Forage Friday #6 Wild Mustard.

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When most people in the United States think about mustard the image of a spicy yellow or brown condiment comes to mind. Especially in the urban areas. However, in the rural areas wild mustard is either a salad or a cooked green.

A little research shows that there’s almost as many mustards as there are opinions in the world. For the purpose of Forage Friday we’re going to lump them all together under the umbrella of “wild mustard”. Even Peterson’s Field Guide uses the generic “Brassica Spp”.

The seeds can be used to make a spice just like the domestic varieties but as with any wild edible plant the flavor might not be what we’re used to.

The young seed pods can be pickled or tossed fresh into a salad.

The leaves can be a little bitter but can be eaten raw and that is my current experience since I have mostly focused on salad greens. I recently learned that the flower heads can be eaten like broccoli. That shouldn’t have surprised me because they are the family of plants. ( Which also includes cabbage BTW.)

The bright yellow flowers are always a welcomed sight in the spring when I spot them standing proudly near the roads. You might think that the mustard that you buy for your hot dogs is yellow because the mustard seed itself is yellow but it’s not so. Yellow mustard is yellow because it contains turmeric powder. Natural mustard seeds are grayish. It’s complicated process and it’s unlikely that you find them in a high enough quantity to make it worth the effort but a rich edible oil can be processed from the mustard seed. The process is said to leave behind a high protein powder which is also edible.

With all of the good things that comes from this humble little plant it makes me wonder why it’s classified as a weed? The only negative thing I can find online is that when dairy cows eat it the flavor of the milk is somewhat off making the milk unprofitable.

As I try write my closing line tonight I can’t help think about all the efforts that go into feeding the hungry people of the world. We pour money into government programs and charitable organizations that are intended to be resource for families who are struggling. And yet every day chemicals are sprayed to prevent the growth of food producing plants that thrive worldwide, like the mustard plant. It’s even been found growing near the earth’s magnetic pole. Could it be that the reason why people go hungry is because we’ve taken the wrong approach with food production? Perhaps instead of suppressing vigorous plants like mustard we should find ways to support them and turn our world back into a garden.

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Forage Friday 3.. Redbud

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One of the true joys of an Appalachian Spring is the blooming of the redbud. In fact one of minor reasons why I chose the property that I live on now is the presence of reddish pink pops of happiness in late March to mid April. After a long gray winter the colorful redbud is a very welcome sight for sore eyes.

A closer look at the redbud flowers

Redbud is often planted as an ornamental shrub because of its early and colorful pea like flowers. And, it is a nitrogen fixing legume that is often used for reclaiming strip mines and helping to heal the soil.

Of course, this is Forage Friday and that means that redbud is also a wild edible. I have only used it as a “trail nibble” by picking a few raw flower buds here and there and popping a few in my mouth. However, I do think that it would be an interesting thing to add to a salad. I’ve been watching the bloom spread up the mountain and I think that I’ll try it as part of a salad soon. Being a legume I expect that redbud is rich in protein. I haven’t tried the pods yet either but Peterson’s Field Guide suggest a ten minute saute of the young tender pods which look somewhat like snow peas hanging below heart shaped leaves. (As always, make sure of positive ID. Before trying the first time. Trees like black locusts have similar pods and are considered toxic)

A word here on timing. The flower is only in its prime for a few weeks and once the pods reach a certain maturity they become leathery. I have also read that some people have canned the pods like green beans but it’s not something that I’m experienced with and as with this whole series I really recommend that you do further research before going out with a basket to try a new and exotic food from the forest.

Okay, don’t skip the disclaimer.

Forage Friday isn’t really intended to teach you everything you need to know about wild foraging. It was conceived as a way for me to showcase my photos while providing a few interesting tidbits of information to peak your interest and start a conversation in some of the forums that I share with on Facebook.

If you have eaten redbud flowers or pods of if you have a question about wild edible plants the comments are open to the public.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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When It’s True Love

My heart still skips a beat when you walk into the room.

I’m still lost in your eyes.

I still tingle when you hold my hand.

I still dream about you all day.

I am now and always will be completely yours.

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She Works Best Alone

The late summer sun beams down into an abandoned pasture. The Ironweed is tall and tipped with bright purple flowers that seem to resemble a fireworks display frozen in mid burst. The plants sway back and forth as if the breeze is shaking them but there’s no wind today. As I step closer I can hear the constant hum of thousands of tiny winged workers. The bees are too busy collecting the pollen to bother with chasing the photographer. However, I don’t to encroach to far into their workspace. I walked up to the closest flower and the huge carpenter bee doesn’t really react to lens hovering just above her head. She checks each bloom one at a time mentally keeping notes about which ones will be ready tomorrow. Unlike the honeybees she is a solitary bee. She loves her neighbors but avoids the hustle and bustle of a hive. She has only her own brood to care for and she likes it that way. As she gave the flowers one last double check she moved into the right position for me to snap the shutter. I take a few more shots so that I can choose the best ones to keep. Then it’s time to let this working girl get back to business and I take my big blue truck to the next destination.

Forging Yesterday

It’s said that photographers work with two main elements. Light and Time. I suppose that’s why so many of my writings emphasizes the observation of time. Tonight I’m looking at another version of my favorite old barn and I began to think about how quickly all of our tomorrows become yesterdays. It seems that I was just blogging about how much I was looking forward to Springtime and this morning I saw the leaves falling on my lawn. When I was a kid summer seemed to last a lifetime and today I blink my eyes and it’s almost gone. Sure we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather but the light is fading fast. A few years ago I was in a gym and one of the other men in the locker room made the same observation about how fast the summer went by. His friend answered that when they were only six years old summer was 1/6 of their lives. Now they’re sixty years old and summer was only 1/60 of their lives. The passage of time was relative to the age of the observer.

We live in the moment but moments pass so quickly and we are left with a collection of yesterdays. We can plan what we want tomorrow to become but we only have now to bend time and forge the now into a yesterday worth collecting. Mistakes will be made. It’s inevitable. Many of us are trying so hard to go back and fix the errors that we are losing the now and the opportunity for a new and better yesterday. You see, the old cliche about building a better tomorrow is just that. A cliche. All we can really do is use our now in the best way possible and hope that when we are finished with it that it matures into a better yesterday. A yesterday that is captured by the lens of memory and added to a fine collection which can be shared with those we love.

It Wasn’t Me

Don’t you just hate to be blamed for something that you didn’t do? I’m not even talking about having an an accident and feeling that it was unpreventable. I’m talking about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having nothing to do with what happened but still taking the blame. Such is the life of goldenrod. It beautiful yellow spikes are easy to spot and in late summer when eyes are itchy and nobody can seem to shake the light coughing that lasts for weeks goldenrod takes the heat for it. The real culprit is the ragweed but we don’t really have to talk about that riff-raff. Goldenrod on the other hand continues to be a giver. The plant is not only beautiful but has an array of medicinal qualities. (Always check out multiple sources when researching medical plants). The dried stems are used to start friction fire and make string by survivalists. I’m sure that if I sat and thought about it I could enumerate more gifts that goldenrod provides freely in spite of the reputation that it didn’t earn.

When Sunshine Comes To Life

As I explore the little nooks and crannies of my Appalachian Mountains in late summer my eyes are bathed in wondrous beauty. The simple Black Eyed Susan abounds on the roadsides. Everywhere I look leaves me with the sense that setting sun left a piece of itself behind as it passed by. Or maybe that magical golden hue simply fell as part of the rain and took root as it soaked into the earth. However they got started, they bloomed and spread across the mountains like a living flame. Soon that fire will spread to the trees as summer ends in its grand finale of colors. For now, I have little drops of sunshine popping up everywhere.