Posts tagged wildfood
Doug Fir Tip // Spruce Tip Oxymel
Doug Fir Tip // Spruce Tip Oxymel

Since moving to Montana, I've been going on hikes with Connor nearly every morning. It's been a really nice way to familiarize myself with this city and check out the local plants. It's also been great for me to get outdoors. Between intense Montana weather and writing the book, I've been a real indoor cat, which is not normal for me. 

Last weekend, we got in the van and drove out to one of the many nearby forests. I'll admit, that my anxiety has been a little off the charts this year and especially with the recent move, so spending time outdoors has been vital for me. Once we found our campsite, we scrounged together some money for the reservation (sorry for all the change, Forest Service!) and parked the van. It was one of the best designated campsites I've ever been at. A large picnic table sat next to a fire pit, hidden from the road by overgrown trees and flowering brush. A small path to the side of the clearing, lead to the creek, which looked much more like a river with all the flooding we've had lately.

As we explored the campground, my heart began to flutter and a child like excitement overcame me. I turned to Connor and exclaimed, "this is the best place in the world!!!" What really got me, was the abundance of medicinal plants around me. Spruce tips, woodruff, cleavers and mushrooms! It felt like the Disney World of herbalism in that moment, and I couldn't have been happier. 

Conifer tips are not only delicious, but they are filled with vitamins that are perfect for fighting off colds. They taste and smell of the forest in such a way, that it's impossible not to feel like you're next to a roaring campfire while sipping on a doug fir tip tea or adding a bit of this oxymel to a cocktail. (Try it with gin or vodka and some fizzy water or elderflower soda!) Conifer tips appear in mid-late spring and go fast, so now is the time to keep an eye out for those light colored tree tips. 

I decided to make an oxymel with my humble harvest. They are so simple to make and they last.. forever? I'm not entirely sure, but since the preserving liquid is vinegar, any oxymel will last you through to the next season. Take an oxymel on it's own or add it to your preferred drink. Bon Appetit has a great article on oxymels that you can find HERE.

As always, never harvest more than you need! And you don't need as much as you think you do. And always always ALWAYS, make sure you are harvesting the correct plant. 

Doug Fir Tip // Spruce Tip Acetum
Doug Fir Tip // Spruce Tip Acetum

Ingredients 

1 cup tightly pack doug fir or spruce tips
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup honey or agave

Method

Inspect tips for bugs and other little critters and place in a jar along with cinnamon sticks and honey. Completely cover with apple cider vinegar. Cap tightly and shake. Infuse for 2 weeks in a cool, light proof space and shake daily. After infusion time, strain herbs and store in a clean, airtight jar. I like to keep my herbal vinegar in the fridge, but any cool space will do. 

 

Doug Fir Tip // Spruce Tip Acetum
Candied Violets
Candied Violets

The other week I harvested some violets from the backyard. The lawn was going to be mowed that day so I got up early, waited for the violets to open up to the sun, grabbed my baskets and started plucking. I spent a good hour or so on the dewy grass, listening to a podcast and gently harvesting all the backyard violets I could. By the end of it, I had 4 plates of sweet violet flowers and leaves and my mood, currently dampened by the stress of my impending move, had improved considerably. It was my first harvest of the season. Winter in Montana is long and I'm still not too familiar with the plants here, so harvesting is a rare treat for me. 

I brought the violets inside and set them on my work table, then began to separate them. Some for sugaring, most for drying. A couple hours later, I brought them outside to dry in the sun for an hour or two, fully intending on bringing them back in before leaving the house. Around noon, my mother and I decided to take a drive up to Glacier National Park, since most of the snow had melted and I was going to leave for Missoula the next day. As I was scrambling to leave the house, a friend called to let me know that she was outside and wanted to say goodbye. So I rushed out, forgetting about the flowers on the back porch. When we arrived back at the house a few hours later, a bad feeling took up residence in my gut as we parked the car. The wind was blowing through town and I rushed to the back yard to check on the violets. But they weren't where I left them. Instead, I found all 4 baskets overturned on the grass below, just a small pile of semi dried flowers left. Perhaps it was the stress of moving or good old fashioned PMS, but I broke. I had grown attached to the delicate backyard flowers and all the plans we had made together. I had been waiting for these violets to sprout up for weeks and to find them scattered around the yard after all that, I cried. It was if the loss of the violets brought up all the stress I had been keeping bottled up and I cried for a good hour. I was angry and felt like a fraud of an herbalist. 

Now, I can see that the violets still had a potent affect on me. Dedicating my morning to the slow harvest of such a gentle plant, was in itself healing for me. I've been so detached from nature since moving to Montana and writing the book, so this simple return to being outside and harvesting a plant I felt comfortable with, was vital for me. While I wasn't able to keep the violets with me and follow through with my plans, their wisdom was still imparted on me. It was a reminder to not take everything so personally and to stop doubting my abilities as an herbalist. It's incredible to witness the energetic impact a plant can have on a person and there are so many lessons to be learned by simply sitting with one; listening to what the plant has to say. They've been around a lot longer than we have and that in itself is a reason to listen. 

Luckily, I sugared a decent amount of flowers before all of this happened. Here's the recipe I used. 

Candied Violets
Candied Violets

Ingredients

1 egg white
1 tsp water
1 cup fine sugar
Freshly picked violets, 20 or more
A small paint brush

Method

In a small mixing bowl, beat egg white until frothy and slowly add water while still whisking the egg. Pour the sugar in a shallow bowl or plate and grab a clean brush. Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper and set to the side. Gently brush the egg white onto the petals (don't over do it) and dip the flower into the sugar. Sprinkling sugar where needed. Place the flower, face up on the parchment paper and repeat process with remaining flowers. 

Once finished, place flowers and baking sheet in the fridge and let it set overnight. Store flowers in an airtight jar. They will keep in the fridge for up to one month. Use flowers to garnish cakes, cookies, cocktails, etc. 

Candied Violets