This past week we gathered more common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flower buds to make more capers and we kept some in the fridge already boiled to add to our cooking all week. We added the buds to soups, stir fry, and in a cheesy breakfast omlette. Our Monarch butterfly emerged from it's chrysalis today, and I let it fly away. I am sorry we don't have any pictures, but we may see some more when it is time to gather the pods from the milkweed field.
We picked a few more cattail (Typha latifolia) flower spikes to make into more griddle cakes, and to eat boiled on-the-cob style. The season for the flower spikes is almost over, and it would normally be time to collect the pollen next. All the rain this early summer has knocked the pollen off the male flowers before we have been able to collect it. Usually Robert grabs the flower spike and inserts it into a gallon jug in which he has cut a hole. Then he would shake the stalk around, knocking the pollen off into the jug. Some does escape, but not too much. Then he would sift the pollen to remove bugs and debris, and dry it gently in the oven. We usually keep a container in the freezer to use all year, but all we got this year was the pine pollen.
We noticed the elderberries (Sambuca nigra) blooming this past week, but it was difficult to gather flowers between the rainy days. If we tried to pick some right after a storm, all of the fragrance and flavor was washed out, so we waited for a few dry days, and picked a bagful. Robert made a crepe batter with puréed flowers, and served them layered with wild grape jam. He also battered and deep fried some clusters, and Gillian gobbled them up with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
While taking a short hike in a favorite area, we found some mushrooms that we tentatively identified as tree ears, or wood ears (Auricularia auricula). We will try to get then viewed by David Fischer before collecting any. They are supposed to be tasty cooked in Chinese-style food, and can be dried and reconstituted. There were lots of them on a dying autumn olive tree right off the trail.
We also came across several varieties of wild blueberries and huckleberries (Vaccinium species)growing in rocky, poor soil. Some of the wild blueberries were obviously lowbush, some had much larger leaves, some were loaded with berries, others had few. We managed to find a small handful already ripe, and will return next week to compete with the birds for some berries. At this stage, I can differentiate between the blueberries and huckleberries by breaking open a green berry and counting the seeds. Huckleberries have exactly 10, and wild blueberries have many more smaller seeds. Both are tasty, but there is a more complex sour flavor in the huckleberries, along with a seedier texture since the seeds (or technically, nutlets) are larger than blueberry seeds.
We also had an opportunity to test out the machete I won from the Outdoor Blogger Network and Gerber. I'll write up a full review in a day or two. We used it to clear some pathways of low hanging branches, and cut down a 3" thick black birch (Betula lenta) tree. With the inner curved blade of the machete, Robert was able to strip the bark easily to retrieve the wintergreen flavored cambium layer. We took home a large segment of the tree, which scented the car and house nicely. Robert will try to carve some utensils from the wood. Black birch inner bark can be made into a tasty tisane, and has some medicinal properties discussed by Wildman Steve Brill in a video that Robert recorded recently.