Monday, August 5, 2013

Pickling Wild Edibles: Milkweed Pods

My sow bear and her cubs are back in the area again.  I saw them crossing the ridgeline this morning as they headed towards the creek.  I knew they'd be back as the plums are starting to ripen and the nut trees are starting to drop their nuts.  She is nothing if not predictable.  I headed out after chores with one of my solar powered electric fences to wrap around the bee pen as further deterrent if she or her cubs get a sweet tooth.  Because I live in bear country I keep my hives inside a covered, chain-link dog pen.  The bees can still fly out through the fence but the bears have a bit more of a problem getting in.  I'm not saying a determined bear couldn't tear their way into the hives, but with the Pyrenees pretty close those hives may just be more trouble than they are worth.  Still it never hurts to add a little more of a persuasion to look elsewhere to satisfy that sweet tooth.  An electric fence doesn't always work on the young bear, they often hit the pen running and without their feet touching the earth, they are not grounded enough to get a shock from the fence.  But then again, the young bear tend not to be strong enough to tear the chain-link fence either.  This is more of a "no trespassing sign" for the bears that ARE strong enough to rip a hole through the pen.

Sow bear's den early this spring
Heading back to the barnyard to get the chores done I had planned to get done before Ms. Bear showed herself , I walked past a stand of common milkweed.  And it looked like the pods were ripe for the picking.  Looks like I'll be putting off chores for just a bit longer as I make a batch of pickled milkweed pods.

Pickled milkweed pods is a food I remember from my childhood.  We were not rich people and when I try to explain how poor we were, some people of the modern era can't quite comprehend it.  We didn't have electricity until I was 15.  My grandmother had the only phone in the area and if had to make or receive a call, we had to go there.  The food we raised on the farm was for selling, and the food we hunted and foraged was what the family ate.  Cucumbers were sold, so my pickles were often the milkweed pods me and my younger brother and sister gathered from the fields.  Mom made them much the way I do today, some garlic from the braids curing in the root cellar and a handful of dill seed from the garden.  Into one of the one or two gallon crocks everything would go, a plate was laid on top of this, and a washed brick was put on the plate to weigh it down and keep everything under the pickling waters.  If we had picked some, a few grape leaves were added to the bottom and top of the crocks to keep everything crisper. 

Mom would scrape the scum off the brine every now and again until what seemed forever to us kids the pickles were ready to eat.  That first wonderful sour burst of flavor against the tongue was wonderful.  It's only now as an adult that I learned how good it was for me too.  Fermented veggies help boost the immune system by keeping the digestive tract healthy.  Most of our immune system starts in our gut.  Healthy gut, healthy body.  And all of that for free from the wilds.  Not a bad wild edible.