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

 

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