Saturday, September 09, 2006

Early Autumn Eats

Now, in early Spetember in the Ozarks, is a great time for foraging. There are greens and potherbs such as Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Lady's Thumb (Polygonum Persicaria) and a great tea maker called Sumac.
There are two kinds of Sumac around here, Staghorn (Rhus typhina) and Smooth (Rhus Glabra). Both are small trees or shrubs and this time of year have a seedhead of red berries. The earlier you harvest the berries after they turn completely red the fewer arachnids will have made their home there. Also, rain dilutes to potency so now is the time to take a walk. Sumacs are pioneer species and so will be located around field and stream edges. I usually harvest a gallon or two of berries. Notice I said berries. You will want to break off whole seed heads and allow to dry for a couple of weeks. Then simply strip the berries off and store in glass jars for future use. You can skip this step and just use the entire seed heads, right away if you like, but they will take up a lot of storage space and the twigs can make the tea bitter.
To make tea, use about 1/4 cup of berries to 1 quart of water. Bring water to a boil, add berries, remove from fire and let set about 1/2 hour. This drink is high in vitamin C and is nicknamed "Indian Lemonade" as it is VERY tart. You will want to add some stevia, honey or sugar to meet you taste. It IS good.
I haven't gone into preparing the potherbs listed above as I assume most of you know how to deal with these. If you don't, leave a comment and I'll post some instructions.
A really good book on wild edibles is, Edible Wild Plants, A North American Field Guide by Elias and Dykeman is availible from Back40Books,com by clicking here:

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