Friday, April 29, 2011

Mayhaw Foraging

On Sunday, encouraged by our success with the loquats, Nathanael and I trekked to where he had seen a mulberry tree; alas, the tree was bare. I suppose others (perhaps birds) were hungry for the mulberries. However, just a couple of hundred feet away were two trees of another variety, both loaded with attractive ripe red fruits.

We weren't sure what they were, but their morphology led us to believe them to be related to a number of delicious we agreed to only eat one each. (Actually the first thing out of my mouth was,"They look like baby pomegranates!" But they really do have their own vaugely apple-y look.)

The flesh was very soft, and tangy. It was sweet too, but mostly probably wouldn't really want to eat very many of these fruits plain if you want to keep a settled stomach. Nathanael thought they might be mayhaws, but we still weren't sure.

Since we already had the box he'd prepared for mulberries, we decided to pick a bunch anyway; if they turned out not to be edible the only thing we would lose was our time. And after all, fruit collecting is a wonderful and addicting activity, so even if the fruit was no good, the time would be delightful.

And mayhaws they were. That coveted Southern jelly making fruit, which I would describe as a mix between a crabapple and a rosehip.
(I had not heard of mayhaws until a few days ago, so you're not alone...but isn't my husband a clever fellow?)

Lovely little fruits.


Did any of you notice I wore the same yellow shirt while picking loquats too? I love that shirt. I wear it all of the time. My sister Melissa, shirt dye-r officianado, gave it to me for Christmas. She has other comfy shirt's she's created in her shop, Everyone Original.

Nathanael lined a Priority Mail shipping box with a paper bag and it made such a nice container for our harvest.

We collected two gallons of mayhaws (not even close to cleaning the trees), and I have since turned them into 33 cups of sweet and tangy jams and jellies. I mixed some of the recipes from (who knew, right?) and my pectin boxes and did my own thing. Boiling the fruit, using the clear juice for jelly, then reboiling the pulp and straining it through a wider weave for jam. 

As far as I can tell, Southerners in the US only utilize mayhaws in the jelly form, but one of my friends from Beijing told me about a haw fruit from a different tree in the hawthorn family. In China it is used widely in all kinds of savory and sweet foods, but most loved (especially in Beijing) coated with a candy layer and sold on a stick much like our candy apples. It goes by the name of bing tanghulu. (Also, check out it's wiki: tanghulu)

If harvesting garden vegetables while my family continues to experience snow storms didn't make me feel like I'm in a foreign land, discovering all of these unfamiliar fruits sure does. What other fruits grown in the United States that I've been missing out on?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Golden: Loquat foraging

As you already know from our pecan hunting, and from our extensive edible wild plant guide collection if you have ever seen our bookshelf, Nathanael and I appreciate the merits of fresh, free food. So, after the friend sharing her land with us (for our garden) pointed out one of her trees as an unknown fruit tree a few months ago, I took special note of the developing fruit each week...and I had no idea what they were going to be. Finally, this weekend, when I saw some falling off the tree I decided to test for ripeness, and ended up biting into something wonderfully delicious!


Nathanael thought they might be loquats, and he turned out to be correct. This warm climate fruit was something cold-climate-me had never seen or tasted. It is a distant relative of apples (and cherries, roses, plumbs, peaches, etc.), and has a texture like a plumb or large cherry. The flavor is sweet and tart, like a nectarine with a bit of plumb or berry essence.

 Inside, the fruit contains one to three smooth slippery seeds which pop out quite easily, and have a beautiful golden sheen.

Our friend's tree was sparse, but Nathanael recalled having seen a loquat tree planted on campus as an ornamental piece of landscaping, so we ventured out and discovered ripe fruit aplenty.


Nathanael was the primary harvester since he is a bit taller, and because I was eating so many loquats and taking so many pictures. But, I did collect the fruits I could reach.

This is me imagining the loquat popsicles I will make. (And looking a great deal like my grandmother.)

As we walked back I told Nathanael, "I am going to have a loquat orchard." I also told him that I would enjoy being a fruit bat, so I don't know how seriously he is going to take me on the loquat situation.
I am rather enamored with this fruit.
It is certainly on my top five list.

In other foraging news, we have begun to eat the first of the blackberries.
Aren't blackberries supposed to be around in July?!
This climate continues to amaze me.

Do you ever collect from the woods or city landscaping plants?
Have you ever tried a loquat?
What new foods have you discovered lately?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Nathanael and I don't get many pictures together, because we are more often taking pictures than posing for them. It's always good to have friends who also like to take pictures who will solve that problem for you. This picture was taken by a fantastic friend of ours who turns eight today. Nathanael and I were fresh out of the garden.

    I have found myself humming more lately. I told Nathanael I think I'm getting my hum back.

When I was little, I hummed all of the time. Songs I knew, songs I didn't know, songs I was making up, and hums that were just sparks flying from neurons to vocal cords without my taking notice of the song. But school, college, and attempts to not be disruptive to sisters and classmates squished it out of me a bit.

I fathom myself to be musical, but to tell you the truth I don't have any especial skill with instruments. I still occasionally sit at classical concerts (when they are free) and spend most of the performance wondering why I didn't work harder at practicing. But I don't particularly want a degree in music, or a different career path or fame...I think I just want a way to get the music out.

Do you ever wake up in the morning working your fuzzy brain as hard as you can to grasp the bits of your dreams you have not yet forgotten? I do just about every morning, and what I can recall usually has emotional significance with its own logic and reason, which is completely indescribable to anyone else. For example, a few weeks ago I awoke, cuddled up to Nathanael and told him, "You're my favorite standing still cow." And realizing how strange that sounded once I heard my words I attempted to clarify, "And I'm your favorite standing still cow."

I have no explanation.
It was just something my heart was overflowing to tell him.

Music is the like the converse of dreams. Instead of pictures, stories, and emotions trapped in our own beings unable to be tapped into by our loved ones; feelings are melted and softened until they flow into the ears who will hear.

The more I dream, and the more I am struck by music, the more I am convinced that each of these two mysterious aspects of life are laced with elements of the supernatural. That both joyful sleeping visions and ballads that make us cry are evidence of a creative God who has constructed us likewise. With so many thoughts, and so much imagination we cannot even get it all out.

And so I hum.
Because I cannot play the harmonica while I do dishes.
And because I cannot turn my dreams into movies.
Though they would make great ones. They would make you laugh, and cry, and make you wonder so many things.

(I cannot explain the photos accompanying this song....but perhaps that makes it all the more appropriate.)

Friday, April 15, 2011


 So on Wednesday, I had planned to download my camera and make a post to share with all of you like normal, but when I began the download my computer told me it was full. No longer hungry for my photos. Alas. Over the last two days I have been doing my best to work its appetite back up by deleating about 800 MB worth of Java updates, compressing files, and moving old photos off of my hard drive...and I figured while I was at it I might as well install virus software and do all those kinds of scans too, right? It was a good plan, and still is...still is being worked on that is. I will outsmart it yet. My good old desktop computer may be 8 years old, and I know computer years are even longer than dog years, but I have no plans to be utilizing Dell's new mushroom packing material any time soon.

What else have I been up to lately?

Gardening...of course. Nathanel and are still having our ordinary Saturday garden days, but we are still not getting much rain, so a friend and her daughter (the most adorable little girl, the one who made the orange snake) took a trip to the garden mid week to water and plant a few things.

The seeds for the winged beans were so smooth and even. I could envision making a necklace out of these.

The New Zealand Spinach on the other hand had rough and angular seeds which look more like things that would inspire Japanese cartoon characters.

The dill is smelling wonderful and the plants are super healthy. Do you have any great dill recipes to share? I am mostly wishing the cucumbers were ready, though I do have a dill potato soup recipe.

 The beets are a little on the small side still, but many of them will be ready soon...and then I will turning everything I cook pink just for the fun of it! (You know that's why I like beets, right?)

The snow peas surprised us by pulling through and producing wild amounts this week, despite the low rain and temperatures very far from snow.

The mystery plant continues to grow and look more like itself. Come on, take a guess. What do you think it could be?

And I continue to become more allergic to fire ants. Despite wearing shoes and high socks with shorts (you only wish you could be so fashionable) they manage to reach me. This was just one bite/sting on my right ankle, a day after the ant got me. The red itchy patch continued to spread and swell...two weeks ago I got four bites on each ankle and that was really a sight, they looked like they belonged to the Michelin  Man. I think my reactions are getting slightly worse...what do you think I should to to build up immunity? Ant smoothies perhaps? Sneak ants into my baked goods?

I am also a guest blogger on After Nine To Five with a recipe for Blonde Brownies  (no ants included)! They're golden, but will not be appearing here, so catch 'em while you can! (Really. They are so delicious.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend links: A Mix

Some of you might have noticed the absence of my weekend links feature over the last few weeks. The primary problem was that I couldn't decide upon a theme, and the secondary problem was that I was probably gardening!
   So, despite it being Monday, I want to share with you an eclectic selection of things I just couldn't keep to myself.

For the Artsy

Psyko Paint allows you to turn an existing photo or blank canvas into a painting using a variety of different texture brushes. With no sign up or program download necessary you can use it as a fun distraction or a serious art form depending on your time constraints. I turned a photo of Nathanael walking through a parking lot into the picture's not genius but I only had a few minutes. Even if you don't try it out flipping through the galleries of works submitted by others is worthwhile.

For the Bookish

Over at Lemon Squeezy, Sharon has created some really fun fox bookmarks which you can print for free! There is even a neat pattern to print on the back. I don't have a printer, but if I did these would find their way into my cookbooks and the other books I'm reading lickety-split! (Picture from Lemon Squeezy.)

For the EcoNut

I am a fan of fungus. In general it is essential to ecosystems, occasionally it is tasty, but starting soon it will also protect your computer during shipping. Dell recently announced their adoption of Ecocradle Mushroom® Packaging.

 This alternative to Styrofoam is, of course, biodegradable (use as mulch is encouraged), and can be grown in just a few days without the use of petrochemicals. Ecovative also designs building insulation from mycelium materials. Photos from Ecovative

For the Traveler

The Market from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo documents a bit of a day in the Maeklong Market in Bangkok. Not only is a beautiful and colorful walk through the stands, it also shows one thing that makes this market a bit different. Read the short write up Terje wrote about it on his page, and then check out some of his other glimpses of the world.

Aren't these exciting finds?
What fantastic things have you discovered lately?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Golden: Sweet Potato Black Bean Mole

When we lived in Wisconsin, dairy was a bargain; cheese, mustard, cranberries, and honey were plentiful, and there was an enormous employee owned grocery store where food was priced so that even graduate students could eat. In our new home grocery shopping and I are not as good friends. 
I have always liked the idea of buying local and seasonal produce, but now that I am out of my home climate and apples are $1.89/lb on sale in the fall, I've realized I should take an even harder look at the whole thing and make an effort to cook like a southerner....though perhaps with fewer sticks of butter.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Nathanael is taking an entomology course this semester, and since everything is nice and warm now, they have all begun collecting their specimens. Nathanael's growing collection is in little glass jars which now adorn my bedroom shelf. That spiny caterpillar on the corner is my favorite so far. I found that one for him while we gardened on Saturday.

 This particular course is focused only on agricultural pests, but that doesn't make the collecting too much more difficult, especially considering our pesticide free garden. It is nice that Nathanael has now learned the symptoms and appearances of certain pests and also helpful creatures, so he can tell me which to squish and which to encourage.

This amazingly bedecked critter is something we discovered on our walk home from church on Sunday. We didn't collect him, but let him continue on his merry way. Isn't he awesome?

In other insect news, the Mississippi is rising. 

That's our garden on the far left, the levee in the middle and the river on the right (where there is dry ground during other seasons). 
Basically this means the mosquitoes are killer.
I took some Benadryl in the middle of the night last night and the world is a lot less itchy now.

As for the plants, the broccoli is coming along steady and slow,

the squashes are beginning to pep up,

and the lettuce continues to be delicious.

Have you ever collected insects? Have you ever seen an aspirator for such purposes? 
I hadn't before this semester, but I think they're genius.

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