Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Edible Landscaping

Particularly if you are trying to carve out your piece of paradise in a relatively wild area, you may want to consider achieving two purposes with your plantings (or what you leave alone and nurture).

All of us know the more obvious edible landscaping and you shouldn't overlook the apples, cherries, grapes and common fruit landscaping but we'll focus in this article on landscaping you may not know is edible or that you just might not have thought of.

Leave your Bracken Be!

You may have noticed a very distinctive three frond fern growing abundantly in your piece of heaven. It often grows in fields and open woods areas but can even be found in some of the less sunny areas. This is Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) (also sometimes called Pasture Brake)

Don't try to eat the fern itself. Its not edible. But remember where its growing because in the spring you'll want to try the Bracken fiddleheads. They are very distinctive and if you have any question about it, wait a few days as they begin popping up to see one or two branch out into the distinctive three fronds. and then pick a bunch of the younger ones that have not yet opened.

Bracken Fiddleheads can be eaten raw, in a salad, or lightly steamed. They have a nutty flavor that is quite delightful. Try them in a recipe that calls for asparagus and see what you think.

Note: There is some disagreement over Bracken fern's edibility. It is well documented that fully grown Bracken is toxic to livestock. However, Native American's have eaten both the fiddlehead and rhizome of the plant throughout history. You can find out more about Bracken fern here.

A Section for Sumac

No doubt you've seen them before. Sumac is a plant that grows wild all over New Hampshire it will grow in places where it seems inhospitable to almost any plant. And it makes a great tea or lemonade from late fall and right on through spring when the old clusters dry out and are replaced with new ones that will be tasteless until the end of summer.

There are several species of sumac but you want the Staghorn variety for your tea (pictured at left). Its upright cluster of red seeds and distinctive velvety feel on the newer growth is a sure sign that you are using the correct sumac.

If you are nervous about this because you may have heard of Poison Sumac, don't be. Poison Sumac is actually much more rare in New Hampshire and has white berries that droop. It is impossible to mistake for the more common Staghorn variety.

Making Sumac-ade is quite easy. Gather a grocery size bag of the clusters. Take a large pot and fill it with fresh water and put the clusters right into the water. Using your hands, crush the clusters until they break apart in the water and allow them to steep for an hour or two. Drain the liquid through cheesecloth or some other clean, disposable cloth, toss the clusters in your compost pile, add sweetener to taste (for lemonade) and voila!.

If you like it as tea, you need not go through the process above but can steep a handfull of the seeds in hot water for just a few minutes and sweeten as you like it. You can also hang the pods to dry and store them for later.

Wild Bamboo/Japanese Knotweed

Bamboo is not native to New Hampshire but is a perfect example of an exotic species that has escaped from individual cultivation to spread throughout the region.

As a landscaping it can be attractive but be forewarned. . .it is so hardy that it can take over the plpace so keep it under control and do not plant it close to your house because bamboo roots can do severe damage to your foundation.

All species of bamboo are edible so as long as you are certain a plant is bamboo you can be certain that it is food for your table. However they will vary in taste, tenderness and to some extent texture. Therefore cooking methods may vary.

One of the most common ways for bamboo to spread is by the action of water and bamboo is very often found along the side of streams and rivers throughout the Heart of New Hampshire.

Bamboo is really only edible when the plant shoots are very young and tender. You wont hurt yourself eating the stalks of an older plant but you'll have a hard time chewing and swallowing, so stick to the young and tender shoots. Many of the local species have a taste that is a milder version of rhubarb so plan your use of this edible plant accordingly. Its ideal for a garnish for salads (uncooked), a mix with strawberry in a pie or a pie all by itself. It is sometimes sauted with olive oil and garlic to make an interesting side dish, we recommend serving it with a meal that is regularly associated with the taste - something that would accompany saurkraut for example.

Cutting the bamboo

To prepare the bamboo for consumption start by picking the new sprouts as they arise from the ground. At this stage they look a bit like asparagus in the same stages. The leaves are not edible so they will be removed in the process of cleaning. Cut your bamboo horizontally. At this point you can set aside some of the bamboo for salad garnish and prepare the rest for your saute pan.

Heat the pan adding some olive oil and garlic and simply stir in the bamboo. Saute to the desired consistency and you have yourself a nice free side dish!

Three Lights in a Barn

The Delightful Day Lilly

Lilies in the Fog
While not an indigeneous wild plant, the Day Lilly can now be found growing wild all over the Heart of New Hampshire. The Day Lilly provides delightful barriers, spreads quickly and provides the opportunity for a unique side dish that will be sure to have your dinner guests buzzing.

Day Lillies generally are either yellow or orange and have flowers extending from a long stalk that rises from the plant.

The edible portion of the Day Lilly is the unopened bud which can be sauted in butter. It can also be used as an interesting garnish on your salads.

Yarrow for Tea and Year Round Beauty

There is Wild Yarrow and a number of colored varieties that can be purchased at your local garden center. They are simply different subspecies and all can be used for tea or drying but the wild white variety is best for dying.

Yarrow is a very distinctive plant with a feathery apppearance. Crush a few leaves of the plant and smell it to get a sense of the frangrance that it will yield for tea.

The flower it grows is very pretty and makes a great garden flower because it blooms from early summer right through into the fall.

To make tea from the yarrow plant simply pick a handful of leaves (not the bloom) and steep them in boiling water fresh or dried.

Yarrow is also a great plant for drying for winter arrangements. Pick the entire stalk and hang it upside down in a reasonably dry spot. If you want to add a bit of color, try dyeing it after you have dried it or put the freshly cut plant into water with dye contained in it just after cutting and before drying for a more subdued color (it will suck up the water and show the color in its petals).

Yarrow can sometimes be confused with Queen Annes Lace, which is poisonous so be careful and make sure have the right plant before you make tea.

Chapel in a Field of Lupine
A Celebration of Lupine
An online exhibition of images

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