Year At Pleasant Hill Farm: Foraging and July Garden

Ben on ladder picking wild black cherries
One of the fun things about living on this place is that we continue to discover new food finds around the farm. We've made persimmon muffins and pawpaw shakes, redbud ice cubes, and candied violets to decorate birthday cakes among other things. Some of the kids are more adventurous than others in trying wild edibles, but I'm continually amazed at how many types of natural foods are growing all around us that we usually just walk right past.

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.   

Tomatoes, sliced
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!


Lisa said…
Just wanted to let you know how invaluable your blog is to me. All of the practical tid-bits and overall encouragement have truly inspired me as a wife, mother and homemaker. I should comment more often thanking you for taking the time to share your wisdom. I am sure there are a plethora of other mamas you are making a tremendous impact on.....keep the posts coming....and thanks again!!

Anne said…
Oh, Lisa, thanks!

(And I'm so glad that your family is able to join the co-op this year! We can't wait!)

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