Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cow Parsnip

Cow Parsnip

(See warnings below.)

This is also known as Indian Celery or Pushki.

I was skeptical about this one, but I was pleasantly surprised and plan to harvest some more of this next spring since I know where to find lots of it.  Native Indians used to harvest this plant and use it in many different ways. It can be used in many different recipes. 
Young one coming up in spring.

As with most plants, these are best and most tender before the flowers open.  The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, but I think they are best cooked.  You will have to try it and see for yourself.  The stalks can be eaten raw or cooked and used the way you would use celery, which has endless possibilities.  The flower buds, before opening, can be eaten boiled.  They can be a little strong, so you can change the water a couple of times.  Seeds, flower buds, and young leaves can also be dried and used as seasoning.  

Stalk with unopened flowers at the top.

I steamed some unopened flower buds with some young leaves and cut up stalks all together, and they tasted pretty good.  I tried the stalk raw also,  and I liked that the best.  The root is also edible and best from fall to early spring, but many people find it to be too bitter.  It was apparently harvested by the Indians quite a bit.  I didn't try this part yet.  Dried stems can even be used for straws in the wilderness. 

Flower starting to open.

You want to peel the stalks, although very young shoots don't have to be peeled, specially if you are going to cook them anyway.  The stalks for the leaves and the stalks for the flowers peel a little differently with the skin coming off in nicer larger pieces for the flower stalks.  The stalk that has the leaf on it is a little sweeter than the flower stalk, and some people dip them in sugar, after peeling, like some people do with raw rhubarb (like I did when I was a kid).  I tried this, and it was very tasty.  I was pleasantly surprised. That was my favorite part, but then I have a sweet tooth.  ;)

Leaves, stalks, flower buds. 
When I try something new, I like to try it by itself just to get the full 
experience of what it tastes like; but this would be very good in different recipes. 

Warnings:  This plant uses a chemical called furanocoumarin as self-defense against fungus. The sap and fine hairs on the outside of the plant, if it gets on you and then is exposed to sunlight, can cause burns and blisters.  You want to use gloves when harvesting it.  

I handled some on a cloudy day and then peeled it and cut it up while in the house and then washed my hands and had no problems at all.  Some people may be more sensitive to it.  Just be careful.  :)

I see many warnings about not confusing this with Poison Hemlock; but they look quite different unless you are just looking at the flowers, which you should never do to identify a plant anyway.  The leaves are quite different, so you really don't need to worry about confusing them if you know what the leaves look like.  

Also, don't get this confused with the Giant Hogweed.  This plant is notorious for causing severe burns and blisters.  There are a few definite characteristics to go by to tell them apart.  Here is a web site that has some nice  comparison photos of the two.  (click here)

My Two Cents  - I think it's sad how so many people want to just "throw the baby out with the bath water" and have an all or nothing approach when they find out they have to be cautious about something instead of just getting educated on it and using it properly.  They love to strike fear in the hearts of people and be dramatic.  "Stay away from that plant!"  They want to destroy and "eradicate" things or they don't want anything to do with something that they may have to spend a few minutes to learn about because they are "too busy" for it. I believe the Cow Parsnip is a very good wild edible to have around, and I'm glad I know more about it now.  :)  mooo

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mosquito Trap? (Not so much.)

Mosquito Trap?
(Not so much.)

I've seen instructions for Home-Made Mosquito Traps floating around  the internet, specially Pinterest; and thought I'd give it a try.  I'm surrounded by national forest, and the mosquitoes are the worst here than they have been since I got this house 10 years ago.  They are horrible!  I don't know if it matters what kind of mosquitoes are in a location, but it didn't work for me.  I tried two of the different recipes of sugar, water, and yeast and let it set out for a total of about a week and didn't catch a single mosquito.  Supposedly, it makes carbon dioxide, which attracts the mosquitoes into the trap.  It started to attract some other kind of small fly and some beetles, so I dumped it out.  

 Two different recipes:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup warm water
1 gram active dry yeast

1 cup sugar
3 cups water (1 cup warm to dissolve yeast and then 2 cups cool)
1 tsp active dry yeast
(This was too much. The opening was below the water level, so some had to be dumped out.)

(Note, yeast is living.  You dissolve it in warm water.  Hot water will kill it.  We learned this in Home-Ec when making bread.)  :)

The instructions are to cut the top off of a 2 liter bottle.  You put the sugar water mixture in the bottom, and invert the bottle top into the top of the bottom.  The bugs go down in the hole in the middle and get trapped. 

Wrap in black paper or newspaper as the mosquitoes 
are "attracted to black" or "dark places". 

 No 'squitos.  :(


Wednesday, June 12, 2013



If not careful, wild Iris can be mistaken for Cattail.  Look for the fluffy Cattail heads left over from last year.  There are usually some old ones around.  Like I always say, check several sources and photos before trying a new wild edible and make sure you have the right plant or just leave it alone. 

New growth of Cattails in the spring with some 
old fluffy heads from last year.

Spring shoots

Cattail Shoots

In spring, the shoots of the Cattail (new growth) are edible, that is the white base of the shoot.  Peel off the outer layer.  You can eat them raw or cooked (steamed, boiled, sauteed).  I like them.  They taste mildly like cucumber and were good on a salad.  
Cattail shoots.  The white part at the base is edible.

Cattail Flour

You can make flour from the rhizomes.  You want to find the base of the stalk with your hand and follow it down to the rhizome and pull hard to get them out or use a shovel.  I cheated and used a shovel.  ;)  Knowing me, I'd pull hard and fly back onto my back in the water.  lol  I'm a bit of a klutz.  

Anyway, there are different methods to get the starchy white part out to make the flour.  One is to break up the rhizomes in a bowl of water and let them sit for a while so that the white starchy part floats to the bottom.  Another method is to use a knife to scrape it out.  I used a combination of both.  I broke them up and let them sit for a while and then scraped them out too and let them sit a bit longer.  Apparently, Indians would dry the rhizomes and then pound out the starchy part.  You want to take out the fibrous parts. Pour off the excess water and then strain what's left and pick out any fibers left in it.  You can use it wet or dry it in the sun, oven (on low), or dehydrator.

I didn't dig a lot.  I used the Acorn Bread recipe and substituted 1 cup of the Cattail flour for the Acorn flour.  To see the Acorn bread recipes.... (click here)

 A Cattail rhizome or at least part of it.

Here's a good sized one after I cleaned it up.  
Make sure to to wash out any dirt and mud in there. 

The corms are edible, the new growth just coming out on the left 
that kind of looks like a claw.  Peel them and eat them raw or sauteed. 

Shoots and rhizomes.

Rhizomes cleaned and broken up in water. 

See the white starchy part on the knife?

 Strained.  (I have an old cut up T-shirt I like to use.)

I cheated a little and put it in my dehydrator to dry fast, 
but you can use it wet too.

I blended it to make it nice and fluffy.  
(I didn't try to make a lot this time out.)

Bread dough.  (Again for the recipe I used, click on the 
link above for the Acorn bread recipe.)

Cattail Acorn Bread

Cattail Flowers

  Male flower on the top and female flower on the bottom.

These can be eaten raw or cooked.  The male and female flowers are actually together on the same stem.  Huh, who knew?!  You can see how they are in two segments when they are green.  The top one is the male and will later give off pollen and then wither away to the small twig you see on to of the Cattails, and the female will turn brown into the "Cattail" everyone is familiar with.  

Cooked.  (The brown was just from my 
handling them, and they had to sit in my car for a 
little while.) Male flower on top of the plate 
and female flower on the bottom.

Taking it off the stem.

Boil or steam them.  I boiled them for 10 minutes.  They are good with butter and salt.  The male is the preferred flower, and it comes off more easily and is more tasty.  You can use a fork or knife to carefully take it off.  I just pulled it off the end with my teeth the way you would take a marshmallow off of a stick.  The female flower is harder to get off.  I used a small knife to take it off, but many people just eat them like a cob of corn, or "cat on the cob".

See the difference in texture from the male 
flower (left) and female flower (right)?

This web site gives a recipe for Cattail flower Griddle Cakes.  (click here)

In this photo, the ones on the right 
are turning to pollen.

Cattail Pollen
Harvest the pollen when the male flower spikes (the top part) have fluffy yellow pollen.  Most instructions say to shake it off in a bag.  I just used my fingers to pull it off into the bag. 
Yellow pollen on top.  The green below it is the female 
part that will turn into the well-known brown spike 
later, and the top part withers. 

Sift the pollen.

The pollen can be used as a partial flour substitute in breads, cakes, pancakes, etc.  It can also be used as a thickener in things like soups, stews, etc.
I made some pancakes.  I didn't really think they had a distinctive different taste to them.  They just tasted like pancakes to me, but good ones.  It's a great free way to stretch out flour to last longer and a great "survival" food.


Here is the recipe I tried:
Cattail Pollen Pancakes
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cattail pollen
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil

Just mix and cook like you would regular pancakes.

You can do a search and find different recipes.  Here are a couple recipes from Eat the Weeds:  (source link)
Cattail Pollen Biscuits

The green bloom spikes turn a bright yellow as they become covered with pollen. Put a large plastic bag over the head (or tail) and shake. The pollen is very fine, resembling a curry-colored talc powder. Pancakes, muffins and cookies are excellent by substituting pollen for the wheat flour in any recipe. Cattail Pollen Biscuits: Mix a quarter cup of cattail pollen, one and three-quarters cup of flour, three teaspoons baking powder, one teaspoon salt, four tablespoons shortening, and three quarters a cup of milk. Bake, after cutting out biscuits, in 425-degree oven for 20 minutes. For an even more golden tone, you may add an additional quarter cup of pollen.

Cattail Pollen Pancakes

Mix one-half cup pollen, one-half cup flour, two tablespoons baking powder, one teaspoon salt, one egg, one cup of milk, three tablespoon bacon drippings. Pour into a hot skillet or griddle in dollar, four-inch pancake amounts.

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dry Shampoo

Dry Shampoo

So what can you do with your dirty oily hair if the power is out for days?  Use dry shampoo!  :) It could also come in handy out camping, at the gym, etc.

Store-bought dry shampoo can be very expensive $$$ but cost just a few cents to make at home and is super easy to make.  You can simply use just cornstarch or baby powder or mix them with baking soda. A few other options people use are arrowroot, rice flour, cornmeal, ground oatmeal. You can try different combinations to find the one you like best or even equal parts of all the above.  Blend the more coarse ones in a blender like the oatmeal and cornmeal until fine.  You can even use regular flour in a pinch.  It doesn't take a lot.  It's better to start with a little than to have so much that it is hard to brush out.  

If you want it scented, just add a few drops of essential oils or a little perfume or you could add some ground dried flowers or herbs/spices. The scent will work its way through the rest of the ingredients after it sits a little while. Some scents people like to use are Lavender, Rose, Lemon, Coconut (nice for the beach!), Peppermint, etc. I went with Mountain Heather.

Apply the dry shampoo to the roots of your hair. Some people use a shaker of some sort, like an old spice shaker; or you can use a large makeup brush.  Lift your hair with your fingers and work it through your hair.  Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb the oil from your hair and then comb or brush it out.  You may want to do this over a sink.  I've read instructions that say to use 1-2 Tbsp, but I think that would be way too much.  I found what worked best was just to rub a little between my hands and work it in my hair, starting at the roots and going out.  Do this a few times until you get the whole hair done.  At first, I got distracted by a mosquito buzzing around and put a little too much in one spot, and it was hard to get it all out.   I only plan to use this in a pinch though. I'd rather just wash my hair the regular way when possible.  ;)

For the light hair formula:
I used 1/2 cornstarch to 1/2 baking soda.
A few drops of essential oil (optional).

If you have darker hair and want something that is not so easy to see, use cocoa powder or even cinnamon.  I've seen recipes for different ratios, so just play with it and use the combination or color you like.  Some people use a 50/50 combination of the cocoa powder and cornstarch or 2 tablespoons of the cocoa powder to 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the cornstarch.  

For the dark hair formula:
I used 2 Tbsp cocoa powder to 4 Tbsp cornstarch.

(You can use talc too but there is supposedly a link between inhaling talc and cancer so just wanted to make a note of it.)

"Dry" Spray Shampoo

An alternative to the dry shampoo is a spray that dries fast because of its alcohol content and cornstarch.  Just mix 1 Tbsp of cornstarch in 4 Tbsp of cold water (Cornstarch melts fast in cold water!  I use it to make gravy.)  and add 1 Tbsp of alcohol.  Put it in a spray bottle and spray a little on your hair, mainly the roots, and work it in.  Be sure not to get it in your eyes as it stings!  I haven't personally tried this one yet. Isn't alcohol bad for your hair?  It would be for an emergency type situation if I did use it though.  

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