Is that “Wild” Berry Poisonous?

A silly thing happened at work. One of my young coworkers has a large tree with a lot of “berries” on it and wanted me to tell him if it is poisonous. I asked for a sample of the fruit and leaves since no flowers are available.

He brought in a bag of what looked like Ranier cherries. The tree is huge, so it is likely on its own rootstock, likely sprouted from a cherry pit (seed). They were a bit overripe and showed bird damage, but definitely cherries.

I told him so.

He asked if they are edible. I said of course, they are cherries. He asked if I would eat one first. I did. He ate one with a terrible face and declared it bitter. Bitter? He spit it out! Mine was sweet but bland. He ate another.

He is going to harvest cherries this week. I love when that happens.

As the population has shifted to cities and corporate food production, an entire generation (or two) cannot recognize a common fruit tree.

I have had similar experiences with a young couple and a pear tree, a middle aged woman and a pecan tree, and a middle aged man and a wild plum tree.

Reality check: any species that cannot recognize food will not survive.

Grocery stores filled with corporate faux food are risky things to bet your survival on, let alone your children’s survival.

Even betting on the ability to grow European fruits and vegetables in the New World is iffy… without greenhouses, supplemental water, and chemicals. Corporate monocultural agriculture will collapse; it is so destructive that no other outcome is possible.

I embraced organic gardening several decades ago. From the beginning I could see gardening wasn’t particularly productive for the effort involved. I camped and hunted with my parents and it was obvious that our native woodlands are superior at food production. Labor free until harvest.

Every year I brought one wild plant after another inside the garden gate. Every year I had fewer European varieties. Every year I look for native cousins to European varieties.

Every year I eat better. Every year I am healthier. I no longer get colds. I don’t buy over the counter remedies. I go to the doctor once every few years. I heal quickly from injuries.

In moving to acreage in the mountains, I slid backwards, starting over in a harsher environment. After two years I see improvement in my food supply and potential supply.

Today I cleaned the chicken coop and dumped the proceeds into next year’s beds. No need to compost, save a step or three and compost in place. When I plant that area it will be soft and rich.

It rained most of today. I planted the second Creeping Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens) near the first. The first already looks healthier than the two in pots. It is nearly dark and still raining, so the third one is on the patio another day or three.

I encourage anyone who has a bit of dirt to plant a tree or shrub with edible fruit or seeds. Pot up a blueberry on the patio. You might find out how delicious and rewarding it can be. Make one step toward life sustaining food and away from corporate GMOs, deformation, control. Choose one tiny corner for life.

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Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I put the Redbud seeds in soil to sprout. Although most sources only mention eating the flowers, I eat the green pods and dried seeds.

This beautiful bloomer has just enough shade to grow lovely flowers underneath in the fierce Texas sun. Does it fix nitrogen? I have seen claims from both sides. The heart shaped leaves are attractive all summer and make good mulch in the garden beneath. The mulch quickly decomposes to enrich the soil.

I like trees that produce food. Their deep root systems and generous supply of compost make them easy to grow and a substantial gift of food to the larder provides health all winter long. Again, I appreciate the edible beans provided by bean family (Fabaceae) trees. So much easier than annuals.

A lucky addition to my food forest, since my chickens will also appreciate the dried seeds. Perhaps I will plant a Redbud seedling to shade their run and provide food… I keep adding to my circular economy, and like seeing the new plants fill empty spaces. I noticed how well my prickly pear pads are filling in and looking for many tunas next fall. My asparagus should be ready for eating next year. I should have a few apples, blackberries, and raspberries.

Each year gets richer. I want honeybees… if any are available. I have a rich variety of nectar now. I promise I won’t stress them with moving, toxins, etc. but I will steal a bit of honey!

My mustard plant seeds are drying nicely, too. I look forward to spicier meals all winter.

Started lentil sprouts today. A bit of water in a jar and drop in the seeds. I should have sprouts in three days. They are wonderfully nutricious for me and my chickens. I will add a jar every day until they sprout and each one cup jar has about 1/4 cup of lentils.

Life is good in a circular economy.

Posted in chicken m, Circular Economy, food forest, gardening, plant uses, Uncategorized, wild edibles | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Seed Collecting

Today I found a Redbud (Cercis canadensis) tree covered with dried seedpods. I grabbed a dozen and will start a few trees this winter.

I like to eat the flowers, pods, and dried seeds. The flowers are a welcome sight in late winter, the tree is covered in purple blooms. Dried, the blooms are a nice addition to tea. As the pods form, use much like snow peas. I harvest a pound or two of dried seeds for cooking like lentils.

I admit that I rinse the dried beans before cooking and drain.

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I am Dreaming of Spring

I know most folks dream of Spring in the Winter months, but many seeds are collected in late summer and fall. What I collect now determines what diversity is added by me to my food forest next Spring.

I rarely buy seeds or plants, I collect them locally. Yesterday I collected Thornless Honey Locust (Gleditsia tricanthos inermis) seeds and Corydalis seeds.  I put 6 Honey Locust seeds to soak.

Honey Locust are native to the eastern half of the United States but have nauralized over much of the rest of our country. This one was obviously a nursery specimen planted in a parking lot as landscaping. My desire to grow a Honey Locust is for the edible bean pods which have up to 30% sugar. In a decade or so! If successful, I will try making sugar (or syrup) from the pods. The young pods taste like peas and are from the same family. Older pods are bitter but the beans are good cooked or roasted and ground for a coffee substitute.

Honey Locust leafs out late and drops leaves early like pecan trees. This allows many plants to grow and bloom underneath with welcome lacy shade in the hot summer months. A big plus in a food forest like mine. It does not fix nitrogen like most pea family members.

Corydalis is native to the mountains here and I want them for their beauty and for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. The seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.

I had one NM Sunflower my first fall here. I had two last year. This year I have three small colonies. If they keep this up, I will taste test the roots next year.

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Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens)

Sweet. At my local Home Depot I found Mahonia repens on sale. I picked out three of them. I was delighted to find a New Mexico native there!

I love Mahonia in my garden, it attracts so many birds when the berries are ripening that they leave fertilizer-encased seeds that sprout underneath in the spring. I transplant little seedlings, and get amazing plants this way, all free to me. A circular economy provides for everyone inside the circle… including wildlife and plants.  Birds may seem detrimental to a food forest to some, but I count them as primo seed donaters. If I get totally stingy and want to deny the birds their share, I can always use netting. I prefer to share.  If there isn’t enough for me then I add another plant.

I have always had Mahonia aquifolia, the tall handsome Oregon Grape cousin… but short wide repens suits me just fine.

Repens is native to the Rocky Mountains and both shade and drought tolerant. It is usually about one foot tall and can get 6 feet wide. The yellow flowers are gorgeous and attract native pollinators like bees.

I like the fully ripe berries dried and a teaspoon added to enrich my tea, the berries are full of antioxidents. The berries make a nice jelly that is tasty with roast venison or pork.

The best part is that it pretty much takes care of itself. It also provides cover for small animals.

I consider Repens an exciting addition to my food forest and its circular economy because it  does bring so many new plants.  Free no extra charge.

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Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

I visited Margy and received a half dozen small Purslane plants. A shame they are annuals, but I am committed to flowèrs and reseeding.  Purslane is believed to be a Eurasian import; however, 5000 yr old seeds have been found at archaological sites so it may be a native.  It ìs common in cities and easy to encourage in a sunny corner.  I will put them near my patio, so they will get extra water and full sun.

I use purslane in a lot of ways.  Add it raw to salads for a delicate crunch. Sprinkle garlic chives on an omelet then sprinkle the sunny yellow flowers on top. Almost too pretty to eat.

Purslane can be cooked in soup and will thicken it the same way okra does, but tastes better.  Works with dried leaves, too.  At the Hubble House in New Mexico I learned to dry leaves in a cardboard box in my car.  Good for winter use and a low energy alternative to canning.  Good circular economy practices.

Seeds carry a nutritional punch.  They are easy to collect even though tiny. Pull the ripe plants and lay on a clean cloth until the seeds fall out.  It is easy to collect several pounds because they are prolific.

Chickens love the stuff and can eat more than their fair share.

Purslane stores salt and can be used to remediate mildly salty soil.   Burn the leaves to ash and use as a salt substitute.

I recommend these easy (and pretty) plants to increase our natural food without work… a strong addition to a circular economy.

Birds and butterflies feast on Purslane.

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I am Dreaming of a Pit Greenhouse

I have contacted my building code department to see if I can get a permit to build a pit greenhouse variant in the half circular cutout on my hill.  The hill was cut out long ago to create a flat place to park a mobile home.

The greenhouse would snug into the hillside next to my root cellar and be underground on three sides.  The existing mobile home blocks the fierce winter winds.  Being underground mimics what most mammals do in the winter, go to ground and let mother earth keep them warm… that and tiny homes that stay warm on body heat.

I would make the front out of stabilized adobe (mother’s earth) which would absorb the hot west sun and release that heat at night. Also connect the front to the root cellar door.  Post and beams from my property.  Out to the market economy for translucent roof panels, of course.  I have a black wood stove made by a welder for $100.  I will store downspout water for plant use.

Whoa buddy. Better find out what Santa Fe County thinks, before I get too far down the path of dreams.

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