At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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Edible and Medicinal Nature Tour!

On December 8, TwoInTents will leading a nature tour of the wild edible and medicinal plants of the I-70 Corridor in Bennett, Colorado. You can feed your family all year long with what nature provides; we always have enough. Please RSVP at 720-833-8795.

 
 

New agricultural newspaper

I am so proud to announce that the agricultural and nature newspaper which I assist in editing has now an online edition!  You ought to check it out... www.themeadowlarkherald.com 

Besides covering agriculture, nature science, art and the latest academic news, local politics and news is covered too.  Farming and gardening is made easier with information and news! 

Let me know what you think?

 
 

Wild brassicas blooming on the palmer divide

The wild brassicas are flowering on the Palmer divide, which indicates with extreme certainty one of the two following possibilities: either the last frost has happened, or the plants are senseless.  Certainly this has been something of a crazy year throughout the United States, but, hard won as it may be, the wild throws of temperature are now at least hovering something above freezing.

Brassicas are generally edible, and more often than not, delicious.  When harvesting wild brassicas, however, be careful to achieve positive identification.  They know they are delicious and will pretend to be other plants.  They are such good mimics that even expert hunters may mistake a poisonous or nasty tasting plant for a brassica. 

Brassicas are also known as “mustards,” “radishes,” “cabbages,” or other familiar names.  They are identified by having no coloration of the sap, may or may not have hairs on the stem, may or may not have a waxy coat.  Their leaves are serrated and pinnatifid, with lobe tips pointing towards the leaf tip.  The sprout seeds are usually cordate.  Flowers are what give the plant away best: they cluster at the tops of stems, have four petals cruciform, usually four long and two short stamen, often are yellow, but can be of other colors.  Their fruits are delicacies: they are capsules, with round seeds and usually spicy!

Romans were probably the first to experiment with the preparation of mustard as a condiment.  They also discovered how to use the thistle to make cheese. They mixed unfermented grape juice, known as “must,” with ground mustard seeds to make “burning must,” mustum ardens — hence “must ard.”  The only surviving recipe from the later Roman period (late 4th Century) includes a mixture of ground mustard, pepper, caraway, lovage, grilled coriander seeds, dill, celery, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, fish stock, and oil. 

Though the French had been making mustard since the 10th century, the first appearance of mustard makers on the royal registers in Paris dates back to 1292. Dijon, France, became a recognized center for mustard making by the 13th Century. The popularity of mustard in Dijon is evidenced by written accounts of guests consuming 70 gallons of mustard creme in a single sitting at a gala held by the Duke of Burgundy in 1336.  Due to its long tradition of mustard making, Dijon is regarded as the mustard capital of the world. 

An early use of mustard as a condiment in England was in the form of mustard balls – coarse ground mustard seed combined with flour and cinnamon, moistened, rolled into balls, and dried – which were easily stored and combined with vinegar or wine to make mustard paste as needed. The town of Tewkesbury was well known for its high-quality mustard balls, which were exported to London and other parts of the country, and are even mentioned in William Shakespeare's play King Henry the Fourth, Part II.

There are many varieties of mustard which come in a wide range of strengths and flavors. The basic taste and "heat" of the mustard is largely determined by seed type, preparation and ingredients. Black seeded mustard is generally regarded as the hottest type. Preparation also plays a key role in the final outcome of the mustard. Mustard, in its powdered form, lacks any potency and needs to be fixed by soaking. One of the factors that determines the strength of a prepared mustard is the temperature of the water, vinegar, or other liquid mixed with the ground seeds: hotter liquids are more hostile to the strength-producing compounds. Thus, hot mustard is made with cold water, while using hot water results in milder mustard.  The pungency of mustard is always reduced by heating, not just at the time of preparation; if added to a dish during cooking much of the effect of the mustard is lost. 

When hunting mustards, it is difficult to decide whether to enjoy them as a vegetable, flower or fruit!

 
 

What a nice walk!

What a nice walk we had today!  Though there was the promise of rain (and rain walks are, indeed, a charming and beautiful adventure), the skies cleared unexpectedly and our nature walk / educational walking tour of the wild edible and medicinal plants of the Greenwood Village and Cherry Creek Reservoir area was much drier than expected!

We learned where you are legally allowed to harvest foods and medicines, how to correctly identify them using botanical science (thereby avoiding the "assisted suicide" of the inferior identification guides out there), and even learned how to cook them and prepare them for use.  We discussed common sicknesses and injuries, and uncommon ones too.  Our conversations drifted easily from the avant guarde of culinary arts to the ancient and time-tested recipes enjoyed by gourmands the world over, from thence to the historical importance of plants and the way that they have shaped and have been shaped by society.  Ecology, geology, and blue herons all easily relate to that magnificent science of botany! 

Perhaps, though, it was the friendships that developed in talking about how people use plants and rely on them, and how easily people can rely on nature that reminded us most of how much we all have in common and rekindled our joy of exploring our world through botany.

Whether it was learning that mallow can be used as a thickener in soups or how to make an aspirin-like cream to soothe the aches of age and injury, or the biochemical reasons why thistles are effective liver support and why you should never ever eat cherry leaves and bark, digressions into the differences between Korean and American cooking or how plants green deserts into forests and why people hate trees...we will always cherish the new friends we made today, and the excellent conversations we shared.

In other good news, there were absolutely no fatalities.  That brings our new total of deaths during tours to... well, it's still zero.  Injuries are holding steady also at none.  This goes to show that by botanically identifying plants before eating them really cuts down on the accidental suicides, and encourages experimentation that may lead to improved diet and culinary pleasure.

Come on by for our next walk - let us know by email or phone that you'd like to be kept aware of when and where it is.  Or ask us to schedule a free walk near you!  We're glad to oblige.

 
 
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