Year At Pleasant Hill Farm: Foraging and July Garden
|Ben on ladder picking wild black cherries|
This year's new find is wild black cherries. For some reason, the kids had decided these little black fruits growing on a tree next to our driveway were poisonous, but botanist brother-in-law Collin set us straight. Ben, who could become a fruitarian if allowed, immediately wanted to make use of them. What better than wild cherry jam? he thought.
It took him a bit to procure enough cherries to make 4 cups of pulp since they have rather large pits. We extracted the pulp from the pits with the help of our food mill, and then turned it into freezer jam using the basic recipe that comes with freezer jam pectin. Wild Black Cherry jam does certainly have a unique flavor, but Ben likes it and was pleased with the five half-pints that were his handiwork.
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants has been the book we turn to to help us when we want to know how to find and use wild foods. Author Steve Brill enjoys foraging in Central Park, so the plants he talks about can be found in all kinds of settings in the eastern U.S. You won't find color illustrations, but the detailed black and white line drawings plus his descriptions are more than adequate. I especially like how he cautions readers about look-alike plants that might cause harm. For example, wild cherries resemble poisonous buchthorn, but those berries are filled with many seeds while wild cherries have one pit. Another classic foraging book is Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons, which Collin recommends.
This month in the garden, we're harvesting beans, peppers, and leeks, but mostly tomatoes and cucumbers.
This simple Tomato-Cuke Salad has become a staple here, appearing several times a week.
Cucumber, peeled if desired and sliced
1-2 t. basil
2 T. balsamic or flavored vinegar (I use currant vinegar)
1/4-1/2 t. sugar
1 t. oil
salt and pepper to taste
Some days I eat tomatoes at all three meals. I'm trying to satisfy my tomato yearning so I won't miss them so much in the dark seasons ahead, though I think my efforts are in vain. Anyway, I'm sure enjoying them while they last!