Wild Arkansas

September 28, 2010

More nuts! Hickory

Filed under: fruit, nutrition, nuts — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 3:51 pm

comparison of Carya nuts

Perhaps it’s just luck that we’re blessed with a bumper crop of nuts this year. Regardless, the bounty is something I intend to enjoy.

We’ve gathered a few hickory nuts and found that though breaking through the shell yields fragmented pieces, there is a secret to getting larger meats.

Mother Earth News has an article about getting to the meat of the problem. (Pun intended) and with that advice, the meats come out cleaner.

The most common of hickories you will find in Northwest Arkansas is the shagbark or Carya laciniosa. The tree yields the largest and probably the sweetest of nuts.

You can use hickory in recipies that call for walnuts or just eat them raw, roasted or candied.

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September 27, 2010

Chestnuts

Filed under: fruit, nutrition, nuts — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 10:57 pm

Nearly wiped out more than a century ago by the chestnut blight, it seems the American Chestnut (Castenea dentata) is alive and well in Northwest Arkansas.

The collection of nuts yesterday, yielded approximately five pounds from ten minutes of gathering a few from the ground around the trees.

The nuts we gathered were large, meaty and as beautiful as any you would find in specialty food catalogues.

These are the chestnuts you want to roast over an open fire and show off to family and friends.

If you do gather some of these nuts, use leather gloves or a tool of some sort to take the ripe nuts from the spiky hull. The spines can be quite sharp.

September 6, 2010

Five common edibles anyone can find

duck potato

Fall is here, and some of us who forage regularly begin looking less at the herbaceous leafy stuff and more to the branches of trees (nuts) and roots. The following five edibles are ready right now.

Good luck and have fun.

1. Despite lack of a first frost, chicory root can be dug early. Though related to dandelion, the whole plant is much less noxious than its bitter cousin.

Try digging some of the root and test for taste. If it’s too bitter, wait another month. Chances are, it’s going to be sweet tasting.

All parts of the chicory can be consumed, but at this time of year it’s best to just use the root.

2. Maypops can be found on disturbed ground. The egg-shaped yellow-green fruit is sweet when ripe, but very seedy. People of the Appalachians reserved the fruit almost exclusively for creating a maypop drink by pouring boiling water of the fruit and straining, but the fruit is a good trailside nibble despite the seeds.

3. The duck potato or Sagitaria latifolia was early this year, but in ponds throughout NW Arkansas there is an abundance of the plant.

Get your shovel out, because these babies are not coming out without a fight. I’ve tried repeatedly stomping for the prize with no results. This is one you’ll have to work for.

4. Ahhhh…the sweet smell of chamomile. Sweet dreams come with this bouquet. Not only is chamomile great for soothing the worried mind, but it tastes great and smells even better.

If you’re not going to make tea with it, pick for just the sweet smell or use for pouporri.

Find this near lakes, ponds, rivers growing on the drier ground. Moist environment without being soggy. The herb has been spotted in several public parks from Rogers through Fayetteville.

5. Oh nuts!

Yes dear readers, it’s time to look up. Those wonderful, protein-packed nuggets of nutrition are here once again.

Black walnut, hickory, pecan and acorns too. They are all here for the picking (up).

The black walnut you want to husk yourself. Do not wait for it to dry, because by that time the worms have gotten into the meat.

In some areas the acorns are falling, in others they are still green. Just take a look around and see what you can find.

I gathered red oak acorns in Springdale that were green and had to boil several times before they were palatable. Be sure to leach the tannins from these babies, because they have a very acrid taste without the proper preparation.

If you travel further west toward Siloam Springs, you may find more white oak that has a less bitter acorn. I’ve been told the white oak acorn is sweet, but have yet to experience it myself.

November 14, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Pine Needle Tea

Filed under: herbs, nutrition, Pinus — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 6:21 pm

T. occidentalis. The leaf used by Cartier.

T. occidentalis. The leaf used by Cartier.

During the winter of 1536, Jacque Cartier and his men were stranded in a make-shift fort at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. All were sick with scurvy and twenty-five had already perished from the illness when Domagaya, a friendly Iroquois man told the explorer about Anneda, a local cure for the disease.

The Cypress or Northern White Cedar tree (Thuja occidentalis) leaf was used as a tea and provided enough vitamin C to knock out the illness.

Though the Cypress is not endemic or native to Arkansas, it does grow here, as do several variety of conifer. The conifers that are dominant in this area of the country are of the Pinus genus.

The Loblolly and Long leaf pine are found more often than their bretheren, the Slash pine and the Pinyon trees.

The difference between the Thuja and Pinus conifers is obvious once you start looking at the morphology, but prior to study, I think one just lumps them all together as pine trees of some sort.

The cypress (Thuja) do not have needles as the Pinus do. The pine needle tea that is predominant on the web is most likely not the pine needle tea that Cartier and his men used.

I made some pine needle tea recently, but wasn’t sure the tea was safe to drink. After washing and brewing the needles clipped from one of the P. taeda (Loblolly) there was a light colored film along the inside of the pan and floating atop the brew.

P. taeda needle and cone

P. taeda needle and cone

I skimmed the film off the top, tasted a bit of the clear liquid and felt no ill effects afterward, but didn’t feel secure enough with the brew to drink a full cup. I did have a few tablespoons full and the tea is bland to my taste.

There is so much written about pine needle tea with not much background information available. I didn’t find much anecdotal evidence in which authors actually drank the tea, however, Euell Gibbons experimented with the white pine (P. strobus) extensively and documents the experience in his book, Stalking the Healthful Herbs (1974).

Here’s an excerpt from the book that includes a recipe for Pine Needle Tea.

So though I may not find the pine needle all that palatable, it seems it is safe for consumption and quite healthy.

There is evidence that pine does contain constituents that boosts immunity. In one article written by Marsha Walton for CNN in 2006 shikimic acid, a main ingredient in Tamiflu was found in high concentrations in pine, spruce and fir needles.

If you do want to try the pine needle tea, be sure to collect from trees that have not been sprayed and are not in a high traffic area.

There are many variety of pine available in Arkansas, make sure you have identified your specimen correctly.

The Thuja genus of conifer is contraindicated as containing thujone and may be harmful to some people.

November 7, 2008

Ready for Flu Season?

Filed under: health, herbs, nutrition — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 1:42 pm

Megan Witt, R.D. shares her insights on how to avoid and cut symptoms and length of illness in half.

From Ozark Natural Health…

“Fall’s cooling temperatures and changing colors signal the start of cold and flu season which also happens to coincide with the return of school. All of that togetherness and close contact means kids will be bringing home more than just their homework. No need to despair, just be prepared. …” Read more.

October 14, 2008

A walk around

Filed under: natural healing, nutrition — WildArkansas @ 11:37 pm

Jack and I went on a walk today just to see what we would find. The photo above shows him posing in front of some fleabane. We took quite a few pics, so I’m going to share a few here. Enjoy.

The fruit of the passionflower, the maypop is almost past its prime. Here, it twined along quite a bit of the fence. We had passionflower throughout the summer, but also enjoyed the fruit in limited quantities.

One of the monster dock plants growing around Lowell. I collect the newest leaves, but I’ve read that the larger leaves can be used as a potherb.

Local Muellin. This specimen is growing a bit strange with one stalk growing off the parent stalk.

Fleabane. One of the flowers of the Erigernon genus.

October 3, 2008

Is Your Food Safe?

Filed under: Edible plants, gardening, health, nutrition — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 4:14 am

There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America, a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat. This documentary explores the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled grocery store shelves for the past decade. It also examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multi-national corporations seek to control the world’s food system.

September 22, 2008

Planting a bit of Goodness

Filed under: Edible plants, gardening, nutrition — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 10:49 pm

Today I received the seeds from the Plant a Row for the Hungry project. Ed Hume Seeds sent carrot seeds and I’m now trying to germinate half of the pack indoors before I place them in the garden.

The Plant a Row Project is sponsored by the Garden Writers of America and by 2005 more than 1.5 million pounds of food had been given to hunger programs.

If you do participate in the project, please send a thank you note when you receive the seeds. It lets those donating know how much they are appreciated.

When Healthy Eating Becomes Dangerous

Filed under: health, nutrition — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 6:12 pm

ABC’s John Stossel reports about when nutrition crunching becomes obsessive.

Article & Video

There is another article at Wikipedia that sheds a little more information about orthorexia.

This does not mean that one concerned with their diet is obsessive. If someone maintains their health through natural means, this is a great thing. When the diet becomes a primary focus or limits one’s ability to interact with others that’s a problem.

September 20, 2008

Arkansas is Full of Nuts!

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, health, nutrition, nuts — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 9:01 pm

With autumn come the nuts, and Arkansas is full of ’em.

This morning I went on a short walk and found some hickory (Carya tomentosa) and Black Walnut (Juglans nigra).

I wanted to find out if processing needed to be done before munching and ran across Mother Earth’s Fall Guide to Nuts.

In case you’ve never read Mother Earth before, it’s one of the best sustainable living publications that I’ve run across and has been around for quite some time.

Most nuts you find you won’t have to process. They can be shelled and eaten raw. But with the Black Walnut, you do need to get the shell from the hull and then let it dry before eating. In some cases you may also want to roast the nut before eating, depending upon what stage of decomposition the hull was in when you found it.

If completely black, it’s best to leave it to the wildlife, because the tannins have leached into the nut meat and made it bitter. If the hull is still green, cut it from the nut, wash and set the nut (still in shell) out to dry.

The hickory nut needs no processing at all. You can take it from it’s hull, shell and eat it. The hickory I found wasn’t worth the trouble. I broke open the shell and the meat was tiny. The taste was a bit bland, but Jack (my dog) enjoyed it.

You can also find acorns, pecans and chinquapins in the area.

Time to go nuts!

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