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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Wild Juicy Day

The other day we woke up and had a green juice. This had pineapple, cucumber, celery, and orange.

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Feeling good, we took some kale chips and fruit for the road and decided to get outside. We ended up near Caddo Lake, where we hiked a bit, relaxed and end up finding tremendous patches of chickweed, cleavers and dandelion! You know we picked some!!

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Chickweed patches

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Cleavers!
We also saw some mushrooms, and we saw then again the next day down by the Red River! They look like oyster mushrooms, but I don’t trust that!

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More green juice- this time wild!! I blended the greens with apples and lemons and then strained. Simple, effective and delicious! I made enough for two days.

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Amethyst LOVES her green juice!!

We also saw sow thistle, goldenrod and a few other things on our day out, but none in such abundance or condition to pick. The sow thistle is really abundant now though around here but is best cooked, so expect a cooked wild greens post soon 😉

From my green heart to yours! xx

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More UK adventures!

We are still here in England and have been lucky enough to have quite a few gorgeously sunny and warmish days. It is starting to get cold now, but soon we will be flying back to Louisiana where I have been informed that it is still hot!
One day we went for a walk down historic Winkle Street in Calbourne and we were met with this:

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Loads and loads of watercress! We made a watercress and potato soup with our haul because eating it raw isn’t very safe due to possible liver flukes. Best not to dwell on that though because cooked it is perfectly safe and lovely!
Here is the hubby with our score:

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We also found fresh ripe hazelnuts

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Damsons

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and of course loads of nettles, from which we made (and keep making) a nourishing, mineral rich brew!

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Little poppet got to run and play in the setting sun

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It was a beautiful day, and we got to share it with my husband’s parents, his brother Gavin and his fiancé, Emma. It really us hard being so far from his family. No matter where we live, someone misses out and unfortunately that includes Amethyst who grows up not really knowing half of her family. We just appreciate the time we do get to spend together, make the most of it and plan ahead!

UK adventures

Our little family has been in England for the past two weeks visiting my family-in-law. We must have timed it perfectly because there has been such an abundance of wild food for us!
One of the first nights here, I made a raw crumble with blackberries we foraged and apples from a tree in the garden.

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It was so good! Especially considering I am not in my kitchen and just used bits and pieces my mother in law had on hand. With a little creativity, preparing raw food is easy anywhere!!
We then found some lovely mugwort, which we used for a pre-bedtime relaxing cup of tea!

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As beautiful as the Isle of Wight is, we took a day trip up to London one day to visit Camden, do a bit of shopping at Braintree Hemp and eat at inSpiral Lounge! It did not dissappoint!

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Sunburger, raw pizza, raw Caesar salad, butternut squash and apple with goji berry sauce, olives, Banoffee Pie, tiramisu and more!

As usual, we stopped back by on our way out to pick up snacks. We got some superfood truffles, Raspberry Maca Kale Chips

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and this!

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I’m still not a fan though! Freeze dry it, coat it in chocolate, whatever you want to do to it- I do not like it! But I love that my hubby loves it, haha!
We have been blessed the past few days with some beautiful sunny weather. We even took a plunge in the COLD ocean yesterday!! I’m off to enjoy more of it and have lots more foraging adventures to share!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Tonight’s meal came together so quickly and was so delicious that I had to blog it immediately!!

We had Dandelion Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms.

First, you need to prepare your shrooms. Rinse them, pat them dry and remove the stem. Reserve about one fourth of the best looking stems. Put the caps in a big bowl and drizzle some good quality olive oil and a small amount of tamari or Nama Shoyu on them. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the rest.

Next, you want to make a vegan pesto. You can use any recipe that you like, but if you don’t have one then I’ll tell you what I did.

1 cup sprouted hazelnuts
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp good sea salt
2 cloves garlic

Pulse in the food processor until nuts are in crumbs. Then add in

1/2 bunch dandelion leaves (about 1 cup)
1 bunch basil ( 2 cups)

Process again, and add in while the machine is running a few good glugs of the best olive oil you can afford! It is worth it for a good pesto!! Also add in the juice of half a lemon or a bit of apple cider vinegar.

This is your basic pesto. To this, add in the reserved mushroom stems (peduncles!) and about half a cup of raw crackers. I used my own brand onion crackers, but you can use anything!! Process again until smooth and thick. Now fill each mushroom cap with about a tablespoon of the pesto mixture. You can either eat them as is, dehydrate them at 120 for 4 to 6 hours or you can even bake them at 350 for 15 minutes. Either way, they are delicious and sure to please even the most discerning palates. Serve with a salad and you have a perfect meal. If you made it this far, you deserve a picture!

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Our salad had romaine, cherry tomatoes, black olives, pea shoots and a simple parsley and apple dressing. Yum! Hope you enjoy! Let me know if you try it.

Licor de Madroño

I’ve never been a big drinker, and now being preggers my alcohol consumption is down to zero.  But last fall, the madroños or strawberry trees were so abundant that I just had to pick some and preserve them.  I didn’t really feel like making a jam so an easy peasy liquor was decided upon.  The method is exactly the same as making slow gin, but if you aren’t familiar with that, all you do is put your washed and dried fruit in a jar, add about half a cup of sugar* to cover the fruit and then fill the rest of the jar with alcohol.  It really needs to be at least 50% alcohol in order to really preserve the fruits and extract the flavor.

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It looks really beautiful , and it extracts into a pinkish color.  While I haven’t tried it myself, I have been pawning it off on guests, and the reaction has been very positive!

Even if you don’t drink, if you have access to ripe madroños any time of year, give it a go.  You can always add a splash to fruit salads, or make a sangria punch type drink for a party with sparking water, pomegranate or cranberry juice, chopped up fruit and a bit of madroño liquor.

For those that DO drink, one thing I am dying to try is a Madroño Mimosa- some Spanish Cava and my homemade madroño liquor.  Try it and let me know how it is 😉

*ordinarily, I would never advise anyone to use processed sugar, but in a recipe like this it really is necessary.  Something like agave or honey truly would not work.  I used white sugar because we had some on hand for these types of projects but something like demarara or raw cane sugar would be a great option!