Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Treats

Rhus glabra

Smooth sumac here nestled amongst the pine. These berries can be collected now to make a drink known as "indian lemonade" which is a bit sour and must be sweetened. I have found it best to wash the berry clusters then soak them in a bowl of water, mashing on occasion. This will create a pink liquid which can then be strained through cheesecloth, or a cotton dish towel.
Add sugar to taste and refrigerate. We use it in small quantities to give iced tea an added tang.

This plant is widespread from Florida to British Columbia. My reference claims that some in Appalachia rolled and smoked the leaves as a treatment for asthma; this seems odd. It has been in cultivation since 1620 and the leaves and roots contain tannin used for staining and dyeing.
And it tastes good; whats better than that?

Elaeagnus umbellata

(Greek elaia for "olive", agnus for sacred ; umbellatus refers to the flowers)

These berries on the Autumn olive bush are a bit tangy depending on time of season and where the bush occurs in the landscape. They get sweeter as time nears first frost and it is best to keep testing before picking, for maximum sweetness. They make a wonderful jelly and can be processed as you would grapes--to make jelly of them. They have a subtle flavor so if you are used to mouth explosions in your jelly, forget it!

The bush has been in cultivation since 1830 according to my reference and originally comes from areas below 9000 ft from Afghanistan to China, Korea and Japan. It was introduced to US in 1917 and (of course) quickly spread to invade the indigenous ecosystems and establish itself amongst the plants.
(a pet peeve of mine: introducing non-native plants and animals, for one reason or another, by alleged-intelligent people, into an established ecosystem with no regard for future developments and "escape from cultivation". In southern US, welcome kudzu and killer bees; I fight the multiflora rose introduced by University Extension braniacs as a hedge bush around pastures and fields. (and yes, it has thorns))
But I guess that some escapees are welcome if they can provide a tasty drink or jelly.

What is in your area to eat or drink?

Ref:Shrubs and Woody Vines of Missouri by Kurz, 1997