Friday, March 07, 2014

REPOST - Eat Your (Wild) Weeds!

This is a repost of a blog entry I wrote back in March 2012.  I figured that since I have been noticing edible weeds merrily growing in the pastures, it was time to remind everyone that, even if there aren't veggies growing in your garden, you can still get your greens!


One of my new favorite early spring meals is homemade naan bread topped with sauteed greens. At this time of year, there really isn't much growing in the garden except for sorrel, onions, and some of the hardier perennial herbs (such as parsley and chives). Of course, I incorporate all of this into the sauteed greens. However, this often is not enough to satisfy my lust for veg (and one never wants to eat too much of sorrel, since it contains oxalic acid - same as spinach - which isn't good for you in large quantities). Since we are lucky to have 5 beautiful acres to roam around on, with plenty of pasture, I have begun taking long walks around the property, munching my way through the fields!

I have received a great deal of interest and questions when I talk about searching for edible greens. I preface all of the following with: I am not an expert! In no way should you attempt to taste any unfamiliar plant unless you are absolutely certain of your identification (or have already had an expert identify it). There are a great deal of poisonous plants, many that can be easily mistaken for other, edible plants. It's easy to make a mistake in identification, and sometimes that mistake can be FATAL. Please be careful!! Also, please make sure that wherever you decide to gather your wild edibles has not been sprayed with pesticides!

That being said, I thought folks would enjoy a blog post briefly discussing some of the wild edibles in my own pastures and how to identify them.

Let's start with the easiest of all - that "pest" the infamous DANDELION!

The poor little dandelion gets such an undeservedly bad rap. This so-called "weed" is actually a wonderful edible, full of vitamins and minerals, and has even been used for centuries to make dandelion wine! Dandelion leaves are higher in beta carotene than carrots, and have a higher iron and calcium content than spinach. It is an excellent early spring tonic plant, helping to "flush out" the system of its winter blues. The name dandelion means "lion's tooth" in Old French for its long, lance-shaped (or "toothed") leaves, which grow around a basal rosette.

Dandelion leaves can be anywhere from 3-12 inches in length, depending on the "happiness" of the plant. Dandelion is easily identifiable due to its well-known, sunshine yellow flowers. Because of this, and the fact that it has no poisonous lookalikes, dandelion is an excellent wild edible. You can eat both the leaves and flowers.

The leaves are actually best before the plant flowers - less bitter - but I think they taste great all season long!

MINER'S LETTUCE

Miner's Lettuce is a succulent wild edible, related to purslane (which makes it a bit easier to identify, in my opinion!). If you have ever harvested wild purslane (and we definitely do on our property), you'll notice that purslane and miner's lettuce have leaves that are quite similar in textural appearance.

Miner's Lettuce can grow anywhere from 3-12 inches tall, with leaves that are a wide oval shape with a pointed tip.

Miner's Lettuce was a major food source during the California Gold Rush, and one bite will show you why! Both the leaves and flowers are edible (currently, it's too early in the season for our plants to be blooming). The leaves are best eaten raw, but can be sauteed as well. Miner's Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin C!


(ENGLISH) PLANTAIN

One of the great things about plantain is that it is easy to identify, and has no poisonous lookalikes! Here on the farm, we have English plantain growing wild in our fields. English Plantain plants grow in basal rosettes and have long, slightly hairy, lance-shaped leaves that grow upward as though standing at attention.

The leaves have very distinct parallel veins running lengthwise. English Plantain is one of the earliest spring edibles to come up, braving the cold weather before anything else. The smallest, youngest leaves are the tastiest - larger, older leaves are quite fibrous and tough to chew. Both the leaves and the seeds are edible.

According to Steve Brill & Evelyn Dean in their book, "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places," Plantains were inadvertently brought from Europe by the first settlers, and by the early 1700s, people already thought of them as native plants.

 
PURSLANE

Ah, tasty Purslane! My personal favorite!  Most people treat this as a vile weed, pulling it up from their garden, and then wander over to the Farmer's Market and pay a premium price for it as a salad green. So the next time you see this wonderful little bit of green growing amongst your veggies - leave it be! Instead, pick a few leaves to add to your salad, use in soups as a thickener, or (my personal favorite) use as a delicious garnish for cold zucchini soup! The seeds can also be ground up to make a bread/baking flour.

Purslane was an esteemed food in its native India and Persia.  Archeologists have found evidence of it being used for thousands of years.  

Purslane is a low-growing, smooth, almost waxy-textured (the leaves are very similar in texture to Miner's Lettuce) annual.  The paddle-shaped leaves can range in size from .5-2 inches long, and have a slightly salty, sour taste that is quite delicious.  Purslane has tiny yellow flowers that bloom in mid-summer.  There are no poisonous lookalikes - However, sometimes poisonous plants (such as spurge) can grow with purslane (so be careful when you are harvesting the plants).

For more information on identifying and eating wild edibles, I do highly recommend the book by Steve Brill & Evelyn Dean, "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places"

Monday, March 03, 2014

More Fun with Turbans


As you can see, I'm getting full use out of my newest acquisition: a 1930s/1940s-era turban hat block.  The decoration possibilities on this lovely tool are endless (and I'm doing my best to explore them all)!




This time, I used a piece of vintage black wool felt, and covered it with a section of light brown vintage fancy veiling.  I created a colorful faux bird (calling to mind a Bird-of-Paradise) out of a frame of wired buckram and spun cotton.  The head and shoulders are covered in tiny electric-blue iridescent peacock body feathers.  The main bird body is covered with brownish-hued, slightly iridescent pheasant body feathers, and the tail fan is made out of four dyed ostrich feathers.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More Hats for the Etsy Store...


Now that my millinery studio remodel is finally finished, and I'm starting to get some of my personal health issues under control, I've been able to get back to work creating hats!  I forgot how much I enjoy it...



This custom order faux bird tilt topper just flew off to its new home yesterday...It was an absolute joy to make (probably my favorite hat design of all time).



I recently purchased a vintage hat block, and have been enjoying using it to create various styles of turbans.  The first version was made out of a dark green wool felt, with black vintage veiling and three brown vintage mink tails.  This one is available for sale as an in-stock item in the Etsy store.



The next version (and my personal favorite) was constructed out of pale pink felt, with pink vintage veiling, and a faux bird (whose tail fan I created using antique goura feathers and antique white ostrich feathers). This style of turban is available as a custom order in the Etsy store.  



I'm about to begin working on another colorful version of it - this time using black felt, dark veiling, and a bird made out of electric blue peacock body feathers, with a tail fan consisting of peacock corona feathers and golden-orange ostrich feathers.  It will be absolutely stunning!

Friday, February 21, 2014

On the Work Table...



My work table always has several unfinished millinery projects on it at any given time.  I love to multi-task (can you tell?).

 

Currently, I'm working on a custom order top hat with faux bird.  However, due to bad weather in other parts of the nation, some of my feather shipments have been delayed.  


So my bald birdie is waiting for his body feathers to arrive in the mail soon...


I also have a new-to-me vintage hat block to play with!  It's a 1930s/1940s turban design, and I have been playing around with different decorating options.  I so loved the dark green felt color of the custom hat order that I purchased some for myself and made a turban on the new block!  





I was gifted some vintage mink tails many years ago, and have never quite known what to do with them until now.  They seemed the perfect finishing touch for the green turban.


I also made myself a lovely pink turban to match my most recent thrift store find (a pastel pink Emma Domb dress).  I created a faux bird for it using a vintage faux bird body, a fan of white ostrich feathers, and some antique goura feathers.  




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Latest Thrifting Score


I've been insanely busy, and feeling repeatedly under the weather to top things off, so I have not been able to get out thrifting as much as I would like to lately.  However, the other morning my darling husband left the house and forgot his wallet and begged me to drive it out to him.  On my way over, I stopped by one of my favorite thrift stores, and discovered this gorgeous pale pink 1950s Emma Domb dress and pinkish-tan elbow length gloves for $24 and $2, respectively.  


If there's one hue I'm a sucker for, it's pink.  Just look at my cat.  *grin*  You can't see it, but the pink satin waist band actually criss-crosses in back - a detail that I just adored!


The nice thing about being a milliner is that I can make hats to match my outfits.  Though I love 1950s dresses, I'm not an enormous fan of the hats of the era.  I recently purchased a fabulous vintage hat block, and happened to have some pink felt and pink veiling at my disposal, so I decided to make a hat to match. 





Yes, it's more 1940s-era, but the nice thing about wearing vintage is that I don't have to match my eras if I don't want to.  And in Southern Oregon, it's not as though anyone is going to notice.  


Of course I'm putting a bird on it.  I decided to incorporate my beautiful antique goura feathers (a thoughtful gift from a friend) into the faux bird too.  The blue-purple of the goura feathers matches the color of the center stones of my treasured Juliana book piece necklace & earrings set.

An Evening of Glamour Awaits...


I made the decision to list my wild faux parrot hat in my Etsy store.  As much as I love it, the hat isn't quite "me."  I'm hoping it will fly off to a wonderful new home, and be worn about the town often.  It pairs perfectly with a glamorous evening dress...


We got some really fabulous pictures of it while photographing my new millinery studio.  


The tilt hat is constructed of a black felt base, and the colorful faux parrot is surrounded by a swirl of vintage pink veiling.