Newsletter 14 February 2017
While driving around have you seen a tree with large, dark green leaves and yellow fruit? It’s probably a Loquat which are heavy with fruit now. This past Sunday I picked 12 pounds of Loquats in less than an hour. That’s calorie positive. Rather than eating them outright I deseeded then dehydrated them. Like plums changed to prunes the fruit changes character but it is still tasty. I have also learned over the years at adding sulfur before drying does not stop the fruit from browning. You can dehydrate tart and sweet Loquats but you should avoid all green Loquats. Unripe fruit can be toxic especially for children. As long as the fruit is yellow to gold they are good. If you can detect any green hues the fruit is not ripe.
Loquats are not native but they have naturalized themselves and can be found throughout the region. How you eat the ripe fruit is something of a debate. I just break off the stem that holds them to the tree then eat, spitting out the seeds. You should try to not eat any seeds. An occasional seed is of no great harm but they generally are not considered edible though I have heard of folks roasting them then eating them. I do not recommend that. Some people also peel the fruit but I don’t. To dry them all I do is cut around the equator of a each fruit, take out the seeds (used later to make into Loquat Grappa.) Then dehydrate the fruit at about 130 F. You can read more about Loquats here.
Now is the time to start looking for wild garlic/onions. There are seasonal weather influences. Near Gainesville by this time of year I would expect to find wild garlic with cloves. But because of low rainfall both wild garlic and chickweed were behind season. Because of seasonal variations you can find wild garlic locally from now to April or so. What is unusual about Allium canadensis is that it has an onion-like bulb, a strong garlic-scented stem, and grows garlic cloves on top of the plant. To read more about wild garlic go here.
A warm winter and little frost has made foraging more of a treasure hunt for adults than usual. So far this year in this newsletter we have mentioned persimmons persisting after their usual season to Creeping Cucumber continuing to fruit because of the lack of cold weather. And now within three days I’ve seen the same edible wild vegetable some 150 miles apart, the fruit of the Latex Strangler Vine. Last Thursday while cycling on the West Orange Bike Trail west of Orlando I saw the vine and two fruit, both the right size for cooking and consuming. Then while teaching a class at the 2017 EarthSkills gathering near Gainesville a student asked about a fruit he found it on a vine near by. Decades age when the weather was warmer the vine was common where there was citrus. It was the Strangler Vine fruit. Cooler weather has frozen it northward. I have seen it in Ocala and now some 40 miles north of near Gainesville. In both cases the two sightings were under Live Oaks and in unmown areas. It is quite common mis-state and south.
While teaching a class in Ocala this past weekend we had a pleasant surprise. My classes there are usually in the warmer months so I had overlooked a tree. This time it was still with leaves between two leafless Sycamores. More to the point it solved a mystery I had for several months. In Winter Park last fall I found a huge acorn in a parking lot with no clue as to where it came from. What I noticed in Ocala was the same size and style of acorn (they do vary.) What makes these acorns worthy of looking for is their size. Since one has to shell acorns the bigger the acorn one gets for the effort the more product. After a bit of research I settled on Quercus michauxii, or the Swamp Chestnut Oak, a.k.a. Swamp Oak, Basket Oak and Cow Oak. It was called the Basket Oak because splits from the wood were used to hold large bales of cotton. Cow Oak also fit because cows reportedly can eat the acorns as they are. Swamp Oak because its preferred natural location is in wetter or well-irrigated areas. The acorns I tasted were both sweet and acidic meaning they needed leaching. You can read about oaks here.
Previous recent newsletters have mentioned the blossoming of the Eastern Red Bud. It’s a small tree with small pink blossoms and currently no leaves. About the same time one can also spot similar short tress with small white blossoms and no leaves. Those are almost certainly native plums and usually a chickasaw plum. They like the same environment as the red bud and blossom leaflessly at the same time. While native plums trees can look similar the Chickasaw Plum leaves have a distinctive red gland on the tips of leaf teeth (you’ll need a magnifying class to see them.) You can read more about the Chickasaw Plum here.
Miscellany: I have dozens of two- to four-inch long Ivy Gourd roots. You have or know where I can get dozens of empty plastic plant pots. How do we get them together so folks can get an Ivy Gourd to plant? Email me at GreenDeane at gmail.com if you have a lead on pots. Also worth of mentioning again is the Silverthorn. Today, Valentine’s Day, is the date to aim for to find red ripe fruit. I have been finding ripe Silverthorn fruit all week. The speckled fruit is tasty and nutrition when ripe. The shrub is commonly used in park and housing landscaping. And right on time — Valentines Day — I saw Robins today. They show up annually this week in this part of the world. Now protected they were once a common game bird for dinner.
Foraging Classes: Except for hurricanes foraging classes usually are held as scheduled. We’re hungry when we are cold and wet so foraging classes are held when it is wet, when it is cold, and when it’s hot. Classes in south Florida in August are a challenge. My upcoming schedule looks like but I have conferences this month. Next week I will put up classes for March and April.
Sunday, February 19th, Blanchard Park, 10501 Jay Blanchard Trail, Orlando, FL 32817. 9 a.m. We meet near the tennis courts.
To learn more about the classes, go here.
Now’s the time to make sure you have a place at the sixth Florida Herbal Conference in February. To read more about the conference and to register go here. This will be my sixth year attending the festival teaching about wild edible plants. There will be many herbal teachers from around the state and nation. Featured keynote speakers are Deb Soule and Guido Mase. The conference’s numerous classes range from Clinical Herbalism to Garden Medicine. Recreational activities at the Lake Wales site include yoga, singing, drumming, and canoeing. Ms. Imani and Beautiful Chorus will provide music. A wide array of artisans and crafters will also have booths at the conference. Camping is included in registration, and indoor cabin lodging and weekend meal plans are also available. Proceeds of the conference will benefit United Plant Savers. Again, to read about and register go here.
Now’s the time to get a jump on spring. All of Green Dane’s videos available for free on You Tube. They do have ads on them so every time you watch a Green Deane video I get a quarter of one cent. Four views, one cent. Not exactly a large money-maker but it helps pays for the newsletter. If you want to see the videos without ads and some in slightly better quality you can order the DVD set. It is nine DVDs with 15 videos on each. Many people want their own copy of the videos or they have a slow service and its easier to order then to watch them on-line. They make a good gift for that forager you know. Individual DVDs can also be ordered. You can order them by clicking on the button on the top right of this page or you can go here. If that link is not working — there have been some site issues — you can use a donation link and email me your order and address.
Want to identify a plant? Looking for a foraging reference? Do you have a UFO, an Unidentified Flowering Object you want identified? On the Green Deane Forum we chat about foraging all year. And it’s not just about warm-weather plants or just North American flora. Many nations around the world share common weeds so there’s a lot to talk about. There’s also more than weeds. The reference section has information for foraging around the world. There are also articles on food preservation, and forgotten skills from making bows to fermenting food. You can join the forum by clicking on the button on the upper right hand side of this page.
This is issue 244.
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