Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nature Notes: Wild Thing

Salad with Dandelion Greens

About that creamed dandelion recipe from last time ... as the hubby said he doesn't like creamed ANYthing, I skipped it and went straight to tossing the greens into the salad. The hubby did not object and the son never knew the difference, so I'm calling it a success.

As you can see from the one little sprig that wasn't eaten, it's very small and pretty and tender when it first comes up. It's a little bitter, similar in taste to arugula. I like it, and I plan to use it on a regular basis.

Leora and Daryl commented that they've eaten nasturtiums. If I can get my hands on some seeds, I'll try growing those. And EG CameraGirl has actually made jelly from dandelion blossoms! So see? Not so nutty after all, huh. Next stop: Ramsons and, with a lot of luck, morel mushrooms. We probably have some of each in the woods by now.

In other news, I discovered two new wildflowers on the property while cleaning up the edge of the woods: Slender Toothwort, which as far as I can determine has never been particularly useful...

Slender Toothwort

And Bloodroot, which has been used for medicine and dye (Here's a link for more on that.) ...


Look closely and you'll see three stages of the bloodroot. In the lower right corner, notice the tightly closed leaves? The blossom is inside. In the upper left corner you can see the leaves opening to reveal the bud. And the open flower, obviously, is in the middle. The root has a brilliant red juice inside, hence the name.

I hope to get out tomorrow and see what's new in the north woods, now that the weather is warm. I'll let you know what I find.

Click here to visit Michelle's site, Rambling Woods, and see more Nature Notes

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nature Notes: How to Eat a Lion


OK, gang, this is Bucket List Thing number two, in which I make good on my annual threat to forage for food. (Why ask why.)

First item on the menu is dandelion because it's at its peak now and, unlike mushrooms or tree catkins, there's no possible way to misidentify the edible ones. And, unlike poke weed, there is no way to cook it that will result in death.

The roots, leaves and flowers are powerhouses of nutritional goodies, and the web is teeming with recipes. You can toss the leaves in salad or cook them as greens. Salad is going to happen once the family gets used to the idea. So here's plan A: Dandelion Greens in Cream With Bacon. My family would eat puppy poop with cream and bacon. After that it shouldn't be an issue if they recognize weeds in their salad bowls.


Dandelion Greens in Cream With Bacon
From: Edible Michiana

Serves 4 to 6 as a side. This dish pairs well with simple roast chicken and some crusty bread.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
¾ teaspoon salt
1 bunch dandelion greens (about 7 cups) washed and chopped*
1½ cups heavy cream
4 slices bacon, cooked and sliced into small pieces
⅛ teaspoon curry powder
Lemon juice

In a heavy pan with a lid, melt butter. Add onions and salt; cover. Cook the onions on low heat for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring regularly. The onions should not be overly brown and will become soft and sweet.

Prepare an ice bath for the dandelion greens. Fill a medium-sized bowl with water and ice. In a saucepan, boil water and add the dandelion greens. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until dark green. Take the greens out of the water and place them in the ice water. Drain the greens with a colander, squeeze out the excess water and set them aside.

Remove the onions from the pan. Add the heavy cream and reduce by a third over medium heat. Add the onions and dandelion greens to the cream. Continue to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bacon, curry powder, a few drops of lemon juice and more salt, if desired.

* Dandelions greens can be foraged or found your farmers market or local grocery. If harvesting wild greens, make sure to avoid areas sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Wild greens are most tender early in the spring.


We have an abundance of dandelions, which we control solely by relentless mowing in spring. No chemicals, no lawn fertilizer. (And by "we" I actually mean my hyperactive husband.) As soon as the rain stops here I'll be out harvesting greens. I'll let you know how it goes.

Related Posts: Pretty Poison, on pokeweed; Chicken of the Woods and Shrooms! for mushrooms and morels; Mystery Solved! on ramsons; This Ain't Your Daddy's Grey Poupon on garlic mustard.

Click here to visit Michelle's site, Rambling Woods, and see more Nature Notes

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nature Notes: April Showers, April Flowers

Finally, finally, spring has arrived in Indiana. We're getting April showers, instead of snowstorms ...


... and those showers are bringing the flowers. Pussy willows are in full fuzz and the jonquils are aaaaalmost in bloom:


These are the first to raise their sunny little heads and fill the air with sweet, welcome perfume.

Look closely in the foreground. See those wild garlic sprouts spiraling up? I think they're wonderful, though I will eventually have to pull them up.



The bluebirds have returned, too, along with the song sparrows, owls, and turkey vultures.  The gold and purple finches are once again bright gold and purple, and everything is singing - including the frogs.

Best of all are the tom turkeys, competing for the attention of the ladies. A parade of toms in full display is a truly impressive sight, each standing about three feet tall at the top of the tail, their iridescent copper and bronze feathers flashing in the sun.


Click here to visit Michelle's site, Rambling Woods, and see more Nature Notes

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Watch for Flying Turkeys

In spring the wild tom turkeys strut their stuff, and I've been hoping to catch some decent shots of them all fanned out and on parade. Nothing worth sharing yet.

However, I did get to watch a flock of ten fly up, one by one, to the top of our pasture fence and glide down to cross to the other side of the field. Turkeys don't fly well or often, so this was a rare opportunity.

I was too far away and was shooting through a double-paned window with a screen on it, but I knew by the time I got outside the show would be over. These are severely cropped and poor quality, but sometimes you Just have to take what luck hands you.


Wild Turkey in Flight

Wild Turkey in Flight

It's been such a pleasure this week, having time for watching the local wildlife, coming and going as I please, playing with my camera. So many times a day I used to stop myself before starting something fun, with the thought "I don't have time for this." I don't say that anymore. Retirement rocks.