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"After all, what is life without a little WILD STUFF?"

Bay (Persea barbonea)

Dried Bay leaves are magnificent spice in meats, stews, and fowl. Persea barbonea is abundant in the South. Gather the leaves and dry them before use, either in the oven or on racks in the garage.

Lay a couple of Bay leaves on fish for broiling or put one or two in the dressing when you fix your Thanksgiving bird.

Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

The narrow leaves of this pretty shrub are, in our opinion, one of the world's fine spices. They are especially good with seafoods, but also great in meat and fowl.

Myrica is a chief ingredient of most commercial 'Crab-Boils." A combination of this and Bay leaves makes the finest possible flavoring for stuffing poultry.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

This tree produces more than tea. The dried and powdered leaves are the file' of gumbos, stews, and soups. Sassafras wood is the world's finest for barbecue smoke. Add some to your oak or hickory next time you barbecue.

Wild Onions

Good in everything. The tiny bulbs are tedious to clean, but marvellous in food. The tops can be used in every way that you would use chives.

Smartweed (Polygonum species)

The peppery leaves are a good camp spice when you've left the black pepper at home. The seeds of Peppergrass can be used the same way.

Rose Hips

The ''fruit" of wild or cultivated roses. Rich in vitamin C, and good as flavoring material in soups and stews.


Marigold

Back to the flower garden! Put a Marigold flower or two in your soup or stew. A bit like onion, but milder.

Violets

Our native violets (or the cultivated kinds) have a mucilaginous quality, like Okra, which makes them nice in soups and stews.

 

The finest flour and bread material in North America, with the possible exception of some of our native grasses, is the acorn.

The early settlers of the country found the Native Americans engaged in an advanced agriculture. Many of the great food plants of today were contributed by the American Indian. In addition to the things they grew, the Indian tribes gathered fruits, nuts, and berries from the wild. Somehow, the great harvest of acorns faded with the Indian culture, and the pioneers missed the importance of this particular annual harvest.

Every year, America's oaks shed tons of nutritious nuts. The only problem is how to harvest and how to utilize this bounty.

The Indians leached the tannic acid from acorns by either boiling them or placing them in wicker baskets in a stream, where the running water could tumble them for hours, removing all the tannin. Since we have few streams in America anymore that are pure enough to utilize this method, we will boil our acorns.

Try the white oak group, as they have large acorns and less tannic acid than the dark oaks. Shell the acorns by cutting off the top, and then split down the sides. Wash. Put the cleaned acorns in a pot of water and heat. By the time the water boils, it will be dark with the tannin. Pour it off, and repeat this several times until the acorns no longer taste bitter. Then dry them slowly in the oven, and use a grinder or blender to reduce tham to a dark flour.

This acorn flour can be used in almost any bread or biscuit recipe. You may prefer mixing it with wheat flour. Every Thanksgiving, we make acorn bread and muffins. When it's brought hot from the oven and buttered, it has a good nutty flavor, and never lasts long.

 

Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)

An excellent tea can be made from the dried leaves of this native member of the holly group. Strip the pointed twigs of the shrub, gathering both newer and older leaves. Pick the trash out, wash the leaves, and then put them in a pan or colander in the oven to dry. Keep the oven at about 200 degrees, and stir the leaves occasionally. When you can barely crisp the leaves between your fingers, remove them from the heat and break them up. Use exactly as you would use oriental tea leaves. They contain caffeine in nearly the same amounts as oriental teas.

I once served this to a Lion's Club without telling them it wasn't a standard tea brand. They kept coming for more, remarking how good the tea was, and were incredulous when I told them it was Yaupon.

Horsemint (Monarda species)

The Monardas are all aromatic, have quite pretty flowers, and are very common in eastern North America. Some of the native horsemints make interesting teas. One, Monarda didyma, is the Oswego-Tea of the Indians and early European settlers.

These plants make strong tea, and people usually like it a lot, or not at all. We found that mixing some horsemint with a few strawberry leaves from the garden, and then steeping the mixture, makes a heady and interesting drink.

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We need more experimentation with native American plants as spices. I suspect some energetic research would put some very good flavoring and seasoning material on the market.

 

 

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Next time you thin your Daylillies, notice the many small tubers on the roots. Scrape these and boil until tender. They taste much like new potatoes!

 

 

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Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis): The large heads of little round berries provide some mighty fine pies and jellies. The flowers of this plant, however, are really unique. They make great fritters. Use a light batter, stir in some "Elderblow," as they are called, and fry quickly in hot oil. They are also used in sauces, pancakes, etc. Elderblow is used to make a unique wild drink, too -- but that's another book.

 

 

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Ground Cherry (Physalis species)
This drooping plant of waysides and garden edges has a little tomato-like berry enclosed in a husk that resembles a Chinese lantern. These berries make a really great preserve, with taste somewhere between a tomato and a strawberry. They also make fine pies.

 

 

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When your radishes and mustard plants go to flower and seed, don't pull them up. The flowers of radishes, particularly, are really marvelous in salad, as well as pretty. The yellow mustard blossoms are also great.

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