The recent early spring cold snap has been great for prolonging the maple syrup season. The sap runs well as long as the nights are below freezing and the days warm up to 40°F, up until the trees start making buds. Robert tapped another tree, and we have managed to get about a gallon and a half of sap a day. We are drinking this sap straight from the tree, lightly filtered through a coffe filter to remove bits of bark and dirt. The taste is like slightly viscous, sweet water, and the sap is clear. As long as the weather stays cool, we will continue to collect sap for drinking and making tea.
We ventured out this weekend to a favorite nettle patch (Urtica dioica) to check them, but were dissapointed. The cold weather has really slowed their growth. Robert picked about 2 cups worth of tiny plants, just enough to cook into a small batch of Persian Lentil and Nettle soup. It was almost a tease, since Gillian has been asking for nettle soup for a few weeks now. This year we plan on harvesting lots of nettles for drying, freezing, and cooking fresh, along with the prettier dead nettles (Lamium purpureum) growing in the same area. The dead nettles have no sting, hence the "dead" designation. The young greens are full of iron, vitamins, and fiber. Dead nettles are in the mint family, but the flavor is more grassy than minty. We'll use them dried in teas and fresh in smoothies.
dandelion coffee substitute
Robert dug up more dandelion roots (Taraxacum officinale) to try the coffee substitute again. This time he baked the roots less, leading us to believe they were actually burned last time we tried. The smell when the dried roots were ground in the coffee grinder was of dark chocolate, and the taste was much better when the drink was mixed with sugar and chai spiced soy milk. Success!
We have been trying for a few weeks to sprout some garlic mustard seeds (Alliaria petiolata), with poor results. Actually, no results. Robert decided to try making actual mustard with the black, comma shaped seeds. He ground them into a coarse powder with the coffee grinder and added water, vinegar, a touch of honey, and salt. The color is darker than a brown mustard, but the flavor is much more like wasabi or horseradish than a traditional mustard. Very strong, but very good, I have some plans for some sandwiches and dips.