Tag Archives: modern hunter gatherer

Gardens – New Home, New Gardens

Our new home has brought us a new opportunity to grow some new wild gardens, and we are going to try and take them in a little bit of a different direction this time around.

We’ll still be wildcrafting some of our favorite wild and native species from our surrounding area to fill our beds, but we are also going to be working with local businesses and entrepreneurs to determine the market potential for the different species we grow as well!

Since moving to the Texas hill country this past Summer, I have been fortunate to meet and work with several other individuals dedicated to sharing and educating others about these wonderful, wild resources. From reknown restaurants to urban farms and markets, there is growing interest in these products as healthy, holistic and delicious cuisine. In working with landowners and small farmers, it’s also important to be able to share as much data on the potential of these resources as possible. That includes productivity, economy, but also market value.

Throughout this next yearly cycle of foraging then, we’ll be actively marketing the products of our wild gardens to local restaurants and businesses that are interested in showcasing local and willd fare, to determine which species are the most profitable, what is the value of all other species grown as well, in addition to the usual data we collect on productivity and environmental impact (i.e: wildlife).

We’re also stepping up our overall construction in terms of design and bed size this year. The Texas hill country is *blessed* with an abundance of beautiful limestone, and we’ve been able to re-purpose several hundred pounds of flagstone and loose fill. The number of species we are growing has also increased. We are adding several aquatic species, so we’ll also be building tanks to house them, along with a few native fish species to act as mosquito control-cum-aquacultures. That will be especially exciting!

New Garden Layout

In all we’ll be propagating between 15 and 20 different wild and native species of edible plants. Including: Turk’s cap mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp.), canna lily (Canna spp.), winecup (Callirhoe involucrata), passionfruit (Passiflora incarnata), wild onion (Allium spp.), cattail (Typha spp.), American lotus (Nelumbo lutea), wild grapes (Vitis rotundifolia) and an assortment of native herbs and flowers.

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Our hope and purpose for this new project is to set down a blueprint which can be followed or applied to any small to moderate sized property or urban farm and garden. We’ve touted the potential benefits of working with these resources for many years, and have seen success in the past in propagating them both for ourselves and others. But now we are unequivocally stepping forward to create a new potential dynamic in the arena of land and habitat management. Proverbally putting our money exactly where our mouths are.

Within the next two years we will have definitive data on the potential and value of managing landscapes for wild and native edible plants, both in terms of their impact on human standards of living and economy, as well as the positive impacts they can have on urban and rural environments.

We will have the basis for forming  a new pact with our Land; the seeds by which we can reap a greater freedom and securty for all.

 

 

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Event: FARFA Conference

 

I will be speaking during the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance – Farm and Food Leadership Conference October 14th and 15th , in McKinney, Texas.

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Topics covered at the event will range from food security and public policy, to land management techniques and home gardening. I will be speaking on a panel about diversifying income streams for farmers, along with Megan Neubauer, Brad Stufflebeam and Jennie Herm.

I will also be holding a joint panel with Jesse Griffiths, owner and head chef at Dai Due, in Austin Texas. We will talk about issues dealing with learning about edible native species of plants, as well as wild game. While this talk will be geared towards the average consumer, we will also address how consumers, as well as land owners, can utilize these resources to supplement their income, experiment with native species, benefit their environment and provide a sustainable food source.

Conference tickets are still available, as are tickets to the Farm-to-Table dinner being held the evening of the first day of the Conference. There are also several workshops to be held Sunday, the day before the Conference officially starts, and they will also cover a wide range of both consumer and producer related topics.

More information and registration are available here.

Recipe: Prickly Pear Marinara

Anyone who has eaten fresh prickly pears can tell you, despite their juicyness, theirs is a delicate sweetness.

Much like tomatoes, in a way.

We’ve been experimenting with producing different sauces, and syrups, with prickly pears for a long time, on our Wild Pizzas and as a glaze and barbecue sauce with wild game. We’ve found that they can really take on a variety of flavors, similar to tomatoes in many traditional recipes.

Ingredients:

peeled, seeded prickly pears (crushed)

prickly pear juice

oregano

basil

lime juice

salt/pepper

dill weed

This recipe is designed to mimic a traditional marinara sauce, for use in Italian style dishes, or on pizza. The fresh cactus pears are excellent at absorbing savory flavors and their light sweetness compliments these sauces in much the same way as ripe tomatoes usually will.

The key ingredients are strained prickly pear juice and several peeled, de-seeded prickly pears. Producing the juice is extremely simple, however skinning and removing the seeds from the whole prickly pears can be time consuming work.

To make the juice, place several whole prickly pears in a large potand cover with water, then boil for about 20-25 minutes, until softened. Afterwards, using a potato masher or other utensil, pulverize the cactus pears in the pot until thouroughly mashed. Next boil them for another 30 minutes and then strain, first through a colander and then a cheese cloth. This method denatures the sharp spines, and enables the pulp and seeds, as well as any spines or glochids, to be removed without having to struggle with them.

Peeling the whole prickly pears and removing the seeds has no easy short-cut though, and is longest part of this process. Remove the tops and bottoms from the pears with a sharp knife and then slice each in half. The seeds can then be scooped out of the centers, and the skins peeled off the fruit using the knife. After which, both the whole fruits and juice can be combined in a large pot with all of the seasonings and brought to a simmer.

After the mixture begins to boil, and the prickly pears halves start to break down, they can be crushed using a mallet, spoon or immersion blender. The entire sauce should then be allowed to further reduce down, and seasoning adjusted for taste. Once the desired thickness is achieved, remove the sauce from heat and add the juice of 1-2 limes  before transferring the sauce to jars for storage.

We’ve had so much success with these prickly pear – tomato substitutions. I challenge anyone to come up with a recipe where you couldn’t swap the two out wholesale. Their mild flavor and absorbtion, along with their A-MAZING color, are making them more and more my go-to for all kinds of sauces.

Recipe: Wild P B J

Nearly everyone loves the classic American combination of peanut butter and grape jelly, in sandwich form.

However, peanuts don’t grow in the wilds of Texas, and grape jelly is loaded with sugar – not exactly the healthiest of indulgences. Fortunately there is another fantastic, native, gustatory combination that exists, with every bit of magical pizazz as a traditional peanut butter and jelly combination, but amazingly, in an infinately healthier, and guilt-free form.

Presenting, the majestic mesquite-butter and prickly pear jelly sandwich! This “mesquite butter” is created from reduced mesquite oil, with emulsified cream and other spices. Our prickly pear jelly is produced using a low-sugar/sugar-free pectin.

After producing Mesquite Flour, the left over chaff) is perfect for using to make mesquite jelly, or rendering into refined mesquite oil. After reduction, and chilling, this oil takes on a glutinous, almost syrupy quality. When whipped with cream (or butter) and spices, what is created is a wonderful, delicious spread with a host of applications!

Ingredients:

1-2 cups refined mesquite oil (produced from several cups mesquite chaff)

1/2 stick of butter

OR

~ 1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of salt

Additional spices can include: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and possibly orange zest or ginger

 

After rendering the mesquite oil, the process of combining it with butter or heavy cream is relatively simple. Should enough of the oil be produced, and allowed to reduce and chill enough, it is possible the addition of butter or cream could be omitted. Although, a small amount of low-sugar pectin may need to be added.

To blend the butter or cream into the mesquite oil, use an immersion blender to emulsify the fats along with the oil in a tall glass, or other container. Afterwards, the desired spices can be folded in.

To produce  the prickly pear jelly, juice several fresh prickly pears in the same manner as with the Prickly Pear Marinara recipe. After straining, add low-sugar pectin to the juice and bring to a boil for 10 minutes, while stirring constantly to avoid scorching the mixture.

The jelly will need to set overnight in the refridgerator, but on the next day, you’ll have one of the most wonderful wild treats we’ve come up with waiting for you.

Upcoming Events

There are several events coming up over the next couple of months, opportunities where you can learn more about wild foods and how they can benefit our communities and also get some first-hand experience foraging and harvesting some wild foods yourself and even sampling some of the unique dishes they can be used in!

On Thursday, April 12th, I’ll be giving a lecture for the Milam county chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. This is a free event open to the public and I’ll be covering topics including foraging ethics and best practices to discussing selected, important wild species and their uses. The meeting is being held in Milano, at the Milano Methodist church located at 219 W. ave. at 6:00 pm

I will also be taking part in the Milam county Earth Day event, on Saturday, April 21st. I’ll have a booth set up with samples of wild dishes as well as hand outs about how to start foraging, where you can learn more about it, as well as how you can set up your own Wild Foods Gardens. The event is being held in Rockdale at the local community center located at 109 N. Main st.

At the end of April, on Saturday the 28th, I will also be leading a foraging class for kids at McKinney Falls state park in Austin, Texas. This event is being put on by the Calixto Project, which creates opportunities for kids to enjoy positive experiences in the Great Outdoors. We will be ranging across the beautiful landscape and then preparing some unique and delicious dishes with our finds after wards. So this excursion will be part hunter-gatherer adventure, and part cooking presentation! The Adventures begin at 11 am and will last until around 2:30 pm. For more information, and to register, check out the Event Page here.

Alongside all of these great events is the impending release of my book, which should be made available by the end of this month! I will have copies available for anyone attending the Texas Master Naturalist lecture on April 12th in Milano, so try to make it out if you’d like to grab a copy.

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I am also putting together several other events across the next several months centered around some of the biggest Wild Foods harvests of the year. Wild onions at the end of March, dewberries at the beginning of May and wild grapes at the beginning of Summer, we will talk about these, as well as other species, and everyone participating will get to go home with a bunch of free, healthy, delicious wild foods. Participation in these foraging walks is limited, to ensure everyone who comes is able to gather as much tasty foods as they wish, and so we don’t denude the resources at each site. To sign up for any of these, you can visit their event pages on Facebook, here.

I’m really excited about all these opportunities coming up. Part of that is due to getting to see the culmination of several personal endeavors. But it’s also because it’s a chance to make a difference and reach a large amount of people. Sharing this information and lifestyle with others is one of the greatest feelings that I get to experience. Not the least of which is because it allows me to help people connect with a world that I am personally and intrinsically attracted to, but also because I’m able to provide a greater sense of security and liberty which can help people to lead healthier, happier lives.

Seasonal Update: Book Announcement!

It’s almost here!

 

~The Cycle of Foraging – A Book of Days~

The book I’ve been writing since the end of the Wild Foods Garden project is basically done, there’s just some last minute touches that need to happen and then some final editing, but then it’s off to the printers.

Here is a quick sneak peek inside at what it will look like:

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There are about 50 different species covered, all arranged according to when they appear throughout the year. They are organized by month and seasons; details for each include seasonality, identification, habitat preference, propagation methods as well as uses. I’m publishing it through CreateSpace, on Amazon, so it will be available online for any kindle readers, as well as in print form.

In addition to hundreds of full color photographs, the book is also filled with dozens of original paintings and beautiful illustrations. These have been added to highlight important details of different species and to give a better picture of how the world changes from one season to another.

Foraging, for my family, truly is a cycle. We mark our calendars for when the dewberries will come into season. We celebrate the ripening of the wild grapes at every Midsummer, and spend all year waiting for the beautyberry harvest to come again. Learning about and coming to enjoy and look forward to all the different wild foods available in our environment naturally connects you to a deeper cycle of Life; a different world. The world we are all born into, but for which many have lost sight of. This book is my attempt to share that world with you. To show how our natural resources can improve our lives, improve our communities and provide a more sustainable and secure future.

Over the next month I will be posting updates on when the book will become available, but it will hopefully be before the end of March. I have several events planned for the next couple of months, and I hope to have hard copies available for anyone wanting to attend. This weekend I will be at Ave Alegre’s Feast in the Forest fundraiser and next month I will be hosting a wild foods potluck, and then gearing up for Earth Day 2018!

In between all of these events, I will doubtlessly be sharing what wild edibles are currently coming into season, and any unique and delicious recipes my family creates with them. Over the next month, we are avidly waiting for the cattail shoots to emerge. We had a fluke burst of them at the end of last year and the opportunity gave us some inspiration for when we meet them again. HINT HINT: noodles…..

To stay up to date with progress on the book or what events I have coming up, follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Update: After the Rains…

 

This week will see our third class at The Wild Foods Garden here in Bryan, Texas! The rains we’ve been having this Spring have really helped it flourish and grow. The Garden has NO artificial irrigation, so the plants are totally dependent on ambient rainfall for life. Wild plants are extremely drought tolerant, in addition to being extremely nutritious, so there is little to worry about though.

However, now that the rains are passing, and the new moon is coming, everything is starting to dry out and ripen for Summer. All of the early Spring greens are transforming the returning sunshine into energy to ripen their swelling seeds – you can watch the warm, Northern winds blow them away on the sunny days. The wildflowers too, blooming in the humid heat after the storm, have begun going to seed.

The whirring song of the cicadas has announced that the dog days of Summer are coming. The last of the Spring harvest, immature cattail flower heads, has given us something new to look forward to every Spring though: Cattail Fritters! Warm and rich and delicious, they were an impromptu creation due to the abundance of cattail flowerings this year – we simply didn’t know what to do with them all!

Now we’ve moved on to gathering their golden pollen and looking through the forests for wild amaranth, grapes and the juicy, nectar filled blooms of the Turk’s cap mallow. Our young Turk’s cap cuttings we planted at the Garden, during our first class back in March, are just now starting to show their first leaves. You can also see the lemon bee-balm and black nightshade flowering around the Garden, and around town, now too.

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I’ve been dreaming for a while about trying to illustrate all these different changes, either as different moons or seasons, or just different points in a yearly cycle. And all the beautiful colors of the Earth have been the perfect medium to bring them to life!

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From raw hematite to sparkleberry juice – using wild pigments to paint and color with has had the dual benefit of showcasing the beauty of the natural world, while also being a pleasant art form in and of itself.

I was actually able to showcase some of my traditional works as well recently at Revolutions cafe and bar, here in downtown Bryan. In addition to several of my paintings, I brought an array of different wild dishes and had a great time talking to people about Nature and the environment and what we’re doing at The Wild Foods Garden. It was actually the perfect backdrop for my paintings, because that’s the message, the inspiration that they’re really meant to convey: to inspire people to reconnect with their environment, in a meaningful and beneficial way.

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And so it’s to that end, that I’ve decided to make a commitment with my artwork: I’ve decided to start donating a flat percentage of every piece or reproduction I sell to the Brazos Valley chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists and the work that we’re doing together at The Wild Foods Garden to try and bring people and Nature closer together. Because the true message in my artwork is the opportunity for community, and at its core, community is what The Wild Foods Garden is all about; showing people how they can have a positive impact in their environment, and how it can have a positive impact in their lives as well.