Preserving Cattail Flowers

One thought from my last post – if the jar does not seal either reheat and try again or just refrigerate and eat at your leisure!

Collecting cattail flowers. I have a large cloth bag that I can hook over my shoulder as it gets heavy. The flowers are in one of two states – a green pencil which is hard or partly blown, ie the top has started to expand and it is releasing its pollen. The green pencils I break off just below the bottom of the flower. The flower is not to be confused with the part that gets big and brown over the summer. There are wide and narrow leafed cattails; one has a small gap between the flower and the other bit, one does not. The other state of the flowers is when they have started to release the pollen. These I grab between my thumb and index finger and pull up, removing a handful of yellow powdery stuff – all this goes into the same bag!

After this adventure, I dump the whole business onto the kitchen counter and begin sorting. The green pencils go into the roasting pan. All the stuff which is left, after removing the loads of leaves etc (yes, there are some bugs!!), is put into a plastic thingy for draining the water off washed lettuce. Vigorously shaking this container over a cookie sheet allows the pollen and other edibles to end up on the cookie sheet. This leaves some of the larger bits of fiber in the container which are thrown out. This yellow powdery material is dried and is a very good edible. It can also be pickled.

The green pencils are now in the roasting pan. I add some water to the pan, put the lid on and cook in the oven for half an hour at 400 degrees. This material that you pick from the field/swamp cannot be stored for any length of time as it will develop biological heat and spoil within hours. Therefore, I am picking and processing in the evening or latter part of the day. By the time I get to cooking it is very late so after the half hour at 400 I turn off the heat and go to bed.

In the morning, I get the pan out and work a bunch of the warm now cooked pencils with my hands. This loosens the food from the fiber core. Now I just pick up each one and separate the core from the edible portion. Leaving the edibles in a separate container. This edible material I either dry or pickle. The dried material has a broader number of uses, such as mixed with oatmeal at breakfast, whereas pickles are only for dinner!!

All this separating is time consuming so I just throw the stuff (leaves, cores) on the floor and sweep it up afterward to save time. Maybe its a good thing I’m single!!

Any questions? I believe these yellow products contain a lot of quercetin which is a natural antihistamine. Eating this material seems to help me when allergy symptoms are bad.

Trudging through a swamp is very difficult the first time, but after that you can follow yout trails and it is easier!! I found harvesting every few days seems to work. The flowers are only available for two weeks in the spring. There is no fixed harvesting dates as the maturity of plants depends on the weather and number of heat units we have had.

Happy foraging.

Preserve and Preserve some more!

Preserving or canning does not need to difficult. I will share my simple, repeatable method which now requires no thought on my part.

I collect used jars with the lids attached. I inspect the lid to make sure the ring of material that seals the jar is in good order. Then I wash and store these jars.

To begin canning, I simply rinse the jars with clean water, boil the kettle, line up the jars with the lids in front, then pour about an inch of the water into the jar and fill the upturned lid so all are fairly sterile.

Cooking the ingredients to be canned is a very easy recipe. Maybe I should be a bit more daring sometime so if you come up with good recipes, let me know!! I simply use 50/50 boiled water and apple cider vinegar, 2 heaping tablespoons of garlic powder and a half teaspoon of salt in a liter or so of product. After this concoction has boiled for a few minutes, it is spooned into the jars, topped up with boiling liquid (about a millimeter from the top), clean off the rim with my finger, screw the lid on loose, move the jar to the cooling spot a few feet away, screw the lid on tight. In several minutes you hear pop as the jar seals. That is about it.

If the stuff goes bad in winter just toss it out. About 1 in 100 goes bad so the success rate is very high.

I am currently canning wild lettuce flower buds, (unexploded), and harvesting lambsquarters flower buds for drying. Just finished cattail flowers a few weeks ago. My next post will give directions for cattail flowers as it has a few steps but nothing you can’t master.

Happy foraging, and remember there is lots to go around!!

Small Motorized Equipment (SME) Services

We are a service provider in the Ajax – Pickering, Markham – Stouffville and Scarborough areas.

SME Services is in the business of making house calls. We service and fix small, motorized equipment like lawnmowers, snow blowers, trimmers, weed eaters, rototillers etc.

Our objective is to get your equipment and recreational vehicles running in top shape to avoid / eliminate down time and surprises. We educate and service equipment to improve equipment life.

Looking for a detail oriented technical person? We look forward to hearing from you.

Annual lawnmower maintenance may include a yearly check up. Including blade sharpening, change oil, clean air filter, check spark plug, drain fuel and run dry for winter storage. We look forward to providing any of these services which would benefit you.

Trouble starting your small engine? Give us a call, we can help!

SME at your service!!

Tim Wise
cell 647-234-7524, text me!
email –

Winterizing Your Mower

Winter will soon be officially here! With the leaves all down and snow flying (depending where you are) it’s time to put away the lawnmower.

I was watching a video that says the mower engine is a fairly simple mechanism. therefore, only a few simple tricks make a spring start very easy. The gas makes its way to the fuel bowl by gravity. From there it moves through the carburetor where a very small tube allows it to be mixed with air by virtue of the venturi effect. The venturi effect is caused by the air being drawn into the engine.

It is the plugging of this very small hole that usually causes malfunctioning. Therefore, after warming up the lawnmower, shut it off, drain or pour out the remaining gas, then start it up and allow it to run until it quits on its own.

This should allow you an easy start next spring. The same principle applies to the snowblower!!

Have a great day, Tim

Winterizing Small Engine Machinery for Winter

Wow, another season of lawn maintenance has passed and wintery weather grips us! It’s a great time to winterize small engines on your lawn mower, weed eater, hedge trimmer etc.
A couple of simple interventions will make your spring start up a breeze.
1. Change the oil in your 4 stroke machines.
2. All machines -Pour out all the remaining fuel, storing it in a fuel safe container. Now start the machine and let it run until all the fuel is gone and it stops on its own. Store these machines in a weather proofed location and one which is not heated. Heated air becomes very dry and parches the fuel system potentially rendering it inoperable.
Look forward to touching base in the spring as we prepare to get started for another season.

Food security and Bio-intensive farming

Please find the link to a very good online course. This has been used repeatedly to improve peoples lives.

The in depth teaching on how soil works, agricultural basics, how the body works, our food as our medicine, nutrient density etc. This action packed video series provides a great education to promote change by answering the big one – WHY??

If you are involved in community development and food security, this is a must see. Get it while it’s hot!!

Papaya and Sick People

When we decide to explore plant based medicine, safety is the number one consideration. Mission critical is do no harm.

Many years ago, while working in Uganda, a friend with connections agreed with this hypothesis. He commissioned a scientific study to determine the LD50 of papaya.

LD50 is the lethal dose which kills 50% of the subjects. This test is performed using laboratory rodents. Not very nice but progress is costly.

Following are the results and recommendations. Please consider this scientific evidence as you consider recommending papaya for your patients. I believe they will thank you. I have benefited big time from this. I eat a 3-4 inch square of fresh leaf daily while in the tropics. My stomach is very strong as a result!! No missed days of work or missed nights sleep for emergency visits. No staying close to the washroom. No smooth muscle relaxants. Just smooth sailing!!

The link below goes to an LD50 study done at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda


Of Grape Leaves and Bulrush flowers…

The heat this spring/early summer is putting the pressure on for harvesting.

This week we will explore fox grape leaves and bulrush ie cattail flowers.

Fox grapes are the wild variety you see growing on fences, up trees and around hydro poles. They have heart shaped leaves, serrated edges and may be lobed; they have small, purple berries in August through October. This post will focus on the leaves, as the fruit can be used as any grapes but need extra sugar.
Following is a link to an excellent article on the health benefits of grape leaves.

Fox Grape Leaves

I harvest the leaves as early as possible in the spring and after the leaves have unfurled. I check the under side for snails and other insect activity as they seem to be quite popular with bugs!!
I simply put them on a piece of paper or plastic and let them dry in the house. When dry I pound them ie put them in a large can and used a rounded end stick to pound them, like people pound grain to make flour using a mortar and pestal. Then I put them in the blender to make a powder. No recommendations yet on how to use them!!

Bulrush flowers are way ahead by calendar this year due to warm weather. Following are a couple of picture so I can explain (a picture is worth a 1,000 words!)

Narrow Leafed Bulrush

Narrow Leafed Bulrush

Broad Leafed Bulrush

Broad Leafed Bulrush

The first bulrushes to flower are the narrow leafed ones. The flower should be picked while it is still green and hard along its full length. These flowers start to release their pollen by swelling from the top down. The flower on the left (in the first photo) has started to release its pollen, I picked the right hand one which still had some of the paper on it. The paper is easy to remove, just grasp it and pull up. Narrow leafed bulrushes have a gap between the flower and the larger piece which becomes the head commonly associated with bulrushes.
The broad leafed have no gap between the flower and the base. You can see it where the color changes. It is not difficult to figure out in the field.
I just break the flowers off at their base, put them in the freezer, and cook them in a roasting pan with meat and other fixin’s. Boiling them in salty water for 5 minutes also yields a tasty treat. I am going to try pickling them this year. I call this lowland asparagus as the taste is slightly similar. Try it, maybe you’ll like it!!

Here is a good article about the health benefits:

When eating this delight, please note there is a stringy core which you need not eat.

I like to harvest my plant material away from highways and heavily traveled routes due to toxins from exhaust fumes and other vehicle fluids.

Remember, if in doubt leave it out. Also, mother nature has a cornucopia of treats for you!! Got any good stories for me?


Prickly Predicament – Pickled Thistle Flowers!

Eating thistle flowers sounds like a job for giraffes or some other tough tongued critters.
During the cold days of winter I enjoy eating these chewing treats – the flavor, to me, is wonderful.
The flowers should be harvested when most are still not blown, that is, most are still buds. You will find many are infested with spiders, aphids, spit bugs and a host of other insects. But don’t despair. There are many which are clean – those are for you, the others are for the bugs.
Put on a pair of thick gloves. I used a thick leather glove. Just pull off the bud clusters that you want. The point here is do not try to harvest the flower buds one at a time – too time consuming – and the small stems are okay to eat. Want fiber in your diet? You’ve got it.
I put all the buds and bud clusters into a plastic sieve with big holes and give a bang on the wall outside – so any spiders fall out. Spiders curl up into a ball when startled so this allows them to escape.
Next, wash with running water under the tap. Put in a pan. Add vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar), water, sugar, your favorite spices and seasonings and bring to a boil, allow to simmer a few minutes to soften the thistle buds and put into sterilized jars for your winter pleasure – in my humble opinion!
Some of my experiments have ended up in the compost heap but I have also discovered some pretty good wild treats! Either way the price is right.

Next time we will explore mother natures free greens – wild lettuce. Yum, yum.


Mother Nature’s Planting sprouts…

Dandelions are ancient history and new treats are popping up the garden. Here’s one of my favourites…

Lamb’s quarters are especially tasty fried up with onions on a bed of rice, in my humble opinion, of course.

If you like charts, here is a link to a bunch of nutritional ones…

There are oodles of great reports on how to collect, store and prepare this free veggie on the internet. I have even pickled the seeds which are delicious in mid winter.

Please take ample time to correctly identify your wild treats. If in doubt, leave it out!!

Happy foraging. What are your plans for the big grocery bill savings? I’m planning my next excursion to Haiti on mine!


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