Spring Preparations : Where, When, How

Recently I taught a basic foraging class (if you attended, thank you so much) and there were a lot of questions I had never thought about. So here I will share with you the questions and my answers to springtime foraging.

Question: When do you start preparing for spring foraging?
Answer: Groundhog’s day. 

Question: Why?
Answer: February still gives me enough time (1 month) before I start really foraging. So I have time to review my notes from last year and map out my sites for this year.

Question: How does one prepare?
Answer: I take really good notes the last season, so I review those for the best areas.
Then I map out which areas I will go back to and areas I want to explore. And I make sure I have enough bags, boxes and space for my upcoming haul! I usually have to clean my drying racks and make some small repairs to my bags.

Question: What if I am foraging for the first time?
Answer: Ask around! There are plenty of foragers out there, you just need to talk with them.

Question: How do I find someone?
Answer: Honestly, Facebook is a great place. And your local farmers market or Co-Op. And anyone can come follow me around! Ha, ha!

Question: What is the easiest spring plant to forage?
Answer: Garlic Mustard. It’s a terrible invasive, and it’s everywhere in the Midwest. So you will get a plant that tastes lovely and you are doing ecological good!

Question: What can I do with Garlic Mustard?
Answer: I only use the leaves and dispose of the roots. I use it instead of parsley on chicken or garlic mustard pesto. I have even been known to put it in a salad for a little pizzazz.

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Next week, I will share with you my garlic mustard identification tools and pesto recipe. And we will talk about how it is basically Satan’s favorite plant. 

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Forage & Feast: That’s the goal

I have a very simple goal: to forage my way to good eats. I have collected stories, recipes, and some failures to bring you this blog.

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I follow the seasons, so you will get the foraging tips as I am foraging. During the winter, I will give you my favorite family stories, winter salves and tinctures, and prep work for spring. During the spring, it is all about jellies, jams, and spring flowers. Summer is filled with gardening tips, sunscreen DIYs and seasonal fruit recipes. Fall is all about foraging from trees, getting prepped for winter, and MEAD.

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Join me with your questions, curiosity and tips. We will try our best to do our best, but some times we screw up and there is a better way. Let us know when that happens!!!

Kindly,

E. K. Sehr

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Garlic Mustard: Invasively delicious

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No, I am not sure what the phrase “invasively delicious” actually means, but it sounded like “magically delicious” from the cereal with a rabbit mascot.

I digress…, Garlic Mustard season is here (March – April). Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is native to Europe and Asia and was brought to the America’s as a spice much like lemon balm. I think it tastes lovely, but I also am paid to kill acres upon acres of it each year. What can I say, we have a weird relationship.

Garlic Mustard lives its plant life in an unusual way. For it’s entire first year, it just has some nice vegetative leaves and doesn’t flower. It invests its time in collecting lots of energy from the sun, creating a nice root system and prepares for its second year of life. The way GM sees it, the more energy they get in the first year, the more seeds it can produce in the second year. This is reason #1 it is so invasive: LOTS OF SEEDS.

Aside from the lots of babies, GM produces some chemicals in it’s roots that act as an herbicide to all other seeds except GM. It’s only an issue for other plants, not humans. Talk about parental care for your babies! That’s reason number #2 it is so invasive: parental care.

The last reason it is so invasive, as if it needed yet another reason, is because deer find it completely unpalatable. Even the goats of the wild game world (deer) don’t even want to eat it. So deer will select to eat the native plants instead of the garlic mustard. So that gives the garlic mustard more space to grow and throw down seed. So reason #3: nothing eats it except….US.

So that’s where you and I come in. I have a special ebook for you! It is the comprehensive garlic mustard guide that you can print and take with you to the field. It is filled with pictures and not *too* science-y. I did throw a few terms in there to help out. And it’s completely free. Fill out the info below to get your copy!

 

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Foraging verses Gardening

Each year, I sit down with my big list of plants and quickly realize how overwhelming it is. I have my long gardening list, my foraging list, and my “flowers to see” list. Three lists with an overwhelming amount of plants on them. Every plant on that list fights for my time. Foraging verses gardening verses botanizing.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Do you ever feel like your lists (chores, to dos, calendared items) are constantly vying for your time? My plant lists make me want to take a nap and sage away that negative energy.

So when I started pouring through seed catalogues, I started seeing mushroom kits EVERYWHERE. This is where I said I am not a pure forager. I love aspects of both gardening and foraging. So the mushroom kits really peaked my interest. I could grow them along with my regular garden and I could cross them off my foraging list. BOOM 

Here’s the thing, while I am all about that two-birds-with-one-stone simplicity, something about this venture didn’t settle well with me. Yes, I bought the kit. Yes, I got excited when I clicked “purchase now.” But something happened when I opened the kit.

Mushrooms are hard work, just in case you didn’t know. The pH must be absolutely perfect, the watering just so, and the sunlight has to be exquisite. The amount of time I would have to invest just so I could be, well, lazy. And the last thing this overwhelmed, and by and large, lazy person wants is to add more work to my already long to-do list. While I am always up for a challenge, I don’t want to set myself up for failure either.

Aside from all of the hard work, something else just didn’t feel right. It was almost a cheating feeling. Like I am cheating on the foraging. In the back of my mind I kept saying I love gardening, but not this type of gardening. Do you ever think something and then wonder “what in the hell am I even talking about?” Well, that was me wondering about what was my type of gardening. Am I a forager or a gardener? While I am sure you didn’t pop by the blog to learn about my identity crisis, but heeeeyyyy here we are.

After a month of thinking about this crisis, I have learned a few things:

  1. Moderation. Moderation. Moderation.
  2. Choose the things that fill you with joy.

That’s it. If it doesn’t make me happy, screw that. And if it is “too much work,” I won’t do it. So no mushroom kits, but I will grow an amazing salad garden. I will go forage for the things I love: morels, garlic mustard, black locust blooms, ramps but I am not going to forage every. single. thing.

just like mother nature, there is a delicate balance to everything.

 

 

Foraging Spring Calendar

Every year, I write out a calendar so I feel less lost when spring hits. Between the garden and work, my March and Aprils are packed full! So if you are in the Midwest, this is a calendar for you.

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Ode to Winter & Sumacs

When Old Man Winter wakes from his annual slumber, I don my coat and my heart becomes bitterly cold. Yearly, he knocks on my door. I always turn him away and tell him that the table is set for Spring. I pray for the thaws of Spring with all of her hope and warmth. My spirit goes into hibernation until the first flower blooms with Spring’s joyful tears.

In mid January, I felt restless with the snow falling. I bundled up in search of a cure to this restlessness. As I walked around my back yard, a blaze of red caught my eye. At first I thought it was a flower, but I heard Old Man Winter laughing in the wind. As I moved in with excitement, I realized it was sumac seeds. I giddily took pictures and was filled with great joy at the beauty before me. As I walked back to the house, I began to cry as my spirit started to wake from the normal hibernation.

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In a moment, I became a vessel of gratitude. Gratitude for the season. Gratitude for the beauty of nature. Gratitude for Old Man Winter stirring my spirit.

Winter doesn’t happen TO me or you, it happens FOR us, loves.

Next post, winter’s preparations. A more technical piece on what work I do in winter to prepare for foraging in the spring.

 

Persimmons: Forage and Food

If you have been following my social media, you know I have been celebrating fall for about a month now. The fires, the flannels, and the pumpkin everything. There are more reasons to be excited about fall than the pumpkin spice lattes and bonfire weather though: PERSIMMONS.

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Now, I am not talking about the Japanese or Oriental persimmons. I have had limited success with cooking those behemoths. I have practiced throwing them at short distances just in case I am assaulted in the grocery store and need ammo. I am talking about the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). 

 

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These little morsels are found in the Midwest and fall in September/October. It really just depends upon where you live and the trees you are picking from for the exact date. I usually pick from our trees in the backyard, but this year I was house sitting for friends and they have several mature trees I could pick from. I saw the persimmons hanging from the trees in early September, but did not start picking them from the ground until late September. When you are scouting out the persimmon crop on the ground, I have some rules:

Persimmon Picking Rules

  1. You will be fighting the deer to get the best persimmons. If they beat you to them, don’t fret, just get out earlier tomorrow.
  2. Do not pick them off the tree, they are not ripe and they will ruin your batch.
  3. Keep only those that are really orange, if they have any green on them, they will be disgusting.
  4. You will step on the best one by accident. Just accept that now.
  5. If a limb is on the ground with really good looking persimmons attached, resist the urge to pick them off. They are most likely not ripe.
  6. If the persimmon still has it’s top on, if it is hard to pull off, it is not ripe.

 

Until you pick up a persimmon, eat it and then say “oh that’s sweet” or “it tastes like fire and my mouth is numb” you really can’t hone your skills of picking ripe persimmons. The rules will keep you from the latter sentiment, but you should still eat them right off the ground to refine your skills.

Now what? You have all of these persimmons, what do you do with them? 

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This is where the real work comes into play. You will need a food mill and a positive attitude. I have owned three food mills in my time, and you can find the reviews here. So definitely use one that fits your needs and budgets.

You are going to take your little morsels and run them through the food mill. If you have the NorPro Sauce Master, we will talk about attachments tomorrow, so stay tuned. If you have the standard food mill, take one cup or so of persimmons and sieve them. Keep adding one cup until the pulp starts to turn dark (AKA the seeds are being grated by the mill) or it is hard to turn. Clean out your food mill by dumping the junk fruit parts in the trash or compost. The fruit flies love persimmons, so keep that in mind.

Once you have pulped your persimmons, you can use the pulp right meow or freeze it. It stores for a year if frozen, only a few days if in the refrigerator.

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More recipes coming soon, but in the meantime enjoy my persimmon pudding recipe:

Persimmon Pudding

  • 2 cups persimmon pulp
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 0.25 cups milnot
  • 0.5 stick of butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F, butter a 9 x 13 pan (I love my pyrex for this)
  2. Combine baking soda and buttermilk, mix well and let sit for at least 5 minutes
  3. Combine sugar, cinnamon, persimmon pulp (taste here), milnot and eggs in a medium sized bowl.
  4. While mixing, slowly add flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla to the pulp mixture (step 3)
  5. Pour into pan and wait patiently for around 50 minutes. Get a toothpick and stab the pudding, if it comes out clean = you are ready to chow down.
  6. Serve with whipped cream and caramel sauce!

 

Kindly,

E. K. Sehr

Foraging for Lies & Picking Truths

“Climbing the branches of my family’s history was easy, clambering down and telling the story is the hard part”

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Whether it be sitting in a tree stand or picking berries in my backyard, I have always felt an overwhelming connection to the closest branches of my family tree. When I was sitting in a climber tree stand on opening day of deer season last fall, inspiration for this type of blogging struck. I was waiting on the big buck when my mind began to drift to a story about my grandpa’s old hunting dogs. Not the best time to be distracted in thought, you know, while half way up an middle-aged hickory tree while holding a gun. Nevertheless, I was then flooded with stories from my grandfather’s childhood, just like when a beaver dam blows loose and the water rushes in all directions. These were stories I had heard hundreds of times, but each time the stories were so sacred that I dare not say “Papaw, I have already heard this story.” So as the wind blew, shotguns rang in the nearby holler (AKA a valley), and the yearling bucks ran beside me, I had a crazy idea to start a blog about some family stories mixed with my own adventures. I decided would see it through, come hell or high water. As the day came to a close, I did not get a buck, not because I lacked the opportunity, but because I couldn’t pull the trigger. Which was exactly what happened with my “hell or high water” idea.

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I procrastinated with this blog idea because I just could not pull that metaphorical trigger. I entertained the idea of writing a book, a ‘zine, or maybe write the stories and keep them to myself. I was afraid to put my writing and those personal, cherished stories out to the world. The constant nagging “no one will read this” tore away at my motivation and the “your writing style is horrid” dug deep into my confidence. Between these two forces, I shelved my idea and lied to myself that I would be happiest if I never began the project. This is a happy little lie I frequently entertain myself with, which is always a short term fix but a long-term soul-crusher. Thus, the fall melded into winter which emerged from the forge as spring. Spring is defined as when black locust trees bloom their amazingly sweet popcorn-sized blossoms. So the black locust made their grand display and the blog idea entered into my heart again. I, again, repeated the lie that has become encapsulated into my subconscious mantra: “You will be happiest if you do not even begin.” So with those blossoms, my idea wilted once more.

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Three weeks later of making jelly out of blossoms and berries, I felt the urge again to write. I shoo-ed it away and turned to the Mother’s Day festivities that surrounded me. My Grandma is an amazing person, as you will soon find out in my writings. She is in her 70s and has more energy than I will ever be capable of mustering. She and I walked around my small garden as we talked about my next adventure. I told her about the u-pick strawberry patch the boyfriend and I were visiting soon. She lit up as she told me about her summer job of picking strawberries. She would get about $0.20/bucket of strawberries and she could pick about 18 buckets each morning. She would make $3 dollars after a bus fair and lunch. She then said, “You know, some of those guys could pick 30 buckets, but I did as best as I could. I didn’t pay any attention to them, because I only worried about giving it my best. I tried and that is all that mattered.”

In that moment, that subconscious mantra, the lie of lies, was silent. I noticed immediately, so I began to poke around in my mind to find that lie I so desperately clung to. It was almost as if I was calling a lost puppy. I kept thinking “I am not good enough” over and over, with increasing intensity to the point of mental yelling. I was trying to call back feeling of inadequacy that resided somewhere between my diaphragm and stomach. I felt nothing. I changed my thoughts to “you will fail” in the same manner as before. Surely that would work, as I have this terrible fear of failure. Still nothing. Time to pull out the big guns, “you are not smart enough” I mentally spat. This was the most painful statement I could ever hear. I call it the Hermione Granger syndrome. I waited for the mental pain to wash over me, as it rightfully should! Nothing. The feeling, the inner critic, and the lie of lies were all non-existent.

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My grandma, my hero, gave me permission to be myself, despite all those flaws that froze me. She said the words to thaw my writer’s block and motivate me to share the stories most dear to me. In the same breath of sweet release from the negative mantra, I mourned the loss of these lies. Silly, isn’t it? Something that can hold you back for so long becomes that comfort zone we desperately cling to. Between the tears generated from freedom of fear came tears of grief as if I was in an abusive relationship. This connection to my grandma, no matter how small helped me discover some of my personal beliefs. It helped me understand what has been holding me back, so I wondered what else was weighing on my heart. I was finally “living in my truth”, as hard as it is. So I ask you to do the same brutal task. Dearie, what is the lie you cling to?

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So, join me for my journey to understand the wisdom within the history in my family tree. I believe through weaving the sacred family stories with my own adventures, I can forage within my soul for the negative shards that prevent me from blooming as beautifully as those black locust flowers.

Our next adventure, friends, is literally foraging for black locust flowers and jelly making.

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