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.

Bouncing Back

The world is burning down, but in the middle of the chaos, it is important to get outside. Vitamin D, endorphins, dopamine? I dunno the physiology of it, but COVID cowers when confronted by bare-faced nature.

As a prescriptive move, we went to New Hampshire over Easter, and hiked to the top of a little stunted mountain. The hike was listed as “moderate” in trail guide, but this is true only if you are moderately in shape. The husband, kids, and dog scrambled nimbly to the top. I walked behind them, which is a diplomatic way of saying they remained out of sight for much of the hike. Then I saw this rock that some soft-hearted poor speller had left in the crook of a tree, as thought it had been left just for me.”u r lovd” the rock said, and I knew everything would be alright. This was just before the bear attack. (Ha, just kidding. Though an asthma attack was eminently possible.)

Easter services were held in a tiny chapel on the side of the road. In attendance were the same four people I’ve been staring at for the 13 months of COVID isolation. The service was short as a result.

The weekend — miserable hike and all — marks the beginning of bouncing back. The world will open up again (if we don’t burn it down first), and in the meantime I’m planting new little baby seeds and harvesting the spring greens from the greenhouse. In your face, entropy.

Christmas

In case you have lost track of the date, Christmas is next week. I have decorated to the extent that I feel able, and am enjoying the cheery visuals provided by the little lights against the greenery and the orange pomanders. The magic of the season is greatly aided by the fact that I’m actively working on ignoring the constant rumble of my children disagreeing with one another. It is hard, but necessary, to ignore the shrieking in order for me to survive right now.

Speaking of survival, the theme song for this holiday season is the Judy Garland version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, which will nearly kill you if you listen too closely to the lyrics while simultaneously experiencing Judy’s voice.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yule-tide gay
From now on
Our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

My daughter made a snowman pomander.
The beloved Christmas village: the site of much mayhem and chaos as the kids fight over how it should be arranged.
The biggest tree we’ve ever had, a hedge against 2020.

Lo, The Summer is Over

I’ve been quiet all summer — at least online. In the real world I’ve been my usual self, blabbing on and on in a manner that transcends the seasons. But the summer is over, and now it is time to turn my attention to the virtual side of things. Maybe I associate spending hours on the internet with cooler days and crisp nights, parallel to the intense desire to sit around by the fireside that kicks in every fall. Anyway, not to overthink it or anything. The point is I’m back. Here. Posting.

Starting with a summer album of sorts. Even though my online self has been comatose, my offline self has been racing around working on various things, some of which I’ll post about during the coming weeks. But as far as summer projects go, visits to family were mixed in with various creative projects, including our town’s weekly farmers’ market and the Madden Road Music Fest in Ohio, which was held on the farm this year. The ol’ homeplace, in folk song parlance. Continue reading

At Home: 3.19.14

Like the snow still lingering outside, right now my house is dirty, grey, and irritating to behold. I looked around this week and realized that being trapped (more or less) in this place for the last several months has become a sort of anthropological experience: signs of small children and the worlds they create are everywhere. Sometimes the signs that children dominate this place  are random, sometimes they are deliberate, little displays set up with care. Until I step on these displays and kick the composition across the room. Which leads me to my biggest surprise as a parent, and it’s not how very terrible potty training has been. It has to do with how much kids love the floor. How much they adore littering the floor with stuff,  taking every opportunity — and where none exists, they create one — to throw things, small and large, on the floor. A large part of my day is picking stuff up: library books (please don’t tell Carol, our beloved librarian, this fact), legos, puzzle pieces, cups, food stuffs, more cups, articles of clothing, on and on and on. But it’s not just the floor, children just generally love a surface, any surface, to spill things on, write things on, leave things on. So this month’s “At Home” photo essay is dedicated to my dirty, end-of-winter house and its small inhabitants. And to the fact that we bid winter goodbye this week, at least officially if not in reality. So long winter, 2014. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you monster.