Day 4

Day 4 of the great chicken watch was harvest day. Tender and wonderful. It was only 1 1/2 pounds, BUT when to harvest is a choice between quantity and quality. Of course, find one in the back woods and it’s “No chick left behind!!”

chick bornDay3Harvest

 

 

 

 

Birthday (day 0)                                    Day 2                              Day 4

As a side bar, I led a group down the Imbrey and Hickory trails at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville on Sunday. The trails are heavy on invasive plants, but there were LOTS of box elder trees and they all seemed to have their ears on – wood ears that is, Auricularia auricula, not Mouseketeers for you older readers :-) .Several people got bags full !!!

 

Preserving Ramps

bunchOur ramp season is over around here, so I thought I would pass on some of the various ways I’ve used to preserve the ramps for use during the winter months. Traditionally, if you are fortunate enough to have morels, the best eating is fresh ramps, diced potatoes and morels all fired up in a cast iron skillet. However, you can freeze the ramps, make pesto, pickle the bulbs, make a ramp powder, and, if so inclined, make a batch of ramp kimchi.

EdEd made his pesto and put it up in jars. I made mine and froze them in a muffin tin and then vacuum sealed them in quantities that would make a pasta meal for 2-3 people depending on their appetite. I used a variation of recipe from the internet, but substituted preserved lemons for the salt and lemon zest/juice. Preserved lemons are are a Mediterranean substitute for vinegar as a way to add sourness without the use of vinegar, which is made from wine, for religious reasons. Lemons are partially cut into quarters and pestothen brined. preserved_lemons

 

 

 

 

freezeAnother way to preserve is vacuum sealing the entire ramps. I have found they still work well several years after freezing – especially if you are using a recipe that calls for chopped whole ramps.

 

 

picklesPickling the bulbs is always a great option. I use a pickling spice mix that I buy when I’m in a large store, such as the DeKalb Farmers Market in Atlanta. Also, I water bath can them so they will have longer shelf life than simply taking up space in the frig.

 

 

powderAfter you pickle the bulbs, making a powder from the leaves is great. I also always bring back a bag of leaves from the ramp patch specifically to dry and grind. I use my food dehydrator and then grind the dried leaves in a spice grinder. I also like to dry a few bulbs and the purplish stems to make a coarser powder. The leaf powder works as a “finish” aromatic garnish while the coarse grind makes a great garniture to add flavor to a dish toward the end of the cooking – whatever the dish.

kimchiIf you are a fan of kimchi, as I am, ramp kimchi is a good way to go. I made a gallon this year. I’ll use it in my creamed kimchi collards this fall. I’m also going to try minced kimchi as a substitute for pickle relish in some deviled eggs this week. Be sure to cut the ramp leaves in large sections, and you can use them as a wrap around chopped pork or other bite-sized meat servings as great appetizer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morel Conspiracy

Yes, I believe the mushroom Gods have been in conspiracy with Mother Nature. The first of March we had a week of night temps in the 50’s and then two weeks of night temps in the 30’s, including two freezes a week ago. It has rained when cold and dry when warm. The seven day forecast is no rain and 70+ degree days. The woods are drying out quickly. Wow!

It’s not surprising that even though some people somewhere have found enough morels to suit them, none of my friends have. Personally, I have found one tiny black morel that was dried and bug eaten. My total is that and an additional 12 yellows. I’ll be foraging, with Rich, one more day – Tuesday – in the mountains, and then it’s surgery on the left eye.

Rich2Rich1Even with the scarcity, we found three “stuffer” yellows yesterday, Saturday,  at the same location we, along with Steve Peek,  found four big stuffers last year. The picture above is Rich with his two jewels. Holding them out front makes them larger optically. That’s an old fisherman’s trick. The same technique works with “dry land fish”.

We maximized our meager Friday find with fresh ramps, fresh asparagus from Rich’s garden and some farm eggs from a friend, and we made a big omelet.

All was not lost. We foraged some ramps for Rich to take back to our buddy Steve in Asheville. We weren’t able to get him out for a wheelchair foray, but we tell each other “Steve stories” as we forage.

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