Food: Foraging in Spring

So right now (as alluded to in my previous post), I’m focused on things of a domestic nature in order to cope with the chaos raging outside my door. Call it escapism, or something else vaguely insulting — I don’t care. Whatever it takes (short of psychotropic drugs) to get by these days.

This week in food: my son and I collected Japanese Knotweed shoots and made a delicious jam — or compote, really. There is nothing like a tasty invasive species compote.

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was originally brought to the U.S. as an ornamental, but has taken over as the bane of many gardeners. Knotweed is quite pretty, with shoots that look like bamboo that quickly transform into a gargantuan plant which flowers in late summer/early fall. It spreads via its rhizomes, which means it is a nightmare to control.

Interestingly, knotweed is used in alternative medicine to treat Lyme disease. An herbalist I know says that plants will often spring up unbidden in response to a need. If so, it makes sense that knotweed is so pervasive here (beyond its biological imperative), as Lyme disease is equally pervasive in the Northeast. For more official information on knotweed, check out what the eggheads at Penn State have to say through this link.

I was skeptical of the pro-edible knotweed entries I read in my foraging books, but thought I would give it a try. My skepticism was ill-founded because wow, is it ever tasty! If you like rhubarb, then eating knotweed is for you. The only downside is that the jam/compote is a terrible color: like asparagus baby food puree. This is off-putting, unless you are a baby who doesn’t know any better. As an adult, the polite thing to do is ignore the hue of the food and focus on the taste. You will be rewarded with deliciousness. Try it over yogurt or ice cream or anywhere you would slather jam.

I used a recipe from this smart veggie-obsessed blog, though I added two cups of sugar, not three, and contributed a touch of cinnamon to the final product. Which gave it a bit more depth, if I do say so myself.

Japanese Knotwood: ugly-cute

Next week’s post will feature life in the garden. And by life, I mean finding life in the garden. What a place! In the meantime, hang in there and, if you can, make this Life Changing Udon from this month’s Food & Wine. While it might not change your life, it will most definitely fill your belly with wholesome goodness, remind you that eggs, when cooked properly, are a beautiful thing, and be one more culinary hedge against outer darkness.

Handmade: A Frenzy of Wrapping Paper

Like many young brides, I reached a domestic high point the first year I was married, at least in terms of ambition if not ability. I was determined to put my stamp on everything that came out of our shiny new joint household: meals, decor, correspondence, and of course, the holidays. I wasn’t so inventive when it came to the gift giving (though I do have a vague memory of buying a special drill bit to bore huge holes in the center of birch saplings we cut into pieces so that we could pour wax in the chunk of birch tree and make individualized candles fire hazards for everyone on our list).

But when it came to the wrapping paper for those gifts? I fancied myself a fount of creativity. The idea of mixing fancy gold embossing with plain brown craft paper occurred to me and took hold, growing in my mind like a fungus. I raced out to acquire sheets of plain brown paper which I proceeded to stamp with a fancy design in a relatively uniform fashion before sprinkling gold embossing powder over each stamped design. Embossing powder needs to melt in order to adhere to the surface, a process which demands heat, usually delivered via a heat gun. I didn’t have a heat gun, so instead I stood over our stove, holding each sheet of embossed paper at an angle, so that the powder wouldn’t slide off into the stove. And holding each sheet of paper close enough to the burner for the powder to melt without scorching the paper or worse, catching it on fire. (As an aside, fire is our household’s theme element, our pagan symbol, and over the years the tension between burning things without burning things down has been as responsible as anything else for keeping the family together).

A few failed attempts and several hours later, I managed to come up with six sheets of customized embossed brown wrapping paper with gold bits dribbling down the sides. It felt like a minor triumph. The wrapping paper project was complete — now I just had to find the gifts themselves to wrap — but at least I could rest easy knowing no one else would show up bearing gifts that looked like ours. That much was certain.

Since then I’ve refined my methods and lowered my standards. This year I’ll just use a combination of wrapping paper found at Dollar Tree (they actually have very charming wrapping paper) and copies of the Sunday New York Times, which conveys both intellectual aspiration and cheap chic.

A few other ideas from creative types:

from Country Living magazine

 

From dippity.com

 

from stylist.com

A great way to use vintage sheet music or pages from old books – if you’re willing to risk the wrath of purists who say such things shouldn’t be tampered with.

from groceryshrink.typepad.com

This works because the gift wrap is part of the gift itself. Something tells me there’s a bit o’ homemade strawberry jam inside that dishtowel. Far too ambitious in terms of gift wrapping for the likes of me but I admire the craftiness.

from Sania Pell

This is more my cup of tea: lots of vintage embellishments. Check out Sania Pell’s site HEREfor lots of this sort of thing.

The DIY mother of us all: Martha Stewart

And finally, no round up of homemade gift wrapping ideas would be complete without the Grand Dame, Martha Stewart, who elevates craft and the handmade to levels our grandmothers could never have envisioned. Here’s a link to more ideas from Martha Stewart for beautiful, unique gift-wrapping. More ideas than you will manage to complete in your lifetime, or in many lifetimes. And none of them involve potentially burning down the house — which, among other qualities — is the difference between the value of content you can glean from Martha Stewart’s website and the value of The Roving Home’s content.

Happy Wrapping!