The Wildly Preserved

My Wild Pantry

Part of the rhythm of seasonal living in my life, is enjoying The Wildly Preserved in the Winter months while waiting for fresh Spring Wild greens and Nature’s Wave to start rolling again.

In stark contrast to the availability of ANY produce at ANY time of year at the commercial grocery stores, Nature’s Supermarket is highly seasonal and each phase of green gifts is short lived.  Therefore to preserve the harvest for year round use the wild harvest needs to be: canned, salted, pickled, fermented, frozen or dried at the height of their energy.

 

Roasted Dandelion roots, Pine Cambium ground into flour, Purslane Pickle….

Preserving wild food that you foraged for yourself is highly rewarding, financially beneficial and a great way to always have a pantry or freezer full of wild nutrition!

Wild food is something I am passionate about and preserving the Wild harvest is worth all the time and energy it takes to do. There is something kinda magical about opening a jar of Autumn Olive Berry jam on a snowy day in January to spread on a slice of Acorn Sourdough bread baked fresh from your frozen acorn stores…sending wild fruit leather in a care package, eating Milkweed shoot pickles with a Burdock hamburger, melting frozen wild butter rolls into hot pasta, roasting October’s Chestnuts in Christmas stuffing, or baking a frittata with last Spring’s Poke leaves….

This video is a short tour of my wild pantry and freezer…

The Wild Preserved Harvest.

Preserved to Herb Around in Winter

Wild simple syrups make an awesome base for wild sodas or for pouring over pancakes

Saving some of the Herbing Around of Summer for the Winter months is another trick I’ve learned.  After harvesting fresh berries in July and August and wild fruits in September I freeze or dehydrate them to process later into jams, syrups, fruit leather when I have more time.  I just made syrups of my frozen wild Blackberries, High Bush Cranberries, Autumn Olive berries and then proceeded to take that sweet syrup and mix with the high pectin of my canned Crabapple sauce to make delicious fruit leathers.

 

Saving the work of destemming the bags and bags of dried leaves and flowers till Winter is another way to use time wisely.  After drying bundles of wild leaves and flowers I put these bundles into labeled paper bags to store till I have time to destem them and store permanently in jars for wild comfort and healing teas

Drying bundles of Monarda fistulosa didyma – fragrant Bee Balm

Two wild apprentices destemming Goldenrod to store

Other methods of preservation are:

Canning

Linda Runyon a famous forager who lived off the land for 13 years canned hundreds of jars of wild edible plants over a campfire and stored them in her underground ‘refrigerator’.  I can’t even imagine!  She had to provide for her family for the entire winter with only wild edibles preserved.  Here is an excerpt from her book, “Eat the Trees”.

“Back in the 1970s, I had moved my family away from hectic, urban living to the peaceful and beautiful Adirondack area of upstate New York. One summer I happily foraged and harvested many wild edibles I found all around me. I gathered enough nutritious bounty that summer to prepare and can 420 mason and atlas jars of food in the form of pickles, wild berry jams and jellies, cattail inner piths, milkweed buds, and other edibles that were suitable for canning. I had already collected that many jars for that purpose, so all I needed to get were new lids. When I was done with that process I stored the jars in my handy, insulated, 9 foot refrigerator pit that we had dug on our property. That many jars filled the entire storehouse. I calculated that between those cans and additional wild foods I’d harvested, dried, and stored, we’d have an ample supply of food to last us through the winter and into spring. By then it would be time to harvest the early wild edible leaves, buds and blossoms that would herald the arrival of new wild food–my favorite time of the year.”

Pickling/Fermenting

Pickling is another food preservation method that requires soaking food in a mixture of vinegar, spices, and salt. Pickled food undergoes a fermentation process which maintains the texture of the food. Kimchi, salsas, wild sauerkrauts, kefirs, pickles are so easy to do and powerful gut medicine.

 

Meads made with roots, flowers, and wild leaves better with age.

So good for a healthy gut!

Drying

Dehydration can be done using low heat in an oven, a dehydrator or even using the warm sun.  Linda Runyon used to dry her plant matter on the hat shelf in the back seat of her car.  I have a 7 tiered dehydrator that I use for drying fruit leather and edible mushrooms.

Salting

Salt curing is yet another food preservation method.  Salt inhibits  the growth of food-borne pathogens by drawing-out moisture in food through osmosis. Since harmful bacteria, fungi, and other pathogenic organisms are deactivated, food stays preserved for months.”  I am still experimenting with this and am excited about the possibilities of keeping wild greens fresh in a salty solution.

Freezing

My husband is half Greek the first gift he gave to me as a newlywed was a Greek cookbook. I have many wonderful greek recipes that his mother passed on to me. Here Jason is foraging for tender wild Grape leaves.

Freezing preserves and keeps food safe by preventing the growth of micro-organisms that can cause spoilage. Wild vegetables (shoots, buds, seed pods, the meatier part of a plant’s life cycle) requires blanching before they can be frozen. The blanching process stops the enzymatic degradation of the food resulting in loss of flavor, color, and textures. In addition, blanching helps retard the loss of vitamins.

Do you see the green flower buds at the top of this Milkweed stalk? That is the ‘broccoli’ stage. Get them when they are all green for the best pea like texture.

Milkweed flower buds picked, cleaned and ready to be blanched (boiled) and then patted dry before freezing.

Frozen Milkweed buds ready to bag up for Winter storage

 

Milkweed Flower Bud Casserole w/ Feta Cheese

The Wild Apothecary

Wild medicines are powerful and they can be preserved with alcohol, glycerins, vinegars and water ratios to extract various healing constituents.  Creating these medicines as soon as the plant is harvested and then shaking them daily in a dark closet till they have infused enough to decant and store for future use.  This little storage area below my stairs is an empowering sight.  I am so grateful for the wise gifts provided by our Creator that grow all around us.

A-Z tinctures wild crafted and made into medicine the same day.

My Wild Blessing Cookbook

Recipes for all things wild will be in my upcoming Wild Blessings Cookbook and many of them can be found here on my website under Resources – Cooking.  I am so excited about this project and hope to have it available for sale next Fall.  All my international wild menus will be brought to life for ease of imitating and tweaking to your liking.  I will take you in to the fields to forage and then back home to clean, garble, prepare and cook into a wild food feast.  The secret to desirability is all in preparation!

A Winter Wild Feast

Our wild food breakfast feast in January from the Wildly Preserved: Burdock Bacon (INCREDIBLE), Poke and Milkweed bud Frittata, Autumn Olive Berry Scones, BeautyBerry cream cheese apple dip, Goldenrod Orange Juice and Dandelion Root Coffee.

As I type this blog it is March 11 and I am eyeing the baby Spring greens that are springing up at my feet and new ideas of how to add fresh wild greens to our diet are making my stomach growl!  Of course, I will be intentional to preserve many wild gifts in each stage of it’s life cycle.

If you are interested in learning how to surf Nature’s Wave with me and store up the bounty… then join me at my private Wild Blessings w/ Holly Drake facebook group. Every Tuesday from 11-12 EST I teach a Wild Blessings Class called, Teaching Tuesdays.  Each class is kept at that private FB group indefinitely so you can watch at your convenience.

Wild Blessings Abound!

Holly

“We look to You to give us our food in due season, You give to us we gather it up, You open Your hand and we are satisfied.”  Psalms 104:27,28

 

The Passing of a Pioneer, Linda Runyon

People impact each other to some degree or another but once in a while you meet someone that changes the course of your life.  These paradigm shifters rarely realize what an effect they make on their world.  Linda Runyon’s life shifted mine.

Linda died on Sunday, March 12. Not much has been on my mind since and I don’t know how to do her memory justice with a simple blog but I will try to share a bit of the impact she had on me.

Her work has become… my work. Her history fascinated me. Her adventures homesteading and living off the land captivated my imagination. Her keen observing eyes found beauty and usefulness in the smallest details of creation and brought her heart in tune with the Creator. Her joy of nature and passion to teach others continued even when her body had to be cared for in a retirement center where she turned their manicured lawns into edible weed gardens and taught nature art to the other elderly residents.  Her life had purpose, drive, and meaning till the end.  The last time I talked with her she was studying grasses and documenting their usefulness for food.

Of to Shoppe in the Cattail Store

I will miss her.  She showed such love to me by lighting a wild fire under me and watching it burn and spread to others uncontrolled.  She often told me that she was living out her dreams through me and was proud of my efforts to reconnect this generation to nature and nature’s God.  I would call her after a wild food event or a talk I gave and she would hang on every detail and cheer me on.  Several times I even called her during a class so my students could ask her questions.  What a joy that was both ways.
Even though I have only been with Linda twice in person, I have devoured all her wonderful books and have a complete Linda Runyon library.  I have listened to all of her newsy podcasts on Eating Wild and we have exchanged literally hundreds of emails.  I remember the first time I wrote to Linda, I was thrilled that she would respond and with such detail in answering my endless questions.  I couldn’t believe she would give so much of her time and encouragement to someone like me but she did.  Meeting Linda in person was such a thrill that I had to come home and write about it on my blog.  She even blessed me with a few of her homestead mementos which I now treasure.  Along with the joy of Linda, I have had the privilege of working with her son Eric and Rosary to advance Linda’s work through several publications. Here is another blog I wrote reviewing Linda’ fabulous book, Eat the Trees.

 

So, in memory of this great woman, Eric and Rosary are planning to publish a book in her honor, and to post testimonials to her website OfTheField.com.  They will be sending out a request via their website and email lists, so those who have been inspired by her words and work may contribute to it.  So please be considering what you would like to share of how Linda Runyon inspired you, plus a few of your best foraging pictures, a favorite foraging story, and your best wild edible plant recipe.  I would be happy to receive these submissions here at Wild Blessings if you want to send them along now, and I can forward them on to Rosary.

Please send your submissions to me here a Wild Blessings or to Rosary at Of the Field.com

This past year I have resumed Wild Blessings as a teacher after a hiatus of a few years.  Linda was thrilled.  One of the last times we talked I was laying in the hammock watching Autumn leaves float down from the Hickories, Chestnut Oaks, Sugar Maples, and Birches that towered above me relating to her my latest teaching event.  She hung on every word. As I hung on hers.

I will miss you precious Mentor but you will live on through me and through so many who valued you and your work.

With deep gratitude and love,

Holly

Teacher and Student