We had a great weekend foraging, and are looking forward to some letterboxing once the foraging slows down. The weather has cooled down quite drastically, and it is very dry these past two months in New England. Many trees are losing their leaves prematurely due to dryness without turning color.
We did post a letterboxing event for next year, called Foraging for Letterboxes on September 17, 2011. It will hopefully take place at Day Pond in Colchester, CT. We are a bit disappointed with the selection of wild edibles in Day Pond, so we plan on bringing some examples with us to show people. There are some great hiking trails there, along with many really good letterboxes in the area and a fantastic pavilion with tables for stamping. We hope to make this a fun event for the kids, too since there is a pond for dipping toes and fishing, and we will try to provide some other diversions. We did some exploring of a remote site for a foraging walk for those interested, and this site also has some good letterboxes nearby.
While out this weekend, we wanted to find some more grapes for jam. There were some, but many of them are shrivelling into raisins on the vine due to lack of rain. We picked all that we could see on Friday before it got too dark. At the same site, we also got a pocketful of apples from a cluster of old trees growing at this old farmstead. Robert climbed a chestnut tree to try to reach some nuts, but this tree was very high. The spiky hulls are still closed, so we will return in a few weeks to try to shake down some nuts.
We went to another favorite site to gather some ramps bulbs to try in a recipe with the acorn flour that Robert made last week. The bulbs are large, but loose. They are still putting their energy into making the seed stalks, so it will be better to dig them in a few weeks. We found one of the last bushes of elderberries with berries still on it, and Robert snapped a few pictures. We also picked some autumn olives.
The find of the day were some enormous chicken mushrooms, or sulfur shelf. These chicken mushroom(Laetiporus sulphureus) were easily 40 pounds, and very young. It was difficult to make a spore print since the mushroom was so juicy still. We had it verified, and are trying to process this monster. Robert dried some in the dehydrator, cubed up a lot of it to freeze, and we have several recipes to try this week, like "Chicken" Paprikash, "Chicken" Pot Pie, fried"Chicken", and whatever else we can think of. This mushroom tends to return to the same place again, so we will watch for it next spring and autumn. It was quite a surprise to find such a large, young specimen in these conditions.
Robert is looking to collect some more acorns, as his flour turned out really nice. This morning he cooked up some of the rougher ground meal with some maple syrup and walnuts into a type of porridge. The color was very dark, the texture was good and substantial, and the taste was great, almost like indian pudding.
Another edible we found a bit of this week was the spicebush(Lindera benzoin). I like the scent of the twigs, which is more lemony-cardamomy than the berries which is a stronger peppery-allspice. We picked a few red berries to bring home to cook with apples, and some twigs and leaves to try fresh in tea.
I have also been collecting a lot of edibles for a display I will be placing in the Otis Library here in Norwich, CT for the month of November. They have 2 glass cases in the entryway that people can fill with their interests and hobbies, and in the past there have been some nice displays of decorated eggs, senior art, and shipwrecked treasures. I hope to have enough plant material, products, photos and descriptions to fill both cases, so I need to get busy gathering things now when they are available!