Friday, July 18, 2008

Gone Fishing

Well...foraging, actually. I'm in a food funk. I'm sick of my own cooking. This is probably a precursor stage to another blitz of "cooking dangerously," but I'm not there yet. The weather is certainly a reason to draw me out of doors, being summer and all, with all of the activities that summer affords. We've been out of pocket this entire week doing Family Things. That doesn't leave much time for cooking and I doan wanna be in the kitchen any more than I have to be at the moment. Needless to say, I've been pulling out all of my Breatharian "fast food" ideas. The Hobbits should be heartily sick of them by this time. I know I certainly am.

I'm thankful for any excuse to get out right now. Gardening is still a bit of a tender subject, but there are things that are doing well enough. Almost everything that I planted is going to produce at least some amount of seed, so I'll be able to have seeds to save for next year's garden. It's been interesting to watch the arugula shed its petals and see little seed pods fatten up. I never knew that lettuce went to seed that way. Not sure what I had in mind, but that wasn't it. There are a couple of tenacious beans asserting their existence in the garden and I figure something that is that determined to live is something that I want reproducing next year. My newly settled asparagus crowns are sending spindly ferns up way past the point of being able to support on such thin stalks. Even though the brochure assures me that I can harvest briefly this year, I'm abstaining, once more thinking ahead.

This is a good time for thinking ahead. Thinking back to last winter with all of the miasma that floated around, I'm planning. The elecampagne plant in my garden is taller than Tool Guy and that's saying a lot. This looks like it is going to be a mullein year, too. Last year, I began looking for them late in the summer and gathered enough for a few cups of tea. This year, like the model car one has recently bought, I see them everywhere. Great stands of them littering the roadsides. I've already harvested a grocery bag...fabric, thankyouvermuch...full of the broad, flannel leaves, dehydrated them, and they now occupy four quart jars in the bottom of my basement.

In an enthusiasm of tincturing, I decided to make mullein oil, as well. I pounded a bunch of leaves into a quart jar and glopped olive oil over the top, suctioning all of the air out with a lovely vacuum seal to finish it off. And while I was on the phone, chatting to my herbal mentor, she informed me that the flowers provide the virtue of mullein oil for earaches. Oh. Flowers. My bad. Feeling like Roseanne Rosannadanna prattling about violins (violence) on TV, I grabbed a mason jar and headed back out to do some more foraging.

Picking mullein is not unlike picking cotton. Well, it doesn't have the spikes that lacerate fingers, so bonus points there. But the very small blossoms make harvesting a rather painstaking process. And mullein oil requires a lot of flowers. It's beginning to become apparent why mullein oil sells in these petite little bottles for a not-so-petite price.

It's a pretty straightforward tincture...stuff as much as you can into a jar and cover with oil and forget about it for 6-8 weeks. I cap mine with a canning lid and a vacuum seal to help draw all of the not inconsiderable air out of the whole morass. I have been more active with my particular batch because mullein in an unevenly blooming flower. The blossoms don't all blow at the same time, so a tincture may very well be best done in stages. About every three days, I do another round of foraging and collect what flowers are open and ready for harvesting. I throw these on top of the previous batch, press them down into the saturated flowers below and top off with more olive oil, sufficient to cover the top. Looking at the resulting oil, I'm thinking that straining this through a cheesecloth would probably be a good idea when all is said and done.

I'm working to forage as much as I responsibly can. Seems to me if the herbal plants are having a bumper year, it might be because we'll have a bumper need for them this winter. So every few days, I head out with my bag or my jar and collect new batches. And gingerly step around the blackberries...the crop that I didn't obtain permission to harvest. Drat.

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