The most wonderful time of year….(spring!)

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Each season has its highlights, but I don’t think there’s anything quite so wonderful as Spring.
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Everything has me speaking in exclamation points.

Did you HEAR the spring peepers?!?!” I bound through the house asking Mr. Light Footsteps while doing a few twirls.

“You wouldn’t BELIEVE the plants we saw on our walk today!” I exclaim as I fail to contain my enthusiasm and speak through jumps.

I doubt everyone gets quite so excited about such spring-things, but these are the finer points in life that I believe in celebrating.  Continue reading

Buttermilk Ramp Biscuits

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Have you spotted ramps while roaming through the forest or at your farmers’ market this year?  They’re fun to cook with and fun to harvest.

We’re nearing the end of ramp season, but there’s still time to try this delicious recipe!  Someone special recommended a version of it several months ago, and I was excited to finally have ramps around so that I could try it.  It’s a great way to taste the season! Continue reading

Toadstool Foray

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It feels so wonderful to be in the woods this time of year. The cycle of nature is so obvious, so vibrant, so crunchy beneath the feet and so colorful overhead.  A perfect time for hunting mushrooms! Continue reading

Acorn Garland

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When fall comes, I feel an urge to pepper the house with decorations.  Pumpkins and hay bales are nice, but so many indoor decorations are cheaply made knickknacks from another country where you can bet the standard of worker care isn’t what it should be. (Not to mention the carbon footprint of toting all that plastic stuff halfway around the world!) Continue reading

Get Your Red Clover Before the Season’s Over

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Ah, red clover. A versatile plant that helps with so many things — amusing young children in an attempt to find 4 leaves; food for grazing animals; medicine; and fixing nitrogen into the soil, to name a few.

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Beet Recipe & June Brings…(Part 2)

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It might just be my increasing appreciation for beets, but I was talking out loud (to myself) and making grumblings of gustatory appreciation while eating this very simple meal.

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June Brings…(Sourdough success, garden beauty, and permaculture plans)

Oh, I love you, peas.

It took me a month of working with my sourdough starter, but it finally resulted in a delicious loaf. It still needs work, but I think it was a darn good first try.

Fresh sourdough bread!

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Ramps, Barley, & Beans

Ramp, barley, and beans soup
As the wheel of the year keeps turning us further into spring, it is already nearing time to say goodbye to ramps which are generally only around for harvesting for about 4-6 weeks each spring.
I think I made good use of them this year, but a recent recipe I came across seemed like a good one to squeeze in before the season officially ends.

Here are the ingredients from the original recipe:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hulled barley, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound ramps, whites and greens separated and sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper

And here is what I used instead:

  • 2 cups vegetable broth and 2 cups whey (from my recent ricotta trial!)
  • 3/4 cups hulled barley, rinsed
  • 15 ramps, whites and greens separated and sliced
  • Salt & Black pepper
  • 15 Oz. kidney beans

I thought this recipe would be better with the addition of some protein (the beans), I excluded a vegetable that is not in season (the celery), and I was excited to try my whey as a stock in addition to some vegetable stock!  I also added some additional barley, but you might want to add even more if you give this recipe a go.

Directions:

  1. First add the broth, barley, and the ramp whites to a stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes.
  2. After the simmering, add the greens and take half of the mixture and puree it in a blender to make it creamier.
  3. Return the mix back to the pot, add the beans, and cook until everything is warmed.
  4. Done!

Ramp, barley, and beans soup

I’m not sure why my version doesn’t seem nearly as green & creamy as the photo used by the magazine.  Maybe this is because I didn’t use my good blender (too much clean-up to make soup!), or because I didn’t use enough ramp greens (some were yellowing as the season ends…), or maybe they were cheaters and used food coloring!

Either way, the meal was tasty & (mostly) local, but would have been better if I had found time to bake bread to go with it!  Next time…

Also on ‘these light footsteps’:

Spring Foraging

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Outside of this strange world that we call the internet, I don’t know many people who would say that an ideal day is one spent in the woods learning about wild edible foods. But for me, a day spent meandering through the woods is in itself the indication of a day well spent, and to combine that with learning about and connecting with plants comes close to absolute perfection. Maybe other people just haven’t yet tried…

Behold the knowledge

Disclaimer: I have not tried eating all of the plants shown below and I am not suggesting that you do so without adequate preparation! My method generally goes something like this:

1) Find a plant and ID it in my field guide or learn about a plant and aim to find it and identify it.

2) Identify it on at least a few other ocassions.

3) Read about the plant and possible dangerous look-alikes.

4) Try a small amount to make sure it agrees with my body.

5) Eat more.

Let’s begin…

The dried corms (Wikipedia: a short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ) of jack-in-the pulpits can be sliced and eaten like potato chips!

Jack in the pulpit

Japanese knotwood can be eaten like asparagus…and I encourage this one due to its invasive nature!

Japanese knotwood

Coltsfoot can be candied and I’m still looking to find a patch big enough so that I can infuse the flowers into honey as a cough remedy!

Coltsfoot

Chopped toothwort root can be substituted for horseradish.

Toothwort

I also hit a ramp jackpot! They were everywhere!

Ramp overload!

Dinner!

Wandering around this way also leads to other beautiful finds like Squirrel corn (I don’t have any idea about its edibility, don’t try!)…

Squirrel corn. Hehe - such a funny name.

And you also might come across extremely cozy patches of moss at the edge of a ravine.  This is my version of ultimate renewal and peace. I once read that some Native Americans believe that excess energy accumulates in places like this (i.e., cliffs, edges). I think they are right – it feels so wonderful! Why don’t I do this every day?

I’m happy to provide more information to anyone who’s interested!

Go be in nature! Give in to your animal instincts and go foraging!

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Remember to Take Your Pine Needles for Good Health!

White pine needles

Did you know that pine needles can provide you with more vitamin C than orange juice? And that they can help to heal your body from respiratory ailments, colds, and the flu?

Some say that the Native Americans taught the early settlers about drinking pine needle tea to help prevent death from scurvy!

Pine needle tea is easy to make, but what are some other things that can be done with pine needles?

They can be infused into a variety of menstrums (liquids used to extract the nutritional or medicinal properties of plants) other than water.  For example, tonight I got a nice dose of vitamin C by using vinegar infused with pine needles in my salad dressing.  White pine needle vinegar (the type I made) tastes similar to balsamic vinegar.

First, you’ll need to gather some needles. I collected a bunch from a white pine.

White pine needles

Pick through them to ensure the best ones are being added to glass jars. I also tore these up as I was adding them.

Fill the jar!

And then cover with the menstrum. In this case, it’s apple cider vinegar.  I get large jugs of the raw kind so I boiled some first to ‘pasteurize’ it before making this vinegar (and I was able to boil enough extra for future use). Make sure to completely cover the needles — poke them down so that they’re an inch below the liquid line.

Let the finished product sit for 4-6 weeks before using.  Also, use a plastic lid or put a piece of wax paper on top because vinegar will eat away at the lid.

White Pine Vinegar ready to be strained!

What’s another use for the pine needles?  Infuse them in olive oil!  The oil can then be used as a relaxing massage oil or as a chest rub to help with respiratory issues.

Cover a jar full of pine needles with the oil and let sit for 4-6 weeks.

When you’re ready to use the oil, strain the needles out.

And you’re left with pine needle infused olive oil!

The oil can also be turned into a salve that can help to remove splinters (although it seems that the actual sap of a pine tree might be best at this!), or it can be put on small wounds to help them heal.  I’ve also been having a fun time using it as a lip balm!

To make a salve, create an easy double boiler by putting a measuring cup into a pot of boiling water.

Add 2 Tablespoons of beeswax (I just guessed at the amount when I made this…) to the measuring cup and let melt.

After it has melted, add 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of the oil infused with pine.  Stir with a chopstick until you reach an even consistency.  Test to see if you’re done by putting a drop on your counter. It will allow you to quickly see if the salve is firm enough or too runny.  Too runny? Add more beeswax. Too firm? Add more oil.

When the mixture is consistent, pour it into a reused container and let sit to become a salve!  Use and enjoy knowing exactly what went into your product!

 

 

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