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Spring Trout & Wild Edible Outing

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Had a great weekend camping for the opener of trout season in NJ.  It’s become tradition to catch some rainbows and make a meal with some mixed wild edibles including wintergeen, wintercress, watercress, chickweed, dandelion, leeks, trout lily and partridge berry.  Hope you enjoy the video!

“We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.” -Nessmuk

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Time to Collect Wildflower Seeds for Pollinators

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It’s time to collect wildflower seeds for our native pollinators.  I mostly use the seeds for seed balls or package them as promotional items to encourage pollinator conservation but they can also be sown and grown under lights or in cold frames to kick start their growth before planned planting.

I like to snap or cut the mature seed heads into a bucket. After letting the ants and other little critters that might be in there crawl out, I transfer the seeds to paper bags or envelopes where they will undergo dehiscence or dry out and split to release their seeds. The paper bag allows air circulation thus preventing mold.  If you plan to hold the seeds into spring and grow them yourself be mindful that some seeds like many milkweeds require cold stratification before germinating and require refrigeration in a mix of horticultural sand and water.

Eco-School students and Green Clubs can collect and package seeds, craft a marketing plan and sell seeds as part of a schoolyard habitat fundraiser!

Citizen Science participants can collect milkweed seeds to send to Monarch Watch for their Bring Back The Monarchs Conservation initiative!

 

David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula.  He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife.  You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com

Sunflower House in the Garden

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Taking on an abandoned plot at the local community garden we decided to plant a bean tee-pee surrounded by a sunflower garden. Since we planted sunflowers later into the summer their bloom has been delayed until this week just in time for the start of the school year and luckily also the garden “open house” event. Now I just need a welcome sign to let visitors know they may enter. The variety used was Mammoth Grey sold by Bakers Creek Heirloom Seed Company. They are drought tolerant but will produce a better seed if well watered.

As the flower heads begin to lean downward and shed their small yellow corollas on the many disk flowers it may be time to harvest for seeds. To be sure you can pull out a seed to check for striping and texture. The shell of the seed should feel slightly solid and crack or pop open when pressed to reveal the seed meat inside. I’ve read that you can place the whole seed head in a cool dark place like a paper bag in a closet to let the seeds dry for a few weeks but we went ahead and removed the seeds after cutting and enjoyed them as both a tasty treat raw and cooked.

To make them salty, soak the seeds in a salt water bath over night.  Drain the water and any remaining little floaty bits. Let the seeds dry on a tray or window screen. Place them on a cookie sheet type tray in the oven coated lightly with a touch of oil and a pinch of sea salt. They can cook at about 300 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes until golden.  Try it out. We enjoyed them.

Our Organic Community Garden 10×10 plot

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This season my wife and I signed-up for a 10×10 plot at the local community garden. We planted mostly Baker Creek Heirloom seeds and dug in a few seedlings picked up from a Master Gardener plant sale.  We have harvested sorrel, spinach, chard, fennel, radishes, peas, beans, beets, carrots, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, zucchini and peppers from our healthy compost laden soil. When the cucumbers are ready we’ll be canning with our dill.  It’s safe to say that we will sign-up for more than one plot next year.

Sumac-aide – From Tart Berries to Tea

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Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) is a common sight along roadsides and field edges. In the Mid-Atlantic you can find the seed heads in bloom early July into late August. The tangy sour flavor of the seed heads imparted from their malic acid can be turned into a refreshing sumac-aide drink. Check out Sam Thayer’s book and DVD Forager’s Harvest to learn about this and other top choice wild edibles with the confidence necessary to forage.

Dehydrating Chanterelles

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One of the wonderful things about wild Chanterelle mushrooms is that they often appear in great abundance.  Wanting to save the mushrooms for future use I placed those harvested in a dehydrator to dry. Some were cut in-half for faster drying while others were left whole taking longer to dry before reaching the point of crackle. The dry mushrooms have a fantastic fruity nutty aroma that I find difficult to compare to anything else.

After exploring two more dominant oak and fern forest areas we found many more chanterelles. Some we simply fried fresh in butter, seasoned them with salt and pepper and placed them on a rye toastie.

Jewelweed Ice Cubes

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The mucilaginous aloe like substance within Jewelweed has been used as a traditional healer and well known folk remedy to help sooth a variety of skin ailments including irritating contact dermatitis resulting from poison ivy, nettle, mosquito bites, insect stings and sunburn. To build upon this traditional remedy of using the plant applied directly as a poultice – before or after the onset of a reaction, I followed a tip in the Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs and took preventive precaution recognizing these seasonal occurrences and made jewel weed ice cubes.

To read more, check out my full article in Self Reliance Illustrated Issue #22

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