© Kat Morgenstern 2002
Gee, can it really be that August is already here and the harvest season is upon us? Gardeners or foragers will soon be busy picking fruits and vegetables and preserving them for the dark season. Pickled, canned and frozen fruits and vegies, oils, vinegars, jams, syrups, wine and liqueurs will see us through the winter. Though father frost still seems a long way away while we are still indulging in this harvest season's feast of plenty, soon these goodies will serve as reminders of the sweet summer days.
Foragers will delight not only in the treasures of their gardens - if they tend them, but also still find plenty of delicacies in the wilds. While Wild Strawberries (Fragaria vesca), Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) tend to get scarce by now, Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpum) can still be found here and there. New arrivals on the berry palate are Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) and Elder berries (Sambuccus niger), which will be ripening between now and Autumn equinox. Elder berries are very nutritious and can be preserved as a delicious syrup. The high vitamin content of this syrup is an excellent fortification against winter ailments. They also make excellent wine (for recipes see May 2002), which is even said to be good for rheumatic complaints. The Red Elderberries, (Sambucccus racemosa) are also edible after cookig and can be preserved as jams and juice. However, they lack the medicinal properties of the Black Elderberries. Raw, they are likely to cause an upset stomach. Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) are great as jam or can be combined with tart cooking apples to make apple and blackberry crumble. Blackberries and Elderberries can also be combined as a delicious jam:
1kg of berries
(half and half)
1kg brown cane sugar
1 tart apple or crabapple
Clean the berries. The easiest method of picking Elderberries off their stalks is with a fork, in a kind of raking fashion. Mash the berries and mix with the sugar. Leave over night in a covered pan (glass or stoneware). Cut the apple into small pieces and simmer with a minimum amount of water until soft, add the rest of the fruits and the pectin and simmer together while stirring constantly. Adding the apple reduces the need for pectin and will produce a more solid consistency of jam. it also adds a little tanginess. Experiment with a bit of lemon peel or spices such as cinnamon, allspice berries or cloves for a more complex taste. After simmering for a few minutes fill the mass into sterilized jars as usual.
The glowing Red Rowan berries /Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) are also edible, though they are unpalatable when eaten raw. However, combined with chunks of tart cooking apples and organic lemon peel they can be processed into delicious jellies. They have also been used to make juice, wine, liqueur and various gravies, mostly served with game. However, it should be noted that large quantities of the berries have a rather stimulating effect on the digestive tract, a quality which does not diminish upon cooking. Soaking the berries overnight in a diluted vinegar solution reduces the bitterness. Rowanberry syrup is an excellent tonic for singers or public speakers as it has a great soothing effect on the vocal chords. Rowan berries are also a rich source of in vitamin C.
Rosehips (Rosa canina) are also beginning to ripen now, but it is best to hold off with the harvest. They are much better once they have been bitten by the first frost. Watch out for Hazel nuts (Corylus avellana)- the window between too early and too late is rather small, and if you are not carefull squirrels and birds will beat you to the harvest.
Certain roots are coming back into season now - Ramson bulbs (Allium ursinum), Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), Burdock and Horseradish can all be collected once their flowering season is over. However, roots should always be collected with special care. Never be greedy when collecting roots or bulbs - collecting thses parts usually means the end of the plant. Unless the supply is truly plentiful in your area maybe it is wiser to refrain from harvesting the roots to ensure the continuous health and growth of the local plant population.
Leafy vegetables are definitly getting a bit old and tough by now. Still, you might be lucky and still find some young sprouts of Mallow, Daisy, Sow-thistle, Comfrey, or Bistort even this late in the season.
My favorite wild food of the season are Chanterelles. Fresh from the forest, there is nothing to compare to their delicate, earthy flavour. They can be used in mushroom stir-fries, gravies or casseroles and are also delicious in omlettes or lasagne. Vegetarians might appreciate them prepared as a mushroom /pine nut risotto or vegetarian paella. Also in season are Giant Puffballs, which appear in certain meadows as big, white weired looking blobs. Upon closer investigation the mass turns out to be an edible delicacy, frequently big enough to feed a whole family. Sliced and marinated with garlic-oil they can be fried or grilled like steaks. Deliciousfirstname.lastname@example.org
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This Article was originally published in the Sacred Earth Newletter. The Newsletter is a FREE service containing articles, news and reviews on all things herbal and/or ethnobotanical, with an approximate publication cylce of 6 - 8 weeks. If you wish to subscribe, please use the subscription box to submit your e-mail address.
Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.