It’s Wild Blackberry Pickin Time

Yum…It’s Blackberry Pickin’ Time!

Yup around here the blackberry bushes are loaded with wild blackberries right now.  This morning as I went for my morning walk I saw several blackberry bushes just waiting for someone to come along and pluck the ripe berries from their vines.  It’s a bit tricky though, most of the blackberry bushes are heavily guarded by these nasty thorn spiked weeds that stand tall & proud to guard those juicy berries.  I came up to the house grabbed my boots, Berry Picker Scoop &  Berry Basket and Colander , headed back down to the awaiting bushes.  All the while thinking about what I’m going to do with all those berries.  After about 30 minutes of picking I came back to the house rinsed my berries in the berry basket & colander,  let them dry a bit and placed the berries on a cookie sheet lined with my Silicone Baking Sheet Mat to allow them to flash freeze without sticking together. Once these babies are frozen they are much easier to use in my favorite recipes.  My daughter, Tatianna loves to bake I asked her to make some of her delicious blackberry lemon scones, recipe below.  I don’t know about your part of the country,  but here in North Carolina it’s super humid right now, while she bakes I decided to mix up a pitcher of Blackberry Mojitos that recipe follows as well.

It can be a bit treacherous of course these bushes are strategically placed just out of reach.  Watch out for hidden dangers like over grown drainage ditches to creepy crawlers in the grass and weeds.  But once you come away with your bounty of blackberries the work is most certainly worth the adventure.

Blackberry Lemon Scones

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, cut into pieces
grated zest of a lemon
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk, use more if needed
a big handful of blackberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F.  In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter and blend it with a fork, whisk, pastry blender or your fingers (or do it all in the food processor, if you have one), leaving some lumps no bigger than a pea.

Crack the egg into a measuring cup and add milk to make it a cup.  Stir it together with a fork and add to the flour mixture; stir with a spatula until just barely combined.  Add the berries and stir a couple more times, then drop the sticky dough in large spoonfuls onto a silicone baking sheet mat.  Sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar, if you like.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or less if you made small scones, until golden.

Recipe courtesy of dinnerwithjulie

Blackberry Mojitos

Ingredients

Serves: 2 servings

2 tbsp fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp granulated sugar
4 oz rum
½ lime, quartered
2 tbsp fresh blackberry juice (I pressed the blackberries through a strainer to get the juice)
Club soda
2 mojito glasses or 2 tall glasses

Directions

Place 1 tbsp mint leaves into each mojito glass.  Pour 1 tbsp of the blackberry juice into each glass. Squeeze a little of 2 lime quarters into each glass.  Then drop the lime quarters into the glasses.
Pour 1 tbsp sugar into each glass.  Press with a muddler.  Add 2 oz of rum to each glass.  Add ice to each glass until it is ¾ full.  Top off with club soda, shake,  then add the mixture back to the glasses.

Recipe courtesy of thisgalcooks

~ Angela


 

It’s not just a weed – Eating Wild

It is amazing how oblivious we are to what we have growing around us. Not saying that in a bad way, I remember as a kid watching my family unleash a full on assault at the first sign of a weed in the yard. Little did we know some of the very plants we were dousing with RoundUp, would taste amazing saute’d, tossed in a salad or raw right out of the ground. A few weeks ago, Angela and I were invited by our friends Tony and Lindsey Clark to join them for an event called the Wild Edibles Cooking Class with Chef Clark Barlowe, the Chef and Proprietor of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte, NC. We had a little bit of experience when it came to wild edibles, but our eyes were opened to a whole new world once the class was over.

Infused Vinegar

From the moment you pull up, the local vibe is all around you. From the bee hives on the roof, herbs growing in the front of the building, racks of infused vinegar and sugars scattered throughout the restaurant, there is no doubt Chef Clark champions the farm to fork movement. There was a packed house for the class when the Chef greeted us. He gave us a quick introduction and told us a little about Heirloom and his passion of designing dishes around what nature has provided for us. Then he scooped up a basket and led us out the door on a foraging adventure. We made our way across the street to Coulwood Park, it didn’t take long for the lesson to begin. Now I could sit here and try to list everything he explained to us that day, Young Sweet Gum leaves for tempura, Pine Needles for tea, and Vetch for multiple uses, but I would be doing you an injustice, this is an event you truly need to experience for yourself.  But we will highlight a few of the items we find at the homestead in later editions to the Eating Wild series.

Chef Clark of Heirloom Restaurant

After our scavenger hunt, we made our way back to the restaurant to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Chef Clark brought out some of his earlier finds, Wild Onions, ramps and the prized morel mushroom, to include one he came across that was about the size of my head (which trust me, is pretty good size!). He gave us some helpful hints on preparation and the best location and time to harvest, providing us with some great information to head out to forage on our own. One of the draws to this event for us was having the opportunity to sample some of our finds.  Chef turned us over to his staff as he moved back to the kitchen to prepare samples for us to try.  While we were waiting, we were treated to an amazing tray of Juniper Jelly, Juniper Blue Cheese, and Pickled Eggs to name a few, with each item locally sourced or made in house.  As we chatted over a glass of their new Ourceluim Chanterelle Mushroom beer (Which I highly recommend!), we were provided samples of the wild onions, ramps and morel mushrooms, each saute’d perfectly releasing their own individual beautiful earthy flavors!

Seeing first hand what to look for as we scavenge along and learning how to prepare what we find was truly an enlightening experience for us.  Having that foundation to build upon as we venture home is invaluable and understanding that nature provides for us even in the most unassuming ways is truly amazing.  We want to thank Chef Clark and all of his staff at Heirloom for this awesome experience and we look forward to hopefully tagging along later on down the road for his yearly ramp harvest!

~ Brian


Eating Wild – Green Onions

As you know, we absolutely love our garden.  Even before we harvest the first vegetable from it, we know it is going to provide for most of our food needs for as long as we continue to plant.  But what about those plants growing wild around you?  Spending time walking around our property and paying attention to what is growing here, we have realized there is an abundance of items growing untamed everywhere we look.  We have everything from veggies to medicinal herbs at our fingertips, it’s just a matter of knowing what to look for.  We decided to do a small series here on the blog of what we find and how it can be transitioned from the yard to the table!

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Allium canadense, or as we like to call them, green onions, seem to be everywhere in our yard.  If you pay attention, you can detect a slight hint of an onion / garlic aroma as you walk around the property.  And it doesn’t matter which direction you look, you will see the talk, thin leaves poking up everywhere.  We honestly didn’t pay too much attention when we first moved in, but it wasn’t long after we began to take notice.


Identifying them is fairly easy, they have grass like basal leaves, small six-petaled flowers, odor of onion or garlic, stems round, older stems hollow. Underground bulbs look like small white onions. Ramps, however, have two or three broad, smooth, light green, onion-scented leaves.  Every part of the onion is edible, from the bulb to the stems.  Unlike your store bought onions, wild onions are a little spicier, which for us is perfect.  It adds that little extra flavor to anything you may be cooking to put it over the top.  It’s not uncommon for us while working around the property to pull off a piece and chew on it while out there.  Be wary thought, you may come across some plants that have the same characteristics of wild onions but are actually toxic plants.  The easiest way to tell is if it doesn’t have that onion / garlic smell to it, don’t eat it!

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Harvesting them is very easy.  With a small hand shovel, go about 2 – 3 inches outside of the plant, go about handle deep into the ground and pull up on the onion as you break them free from the ground, trying not to cut into the bulbs.  Once you have freed them from their captivity, knock off the extra dirt and you’re ready to go!  One awesome thing about green onions is you can regrow from the same bulb over and over again.  It’s nothing for us to have one or two in a glass full of water on the kitchen window seal for when we are in a pinch and can’t find the energy to walk outside to get one from the ground.  When it comes to eating them, the choices are endless.  They can be added to salads, soups, seasoning for meats, part of marinade for jerky, pickled, let your imagination run wild, there really is no wrong way to use them.

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One of the wonderful aspects of being married to someone who has spent 20 years in the medical field (besides the fact she is pure sexy!), Angela is constantly looking for medicinal uses for any herb or plant available to us, and green onions are no exception.  As far back as the 1800’s onions of all types have been used for various types of treatment and prevention of illnesses and injuries.  There is one myth floating around though that states if you take a bowl with a cut up onion in it and place it in your bedroom it will absorb bacteria in the air and assist in keeping you healthy.  Unfortunately this is not a true fact.  The onion will turn black and deteriorate naturally because it is rotting, not acting as a sponge.  But there are quite a few medicinal applications for onions in various forms.  Raw slices are used for external application to help treat bee stings, insect bites, hives, or nettle rash for instant relief.  Steam inhalation containing hot water and raw onions help relieve sinus congestion caused by colds.  Juice made from crushed raw onions and honey helps soothe coughs, sore throats (2 onions and 2 tbsp honey steeped overnight at room temperature).  Eating raw onions aids digestion and rids harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.  For warts, chop onions and cover with salt and leave overnight. Store the collected juice the next day and keep in a bottle. Dab the juice on the wart twice daily.  Onion juice can be applied to burns or as an antiseptic to cuts and abrasions, and can be used for a toothache.  Any of the onion family can be used puréed with water and sprayed on plants to keep away bugs and harmful plant fungi.  There are many more applications you can use when it comes to onions, a quick google search can provide a multitude of ideas.

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Well there you have it.  Our first entry into the Eating Wild series.  Next time you’re out in the yard, at the park or just taking a Sunday walk, keep your eyes open to what’s around you, never know what you may come across!

~ Brian and Angela