There’s something likable about unripe grapes… not eating them but seeing them.
Grapes are both easy and difficult. It’s reasonably easy to know you have grapes. What can be difficult is figuring out exactly which species of grape it is. And then there’s all kinds of local or common names to confuse the issue such as muscadines, scuppernong, field, fox, Indian or mustang.
Locally, which is central Florida, wild grapes ripen sometime around September or a little earlier. But when I was a boy walking to school in rural, Pownal, Maine — yes some of us actually did walk to school, two miles one way — Concord Grapes also came into season around September, perhaps a little later. They wended their way among trees along a hedgerow growing out of an old rumble down stone fence… right next to a McIntosh apple orchard. I got to go scrumping before and after school. If I were lucky there would also be some late-season blueberries. Most people don’t know that Concord grapes were a developed variety. By the time I came along in 1950 they were well-established in New England. Concord Grapes were commonly found around old homestead along with what was left of Gooseberries.
(Two other memories from that time: Cresting St. Pierre’s hill to see sunlit mile-high Mt. Washington some 60 miles to the west in New Hampshire. And there was a river along the way, the Royal, a name that far exceeded its trickle. I fell in many times, never told my parents. Fished there a lot. Caught carp, eels and sunfish. Found a few black pearls in fresh water mussels. Incidentally that school was one room, and did not have running water. Bathrooms were outhouses. The bus driver dipped a five gallon milk can in a road-side spring to provide daily drinking water. Three grades, one teacher. And at noon on May Day we’d hang a basket on the teacher and run into the woods disappearing for the rest of the day. Sometimes we’d get as far as the top of Bradbury Mountain two miles away. No police were called (no phones) no parents upset, no one lost or injured.)
Green grapes are optimists, they point to a future. They mean you have found food for tomorrow. I’ve mentioned it before but it is worth repeating. Grapes with tendrils that fork tend to product better grapes ones with single tendrils (a tendril is what the grape uses to climb.) Another handy reference it grapes have tear drop shaped seeds. They are not flat, or have a flat side or any significant angles. Local grapes can be distinct enough to make a differentiated product, like New York State wines or various Concord wines. In Florida there is a pathogen called Pierce’s Disease that is fatal to over 300 species of grapes. There cannot be a Florida Malbec or Chardonnay. Non-native grapes have to be hybridized with the natives to get immunity to the disease. Otherwise they die after a few years. To read more about grapes, go here.
Seasonal rains bring out mushrooms. My knowledge of them is scant but I do moderate several Facebook mushroom pages including the Florida Mushroom Identification Forum and Southeastern U.S. Mushroom Identification. As mushrooming is a specialized interest I won’t delve too far into it here. But I think the Boletes were worth a mention. All Boletes but one have pores not gills. This make the group easy to identify. And while there are edible Boletes and toxic Boletes there are no deadly Boletes (unless you have an underlying condition.) The point is they don’t liquify your liver or the like. The rules below eliminate all toxic Boletes (they also eliminate some edible ones as well but that is for more advance study.)
First eat only fresh, young specimens. That eliminates food poisoning from rotting flesh and eating nasty bugs in old specimens. Also production of key bruising identification marks can fade with age which is another reason to use only young specimens. That said most-poisonous boletes have red or orange pore surfaces. Also avoid any Boletes with an orange cap. Avoid Boletes that stain or bruise blue to green. Be sure to check the cap, stem and pore surfaces for bruising. As mentioned these rules while eliminating all toxic Boletes also eliminate several edible ones. For example Boletes that stain blue on contact are to be avoided yet one of the more choice edible ones turns brilliant blue almost immediately. But those are the exceptions so one learns the rules first, then the exceptions. You can read more about Boletes and other mushrooms here.
Perhaps this is a reminiscent newsletter for I was also going to write about the Rose family. The first Roses I can remember grew in our horse pasture. The prickles made them off-limits to the beasts. Incidentally Roses do not have thorns. They have prickles. That may ruin a lot of old jokes but it is accurate. A thorn is a modified twig, a spine — which serves the same purpose — is a modified leaf. A prickle is just a sharp hook or the like and it can be anywhere on the plant. People describe one of the local Smilax as having thorns but it really has prickles. So while thorns and spines have very specific locations prickles are like warts, they can be anywhere.
The Rose family is huge, perhaps only dwarfed by the Composite group which has some 22,000 members. Plants for the most part in the Rose group are edible though there are notable deadly exceptions and many of them have cyanide in their leaves and seeds, or a compound which upon digestion produces cyanide. This is why you should limit the number of apple or apricot seeds you should consume. That said my mother always ate the entire apple: Stem, core, seeds and all. She called the seeds “pips” and if the apple had only a few she was duly upset. A few apple seeds won’t kill an adult but don’t over do it. Some times toxic seeds are processed and eaten as some Natives did with the cyanide-laced kernels of the Chickasaw Plum. Sometimes the species is accommodating: The fruit of the Pyracantha is edible but the seeds are not. However you can cook the fruit seeds and all then strain out the seeds. The seeds in that species don’t affect the pulp. And then there is the Cherry Laurel, a few leaves can kill a 600-pound steer in minutes. Best to leave that one alone. The Rose family includes besides apples pears, quince, loquats, almonds, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, sloes, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. (Don’t forget to dry those Blackberry leaves before you use them for a medicinal tea or they can make you ill.)
Locally roses are a challenge to grow. I know of three gardens. They don’t like the heat. But rose petals have been used for food and perfumes for perhaps thousands of years. Rose hips have been a source of necessary vitamin C for centuries. There is one precaution with rose hips you harvest yourself. You should remove the seeds. They were the original “itching powder.” If you eat too many rose hips with their seeds you get what the Aboriginals called “Itchy bottom disease.” I think you can figure that out. You can read more about roses here.
FORAGING CLASSES: It was a wet four-hour class in John Chestnut Park last weekend. I was dressed for the weather only to find my raincoat was not water proof. Note two classes in June are on Saturdays. This weekend I have a class in Port Charlotte at Bay Shore Park. It’s a pleasant location with some salt-tolerant edibles long the Peace River.
Sunday, June 11th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, Bayshore Drive. Port Charlotte. 9 a.m. Meet at the parking lot at the intersection of Bayshore Road and Ganyard Street.
Saturday, June 17th, Florida State College, south campus, 11901 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, 32246. 9 a.m.
Sunday, June 18th, Blanchard Park, 10501 Jay Blanchard Trail, Orlando, FL 32817. 9 a.m. Meet east side of the tennis courts near the YMCA building.
Sunday, June 25th, Dreher Park, 1200 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 33405., 9 a.m.
To read more about the foraging classes go here.
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. One special section is “From the Frightening Mail Bag” where we learn from people’s mistakes. You can join the forum by clicking on the button on the upper right hand side of this page.
All of Green Deane’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 this 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.
From the 2012 archive:
Fireweed, Burn Weed… smelly… no matter what you call it this edible is easy to find. In the Dirty Little Aster clan, Fireweed really doesn’t go away in the summer time. You’ll can find a ratty heat-tortured plant here or there. Nearly every food is an “acquired” taste except for mother’s milk. If there were, however, a list for plants that are an acquired taste Fireweed would be near the top. Like the fruit Surinam Cherries, you will either like it or you will hate it. Very few palate opinions fall in between. It’s called Fireweed and Burn Weed because it is often among the first plants to shoot after a fire has charred an area. While it is edible the natives used Fireweed (Erechtites hieraciifolius) primarily as a medicine. Also know there are at least two different plants with the common name of Fireweed or Burn Weed, both edible. The other is a tall perennial called Epilobium angustifolium which is in the evening-primrose family. To read about Fireweed, go here.
This is issue 260
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