Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rainbow Nice Cake

THE stall turnout at the outdoor market was disappointing. But in the car park I spotted some bushes laden with fruit. Perhaps we wouldn't go home quite empty handed after all. They were wild plums, about the size of cherry tomatoes, and very delicious. We picked several bags full. After snacking on them all day, the haul yielded four jars of ginger plum chutney.

The next week we went back again, this time prepared with fruit baskets. This time they made a delicious dessert. We simmered the tart plums with a splash of sherry (orange liqueur would have been even better), cinnamon and sweetened with agave. When cooled and thickened, the fruit was layered with a mixture of cream cheese, homemade yoghurt, orange peel and honey, then refrigerated for a few hours to let the flavours meld. Yum! We served it to guests that evening and voted on the best name for our concoction. Emma's won: Rainbow Nice Cake.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sleeping Beauties

WE were not alone in the campground. We were surrounded by cicadas. All over the grass, clinging to every tree, the empty shells of cicada nymphs, their skins shed as the adults emerged triumphant after a 17-year slumber. From the treetops they now sounded their victory cry. The noise was deafening. At first we didn't equate the high-pitched sound with the insect shells all around. It sounded more like a squeaky siren. Maybe some kind of motor. But it was, in fact, cicadas by the million.

This particular kind of cicada has a revolutionary survival strategy. With only 3 weeks to live as an adult, it quickly mates and lays eggs in trees. The larvae hatch and drop to the ground, where they bury themselves for ... 17 years. It has been measured, and it is always 17 years. All at once, they then climb out of the ground, cling to something and crawl out of their baby pyjamas, leaving these behind to be collected by delighted children. Then, wings unfurled, they fly off into the sunset, trumpeting all the way. Other animals cannot rely on such infrequent visitors as a food source, and their vast numbers ensure plentiful survival even when the odd bird or snake ventures into new culinary territory. In this way, the juicy winged beetles live on to lay the next generation. See you in 2028!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Things You Find

STICKING out of a hole in a log was a little thing wiggling. We pulled it out carefully as it appeared to be stuck. It looked like a cocoon. Suddenly it made an audible pop! and a fly crawled out! It was so unusual that Emma decided to draw it in her nature journal.

The notes in the picture describe the insect and were dictated by Emma: fuzzy bits on its head, big black eyes, long grey body with orange stripes, delicate wings, 6 legs with 2 little feet on each leg.

We never did discover the identification but it was exciting to witness its birth!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wood Sorrel Tea

WOOD sorrel, with its lemony flavour, is said to make good tea. So we decided to try that out. Gathering enough wood sorrel in our garden was not a problem, and we soon had a large bunch simmering away. Add sweetener (we used honey), pour into a glass and... well what do you know, it's red! Bear in mind that this was a green plant with a yellow flower. But it was very refreshing, especially cold with ice.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Nine Lives of Cattails

TO my surprise I found I could already identify many of the plants highlighted in the recent wild edibles class. At least, well enough to guess out loud but not necessarily well enough to tuck into without an expert present. While I could identify cattails and knew that they were edible, I didn't realise quite how many uses they have!
Before modern development began destroying the habitat of cattails, American Indians used the nutritious plant in a myriad ways:

  • When peeled, the white heart of the shoot is similar to heart of palm and can be used in stir fries, soups, salads, or sauteed as a side vegetable.
  • Immature flower heads can be eaten like a corn cob.
  • The super-nutritious pollen can be added to flour for baking.
  • The jelly-like substance found between leaves can be used medicinally to heal wounds.
  • Dried leaves can be twisted or woven into cordage, baskets, thatched rooves, toys for children.
  • The empty seed heads keep insects away when burnt on a fire.
  • The fluffy white seeds make good stuffing for additional warmth in bedding and clothes.

      That's pretty impressive for a single plant.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

HOW nice to feel appreciated! I had the opportunity to attend a day-long class on Mother's Day while the children enjoyed a day of daddy time. On my return I was greeted with a fabulous cake which they had baked together. Yum!