Monday, February 9, 2015

Wild Smoothies

One benefit of putting up the wild foods we harvest is that we are able to use many of the ingredients when they are out of season. Drying, freezing, and canning wild food provides us with a full pantry of berries, greens, and powders to use in everyday food preparation. We really do manage to eat wild food every day, even in the middle of winter with more than a foot of snow on the ground, like there is today! Gillian loves making smoothies for breakfast, and we finally saved up enough money to purchase a really good Vitamix blender, so she gets smoothie duty every morning, coming up with combinations using frozen berries, honey or agave syrup, bananas, and a splash of juice or almond milk since we don't drink much cow's milk. Robert tends to make more complex and adventurous smoothies, using dried powders and sometimes fresh greens and  a touch of cayenne.

Autumn olives are our favorite invasive berry to collect in great quantities. They freeze very well, make lovely jelly and fruit leathers, cook down into excellent sauces and ketchup, and are very nutritious: full of lycopene and vitamins A, C, and E. The seeds, which are soft and edible, contain omega-3 fatty acids. Personally, I spit the seeds out because I don't like seeds in my fruit, but Robert and Gillian chew them right up with the ripe berries. With the blender, Gillian adds the whole, frozen autumn olives with bananas and lets it blend well enough that I don't mind drinking the pulverized seeds within the smoothie. Autumn olive berries get much sweeter after freezing, but we still add a touch of honey or orange juice to the smoothie.

We collect pine pollen and cattail pollen in late spring, drying it and keeping it in jars in the freezer to add bright yellow nutrition to breads, pancakes, and smoothies all year long. For this smoothie, Robert used pine pollen collected along the shoreline of Rhode Island, uncooked oats, bananas, and almond milk with a spoonful of honey for sweetness. Pine pollen has all 8 essential amino acids, minerals and is a powerful antioxidant, as well as a natural source of steroidal-type substances like testosterone, DHEA, and androsterone. This smoothie was wonderfully thick from the oats and sweet from the fruit and honey, one of my favorites.

Chickweed is one wild green we can sometimes find late into the fall and even in the winter if there isn't too much snow on the ground. It prefers cooler weather, disappearing in the hot summer, and re-sprouting in the fall from the seeds that fell in the spring before it died back. The flavor of chickweed is very mild and bit like the silk of ears of corn. We add it to salads and smoothies, tossed into soups at the last minute of cooking, and use it on sandwiches like sprouts. Chickweed doesn't dry or freeze well, so sometimes we just get lucky when finding it on a mild winter day and use it fresh. It contains vitamin A, B, C and a bit of iron along with other minerals and silica. While the light green color of the smoothie turned Gillian off, Robert and I both enjoyed this last little blast of fresh, green goodness before the harshness of winter set in.

This wild blueberry and huckleberry smoothie probably had some bananas and cranberry juice added. We picked the wild blueberries and huckleberries from the same patch of poor, acidic soil last year, putting our newly purchased blueberry rake to the test. The forest has a mix of low-bush and high-bush blueberries and huckleberries all mixed together, so we just kept them blended and made a batch of jam and froze the rest of the berries. While both berries appear very similar, taste similar, have similar amounts of iron and antioxidants, and are equally edible, you can tell them apart by checking the seeds. Wild blueberries have many small seeds spread throughout the inside of the berry; huckleberries have a ring of 10 larger seeds (botanically nutlets) arranged in a ring inside the berry at its equator. The rich, purple color is a good indicator of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Wild blueberries and huckleberries also contain high amounts of fiber and maganese as well vitamin K and C. This smoothie was sweet and delicious, one Gillian's favorites, letting us know we need to pick more wild blueberries and hucklberries next year for the freezer!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Using the Vitamix blender to pulverize the autumn berry seeds is a great idea! I dislike the seeds myself but realize their nutritional value. I'll have to give it a try.
Adding pollen to a smoothie for flavor and nutrition sounds great also. Do you dry the pollen by spreading it on a baking sheet?