in Central Virginia that I have eaten since I was young. It’s pink, roundish flowers are so tempting and pretty and conjure images of Thumper in Bambi and his desire only to eat the blossoms. I used to take a pinch of the flower petals and bit the white, sweet tips off, wasting the rest. I had no idea what I was missing!

I didn’t think to eat the leaves as a kid, but they are bursting with nutrition, just as Thumper’s mother told him. They contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C, plus calcium, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, and zinc. They even contain protein, since it is a legume. How’s that for a free, local vitamin pill?

But, wait! There’s more! The flowers can be dried and used as a tea that helps prepare women for pregnancy. There are a few precautions. Eating a lot of it may cause bloating and there are discrepancies about whether pregnant and nursing mothers should consume it. Some say it’s extremely healthy and others say to avoid it completely.

Nonetheless, it’s a great, local, easy source of vitamins worthy of our attention and deserves a place in our diet.

If you like this post, please sign up for our free e-book, “10 Delicious and Easy Wild Edible Plants in Central VA.” Also, check out the Adult Courses and Kids’ Courses for upcoming courses in the Greater Richmond Area!

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Milkweed

Milkweed (Family Asclepiadaceaeis) another plant native to central Virginia. It’s POISONOUS and edible. How does that work? Well, you have to cook them enough to remove the toxins. WARNING: DO NOT EAT IT RAW!!!
The sap of milkweed is white and milky, hence the name milkweed and has cardenolides that make it poisonous to humans and cause the insects that eat it to be poisonous too! It has broad, smooth, rubbery leaves and forms broccoli-like flower buds that turn into whitish-pinkish flowers.
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The boiled young shoots, leaves, unopened flower buds, flowers, and young pods are delicious, but don’t harvest too much because it’s also an essential habitat for four insects (they would go extinct without it) – Monarch butterflies, milkweed leaf beetles, milkweed bugs, and milkweed tiger moths.
 
However, I highly recommend planting it in your yard to help these animals along and have a food source at the same time for yourself.
To learn more from your central Virginia, wild edible plant experts, attend our next Wild Edible Plants 101 course in September 2017!

Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel (Oxalis spp.) is a common weed in central VA. It has 5-petaled yellow flowers and a delicious, lemony flavor that even kids love and can work as a lemon replacement in recipes. It’s best raw and works as a great addition to salads that might just eliminate your desire to include a high-calorie salad dressing!

Although eating a lot of it may interfere with calcium absorption, it is rich in vitamin C. It also is mildly antibiotic!

To learn more wild edible plants, please sign up for our next Wild Edible Plants 101 course!

Chicory

Chicory is a neat plant for coffee and tea lovers. It doesn’t contain any caffeine, but it tastes similar. To make a tea/coffee substitute, collect the roots. After washing them thoroughly, roast them on a low temperature in the oven. Then, grind the roasted root into a powder. Finally, use it like you would tea leaves. You can buy cheesecloth so you don’t have to drink chunks of powder.

 

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Alternate branching with multiple flowers on one stem
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Narrow, lancelet leaves.

Well, please check out my Facebook page for wild edible plant updates. 

5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids Wild Edible Plants

    1. My kids started learning what to eat from the forest as soon as they could walk. At the same time, I taught them what NOT to eat.
    2. Luckily, in our yard, there was only one poisonous plant – pokeweed. You can eat pokeweed only if you boil the shoots in 3 changes of water, which we would do in the spring. I told my kids not to eat the pokeberries – they were yucky. I also took out my field guide, pointed to mushrooms, and mimicked being unable to breathe and falling over dead to get my point across to stay away from all mushrooms. I told them not to touch mushrooms either. I was cautious and kept my eye on them, but not overly paranoid.
    3. The surprising thing was, they never made a mistake! They would always ask me if they weren’t sure if they could eat a plant I hadn’t taught them. My older daughter then helped teach and watch my younger one!
    4. Why did I teach them what could be eaten outside so young, you may ask? Wasn’t I afraid they’d eat the wrong plant? Well, here are the 5 perks to teaching toddlers wild edible plants that made it worth the inherent risks to me:
          1. It Encourages Kids to Eat Their Veggies

      All toddlers will have food riots from time to time. If my kids are rebelling against their veggies, all I have to do is get them back outside, eating delicious wild greens such as greenbrier, sassafras, violets (in photo above), shepherd’s purse, or sheep sorrel. Most of these veggies are available year yard in our yards and particularly palatable to young kids as well as grown-ups.

          1. It’s Free!    

      Gardening takes work. Buying organic greens also takes time and money. Wild edible plants, on the other hand, often can be eaten raw on the spot, or simply washed and eaten in a salad.

          1. It Motivates More Outside Time

      Kids love running around, gathering plants. It’s something humans are wired to do as a carry-over from our ancestors. Putting a handful of wild greens or flowers in their mouths to eat just makes sense to kids – much more fun than trying to force them to sit and eat a salad at a table.

          1. It’s Easy!

      Buying, washing, cooking, or munching on a salad takes time. Why not forage outside while you’re on a walk, playing, or reading a book outside?

          1. A Varied Diet is a Healthy Diet

      Hunter-gatherer diets used to be incredibly varied with hundreds of plants eaten each year. Although hunter-gatherer people had to experience many hardships, such as war, weather pattern changes, and disease, most agree their diet was healthier and studies suggest they had fewer rates of colds and allergies, were physically stronger and faster and had better vision. Striving to move closer (although, without the hardships) to a natural, human diet and lifestyle is better for everyone and grows stronger kids!

       

    5. Obviously, you might be wondering HOW you can teach them wild edible plants when you don’t know them yourself! Well, please check out my free guide to wild edible plants in Central Virginia or attend my next Wild Edible Plant Course in Forest Hill Park in Richmond, Virginia. 

TRACKS AND ROOTS

Explore. Play. Learn.

Join us in this outdoor classroom in Glen Allen, VA.

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