The next Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District Farm Talk is “Sustainable Berry Production in the Adirondacks – Reasonable Approaches to an Unreasonable Venture.”
The presentation, by Laura McDermott of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program, will include sustainable methods for growing blueberries, brambles, honeyberries, and juneberries. » Continue Reading.
Ingredients for healthy beverages are free for the taking outdoors if you can get past the introduction stage.
Hemlock tea, one of my favorites, is a good example. This is not the recipe poor Socrates used, which was made with the toxic perennial herb, poison-hemlock. The kind I serve is a vitamin-C-rich infusion of needles and young shoots from the stately eastern hemlock tree, Tsuga canadensis. This hemlock tea is great with a touch of honey, and the good part is that you can drink it more than once. Plus it’s fun to see the reaction when I offer it to guests. » Continue Reading.
Friends and family understand that some of my dinners can be pretty wild. For example, right now they may include mashed sunchoke or “Jerusalem artichoke” tubers that escaped the voles and mice over the winter, as well as a steaming plate of tender, sweet nettles. (When cooked, the latter lose their sting, becoming tame as kittens. Better even, because they don’t shed.)
But the tastiest wild food around in very early spring is our native wild leek, Allium tricoccum, a.k.a. wild garlic, spring onion, or ramp (from “ramson,” a name for a similar European species). It pushes its light green leaves up through the leaf litter in hardwood forests along eastern North America, from Québec and Ontario south to South Carolina, in very early spring. They grow in clumps, occasionally forming large colonies which in some places carpet the forest floor. They last for only a few weeks, fading away by late June. » Continue Reading.
If the Pilgrims had only known what a big deal Thanksgiving was going to become in America they would undoubtedly have taken some pictures. Even the menu has been lost to us, although Wampanoag oral history, plus a few Pilgrim grocery receipts found at archeological sites, suggest there was corn, beans and squash as well as fowl and venison. Beyond that there may have been chestnuts, sun chokes (“Jerusalem” artichokes), cranberries and a variety of seafood.
Many historians believe the Pilgrims would have all perished during the winter of 1620 if not for food provided by the Wampanoags, whose land they appropriated. In the spring of 1621, Wampanoags gave the Pilgrims crop seeds, as well as a tutorial (possibly an App; we can’t be sure) on the production, storage and preservation of food crops such as corn, beans, and squash. » Continue Reading.
Carnivorous oysters are lurking about in the North Country, and residents who venture into the woods are advised to carry butter and a skillet at all times. Oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, native wood-decaying fungi often found on dead and dying hardwoods, are delectable when sautéed in butter. Maybe hikers should carry a few cloves of garlic and a press as well. It’s good to be prepared.
It may be stretching a point to call oyster mushrooms carnivorous, as the only “meat” they consume are nematodes, which are a type of small roundworm that live in the soil. But they are one of the very few mushrooms in the world known to do this, so why not play it up. The nematodes provide the oysters with nitrogen, a scarce nutrient. » Continue Reading.
TAUNY (Traditional Arts in Upstate New York) and Nature Up North have invited the community to the third Garlic Mustard Pull and Pesto Workshop on Saturday, May 20th from 12:30 to 2:30 pm.
Garlic Mustard is an invasive herb that threatens native tree and wildflower species in our local forests. Fortunately, we can help control its spread by eating it. Interested participants are invited to join TAUNY and Nature Up North to help pull garlic mustard from where it is growing in Canton and take part in the North Country tradition of cooking with the bounty of the land – whether farmed or foraged. » Continue Reading.
The white bulbs of wild leeks, also called ramps (especially in the south), can be eaten year round, but it’s the early leaves that are most appreciated. In pre-freezer days, ramps were the first greens available after five or so months of potatoes and they were considered important as well as good tasting. Ramp festivals are still held in much of Appalachia to celebrate the arrival of this nutritious fresh food, and these tourist attractions have become so successful that in some places ramps are over-harvested.
Wild leeks are spring ephemerals that have no flowers in the spring. I know this is confusing; there’s a tendency to call every spring-blooming thing an ephemeral. But most spring wildflowers keep their leaves through the summer and therefore don’t qualify – it’s the extra short lifespan of the photosynthetic machinery that defines a spring ephemeral, not the timing of flowering. The rounded flower heads of leeks appear in July, well after the leaves have withered and disappeared. » Continue Reading.
As a kid fidgeting at my grandmother’s Thanksgiving table, I often wondered, what’s the point of cranberries? She had a live-in Irish cook who insisted on serving whole cranberries suspended in a kind of gelatinous inverted bog. If I ventured to eat a berry I experienced the power of my gag reflex.
How times change! The humble American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, in my opinion, is worthy of a downright homage. I am a fan. Yes, cranberries are tart, sour, and even bitter, but that makes them both good food and strong medicine. The Wampanoag called them ibimi, meaning sour or bitter berries. They crushed them into animal fats and dried deer meat to make pemmican, a food full of energy and vitamin C for long winter trips. Mariners brought them on sea voyages to fend off scurvy. According to passed down knowledge, the Algonquin used the leaves of cranberry to treat bladder infections, arthritis, and diabetes-related circulation problems. » Continue Reading.
Thanksgiving, with food a major holiday component, calls to mind a time of year that was once the subject of great anticipation: nutting season. I’m not old enough to have experienced it first-hand, although back in the 1980s I did explore many natural edibles. Among my favorites was beechnuts, which we harvested and used in chocolate-chip cookies. Outstanding!
But in days long ago, when many folks earned a subsistence living that utilized home-grown vegetables and wild foods, nutting season was an important time. » Continue Reading.
Identifying wild nuts, roots, berries and plants, many now commonly called weeds, and how to store them will be the focus of “Wild Edible Identification and their Historic Use as Wild Medicine”.
In this class, being offered by Wild Edible Instructor and Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County’s Master Food Preservation instructor Pat Banker, participants will learn science-based and safe ways to identify, prepare, freeze, dehydrate, and store wild edibles. Banker will also lead a tour of 4H Camp Overlook’s variety of wild edibles and how to identify them while giving a historic medicinal use explanation of many of the plants available. This is a hands-on class and participants are encouraged to dress for the weather. » Continue Reading.
Noting what visitors appear at a bird feeder in winter can provide some revealing information on the status of the local populations of the feathered creatures hardy enough to remain in the Adirondacks after cold weather becomes established. Aside from the regular flocks of black-capped chickadees, a pair or two of red-breasted nuthatches and blue jays, there may be juncos, redpolls, evening grosbeaks, pine siskins, purple finches and other closely related seed eaters.
This year, at least around my house in Saranac Lake, there has been a healthy number of American goldfinches, which is not surprising considering this past summer’s weather. From mid May through the first week in July, record setting rains soaked the region, and cool temperatures made conditions difficult for birds attempting to incubate eggs and care for a nest full of recently hatched offspring. However, after the 4th of July, the weather improved substantially. Bright skies, warm temperatures and moist soil created ideal growing conditions for plants, which was noted by people who attempted to keep their lawn properly mowed, individuals who maintained flower and vegetable gardens, and those souls that enjoyed harvesting our crops of wild berries. » Continue Reading.
It’s a good year for beechnuts and acorns. Beechnuts – the fruit of the American beech tree – are a small three-sided edible nut. Since they are high in protein and fat, they’re favored by Adirondack wildlife along with acorns, or oak nuts, the nut of the oak tree. Both are in the beech family (fagaceae) and play an important role in Adirondack forests. These natural nut crops, known as mast, are very plentiful this year.
Early this summer, while harvesting trees in Warren County, I could tell it was going to be a good year for beechnuts and acorns, as the canopies were full. As the beechnuts matured I often found myself enjoying their bounty – they make a nice snack in the middle of the woods. These crops are not always there for the deer, squirrels, bear and turkey, so I am sure they appreciate the extra snack as well. » Continue Reading.
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