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!!

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?


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!


Mint – Refreshing Taste, and Healthy

Mint tea or mint flavored drinks hot or cold, are my faves.

Great for drinks, seasoning and condiments

Great for drinks, seasoning and condiments

All mint family plants have square stems which helps identify them. There may be 13 to 18 different plants in this species – with varying flavors! Peppermint makes a nice iced tea treat for summer evenings.

Here’s a great little article on growing mint –

Mint is also super healthy. I credit it with keeping me cold free this past winter. Try out this info –

Picking is very simple – harvest the leaves and stems before flowering. Cut them off cleanly so the plant heals quickly. If flowers forms, nip them off. Flowers can also be dried for seasoning and drinks.
I dry mint on a piece of paper or plastic.
After drying, I put the material in the blender to make a powder. This takes up less storage space. I stop and start the blender numerous times, pushing the material down when the blade is stopped, in order to overcome bridging in the blender container.
Good luck! Enjoy the hardy, healthy flavor of your favorite mint treat!

Upcoming treats and natural foods from mother nature – june berries and bullrush, aka cattail, flowers

Curled Dock – powerhouse vegetable

I call this veggie curly dock, it seems so much more fun!
Curled or yellow dock is your best friend if your looking for greens full of protein. This easily identified edible is rich in vitamin A and protein.
The leaves become bitter as they age, so early picking saves you from puckering!

Curly Dock

Curled dock comes in a variety of species, they vary in bitterness and sourness.
It can be used fresh in salads, or eaten as a boiled vegetable. Change the water several times when boiling to reduce the bitterness, according to Lee Allen Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants book. ISBN 0-395-31870-X. I enjoy dock as one ingredient in a stir fry, with onions, of course! I also pickle it along with other spring wild edible plants like wild mustard. These pickles are very enjoyable in the bitter cold winter months – they bring spring a little closer when summer seems so far way.
Happy picking and remember, if in doubt, leave it out.

I have found that correctly identifying herbs can take several years. By watching them through their life cycle, ie early leaves, flowering, seeding phases, I have become very familiar and confident. Just need to make sure not to become overconfident!! Rubbing the leaves between my thumb and index finger to get the scent is helpful sometimes for identification. Also, locating sources of plants takes time. A Sunday afternoon drive or taking a different route home from work can yield great picking locations. Be sure to ask the landowner if it is private property!


Dandelions and Your Health

Everyone loves to experience those cheery yellow flowers in their lawn in spring – yah, right!
Well they definitely have great qualities. You may find them beneficial to your physical and financial health – amazing way to fight the high cost of fresh veggies.

Following is an article on the nutritional benefits of dandelions.

Dandelion Flower Health Benefits

Here is another more in depth article – just makes you want to get out there and pick dandelions!”>

All these nutrients are stored up in the flower buds as well. If this is your preferred method of eating them. I like pickled flowers and flower buds – delicious!

Mother nature is a treasure trove of goodies. We need to educate ourselves, try a few ideas and get the benefits. Some of my ideas have ended up in the compost pit, so don’t be reticent to try yours!


PS Just enjoying my first ever cup of dandelion flower tea. Very pleasant!!

Food for the Homeless

Identifying, harvesting and preparing wild foods is a fun and money saving adventure. During the cold, dark winter months, I pour over my edible plant guide. Looking for insights and knowledge. The internet offers a plethora of images to heighten your skills of identification, and articles to wet your appetite for herbal cuisine.

After the long winter, spring is a great time to get outside, breath the fresh air and harvest wild foods. Wild mustard is an early spring favorite. The cluster of small, white flowers is easily identifiable, along with its peppery aroma when crushed between the fingers.

Wild mustard is a peppery, pleasant tasting herb. Great for fresh salads, on sandwiches and in stir fries. It has many excellent health benefits, also. See the following link.

Health benefits of Mustard Greens

Mustard greens can be successfully frozen for use in stir fries at a later time.

Wild mustard comes in many different shapes, sizes and flower colors. Good luck and happy hunting!! If in doubt, leave it out(side)!!

Generally speaking, eating flower buds is something I enjoy. Our favorite flower, the dandelion, offers a tasty, nutritionally sound spring tonic. More on this next time.

Tim, keeping it healthy – physically and financially!!

Why Plant based Health Options? Part 2

Last time we explored 3 markers for considering health benefits and risks – clinical effect, side effect and lethal dose 50. We discovered that when using papaya leaf that the dosage level from one marker to the next is very large, making the possibility of negative results highly unlikely. In a lethal dose 50 study done by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, the lethal dose 50 test found that this plant is safe according to EU (European Union) and WHO (World Health Organisation) standards.

Let us consider a concept called “poorification” which results when chemicals are isolated from their naturally occurring neighbours. The body is highly complex, to make a gross understatement. Many chemicals involved in healing receive synergistic effects from companion chemicals found in the plants from which they are derived. Therefore, poorification occurs when plant based chemicals are removed from plants and purified.

How will we successfully minimize the negative economic effects of such diseases as malaria? Let us look at the numbers. In Uganda, where malaria is endemic, people get this life threatening disease twice annually on the average. With over 40 million people they have over 80 million cases of malaria annually!! Plants can provide millions of doses of medicine, per hectare!!, making this treatment option a workable solution.

What about the drawbacks? I have been hard pressed to find any and would welcome any stories, anecdotal or otherwise, from you. I know that in countries where post mortems are not routine, that if a person tries a treatment then dies of a totally unrelated cause, that the treatment can be seen as the cause of death. This is a potential drawback.

Often where money is a constraint, people will wait until they are almost dead to go to a clinic. Perhaps a week. Once at the clinic they frequently die as the disease was too far advanced to treat. With plant based options people can treat themselves at early onset, improving their chance of surviving, and thriving! Treatment time period is commonly 3 days. Thus the person can try two dosage levels in an attempt to get a clinical effect before they would normally go to the hospital.
People must understand that symptoms which might indicate a particular disease may be something else and they need to remain open to the need to go to hospital or a clinic to seek treatment and or diagnosis.

Please take some time to research such options and consider your ability to make positive change through being informed.

Kind Regards

Off to Haiti, 2015

I am once again privileged to be able to take a month to spend in Haiti.

Children’s Lifeline,, has asked me to do agricultural education with the local community. I am currently thinking about using a 3 square model – composting, trees and vegetables being the 3 components.

Covering the soil with mulch or compost in tropical climates helps reduce the effect of intense sunshine. This improves the microbial life and the soils fertility.

Thanks for your interest in reducing poverty, disease and improving food security. I hope my postings have helped you thrive.

Take a little ride up the road to Children’s Lifeline compound – hang on!!!

Kind Regards, Tim

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