The young man stood in the threshold staring at the empty table in the kitchen. He walked in and laid his empty bag in front of his family and in tears he lamented his failed efforts. His mother stepped over and sat down next to him. She softly placed her hand on the back of his neck and reassured him. He wasn’t a failure just because he came home one time empty handed. She stood him up and guided him to the root cellar. There the walls were lined with the bounty of past foraging and gardening. The family had all they needed after all.
It’s bound to happen eventually. The fisherman will miss a strike, the hunter will miss the shot and trapper will have his bait stolen. So we shouldn’t be surprised if a foraging excursion yields no prize either. Now as far as my Forage Friday posts goes there’s still plenty of nuts, and seeds that could be harvested around and quite a few mushrooms as well. However, I’ve not encountered anything lately that hasn’t already been been covered in previous posts. So tonight I’m going to share a few basic preservation techniques. For the sake of brevity I’m not going to go into specifics of each technique. But just to give you a few ideas that you might want to research.
Obviously there’s the canning of various things. Fruits and berries can be made into various preserves. Canning comes with a variety of advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that canning is generally reliable so long as you avoid conditions that might allow botulism. You can go to the USDA site which links to other resources for specific information about canning.
Forage Friday mostly covers herbs and one the easiest ways to preserve herbs is drying them. I prefer not to use heat if it’s not too humid. Back at the end of summer I found the need to trim the red elm in my yard. Left alone red elm gets huge. Up to 80 feet tall. But a tree this large in the location it’s growing isn’t really good since it poses a risk to my house. So I trimmed it back and plan to only allow it to get 15 -20 feet. This left me with an abundance of bark and leaves that both have medicinal values and tastes pretty close to store bought tea. But if you look closely at black tea from the store you’ll find that it’s not dehydrated to the point of being brittle. So I chose not to use heat and to simply spread the shredded leaves out in a single layer and allow a fan to circulate the air until the leaves had the same texture as the black tea I get from the store. ( If you have access to red elm I highly recommend trying the leaves as a tea substitute. )
Drying is by far my favorite method. Leaves are pretty easy to start with but eventually you’ll want to try a few roots. Dandelion, chicory, Japanese Knotweed and those that are truly roots can be thinly sliced and strung on a rack so that the air circulation can draw off the moisture. With thicker things like roots you’ll need to keep a constant eye out for mold. One of the reasons why I like using a fan is that air circulation helps mitigate mold.
Something that I hope to try eventually is to build a small vacuum chamber for freeze drying of fruits and vegetables. This will be a new experience for me but it’s my understanding that the vacuum chamber can successfully remove the moisture from the produce and it can then be frozen without changing the color or structure of the food. The device is about the size of a pressure canner. And to be clear this isn’t the same as industrial freeze drying. It’s just supposed to have the same result. It’s something that I’m still researching. The equipment is rather expensive but if it ever becomes a reality for me I’ll do a post on it specifically.
The last one for now is just simply flash freezing. Flash freezing is awesome for one big reason and that’s nutrients. One of the biggest reasons to either garden or forage is nutritional value. If your produce is shipped in from way off then it loses a lot of nutrients on its journey. Fresh vegetables and fruits are ( or should be) still alive when it hits the shelf. The food value is being consumed by the produce in order to maintain that life and thus the longer it is between harvest and consumption then the more nutrients are lost. However, if you harvest locally and quickly freeze it that stops the nutrients from being used by the produce itself. It’s also recommended that if you harvest wild nuts or tubers such as groundnut that you should freeze them for a few weeks to kill any worms that might be inside the shell.
Thats it for tonight’s Forage Friday. Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.
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