Browsing the archives for the paw paws tag.


Save Money and Enhance Health with Wild Foods

General Posts
-->

Organic greens like spinach or kale can be pricey at the grocery store or farmers market. Add a pint of fresh berries and an omega 3 supplement like flax or fish oil, and your grocery bill rises further still. Throw in some fresh tropical fruit, organic nuts and wild mushrooms and it’s difficult to afford to eat healthy whole foods these days. Yet all of these foods are available at your doorstep for free, even if you live in the city.

Wild foods are abundant all around us now, in summer and fall. Wild greens like lambs quarters (Chenopodium alba) can be substituted for spinach in any recipe or salad, eaten cooked or raw. This green has a mild flavor all season, never turning bitter like dandelion greens. It is high in protein and has more calcium than kale. A good field guide such as Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman, can help with positive identification.

Lambs Quarters

Lambs Quarters

Growing through the cracks of city sidewalks and popping up in empty planters is another green which is in abundance now: purslane (Portulaca oleracea). This succulent green has appreciable amounts of omega 3
fatty acid, which is the same beneficial oil as in fish and flax oil supplements. Add wild purslane to a salad or smoothie daily to get your dose of omega threes.

Wild Purslane

Purslane

In many places of the country blackberry brambles are considered an invasive weed. Right now their thorny branches are covered with large juicy berries. American Paw paw trees contain tropical fruit native to this country,
and grow as far north as Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. These fruits look like champagne mangoes yet their flesh tastes like banana custard and is closely related to the cherimoya.

Paw Paw Tree and Fruit

Paw Paw Tree and Fruit

In the midwest and northeast black walnuts and hickory nuts are getting ready to fall from the trees in great abundance. These can be gathered, hulled and dried to be cracked and eaten year round. All across the country
acorns are falling from oak trees yet few people realize that acorns are edible. Many of them are bitter from the high concentration of tanins, but these can be easily boiled away. Crack the shell to remove the acorn meat, then boil, changing the water as it turns brown until it no longer does. The nuts can be dried in the oven and ground into flour as the Native Americans did. If one has access to a creek or spring, simply tie the acorns in a cloth and set in the running water. In a day or two the bitter tanins will have washed away and the nuts can then be dried in a dehydrator.

Acorns in White Oak Tree

Acorns in White Oak Tree


While gathering acorns check the base of the oak tree for a wild mushroom called Hen of the Woods. This delicious edible mushroom is sold in specialty stores. It is also known by its Japanese name Maitake and is used to treat cancer and enhance health. Tea and supplement from this mushroom is also sold at stores. Growing on the ground are the yellow chanterelle mushrooms, another expensive find at specialty stores. These mushrooms are distinguished from the poisonous Jack O’Lantern because chanterelle grow singly from the ground and found in larger groups, while the Jack O’Lantern grows in clusters on wood. Before eating any wild mushroom, identification should be verified in person rather than from a field guide. Check the North American Mycological Society for a mushroom group near you. If you are in Western Pennsylvania, definitely check out The Western PA Mushroom Club.
Chanterelle mushroom growing in grassy lawn

Chanterelle mushroom growing in grassy lawn


This is only a sampling of the delicious healthy food that grows wild all around. Wild food is high in nutrition and cannot be priced out of reach or otherwise restricted. It is worthwhile to learn to identify these and other plants to take control of our budgets and health.

Be Well!

Melissa Sokulski, Acupuncturist, Herbalist
Food Under Foot
Birch Center for Health

Comments

Paw Paw Slushie

Look-Alikes, Raw, Recipes, video
-->

As promised, here is the recipe for the delicious paw paw slushie I made with the amazing stash of paw paws harvested from the trees I found in our neighborhood (with the owner’s permission, I should add!)

Collection of Ripe Paw Paws

Collection of Ripe Paw Paws

First, I peeled about four or five paw paws with a regular vegetable peeler, and put them in a colander (yes, one of them does have a bite out of it! I couldn’t resist.):

peeled paw paws

peeled paw paws

These paw paws were so ripe and soft, I just began to mash them by hand (the ultimate aim is to separate the seeds (which you should not eat - they may be toxic) from the fruit:

mashing up the paw paws in colander

mashing up the paw paws in colander

Here’s how they look all mashed up:

mashed paw paws with seeds

mashed paw paws with seeds

I had the colander in a larger bowl (both the colander and bowl are actually part of a salad spinner…I did not use the top to spin it, just mashed the fruit through the holes by hand):

separating the seeds from fruit with colander and bowl (of a salad spinner)

separating the seeds from fruit with colander and bowl (of a salad spinner)

I put the mashed paw paw fruit in a blender (I used our vitamix) with a bit of water and a lot of ice. It was actually very rich, like an icy pudding, so I added more water to my taste…I was in the mood for something to drink. You can experiment and see what you like:

Paw Paw Slushie

Paw Paw Slushie

It made a lot…I saved the extra in a glass jar in the fridge, and then added it to my smoothie the next morning…I had a green smoothie with bananas, paw paws, frozen mangoes, collard greens, spirulina, water and ice. You can watch here as I make a similar green smoothie using wild lamb’s quarters from our garden.

I hope you enjoy! Please let us know your experience with paw paws by commenting to this post!

Also, if you enjoy these type of posts, please make sure you sign up for our free newsletter (you’ll find the sign up box in the right margin, it’s a green box with blue feet.) You’ll get five free ebooks, detailing five different wild edible plants, with great pictures and information on how to identify, harvest and use some very common plants, complete with recipes! Please sign up now…thank you!!

~ Melissa

Comments

Finding Paw Paws

General Posts, Identification
-->

Yesterday, I was walking home from a friend’s house in the South Side Flats, on the way up the hill Ella and I came across Paw Paws! (Asimina triloba)

Paw Paws!

Paw Paws! (Asimina triloba)

We couldn’t believe it: just that morning we were hiking in Frick Park searching for some, to no avail.

Paw paws are a delicious, native, tropical fruit, that actually grow up into Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan…I think even in Toronto! Hardly anyone knows about them, because they have such a short shelf life that they can’t be sold in supermarkets (though if you’re lucky, you may find them at a Farmer’s Market, as we did recently in Charlottesville, VA.)

Now is the time of year, and when they have just fallen naturally from the tree (as above), you’ll find the fruit to be soft and delicious.

The inside of the fruit is bright yellow, with large hard dark seeds. Here is one that Dave cut open:

Inside of a Paw Paw

Inside of a Paw Paw

The taste is similar to a mix of a banana and mango, and very flowery (though there are many types, or cultivars, each tasting a bit different.) You actually need two trees of different cultivars together to get fruits. In this yard, there were three trees growing in a row (below are two.)

Paw Paw Trees on The South Side of Pittsburgh

Paw Paw Trees on The South Side of Pittsburgh

You don’t eat the skin or seeds, the seeds are big, round and black, and are quite easy to avoid. When you find them this ripe, you can just pull them open and eat the flesh right out, spitting the seeds (or eating around them.) Tomorrow, I’ll show you in detail how I made a delicious slushie with the paw paws.

Up close you’ll see the leaves are large and tropical-looking leaves (they are described as “alternate, deciduous, simple, 7-12 in long, 3-5.5 in wide, usually broadest near tip” by Elias and Dykeman in Edible Wild Plants.)

Paw Paw Tree

Paw Paw Tree

The fruits look a bit like mangoes, are light green and grow in clusters from the trees. They soften when they are ripe, and naturally fall off the tree. They then turn yellow and brown as they ripen further.

Paw Paw Fruits

Paw Paw Fruits

To propagate paw paw from seeds, keep the seeds moist, and they need a cold time (cold, wet stratification), at least 100 days in the refrigerator, before they’ll sprout. You can keep them packed in sphagnum moss or peat moss in a plastic bag in the fridge. (Or, you can plant them in the ground in the fall, and hope, and let the cold moist stratification happen naturally.)

Paw Paw seed in foreground, young paw paw shoots in the background

Paw Paw seed in foreground, young paw paw shoots in the background

Dave and I found some tiny seedlings at the foot of these trees, and they already had quite a long taproot. Paw paws are usually found in bottomlands, in rich deep soil along rivers. We transplanted these to our yard, but also put seeds in the ground nearby (and some in the fridge) in the hopes at least a few will take.

Very Young Paw Paw Seedlings

Very Young Paw Paw Seedlings

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how I made this delicious Paw Paw Slushie:

Delicious Slushie Made with Paw Paw, Water and Ice

Delicious Slushie Made with Paw Paw, Water and Ice

Comments

Autumn is Here!

General Posts, Identification, video
-->

Autumn is here! And with it come two of my favorite wild edibles: Black Walnuts and Paw Paws! We were lucky enough to find both yesterday (and me without my camera!), but I’ll get some pictures and post them as soon as possible. (Below are some pictures of the paw paws we found last year.)

For now, please enjoy the video below from last year, which shows Ella and me cracking (and eating) black walnuts. The walnuts in the video have already been hulled (they have green hulls, when you find them on the ground, they really look like tennis balls at first glance) and dried.

To hull them, step on the walnut with your foot (wear shoes!) and then take the walnut out. You’ll want to wear gloves! The yellow stain will turn black and will stain your hands and anything else you get it on. (We’ll post pics of how to do this.)

Sometimes you’ll find worms under the hull, I usually discard these walnuts! Also, get the hulls off when they are still green - they’ll turn black eventually and give the walnuts a bitter taste.

Then, just set them out to dry, but don’t leave them outside or the squirrels will make off with your stash!

When they’re ready, you’ll have to crack into them and eat them, and that is what you’ll see below.

Enjoy!

Comments