The Healing Powers of Nature

My Mother processing fresh Elderberry fruit
Spring Dutchmans Breeches
Spring Dutchmans Breeches

With everything a little upside down with Covid 19, I thought I’d reflect on 2 of my favorite Early Spring flowers & Pollinators. ‘Dutchmans Breeches’ ( Dicentra Cucullaria) and ‘Squirrel Corn’ (Dicentra Canadensis). Dutchmans Breeches, hang sweetly upside down, attracts long-tongued Bees. Including Honey Bees, Bumblebees, Mason Bees, Anthophorid Bees and Butterflies. The first in our Spring renewal. The arrival of Robins, Red Wing Black Birds and Sleepy bears waking from hibernation a month early this year, renewal is just around the corner. I’m excited to see both plant species to confirm our Spring has Sprung.

Squirrel Corn flower in bloom early Spring
Squirrel Corn Flower in Full Bloom

Dutchmans Breeches are the first to arrive. Then 2 weeks later comes Squirrel Corn Flower. The blooms very fragrant whereas Dutchmans Breeches flower has no aroma. The Nectar spurs of Squirrel Corn are shorter and more rounded then those of Dutchmans Breeches. Do not pick either of these as they can cause rashes – Which I personally feel is a defense system to ensure Our Pollinators always have food.

Early Spring Ramps
Early Spring Ramps

Other plants in bloom that can found at this time of year are Bluebells, Violets in purple, white and yellow, Spring Beauty, Wild Ginger and Cut-leaved toothwort.

This is the time to be looking for Spring Ramps( Allium Tricoccum). Their green distinctively richer in color, poking up and grouped patches. Or in some cases…. swathes under hardwood trees in mixed old woods. It is important to note the ethical harvest of these delicious Spring goodies. Over harvesting of this plant has put it in a ‘High Risk’ category. When looking at the patch of Garlic Ramp you have to be especially choosy what you harvest. The 3 leafed stalks will produce a flower and future seeds. Those HAVE to be left behind to reproduce. Those seeds take 24 months to produce new greens. The first year only producing a bulb, with the following year it’s first greens. Then in it’s third year finally a flower to propagate itself. If the flowers aren’t left behind you can easily wipe out the whole plant very quickly.

Spring Garlic Ramps Clipped ready for pesto making
Wild Ramps

Only clipping the greens from 2 leafed stalks, you can proceed to harvest for a full flavored Pesto and Salads. In the picture here, you can see I have left the bulbs behind. I do harvest the garlic bulbs eventually, but not until after the plant has finished flowering. The leaves die back as the night time air becomes warmer in late June. The flowers start to bloom late summer, then after they’ve been pollinated, their energies focus on Bulb growth. I will take 2 to 3 per patch in September/October while rustling up the plant enough to allow the seeds to naturally drop. Thus helping to restart it’s regeneration while promoting its current growth and future cycles.

Mom Processing Elderberry
Mum! My 1 man processing crew

So Why am I talking about flowers and ramps with a cover picture of Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra). Well! There are medicinal virtues of our darling Spring Ramp. Specifically in the treatment of Colds and Croup. You can even treat earaches externally with a warm juice of the leaves. It’s a good thing we’re in isolation because there is nothing delicate and sexy about Garlic Ramp as a perfume, but its uses are well documented. Taking personal isolated walks to admire nature is highly recommended. The fresh air and activity alone is healthy and rejuvenating. You can admire the beauty of our indigenous plants along the way.

Elderberry Syrup for Sale
Elderberry Syrup

Last Summer we had an incredible harvest of Wild Ingredients. Which I squirreled away in my Studio. On offer to Wild Feast Clients are the following and their benefits.

Wild Elderberry Syrup – Standard Strength – $10.00 a bottle (pictured)

Wild Elderberry condensed strength – $20.00 a bottle : Elderberry is known for its’ antioxidants, vitamins and immune boosting qualities. It is recommended to help prevent & ease Cold and Flu symptoms. This syrup can be used straight by the teaspoonful or mixed in Hot or cold water as a beverage.

The condensed strength is triple power and only a small dose per day is needed. Limited Supply available.

Wild Ginger Syrup for Sale

Wild Ginger Syrup – $10.00 a bottle (pictured to the left) : Wild Ginger promotes circulatory stimulation and sweating, is antiseptic and antibacterial. In small doses in hot water it can sooth sore throats.

Elf-Shot Elixir – $30.00 a bottle:

Addressing all attributes of infections to viruses. This triple condensed Syrup has 8 main Wild harvested ingredients along with unfiltered honey with propolis and additional to taste. Elderberry, Fermented Spruce Tips, High Bush Cranberry, Chaga, Fermented Ginger, Fermented Garlic ramp, Catmint & Cinnamon Bark. The balance of ingredients are Antimicrobial, antibacterial, strengthens immune system, increases production of white blood cells, cools and reduces fevers. An expectorant and muscle pain reliever. It also balances Glucose and relieves a sore throat. One Teaspoon a day an hour before meals.

Only a limited supply available- first come first serve.

Chaga Tea

Chaga Tea (100% Boreal Chaga– $7 per 16 grams : Is a known Immune Stabilizer, Blood purifier and pain reliever. Also known for its anti-tumor properties. Use one tablespoon per 3 liters of boiling water and let soak for 4 hours. Drink the liquid but reuse the wet powder. Pour a cup of boiled water over used powder and let stand at room temperature for 2 days. Drink up to 3 cups daily 30 minutes before meals.

I like to be proactive in my selfcare. While not much has changed in my day to day schedule with Self isolation, I have dedicated more time for Walks in the woods with Lou (my trusty Dog & companion). Both of us in midlife happily meandering along through the forest at a snails pace. Frequently stopping to listen and observe. Our only thoughts of a warm & comfortable home and the thoughts of good friends, so far away but so close in our hearts.

Like Nature, we will metamorphize into something beautiful in its renewal.

EMAIL ORDER DESK ; rcummings@wildfeastcatering.com. Indicate through email what you would like. Within Kingston and Area there will be free delivery. Once an ewire transfer to the above email address arrives your order will be delivered. Or you can pick up at the Memorial Center Farmers Market Sunday (it is an essential service)

Outside of Kingston, an invoice (plus shipping) will be emailed to you for your selections. Once an ewire transfer is received for your order, you will receive a tracking number for its arrival.

Ultimate Nature Geek-Out

Boreal Forest

The only place I recharge is in the forest. I’ve retreated there most of my life and mid hike always take moments to ponder its serenity. I disseminate and break down why it is what it is. The plants, the trees, the insects… thinking about the ecological dance while watching foxes and chipmunks go about their daily business. Quietly and by myself. The roar of natures sounds so peacefully enveloping me.

I sit here writing this during a huge wind storm. The blustering winds rolling over the house stretch every shingle with every breath. It almost feels as though at any moment the whole house will be taken to flight. I’ve nailed the doors shut to stop them from flying open from the pressure and now sit quietly amongst a pack of snoring dogs totally excited about an old science new to me.

Biogeochemistry diagram

Biogeochemistry. New to me but actually quite old. First brought to my attention through friends experiencing difficulties at their farm while trying to cultivate truffles. I searched out more information on the topic and finally found the holy grail of Biogeochemistry . ‘Biogeochemistry in Mineral Exploration’ by ‘Colin E. Dunn’. That’s when the official Geek-Out began.

This book delves into a science most Foragers, Nature Lovers, Gardeners & Master Gardeners want to know but Geologists haven’t been good with sharing with us. To put it bluntly, Geologists having been studying surface plants & trees for a very long time… to figure out what is below and in the bedrock. Biogeochemical methods of exploration involve the chemical analysis of plant tissues to assess the presence and nature of underlying mineralization, bedrock composition, bedrock structure (faults, joints and folds), and the chemistry of the soil, surficial sediments, and associated groundwater. Biogeochemistry measures the concealed mineral absorption growth in Trees, Plants Fungi. The roots absorb minerals from depths down to the bedrock and deposit them on outer areas of the root system. Fungi are known for their scavenging and absorb in great quantities whatever happens to be below them. Mushrooms have the relationship with a tree as ectotrophic, meaning that a sheath of mycorrhizal fungi encases the roots. This mass of mycorrhizal fungi is estimated to connect trees with as much as one thousand times more soil area than the roots themselves.

?Wha?

We think of them as rock hounds but they’re actually silently studying our turf. How dare they NOT share.

By their own studies I can now walk into a forest and Identify what is happening below by identifying the trees and plant life above. This is actually one of the first things they do before ultimately taking samples for further laboratory study of concealed minerals. If I wasn’t so excited by the knowledge I’d actually spit in their direction.

Biogeochemistry found this area to mine

So while biogeochemistry is typically used for mining. My wish is to use it to better understand Native Plants & Trees in the use of food forests as we attempt to rebuild our ecologies.

Establishing a Food Forest

My view in the forest is ever changing and now with a this knowledge… I see deeper. It’s exciting! I have studied over the years a direct correlation between high carbon stored soils and fungi growth. This will definitely expand that as my new nightly bedtime reading is a textbook on biogeochemistry. A Drama of Nature unfolding before my eyes.

If you’d like a copy of the book, kindly email me and I’ll send you the PDF copy. Life has never been so exciting as now πŸ™‚

Black Trumpets

I’m no stranger to hard work or long days. Growing up in a mushroom family, hunting for mushrooms meant two things – Enjoyment and Food. My Mother being a German refugee and broke as a young family, we all turned to foraging to augment the household stock.

Now I do it for pleasure and because I’m a chef. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been mushroom hunting, you’ll always be excited for a new find. This season being very personally challenging with a fractured leg beginning of May… then Pneumonia for what felt like forever( which I’m still getting over), I’ve only made it out twice to my favorite spot ever this year.

It’s 2 hours north of Kingston and a 6 hour Hike. 3 hours in… 3 hours out. Tracking the weather… today was the day. I left at 7 am to make the trek, my head filled with hopefuls. It’s been brutally dry everywhere but the radar showed this area had thunderstorms 2 days straight 2 days ago. My Spidey senses going nuts, I packed the car and got the heck out of dodge. I needed to be alone in nature so badly. I’m very much a introvert but do very much enjoy passing on my knowledge with classes and Airbnb experiences. These days on my own recharge me in a way I don’t think very many would understand and I try to schedule them for myself when I can.

Back to ground zero – the very property that 3 years ago I had my wildlife interaction with a Bobcat. Not a hungry Bobcat as I had found its recent kill ( a fawn). Looking up from the kill to see a full grown Cat looking right back at me. I can still see his eyes, so beautiful, the tuffs of hair on his ears moving with the breeze. His silence in his observation of me. Paws the size of side plates, this cat followed me for 2 hours. A experience only for the unrattled. I knew I was out of his territory when I heard the birds sing and the chipmunks chatter. I’m back there knowing my mushrooms are in the same place and the Cat… most likely moved on. I carried Bear Spray, non the less, just to be sure. It’s also Bear country, so one can never be too over prepared. I also carry 2 knives – one for mushrooms and one large hunting knife.

Today turned out to be Black Trumpet Day. Chanterelles in weak supply and dismal when found. No Cinnabar chanterelles ( they love water… lots of rain). No real Boletes either. Found a few of my favorite though – Old Man of the Woods ( Serious YUM). A pound of Lobster Mushrooms and 3 very lonely Hedgehogs.

When looking for Black Trumpets it should be noted that they can be very different looking from each other…. and EVERY book you’ll ever buy you will not show this . So following is a break down of Black Trumpets as they come and what they look like. It should be noted THAT all of the following pictures are from 3 flushes. 2 right beside each other, 1… 10 kilometers later (I’ll point out which mushrooms came from where.)

Spotted and fawn in colour. Most common Black Trumpet

Very light fawn in colour and stunted in growth
These ones are not spotted at all and are twice the size

Aborted in growth. Most likely started to grow and was hit with heavy rain. Full grown but are completely folding in on itself.
True Black Trumpet. Usually around the size of the top of a cup with a long stem.
Dried Black Trumpets. If they are fully grown and it rains…Black Trumpets will shrivel up. They are actually still good to pick. They’ve spored out and are actually amazing to rehydrate. it’s an amazing nature defense but luckily for us… still tasty.
These guys are BIG. They mix in with the leaf litter very well though. These are the guys I found 10 kilometers away. 10 of these guys made up 1 third of the Trumpet find today.

It’s surprising how many of these guys can make up a 20 pound find. They’re super light and my photos show no justice. My photos also don’t show just how many I found. On top of all the mushroom finds I also acquired almost 2 pounds of my absolute favorite wild herb… woodruff. The smell of it is the most intoxicating thing I’ve ever come across and this year is a bumper year for Woodruff πŸ™‚

After picking through them all after getting home I had a lot of little bits. They notoriously break apart easily. Those bits went on Pizza. A BΓ©chamel White Pizza… loaded with cheese. OMG it was so good.

Until you’re comfortable and knowledgeable with the different flavor profiles of each wild mushroom. I fully suggest using a food platform that you’re used too. Simplicity is key. Integrate new finds into your own menu. If you’re unsure… I’m one email away to natural food confidence πŸ™‚

Much Nature Love …. Ruthie