Hackberry Love ( + Hackberry Milk Tutorial!)

My bestie Justin came to visit for a few days, and we roped him into coming along for hackberry fun!

My bestie Justin came to visit for a few days, and we roped him into coming along for hackberry fun!

The hackberry (celtis occidentalis and virtually indistinguishable  sugarberry or celtis laevigata) is an iconic example of a tree that is generally regarded as a “trash tree” here in the South, but which has a rich history of edible, medicinal and sacred use.

When Dan and I first decided to start learning about trees with the same fervor we had given to other plants, the hackberry was one of the first trees that stood out to me as someone I wanted to get to know. However, it took quite a while before I could consistently identify her.  It also seemed that every time I did come across a hackberry, the berries were never ripe-  that I was always finding the previous winters’ berries.  Some things just take the time they take.

A few days ago, I was in my garden tending to the compost when I noticed red berries all over the compost pile.  I wondered what they were, and thought that they looked a bit like hackberries.  I looked up, and saw overhanging our garden from the abandoned harden next door what seemed like a giant and ancient hackberry tree.  We had been in that yard many times before to pick sorrel leaves and tubers.  How could we have missed it, so glaringly obvious?  When it’s time, it’s time.

Once you know what you are looking for, it is quite difficult to miss sweet hackberry.  She has distinctive warts on the bark and is almost always full of galls on the branches as well as the leaves.

Hackberries have a long and extensive history of use on this continent by Native Americans.  The berries are rich in protein, fat and carbohydrate, so rightly so! They have been boiled, dried, ground and mixed into pemmican (a dried meat and fruit staple food). The tree has also been used to make medicine of different types.  The Houma would make a “women’s medicine”, which I love because to me, the tree has a distinct feminine spirit (hence my use of the feminine articles to describe her).  The Kiowa would also burn the wood in the altar fire during peyote ceremonies.  I adore finding plant spirit medicine connections!

Recently, I have spent quite a bit of time collecting the abundant, if extremely fiddly, berries.  I have done a bit of kitchen experimenting and am happy to share the results! Today, I am showing how to make a quick and tasty hackberry milk.  There are two ways to make it, one raw and one not.  This is for the raw version.  It has a beautiful color and a distinctive and slightly sweet flavor bursting with that wild food factor. Try it!

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I used a little over 1 cup hackberries, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of cinnamon.

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Blend in a high speed blender with about 2 cups filtered water for about 2 minutes (until the hard seeds are definitely blended smooth)

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Strain through nut milk bag, cheesecloth, paint strainer or fine colander until pulp is fairly dry.IMG_3919

You will be left with some beautifully golden and sweet hackberry milk.  We drank some of it as is, used some in place of coconut milk in a thai curry and also made this incredibly delicious chia pudding:

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Chia seeds soaked in hackberry milk, topped with pomegranate seeds, banana and foraged pecans.  So yum! My sincere desire is that you are inspired to go out and make use of this, or another wild plant today. Happy Foraging!

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Raw Green Tea and Passionfruit Cupcakes

After my mid-afternoon nap, I woke up craving something sweet.  I knew that I wanted to make something a little bit different, and thought of the poor, overpriced matcha in my cupboard that has been languishing unloved for weeks.  I then turned to the huge basket of passionfruit that came in my vegbox this week and thought “Hmmm. That flavor combination just might work!”  And it does!  

As per usual in my household, I made half of the recipe sugar-free for my hubby.

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Raw Green Tea and Passionfruit Cupcakes

for the cupcakes:

  •  1 ½ cups almond pulp
  • ½ cup agave nectar or honey (for sugar free version, substitute with ½ cup xylitol)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 15 drops Medicine Flower vanilla extract (or ½ vanilla bean, scraped)
  • 1 tsp. Matcha powder
  • 3 passionfruit

 In food processor, blend all ingredients until matcha is well incorporated. In silicone cupcake holders, fill ¾ full and poke a hole in the center of each one, and fill hole with the passionfruit pulp. Cover with remaining cupcake mixture and pat down. Set in freezer while making icing.

 For the icing:

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • juice of 5 passionfruit
  • 2 tbsp. Coconut butter
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 5 drops Medicine flower vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. Agave nectar (for sugar free, substitute with 3 tbsp xylitol or 20 drops stevia)

 In high speed blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Pipe or spoon icing on top of cupcakes and leave in freezer to set for a further 20 minutes.

 

Cupcakes Crudos de Matcha y Maracuya

para los cupcakes:

  • 1 ½ taza de los restos de haber hecho leche de almendras
  • ½ taza sirope de agave (para versión sín azucar, sustituir ½ taza xylitol)
  • ¼ taza aceite de coco
  • 15 gotas extracto de vainilla
  • 1 cucharadita té verde matcha
  • 3 maracuyas

 En un robot de cocina, procesar todos los ingredientes hasta que quede una masa con el té verde matcha bien incorporada. En unas formas de cupcake de silicona, rellenar ¾ del recipiente y con un dedo, formar un agujero. En ese agujero, rellenarlo con la pulpa de maracuya y desupúes tapar con lo que queda de la masa. Presionar bien. Colocar en el congelador mientras que haces el glaseado.

 Para el glaseado:

  • 1 taza anacardos, remojados
  • zumo de 5 maracuyas
  • 2 cucharadas manteca de coco
  • ¼ taza aceite de coco
  • 5 gotas extracto de vainilla
  • 2 cucharadas sirope de agave

En una batidora de alta potencia, batir todos los ingredientes hasta que quede una crema suave. Poner encima de los cupcakes y volver a ponerlos en el congelador durante 20 minutos más.

Going on vacay! and travel eats

After a really difficult trimester, speaking about both school and pregnancy, we are finally going on vacation.  It has been such a long time since just my husband and I have been somewhere other than to visit the family of one or the other.  We are going to Tarifa in the south of Spain to get our swim on at the beach and soak up some of the bohemian vibe that everyone says the town has.

Luckily, there are a few vegetarian spots in Tarifa, but we are also going prepared so that I can stick to my high raw regime.  We are taking our blender so that we can make morning smoothies in the hotel room and I have been uncooking a storm to take a few snacks for both the train ride and to supplement whatever we decide to eat while we are there.

 First, I am making Russell James´ Mediterranean Almond Bread.  So easy to make and it smells delicious!

The recipe is all over the internet so I am posting it here as well!

Mediterranean Almond Bread

Makes 18 ‘slices’

1/2c olive oil
1c sun dried tomatoes, loosely packed
3c almond flour*
1c flax meal
medium courgettes (zucchini), peeled & roughly chopped
apples, cored and roughly chopped
3T lemon juice
1t salt
3T 
Herbs De Provence or herbs of your choice
2T
 marjoram or herbs of your choice

*You can make almond flour a number of ways.  My favourite is to save the pulp from any almond milk I make and dehydrate it so I can keep it in a glass jar until needed.  You could also use the almond pulp wet.  Another way would be just to grind some almonds into flour in a high powered blender or coffee mill.

– Process the olive oil, sun dried toms, courgette, apple, lemon juice, salt and dried herbs until thoroughly mixed.

– Add the almond flour and process again until a batter is formed.

– In a bowl mix the batter with the flax meal by hand.  The reason you do this separately (not in the processor) is that you are likely to have too much mixture for the size if the processor at this point, and when you add the flax meal it will become quite heavy and sticky and overwork your machine.

– When mixed, process the whole batter in the machine again in small batches to achieve a light fluffy texture.

– Divide the mixture in 2 and place on Paraflexx sheets, on dehydrator trays.

– Use an offset spatula (aka offset palette knife or cranked palette knife) to spread the mixture evenly to all 4 sides and corners of the Paraflexx sheet.  If mixture is too sticky you can wet the spatula to make things easier.  With a knife score the whole thing into 9 squares.

– Dehydrate for 2 hours and then remove the Paraflexx sheets by placing another dehydrator tray and mesh on top and invert so that your original sheet of bread is upside down.  That will allow you to peel the Paralexx sheet off and continue to dehydrate the underside of the bread.

– Dehydrate for approx 8 hours more (do this overnight so you’re not tempted to eat it before it’s ready) or until bread feels light in your hand.  If the pieces don’t fully come apart where you scored, use a knife to cut them.

Then, I am making 2 recipes from http://www.rawfoodrecipes.com

I am going to make Broccoli Bites and Pakoras.  Depending on how they turn out, I will post a picture and the recipes 🙂

Enjoy your weekend!