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eG Foodblog: fifi - Foraging the Texas Gulf Coast


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My mother once made an elder flower pie from Fabulous Feasts, and it was quite good - a kind of custard plus elder flowers. The taste is subtle but nice. When I was in camp in the upper Delaware (which is in New York state) as a 13-year-old, I took some nature walks guided by a 16-year-old counselor who was knowledgeable about such things (she or the other counselor who sometimes shared guide duty warned us that the only clear difference between Queen Anne's lace and hemlock was the bitter smell of the hemlock and that we should avoid things that look like Queen Anne's lace unless and until we're absolutely sure we know the difference). Among the things we gathered were elder flowers. We fried them plain and they were pleasant. Elder flower tea is also nice for a change.

Do you have wood sorrel growing plentifully around your area? That's something I can recognize anywhere and like. The only problem is that each plant is so small that you really have to snip a lot of them to get much food.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Fifi, awesome blog! The things you find are near and dear to my heart ... I love finding berries and making jams etc., never thought of making fritters/pancakes with berry bush flowers! so cool.

Very much enjoying your blog :smile: had to write in as I lived in the Clear Lake area when I was six ... can't tell you exactly when that was or suddenly everyone will know how old I am! Last time I was in Houston, there were some giant 'chia' pets in a boulevard area - one of those things we remember...blog on!

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I agree. Excellent blog. I love to walk in the woods and gather things as well, I'm so happy you are taking us on your foraging missions! There are many excellent woods near my mother's home. Last summer I went out early to take pictures of mushrooms. Just off one particular trail in the woods behind the school in the village I stumbled upon a small grove of the plant that helps your grandmother's arthritis. I left it, because I figured it was someone's lovingly tended teenage botany project, but I did take a picture of one of the plants. :rolleyes: My brother said I should send it to a magazine. It was very pretty.

Oh thank you fifi for sharing your stories and wisdom of nature with us.

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I must add my thanks for your charming blog fifi; it has been so fun to read.

I mentioned this on another thread I think, but my grandmother (in Austria) make a great syrup out of elderberry flowers ("hollanderbluten") each spring. She uses it as a drink; i.e. add some sparkling water. It is really quite wonderful. I don't have a recipe and don't know if it is more than flowers, sugar and water...

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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As a digression, here is something that you may or may not have done as a kid. Mixed in among the dewberries across the street, the ones without the poison ivy, there are some honeysuckle vines.

gallery_7796_1058_8056.jpg

We used to while away the time sipping up the drop of nectar that is at the bottom of the flower. The technique is to snip off the end of the blossom, grab the bottom of the pistil and pull the pistil through the bottom. It acts as a reamer of sorts and a drop of nectar appears at the end. That is what you sip. It is mildly sweet and actually tastes like honeysuckle smells. The vine itself can be a noxious weed. I have seen areas on the backside of Galveston Island where it has taken over acres. If someone could figure out how to harvest the stuff it would be really interesting. The drop of nectar is on the leaf just under the pistil.

One of my favorite chefs, Bill Smith of Crooks Corner, makes a honeysuckle sorbet that has become legendary in these parts. Of course, you need to pick about a gallon of those honeysuckle flowers!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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. . . . .

Do you have wood sorrel growing plentifully around your area? That's something I can recognize anywhere and like. The only problem is that each plant is so small that you really have to snip a lot of them to get much food.

I had forgoetten about that. We have the yellow sorrel. It does end up in our salads. My sister is really the more skilled one for gathering the salad makings. I don't remember if it is a cool season plant here. I will see if I can find it.

Wow, elder flowers and elder berries! Ever since I read that Hans Christian Andersen story about the little boy listening to a story about the spirit of an elder tree while drinking elder tea, I've wondered what the tree and blossoms looked like. Thank you!

Well, it actually isn't a tree. It is an herbaceous plant that reaches maybe 6 or 7 feet in height.

. . . . .

I mentioned this on another thread I think, but my grandmother (in Austria) make a great syrup out of elderberry flowers ("hollanderbluten") each spring.  She uses it as a drink; i.e. add some sparkling water.  It is really quite wonderful.  I don't have a recipe and don't know if it is more than flowers, sugar and water...

I remember reading about that in one of the books. I will see if I have it. That would be a good thing to do if I hit the mother load. Then some of that syrup would be available for making the drinks when the hot weather sets in. I remember reading that it is very refreshing.

. . . . .

One of my favorite chefs, Bill Smith of Crooks Corner, makes a honeysuckle sorbet that has become legendary in these parts.  Of course, you need to pick about a gallon of those honeysuckle flowers!

Funny you should mention that. Last night I got to thinking of ways to pick a bunch of the flowers, maybe whack them up a bit and infuse them in . . . what? Very light syrup?

. . . . .

Interesting.  I expected that your vehicle would be a pickup.

. . . . .

:laugh:

Actually, for me to really fit in around here, I should be driving a Hummer. This area has a soccer mom infestation. They moved from mini-vans to Hummers a couple of years ago. My baby German sedan has been with me for 15 years and many trips to the beach, woods and country places. I still love it, but alas, it too may have to retire.

I slept late. I love doing that. Yesterday was a long day. I may not be able to be as ambitious today but I do have a plan. Stay tuned.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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fifi - have you ever heard of Sheepshower? When we were kids, my dad would take us out in the Oklahoma woods every spring to gather sheepshower. They looked similar to clover and had a very distinctive sweet/sour taste. My dad would mix them with some mysterious ingredients in a gallon glass jar and bury the jar for six weeks to make sheepshower wine.

I have never found anyone outside of rural Oklahoma who knew what I was talking about.

Maybe the plant has another name?

If you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen - Calpurnia

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The last time I was in Scotland I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Inverness. They had a carafe of home-made elderberry wine available in the living room at all times. It was YUMMY! Have you ever made wine from your elderberries?

Erin Andersen

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Lone Star, you have me baffled. After spending some time in Google-Land, I am about to conclude that sheepshower might be a really local name for the wood sorrel that Pan alluded to. Is that it? (The Google hits on sheepshower were pretty funny, unless you are a sheep. :laugh: )

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The last time I was in Scotland I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in Inverness.  They had a carafe of home-made elderberry wine available in the living room at all times.  It was YUMMY!  Have you ever made wine from your elderberries?

Yes . . . That was years ago but I still remember it well. We preferred it as a rather sweet after dinner drink. We would also make wine spritzers with it. The fizz water seemed to spread the joy of the flavor and it was very refreshing. What we didn't try was the wine made with the flowers.

Odd fact: Elderberry flowers are known as "elder blow" among wild food enthusiasts.

Heads up to those in south Louisiana . . . many years ago, the absolute mother lode for elderberries was the roadside along the old road from Hammond to LaPlace. I have seen impressive stands along I-10 through that swampy stretch just west of LaPlace as well.

South Louisiana is a forager's delight. The crabapple trees (mayhaws) were everywhere just north of Lake Ponchartrain. While living in Hammond, I took an ecology course just for fun and my love of the professor. North of the lake is a fascinating area if you look at an ecosystem map. Many zones are compressed within the few miles to the Mississippi border. The northern part is even a remnant of Appalachian habitat.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I never tried the nectar of honeysuckle! Too bad! However, the trumpet vines (which have larger flowers) were a joy to treat the same way. Remove the red trumpet-shaped flower and suck the nectar from the interior parts. I could understand why hummingbirds hung around there. As an added bonus, the flower bell could then become a "doll's skirt" for 15 minutes or so.

It looks like the elderberry and lantana are about the same size. The tallest lantana I've ever seen was around 3' high. Is that the size of the elderberry plant? Or do you have Texas-sized lantanas? :biggrin:

Finally - hate to say it, but I'm not sure which 3-leaved plant was the poison ivy! (We had poison oak in the California hills). The ones at the right of the photo looked more like strawberry leaves. Is that what you were talking about?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Lone Star, you have me baffled. After spending some time in Google-Land, I am about to conclude that sheepshower might be a really local name for the wood sorrel that Pan alluded to. Is that it? (The Google hits on sheepshower were pretty funny, unless you are a sheep. :laugh: )

That's it! Where in the world did the Okies come up with the name sheepshower? :laugh: That is what we called it.

If you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen - Calpurnia

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Lone Star, you have me baffled. After spending some time in Google-Land, I am about to conclude that sheepshower might be a really local name for the wood sorrel that Pan alluded to. Is that it? (The Google hits on sheepshower were pretty funny, unless you are a sheep. :laugh: )

That's it! Where in the world did the Okies come up with the name sheepshower? :laugh: That is what we called it.

Now all we need is the recipe for that wine. :biggrin:

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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we have loads of honey suckle growing right here, in fact we have to cut it back to keep it under control from taking over my front garden bed and the side ramp to the house... and i still indulge in the sweet nectar occasionally. a dropful of childhood memories. :biggrin:

i'm loving your blog, fifi! this is great reading. having lived in and around Houston, including the Heights, for several years i can appreciate your sources. and i still do a considerable amount of foraging here in Central TX... up close and afar when possible.

our back fence grapes are growing now... jelly next month from those, and more jammy goodies from wild persimmon (called TX cherries around here) that will be ripening about July. so excellent on biscuits and toast.... :rolleyes: again experiencing deep envy over your calamondin source!

do you have lemon horsemint around there? i didn't know about that when we lived there. maybe it takes a drier climate, but if you do, that is a marvelous herb especially for chicken and lamb. similar to marjoram but with a lemony aroma and flavor. the lavender-colored leaves and the lovely, tiny orchid-like flowers can all be used. this is the right time for it...

edited for typo...

Edited by lovebenton0 (log)

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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I never tried the nectar of honeysuckle!  Too bad!  However, the trumpet vines (which have larger flowers) were a joy to treat the same way.  Remove the red trumpet-shaped flower and suck the nectar from the interior parts.  I could understand why hummingbirds hung around there.  As an added bonus, the flower bell could then become a "doll's skirt" for 15 minutes or so.

It looks like the elderberry and lantana are about the same size.  The tallest lantana I've ever seen was around 3' high.  Is that the size of the elderberry plant?  Or do you have Texas-sized lantanas?  :biggrin:

Finally - hate to say it, but I'm not sure which 3-leaved plant was the poison ivy!  (We had poison oak in the California hills).  The ones at the right of the photo looked more like strawberry leaves.  Is that what you were talking about?

Is this what you mean by trumpet vine? We don't recall ever doing the nectar thing with it. It was always considered suspect (toxic-wise) for some reason that I can't substantiate. It could be that it lives around and among poison ivy growing up trees and such and is suffering from guilt by association. We used to stick the flowers on our fingers and call them "witches fingernails."

Our wild lantana get to about four or five feet in favorable circumstance. Elderberry is a bit taller and more columnar.

Thanks for asking about the poison ivy. I forgot that the berry leaves are also in threes. The berry leaves are the ones that look like strawberry leaves. The poison ivy is in the bottom left corner and bottom just right of center in the picture.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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we have loads of honey suckle growing right here, in fact we have to cut it back to keep it under control from taking over my front garden bed and the side ramp to the house... and i still indulge in the sweet nectar occasionally. a dropful of childhood memories.  :biggrin:

i'm loving your blog, fifi! this is great reading. having lived in and around Houston, including the Heights, for several years i can appreciate your sources. and i still do a considerable amount of foraging here in Central TX... up close and afar when possible.

our back fence grapes are growing now... jelly next month from those, and more jammy goodies from wild persimmon (called TX cherries around here) that will be ripening about July. so excellent on biscuits and toast....  :rolleyes: again experiencing deep envy over your calamondin source!

do you have lemon horsemint around there? i didn't know about that when we lived there. maybe it takes a drier climate, but if you do, that is a marvelous herb especially for chicken and lamb. similar to marjoram but with a lemony aroma and flavor. the lavender-colored leaves and the lovely, tiny orchid-like flowers can all be used. this is the right time for it...

edited for typo...

Central Texas opens up a whole new habitat for exploration. I am envious of the wild persimmon. I think it is too humid here or something because it is not all that common. I had spied one a few years ago in an open field on the north side of Clear Lake City. I was going to keep my eye on it and they cut it down to build more houses. :sad:

Funny you should mention horsemint. I saw a good stand of it on the way home yesterday. I was not in a position to pull out of traffic at the time. It is pretty common here on the drier parts of roadsides and fields. We have used the flowers sprinkled on salad. I have braised chicken on a bed of it with onions and it was delicious.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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<snip>

do you have lemon horsemint around there? i didn't know about that when we lived there. maybe it takes a drier climate, but if you do, that is a marvelous herb especially for chicken and lamb. similar to marjoram but with a lemony aroma and flavor. the lavender-colored leaves and the lovely, tiny orchid-like flowers can all be used. this is the right time for it...

Central Texas opens up a whole new habitat for exploration. I am envious of the wild persimmon. I think it is too humid here or something because it is not all that common. I had spied one a few years ago in an open field on the north side of Clear Lake City. I was going to keep my eye on it and they cut it down to build more houses. :sad:

Funny you should mention horsemint. I saw a good stand of it on the way home yesterday. I was not in a position to pull out of traffic at the time. It is pretty common here on the drier parts of roadsides and fields. We have used the flowers sprinkled on salad. I have braised chicken on a bed of it with onions and it was delicious.

absolutely delicious in a lamb stew also. and it holds up well once dried if kept in an opaque container.

hope you don't mind, fifi. but i got a request to post a pic of the horsemint.. and i had one from last year... maybe more folks will discover this fine wild herb in their areas. :wink:

shame i did not get a close up of the flowers, which are lovely. so not the best shot as i had just gotten the camera recently, but here it is, jsolomon. :biggrin:

gallery_12550_164_1096619333.jpg

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Is this what you mean by trumpet vine? We don't recall ever doing the nectar thing with it. It was always considered suspect (toxic-wise) for some reason that I can't substantiate. It could be that it lives around and among poison ivy growing up trees and such and is suffering from guilt by association. We used to stick the flowers on our fingers and call them "witches fingernails."

Yes, that's it! and no, it isn't poisonous, unless one needs to take a lot more than we ever did! By the way, in case you decide to try it, I think the nectar comes away with the base, so you have to suck that part instead of the red petal.

Isn't that funny about the fingers? I don't think we ever did that. We certainly never associated them with witches, but then we don't have poison ivy. We associate them with hummingbirds. I used to sit atop our propane tank, very quietly, half-hidden in the trumpet vine, until a local hummer would come perch by my foot. We were nearly friends one summer. Very cool.

Interesting about the lantana and its height. I remember being just as surprised when I went to the Caribbean for the first time and saw poinsettias in their natural glory. It took a long time to recognize those house-sized shrubs as the same thing we got in teeny pots at Christmas! :laugh:

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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. . . . .

I mentioned this on another thread I think, but my grandmother (in Austria) make a great syrup out of elderberry flowers ("hollanderbluten") each spring.  She uses it as a drink; i.e. add some sparkling water.  It is really quite wonderful.  I don't have a recipe and don't know if it is more than flowers, sugar and water...

I remember reading about that in one of the books. I will see if I have it. That would be a good thing to do if I hit the mother load. Then some of that syrup would be available for making the drinks when the hot weather sets in. I remember reading that it is very refreshing.

Definitely try this is you have a chance, it's very tasty - light and refreshing, perfect for a light summer meal.

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Despite my earlier protestations that I wasn't much of an urban forager, this blog keeps reminding me of lots of foraging I did do when I was a kid.

The lower Hudson River Valley where I grew up had tons and tons of raspberries. I used to ride my bike along the path down by the riverbank, stopping frequently to pick and eat berries. There were respectable thickets of them even right across the street from my house.

Honeysuckle were everywhere too. We all used to pick and suck on the blossoms while waiting for the school bus. (We'd bite off the little green base of the flower and suck out the nectar as if the flower were one of those little wax bottles of sugar-syrup.)

And sorrel ... heh. Seemed like whatever part of our family's lawn that wasn't crabgrass, was sorrel. I used to pick and chew on it occasionally. My mom told me it was the main ingredient of an Eastern-European Jewish soup called schav, but we never made the stuff--even though picking enough sorrel to make the soup might have solved my dad's lawn problem. :biggrin:

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Elderflower cordial

8-12 large elderflower heads, shaken to remove the bugs

5 large lemons

1Kg/ 2lbs sugar

1pt boiling water

Cut in half and squeeze the lemons. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Put everything including the lemon rind in a large bowl. Pour over the syrup. Stir. Cover. Leave for 3 days. Strain (messy) bottle.

Keep in fridge, unless you sterilise (can) it. Dilute about 1:8 with water, or pour over strawberries, ice cream or into champagne or make sorbet.

Can ferment it diluted to make elderflower wine or elderflower champagne.

Make sure the elderflowers are fresh or it can smell like cats...

Elederflower cordial is made commercially (Belvoir), and is very good. Its not yet out here in the uK...maybe another month.

DO you have woodruff (Mayweed) there? Also makes a good cordial or sorbet

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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[...]And sorrel ... heh. Seemed like whatever part of our family's lawn that wasn't crabgrass, was sorrel. I used to pick and chew on it occasionally. My mom told me it was the main ingredient of an Eastern-European Jewish soup called schav, but we never made the stuff--even though picking enough sorrel to make the soup might have solved my dad's lawn problem. :biggrin:

I believe that shchav is usually made from another type of sorrel, sheep sorrel, which has bigger, floppier-looking leaves and a stronger taste but isn't as common as wood sorrel.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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