Sumac Berry Lemonade Tea

jchismar suman lemonade drink

This past Saturday I enjoyed a father and son day road trip. My father shared many of his Marine boot camp stories, perhaps I’ll share more details on that in the future. We visited Lancaster, PA one of my father’s favorite places, Hershey Chocolate World and a few woodworking stores in the area. On Sunday my parents and I enjoyed the Arts and Hayfield festival in Lehman, PA.

On the drive home a roadside grove of blossoming sumac trees caught our attention. The stretch of road had no shoulder to provide a place to pull over and harvest the bounty. I suddenly recalled stumbling across sumac trees in the forest behind my parent’s home. Dad and I set out for a short hike after returning to home base. My father found a few edible mushrooms and after a few minutes the sumac trees spread out in front of us.

I collected the (slightly under-ripe) berries and brought them home with me. Once home I filled a pitcher with cold water and crushed the bundles of berries into the water. Periodically stirring the mixture for an hour produced a slightly sweet “lemonade”, it actually tastes more like tea. I enjoyed a small glass and put the pitcher in the fridge to chill. Everyone should have a chance to enjoy such a delightful, easy to make and free beverage on these hot summer days.

Day Hiking The A.T. and Taxidermy

Appalachian Trail Taxidermy

This past Saturday my nephew Bernard and I did a little day hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. During our expedition we chewed on teaberry leaves and foraged a few wild raspberries and blueberries – leaving plenty behind for fellow hikers to discover. The forecast called for thunderstorms but the weather was on our side, gently raining shortly after each time we set up the hammocks for trail-side siestas. We stopped at Rudy’s Tavern in East Stroudsburg for a few pints and delicious bar pizzas for some post adventure refueling.

Sunday was filled with catching up with many odds and ends around the house. I worked a little on my Magic Mirror carving which I hope to complete soon. I also did some taxidermy experimenting with a song sparrow my sister provided me with a few months ago.  To my surprise I find the task of taxidermy relaxing. Freezer storage, however, is at a minimum at home and I have many big woodworking projects (some started years ago, some to start soon) on my horizon so I’ll likely pause the taxidermy hobby for a while.

Keeping busy

Sorry I haven’t posted in the past few weeks. I’ve been busy working on a new woodcarving titled Magic Mirror. You can check out the progress of the project on my new jchismar Instagram feed. When the project is complete I’ll post the details here on my blog.

I have continued to forage for wild edibles including red mulberries, Japanese knotweed, lamb’s quarters and wild strawberries. Red mulberries are my favorite pickings around the neighborhood while walking Fleur. There are many red mulberry trees in the public parks and streets in my vicinity. Many people dislike these trees because the berries drop from the trees, making a mess. Not many people are aware that these berries are edible and delicious. The berries can be found on the trees until autumn – providing a free and delicious warm weather snack.

Wood Sorrel : The Original Sour Patch

jchismar wood sorrel
oxalis stricta – wood sorrel

“I’m looking over a four-leaved clover” ~ Mort Dixon

Continuing my Spring foraging theme I’m sharing my favorite easy-to-find foraging treat, wood sorrel. There are many varieties of wood sorrel and they’re fun snacks to eat. I’ve dubbed the refreshing and delicious snack “sour patch candy” because the flavor is that of tart citrus zest. The warm weather has brought this bounty to the neighborhood and nearby Watsessing Park. It’s rich in vitamin C and the leaves, stems and flowers are edible.

jchismar wood sorrel cloverWood sorrel is often misidentified as clover, these are not the same plant. Wood sorrel has heart-shaped  trifoliate compound leaves popularly associated with St. Patrick’s Day, shamrocks and leprechauns. Clover, the true shamrock, generally has oval-shaped trifoliate leaves often marked with a chevron. Generally speaking clover is edible as well but not nearly as delicious.

When you’re out and about and you stumble on some wood sorrel you should snatch up a few leaves and give it a try. Word to the wise, avoid heavily trafficked dog walking zones, or wash off your stash before digging in.

Honeysuckle : Sweet Breath of Spring

jchismar honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

“And I can taste that honeysuckle and it’s still so sweet” ~ Little Big Town

Rounding out my wife Amy’s duplet of Spring unfailing foraging finds is aromatic honeysuckle.  The other treat, mentioned previously, is teaberry. Last Friday my wife kindly allowed me to sleep in while she and Fleur went for their morning walk. Their adventure led the two through Watsessing Park.

When I rolled out of bed, after they returned home, I checked my phone and found Amy sent me this photo of honeysuckle. I was jealous because I’ve been waiting for these treats to bloom. I have to admit honeysuckle is not on my radar because it’s usually something Amy so quickly identifies and mentions. This year, due to my growing interest in foraging and this blog, I’ve been keeping an eye open for the snack.

In previous years I can recall Amy presenting me a delicately extracted stamen of the honeysuckle flower allowing me to taste the sweet nectar. When I had the opportunity to visit Watsessing park I gently tugged a stamen and it split in half. Impatient, I just snipped a whole blossom and chewed on it. The bloom tasted like a flower with an appetizing dusting of powdered sugar. Success!

A word of warning for new foragers, myself included, many varieties of honeysuckle have poisonous berries and leaves. Lonicera japonica, the variety of honeysuckle which grows in my neighborhood, is not a toxic variety. Please investigate the safety of your specimens before making a meal sized portion of honeysuckle from your neck of the woods.

Foraging Teaberry : A Trailside Treat

jchismar teaberry foraging
Teaberry plant and berry

A few weekends ago Amy, Fleur and I hiked Parker Cabin Mountain at Harriman State Park. Shortly after parking the car and getting on the trail Amy stopped in her tracks, as she always does, at the sight of tiny trailside teaberry leaves. It’s fun to pluck a few leaves to chew and taste the wonderful one-of-a-kind flavor.

Suddenly she, and in turn I, burst into an excited frenzy as we found ourselves surrounded by the little red berries! Fleur stood impatient and confused as we scurried through the brush plucking a snack size quantity of the tasty gems. It’s invigorating to start a day hiking with an appetizer provided by Mother Nature.

Tiny yellow flowers caught my eye as I sipped filtered stream water on the various peaks we climbed. I didn’t know what type of flowers these were but I spotted too many to pass them by any longer. I sampled a flower; it tasted like a flower.

jchismar common cinquefoil
Common Cinquefoil

Back home, after some research, I learned what I ate was the flower of a Common Cinquefoil, commonly known as Five Fingers. A little internet browsing revealed the Common Cinquefoil plant and root is a medicinal / edible plant with astringent properties. There was little mention of eating the flower, but next time I’ll give the leaves and maybe the roots a taste too!

Basswood : Great Wood to Carve and Delicious Edible

jchismar edible basswood bud
Basswood leaf bud

Spring is here and with Spring comes green and pretty flowers for all to enjoy. Personally I couldn’t wait for it to unfold. All winter I’ve had the urge to get my forage on. Now that it’s here it’s time to finally dig in! Many dandelion flowers have made their way to my belly while out walking about the neighborhood. I’ll admit, some were sweeter than others.

Basswood trees are one of the first trees that come to life when as the weather improves. Every walk with Fleur included examining local basswood trees to see if they were ripe for the picking. All of the recent rain brought with it nature’s magic! The basswood trees went into overdrive, many from bud to leaf overnight.

Luckily there are plenty of buds to be found. The leaf buds have a soft texture and taste slightly sweet with a mild cucumber flavor, though my palette is not expertly trained. The mature leaves are okay to eat as well but the green bitterness tends to increase with size and age.  I have my eye out for more varieties of tasty morsels but they’ll come a little later in the season. Bon appetit!

Chicken of the Woods – Sulphur Shelf

chicken of the forest - sulphur shelf

While hiking over the weekend I was going about my regular routine, hunting for interesting bits of wood and fallen trees. My wife and I expedited the return to the car with an adventuresome detour from the beaten path. A mushroom or fungus growing on the base of a tree trunk caught my eye. While hiking in the woods I spot many Artists Fungus and Turkey Tail  mushrooms, what I spotted was definitely neither of those.

Lucky for me I was carrying a trusty mushroom pocket field guide, my eye immediately found the bright orange-yellow illustration. I glanced down to read “Chicken of the Forest”. Certainly, I thought, this brightly colored thing was poisonous. I went on to read more, ” Choice edible”. What?

Out came my pocket knife and a clean doggie poo bag; I went to work harvesting the goods. When we returned home I fired up some olive oil in a pan, cleaned the fungus and dropped it in the hot oil with a dash of salt. After a few minutes of cooking my wife and I decided to add a splash of my homemade raisin wine for extra flavor. Delicious! I should have taken it all. Hopefully another hiker will be fortunate enough to stumble on the treat.