Wild Blessing’s Final Fling – Plantasia

Who am I? Beautiful even in death. Job well done, seeds spread at my feet, standing tall to point to my babies in Spring and then… I return to the earth to nourish still…

Nature’s wave has retreated into the earth, silenced by the snow and ice but still very much alive in it’s apparent slumber.

Leaves danced to the forest floor for their final curtain call and the cold frosts forced the energy back into the roots…stored for reawakening and the joy of Spring.

As I type this 20 inches of snow blanket my beloved mountains.

The white backdrop accentuate last year’s seed stalks as silhouetted skeletons and place holders for the next generation.

There are gifts in every season and it is wise follow the flow so as to get in sync with nature and it’s offerings. This post is a summary of 2018 year Wild Blessing adventures, our Final Fling…Plantasia.  I invite you to join us.

Teaching Tuesdays are free. We meet together from 11-12 at the Todd Mercantile.

Teaching Tuesdays

…we meet on the porch of the cozy Todd Mercantile to befriend one another, to befriend the plants and compose plant poems to share. The things we have learned about each other have been inspiring and sometimes surprising.  With that same questioning twist I introduce each featured plant.

My teaching rhythm begins with the question of the day, a related quote or Scripture, preceding an introduction to a new green friend to appreciate….exploring it’s nicknames, lore & history, observing it’s characteristics using all of the senses, and expounding on it’s many gifts: Edible, Medicinal, Useful, Beautiful and Spiritual and even Questionable 😉

Foraging Fridays

…we follow the energy from roots to fruits: learning together, shopping in a variety of wild grocery stores, sitting still and quiet in various settings just to listen to nature’s hum, garbling our catch, making a glorious mess as we cook wild recipes in my kitchen, crafting with nature’s scraps, and sharing our wild repass around the table together.

Relationships with the plants are deepened and relationships with one another are forged.

Wild Blessings Final Fling

Everything culminates at the Final Fling held early in November. Our big event begins with an Organoleptic exam (sight, touch, smell, taste, hear), a wild potluck, and then a time of sharing green offerings from the heart. The gifts from the heart included dance, theatrics, songs, crafts, prayers, poems, prose, preaching and pictures of our year together.

I was and still am in awe….remarkable talent and such passion in every single offering. I am humbled for the privilege of leading such a diverse and passionate group of nature lovers in the appreciation of Wild Blessings.

My offering to my wild students for Plantasia was to compile many of the photos of our year surfing nature’s wave together. So many adventures, so many plants, so much FOOD, great times together with those I love. It was hard to cut it short enough to make it more viewer friendly but I kept thinking…’Oh gotta have that one and remember the SNAKE!?’ A rich year of learning and loving together. Thankful.  The slideshow I compiled of our 2018 Wild Blessings adventures is here.

Enjoy the fun vicariously and next year perhaps you’ll join us to surf Nature’s Wave together.

Organoleptics Quiz

I had so much fun selecting things from nature to quiz my wild students on. Plants to identify by sight, touch, taste, smell and even hearing.

The winner, who identified the most items, received a copy of my mentor Linda Runyon’s must have book, “The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide”

Our sensory test all set up and waiting for the wildness to begin!

It is joyful to experience nature with all of our senses.

Sight is usually the first frontier of learning about plants: observing closely the stem arrangement, the changes as the plant evolves through its stages of growth…

Close your eyes and feel the velvety softness of a wisteria seed pod, or the prickles of a Chestnut seedpod burr, or the glassiness of a castor bean…can you tell the difference between a Chestnut and a Buckeye with just your fingers, can you tell what leaf you are holding by its venation and margins?

Using only your sense of smell can you tell what plant you are relating to?

Wild tastes are subtle and wildly nutritious, if you had a line up of wild teas could you tell the difference between Lemonbalm, Linden, BeeBalm, Elderberry or Goldenrod tea? what about the medicines made from these same plants, can you taste a tincture and say “that is Plantain”

The depth of understanding and experience with plants can go deep and wide. I want to know every plant in all its stages of growth: by its physical characteristics, its smell, its feel, its taste raw or cooked, the way it sounds when the wind blows by or the way the seeds rattle in its pod.

And this takes personal experience. No one can teach you these things it is acquired by those who want to know and reclaim all the Creator’s gifts of food and medicine and beauty.

Having fun ‘herbing around’

Our Wild Potluck

Everyone brought food to share made with wild edible plants they had harvested and preserved throughout Nature’s Wave. We had dishes made with Chickweed, Burdock stems and roots, jelly made with Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Walnut cake, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Acorn Ginger crust, Lambsquarter cheese pies (tiropitas), a wide variety of wild teas and kefirs and wild seed crackers and salads.

Everything was delicious and it was so rewarding to have my students bring wild food THEY had prepared to share with me. Felt like I had passed on the wild chef baton!

Lumini Merced marinated Burdock stems to perfection for this completely wild offering. Super delicious! She also made these cookies with Evening Primrose and Plantian seeds, gluten free of course.

I made a Pumpkin Cheesecake with an acorn crust. My favorite acorns to forage for are Chestnut Oak acorns. They are the easiest to leach of the tannins and the tastiest!

Amy made her grandmother’s Black Walnut cake

I froze Lambsquarters when they were tender and young in early Summer and have that stash to use throughout the Winter for a spinach substitute. I made the tiropitas for Kacey Brown, her favorite!

Sweet and sour Burdock root: we have made Burdock root into BURGERS, MUSHROOMS, PEPPERONI. A most versatile and wildly nutritious and delicious edible root!

Plantasia: plant offerings from the heart

Many mornings I hike to my sit spot and watch to watch the sun rise or just sit and be still in God’s presence and observe His wonders. The morning of our Wild Fling Finale these verses popped out at me as I read in my Bible. We began our sharing time with these fitting Psalms.

“Your wondrous works declare that Your Name is near

and they who invoke Your Name rehearse Your wonders…

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;

make known His deeds among the peoples.

Speak of all His wonders.” Psalms 75 and 105

Brook Brown’s offering

Twelve new treasures revealed to me this season
American Chestnut, Beautyberry, Lambsquarters, Cornflower, Burdock,
Comfrey, Elder, Milkweed, Mullein, Knotweed, Self Heal, Poke

A rainbow of colors popping out from the hazy curtain of green that I used to look past
Learning your formal name as well as your nicknames
Your family characteristics, origin, history. Where you like to live
Observing your physical appearance as well as your quirks and oddities

I love to use my senses to learn more about you
How to eat you, the medicine you are for me, How useful you are, Or what to be wary of

My favorite about this past season has been the chance
to write about you each week
and share with other wild friends

A wildfire started by Holly Joy and then fanned by kindred spirits
We are all on this wild adventure together
Cheering one another on as we learn more
How, through plants, the Creator, shows His never ending love for us

Laura Weant’s Offering

Laura is not only a plant lover but she is the pastor of Bethany Lutheran church in Todd. She sang to us For the Beauty of the Earth and All Things Bright & Beautiful and then led us as we sang the verses together. I took this picture from the loft. Truly blessed. Thank you Laura!

You just never know what talents are hiding within your friends. Laura is a poetry genius and also has a beautiful voice.

All Things Bright and Beautiful – Cecil Alexander 1848

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Amy Todd Paine’s offering

Amy attended Teaching Tuesdays a handful of times but whenever she did it was such a delight to listen to her read her resulting poem. A gifted writer she hopes to compile a book of flora and fauna in the Appalachian mountains. She is off to a great start, her poems that she wrote on Mullein, Goldenrod, Purslane are among my favorites. I will definitely be buying her book when it is published and link to it on my blog! Amy is not surprisingly an English teacher and is a Shakespeare fanatic, her offering was to expound on the plants referred to by William Shakespeare in his many plays.

Amy is so in love with this poet and writer that she celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday every year!

Aurora Randolph’s offering

Only 15 and going on 38 Aurora has an active imagination and is creative beyond measure. She is a costume designer, Girl Scout leader, homeschooler and an authentic wild child. Here is her plant offering.

Aurora shares Amy’s obsession with Shakespeare, she even goes to a Shakespeare camp every summer. 🙂

All the Woods a Stage
All the woods a stage, the trees, shrubs, and flowers the players
They have their blooming Springs and shedding Winters
and one plant in its time plays many parts
it’s acts being seven ages

The first is the same for plants of all kinds
The seed is where it all begins
Then a sapling, with its small size growing strong for its full life ahead
And then the bloom, from green trees to colorful flowers,
this performance is a sight to see.
Then fully grown ready for what the Lord has in store

And then, if by chance, it is eaten by a forest creature
or used by a human for food or medicine….
It becomes part of them and continues there
And so it plays its part

The sixth age shifts into a rest that it, like everything else,
slips into when our time has come
The last scene of them all, is not an end pre se, more of a new chapter
It becomes one with the Earth from which it came
And that’s how the play goes on the regal stage of the forest

Tracey Terry’s offering

Tracey is a scrapbooker extraordinaire. She shared a scrapbook page that she had designed and decorated with Dandelion seed puffs blowing across the page. Hidden in a pocket behind a photo of her son and Emily was a letter she had written to her future daughter in law expressing her love for her and comparing her thoughts in nature analogies. Wow, Emily is going to be blessed. We sure were.

Lynn Maxwell’s offering

Lynn Maxwell always takes pictures of every Teaching Tuesday and Foraging Friday and so I don’t usually have to think about chronicling our adventures since she has my back. Lynn has attended more events than anyone and has learned so much that she often cooks wild for neighborhood potlucks and is always sharing her knowledge when hiking with her hiking club members. Lynn’s poems are usually fun or funny and often rhyme. She shared a prayer that used to be said at the turn of the century and which we will use from now on when in our Gratitude circle before we partake of our wild food feasts. Thank you Lynn for all that you do and for being you!

Lumini Merced’s offering

Lumini was a dancer in New York City in her twenties. This hidden talent was not all that hidden because her demeanor and mannerisms are always graceful. What she shared with us left everyone speechless, no one even dared breathe. The video I took with my phone was pitiful and I hope she will preform this dance again for perhaps a talk I give next year at the library or at a church on Wild Foods and Nature’s Wave. This gift of love and life touched us all to the core. Thank you Lumini!  Her offering is calls Plants as Teachers and it is the most beautiful depiction of Nature’s Wave I have ever seen.  Enjoy it on the video.  I will feature the written text in a blog on Nature’s Wave.

Maggie Russel’s Offering

Maggie had been downloaded a message from the Creator on anointing and she shared it with us. Maggie’s beautiful spirit and capable hands craft so many beautiful things often resembling or using gifts from nature. She sells her creations at craft shows and on main street in Blowing Rock at Bless Your Heart. I hope next year Maggie can join our Teaching Tuesday class more often.

Loretta Sable’s offering

Loretta is a nutritionist and shared a poem she wrote about eating real food. Amazing how many lives she has changed with her message of nutrition and wellness. I so appreciate her wisdom. She is a once and awhile Wild Blessings student! Loretta is a wild blessing!

Lynn, Loretta and Susan spreading Milkweed seeds just for fun!

My heart overflows with love and gratitude to our loving Creator, to creation’s wonders and to the ones that adventure with me into the wild, into the stillness…reclaiming together our heritage and wild riches. Who is up for another year of surfing nature’s wave and adventuring forth into the wild?

“Oh Lord, how many and varied are Your works.
In wisdom You have made them all.
The whole earth is full of Your riches.”
Psalms 104:24

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to His name
for You oh Lord have made me glad by what You have done.
I will sing for JOY at the work of Your Hands.”
Psalms 95:1,4

Forage to Feast with Marc Williams

Marc and sign

One of my favorite WILD peeps

My dear mentor, Marc Williams, came to my house to do his thing! Which is to lead us on a Forage to Feast wild foodie event!   In 2009 I attended a wild feast Marc hosted with his mentor, Frank Cook, and that began a wild fire that has been blazing ever since!  Marc is a renowned ethnobotanist, wild plant authority, author and teacher extraordinaire, world traveler, gourmet chef…to name a few of his virtues. 25 of us enjoyed his fascinating plant walk and then we all cooked up a storm with the wild edibles that I had been ‘buying’ from nature’s supermarket in preparation for this event in my wild kitchen.

First, Marc led us on a plant walk around our land. Each person was given a recipe to be responsible for and to forage for.  Marc’s talk added a new edible possibility to my bucket list: making nut milk from my Shagbark Hickory nuts!  After we  garbled our catch (my term for sorting our weeds), we cooked our entree for the big meal. Finally, we feasted on nature’s bounty and enjoyed each other’s company as we sipped Dandelion root coffee, wild meads and enjoyed a Queen Anne’s Lace carrot cake for dessert.

Pretty sure that everyone’s horizons were expanded as we rediscovered the green gifts that God has so generously provided for our food and medicine… reconnected to our roots and reclaimed some knowledge that will feed our bodies and spirits.

Marc teaching

Getting to know each other’s stories and hearing Marc launch us into the world of wild edible weeds. So fascinating!

Plant walk with Marc

Marc teaching us about the plants as we walked around my house. Interesting to note, that Lambsquarter is the weed responsible for turning him into a wild foodie! He spent an entire Winter making cold frames to grow spinach, tending the seeds and spacing them, cultivating and in the Spring the baby Lambsquarter was far more vibrant and abundant, 7 times higher in nutrition than Spinach and it was FREE. Sold!

 

The Process

Preparing for a Forage to Feast is a bit like giving birth to a unicorn.  It is a LOT of work.  Fortunately, I love this kind of work and I have an artist husband who is always willing to go ‘shopping’ with me to an organic farm of grocery store for the photo ops it affords him.  And Max (our Jack Russel terrorist) likes the adventure as well! 

Shopping

I dug up Burdock roots at an organic farm in Valle Crucis,  plucked Milkweed buds and pods from several Milkweed patches, snipped Plantain seed stalks from a lush patch along the New River, collected green Cattail cobs from the swamp with my new wild friend Louise Klein, dug up Wild Carrot first year roots at Molly’s Branch farm, gathered a bushel of Amaranth and Lambsquarter leaves at another nearby farm, clipped green Elderberry umbels, snipped a LOT of Purslane…and that is just the shopping part…

Burdock root FIG

Shopping for Burdock root is WORK…but so worth it!

Cattail swamp

I love this place! I love Cattail!

Milkweed patch

Milkweed at the potato stage. I can never have enough! Stocking up for pickles and other goodies for the Winter.

Garbling

Once I am home with the free food the real work begins….  Garbling each wild edible, getting rid of buggy parts, a few bugs, yellowed leaves, anything that doesn’t pass my inspection.  Then the roots need to be scrubbed, although this time I scrubbed the Burdock roots in the cool mountain stream which made it EASY!

Burdock and Max

Max helped me cleaned the roots in the creek. I found that by shoving them point first into the sand it did a fine job of scrubbing! I will remember this!

Ready to Boil and Eat

Green Cattail Cobs ready to strip their meat off and marinate

Preparing

Everything is gathered, inspected, sorted, cleaned, bagged and then comes the preparation.  I made Elderberry capers with their green berries a week in advance of the Piccata recipe so they’d be pickled just right.  Marinated the meat of the green cattail flowers. Destrung the stringiness of the Burdock stems, Parboiled the Milkweed flower buds and pods so they’d be ready to cook with, made Beebalm, Peppermint, and Goldenrod tea from last year’s tea stash, Elderberry, Beauty Berry and Kudzu Flower Spritzers with water kefir grains.  Cheryl came over the day before and helped me make the Wild Carrot cake and the Wild Seed Crackers.  Thank you Cheryl!

MW flower buds

Milkweed flower buds ready to use in cooking. Boil for 3 minutes in salted rolling boil. These were used in our Spaghetti sauce.

Organization

A cuisine theme of Mediterranean was chosen…so now to choose the recipes to feature the wild delectables in….all non wild ingredients need to be purchased…recipes need to be printed out for the cooks to refer to…stations need to be set up in my kitchen and porches to put all ingredients and utensils for each cook to have easy access to…. steeping teas need to be refrigerated…mason jars labeled with each name…the house prepared for guests…flower picked and arranged for centerpieces…table set…the welcome sign on the road…water boiled for the air pot… last minute phone calls of people canceling or asking it there is still room for a wild foodie to attend….

Centerpiece

One of my wild apprentices, Hannah Hengst, arranged our centerpieces for the long table.  She has that knack!

Are you tired yet?  And to think I used to do these Forage to Feast events once a month!  Phewww!

Set table

One of my MOs for cooking and eating well, is to have the table set in advance of the meal. Makes everyone think dinner is going to be awesome, even if I haven’t decided what to cook yet!

Marc feast table

Just a few of our wild dishes: edible flower salad, purslane quinoa salad, burdock stem pizza rolls and wild carrot cake….the milkweed lasagna, chicken and portobello piccata and cattail polenta were on the stove and the drinks at the drink bar.

Portabella Milkweed pod piccata

Portobello Milkweed Piccata with Elderberry capers!

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WIld dinner on a burdock leaf

Burdock leaves make lovely plates

 

Wild Mediterranean Menu

 click on the links for the recipes and some of Holly’s wild cooking tips

Beverages
Wild teas: Beebalm, Peppermint, Goldenrod Punch
Wild Sodas: Kudzu Flower Grape Soda, Beauty Berry Soda, Elderberry Spritzer
Hot drinks: Dandelion Root Coffee
Wild Meads

Appetizers
Violet Leaf Hummus & Carrot Sticks
Wild Seed Crackers & Brie

Salads
Wild Leaves & Edible Flowers 
Purslane Quinoa Salad

Main dish
Chicken or Portobello Cap Piccata w/ Elderberry Capers, Milkweed Pods & Burdock Root Mushrooms

Cattail Cob, Amaranth Polenta
Pizza Rolls w/ Burdock Stems
Milkweed Bud Lasagna

Dessert
Wild Carrot Cake w/ QAL Cream Cheese Icing &  Edible Flowers
Plantain & Lambsquarter Seed Fudge

wild-carrot-cake-rev

Wild Carrot Cake, decorated by Brook Brown with edible flowers. Brook also made the Queen Anne’s Lace jelly that I mixed with cream cheese and butter for the icing. Beautiful!

Thank you everyone for the lovely evening!  We were a team!!  Thank you Marc for your wild wisdom and caring heart!  Thank you God for the variety of green gifts that you have hidden for us in plain view!

Wild Blessings abound!

Holly

“We all wait for You to give them our food in due season.
You give to us, we gather it up;
You open Your hand, we are satisfied.
You send forth Your Spirit, and we are created;
And You renew the face of the ground.”  Psalms 104:27-30