Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring on Joe's Run: Part 4

White violets hide beneath taller plants around them. What beauties these are! I have been searching for the stemmed variety, once prevalent in the area now occupied by the community center, and for the sweet yellow ones, but so far I have seen neither. Since my bad knee doesn't allow me to venture far from the road, I may not see either this year.
Young violet leaves are excellent in salads, and the flowers make a lovely, light-flavored jelly. The purple blossoms are best for jelly because they will lend their pretty color to it.

Here's a recipe for violet jelly:

Wild Violet Jelly
2 cups violet flower juice (see instructions on how to make this below)
Juice of 1 lemon, or 1 tbsp prepared juice
1 package powdered pectin
4 cups sugar

To make the juice: Tightly pack 1 quart jar full of violet flowers. Fill with boiling water, cover and let steep in the refrigerator overnight. Strain off the juice and discard the flowers.

To 2 cups of this juice, add the lemon juice and powdered pectin. Stir to dissolve the pectin. Bring to a boil and add the sugar all at once. Return to a full rolling boil and boil for one minute.

Skim off foam, ladle into jars and seal. Makes approximately 5 1/2 pints.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) bloom. Can you spot its flower? This is probably the best-camouflaged blossom in the woods. If you look closely at the base of the leaf that is turning to the left, you will see a spike of pink. That is part of the blossom. The tiny greenish circle below the pink spike is the center of the flower, and the brown spike is another of the three spikes that surround the liquid-y center. Wild ginger is pollinated by ground insects that crawl into its center, and by ants that are attracted to the sticky coating on its seeds.

Early settlers used wild ginger as a ginger substitute, and it will smell like ginger should you happen to step in it in the forest. The settlers ate the ginger's root fresh (crushed), dried (powdered), or candied.

Native Americans used wild ginger for many medicinal purposes. Some people today believe the plant may have antibiotic properties. I love it for its compact, lush growth pattern and heart-shaped leaves--and also because it makes me search for its flowers.

Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) was almost finished its bloom season when I found this one. As the flowers age, they turn from white to pink to a reddish-purple. There is nothing prettier to me than a hillside clothed in trillium, especially when the flowers begin changing shades.

Picking trillium may cause the loss of plants, according to several websites I found. The leaves contain vital nutrients and their loss can mean the death of the plant. Although in the past the leaves were used in salads, it doesn't seem worth the loss of so much beauty for a slight addition to a meal.

Also called Bethroot (a corruption, perhaps, of birthroot), Trillium was used by the Native peoples for women's health issues and in childbirth. The plant was considered a sacred plant, and only women used it. It is listed as an "at risk" species by


Batsy said...

Be careful about eating wild ginger. A pharmacist friend has said that it contains carcinogens.

Granny Sue said...

I did a quick check online and found two reports containing information about carcinogens in wild ginger. Apparently this herb is a popular ingredient in Chinese herbal medicines; the US Government has found that there is a compound in the plants that is carcinogenic, as your pharmacist friend advised.

As with other wild foods, care should be taken before ingesting any wild plant without knowing all the risks and side effects. My personal enjoyment of wild ginger stems from its compact beauty and its shy flower. Although the risk sounds minimal in most instances, still it is a risk and should be taken into consideration. Ill amend the post with this information, Batsy--thank you for the heads up.

Here are the websites I found:

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