Eating Wild: Food From Your Own Backyard

For this report I only traveled a few miles from home.  We went to a free seminar a couple of evenings ago in Mt Vernon, titled Eating Wild, presented by ASPI (Appalachia – Science in the Public Interest.) The approximately  twenty people in attendance learned about many common edible plants that grow in Southeast Kentucky. We also were treated to some very tasty recipes which included these plants.

Most folks probably don’t think of weeds as a food source, but consider that our ancestors survived on these “weeds” until only a few generations ago.  Back in the days when folks valued good nutrition above a manicured lawn, these weeds were common table fare.  I have fond memories of collecting “greens” out in the yard with my grandmother.

When you weigh the dozens of varieties of edible weeds against the very limited variety of vegetables in the grocery, and consider that those vegetables were hybridized to produce bigger and faster crops with lower nutrition, the reason to eat wild seems obvious.  Due to hybridization and genetic modification of crops, the nutritional value of our grandparents’ veggies was greater than our modern varieties.  The lower nutrition and uncertain side effects of GMO foods has prompted many people to use only Heirloom plants in their vegetable gardens.

purslane

At the A-SPI seminar, the Purslane salad was interesting. This is a salad of onion, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, beans, and purslane (a.k.a. pigweed.)

Hubby’s favorite was the Lamb’s Quarters Quiche, which was

Lambs-Quarters

just like Quiche Florentine with Lamb’s Quarters instead of spinach.  As a matter of fact, Lamb’s Quarters is sometimes called Wild Spinach.   My favorite treat of the evening was the Lamb’s Quarters fritters. A fried pancake.

We also had fresh  paw-paws, a favorite of my youth.

fresh pawpaws

I remember eating them every summer at my Mamaw’s house. I hadn’t eaten one in years.  The good ladies at the A-SPI seminar also made a paw-paw cake with homemade cream cheese frosting, which my husband particularly enjoyed. The cook said she simply substituted paw-paw in a banana cake recipe.

map of Southeast Kentucky counties

If you like Fruit Roll-Ups then you probably would have enjoyed the homemade Autumn Olive fruit leather, tart and flavorful, and packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants, containing much more lycopene than tomatoes. Although Autumn Olive originated in Asia, brought to the US in the early 1800s, it is considered an invasive plant today.  Therefore I wouldn’t recommend  planting it. There are many places it grows in the wild throughout Kentucky, especially in the Southeastern counties.

All the yummy food we had at the seminar was accompanied by Sassafras Tea and Nettle Tea.  Sassafras Tea is another yummy memory from my childhood. I remember the days when Sassafras Tea was a treat that we looked forward to each year.  Again, I wasn’t disappointed.  The Nettle Tea was a new experience for me.  I was pleasantly surprised at its delicate flavor. I even had seconds!

cattail

We also learned about other Kentucky edible weeds–

Cattail:  All parts of this plant are edible. Even the pollen can be used as flour in pancakes.

Clover:  This plant is found in virtually every lawn and grassy field around.

white clover

The white and red varieties are both edible. Roots and rhizomes can be eaten raw or boiled. Dried flower heads make a tasty tea.

field of thistles

Thistle:  The young stalks can be boiled and eaten. Root can be eaten raw or cooked.

broad leaf plantain

Plantain:  A common weed in lawns,

narrow leaf plantain

the young leaves can be used raw in salads, cooked in a pot or as part of a recipe. The seeds can also be dried and ground for use as flour. I have both the broad leaf and the narrow leaf varieties in my yard.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the mountain of edible plants in our beautiful, bountiful state of Kentucky. I simply want to introduce you to eating wild, and the abundant resource that awaits you right out your back door.  By no means should you read this article and think you are ready to eat wild. Be an informed forager!

Some plants can make you sick or even kill you. Some poisonous plants mimic the edible ones.  One example is Wild Carrot and Poison Hemlock.  Some plants have both edible and poisonous varieties in their family tree. Also consider that you might have allergies to unfamiliar foods, so eat only small quantities at first. Get help from a knowledgeable forager, or buy a reputable book that can teach you how to recognize safe edible plants.  Many universities have reliable information on the web. *Do I really have to tell you to beware of “experts” on the internet?*

Some reliable books to get you started are– ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’ by Euell Gibbons. ‘The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts’ by Katie Letcher Lyle.  ‘Feasting Free on Wild Edibles’ by Bradford Angier.

Although this article is about the food value of weeds, I want to mention that many edible weeds also have medicinal properties. Yet another reason to love weeds!

Happy foraging!

A Learning experience

I’m writing this on my new Netbook. I’m very capable on PCs, but I know next to nothing about Android devices and apps.  This is totally new for me. I hope the netbook will allow me to post my blog while I’m traveling.

My biggest problem with this device is my lack of knowledge about how it works. Hopefully that will get better as I use it more.

Logan’s Fort Update

This is an update to ‘Logan’s Fort’ that I posted a year ago.

I stopped by the building site yesterday.  I was disappointed to see that no further work has been done since July 2011.

I also spoke with a member of the Logan’s Fort Foundation (LFF) yesterday.  She told me the reason for the delay is simply lack of money.  There is no more money at this time to continue building.

She informed me that each of the cabins at the fort cost a whopping $60,000.  The Foundation  is anxious to continue its mission of completing the fort, and they need help.  Help in the form of DONATIONS.

The LFF is reaching out to descendants of the original residents of Logan’s Fort.  Several families have already come together with donations, but more help is needed.

You can join the Logan’s Fort Foundation for just $10. That small amount will help further the project.  If you can donate more, please do. You can buy a log for as little as $50, and your name (or whatever name you specify) will be printed on the log for posterity.  Imagine having your name on a piece of history!

I hope all my readers will heed the call and help the Logan’s Fort Foundation continue this important project.  In the 18th century, Logan’s Fort was a critical part of the trinity of outposts in the Kentucky wilderness. Fort Boonesboro has been rebuilt.  Fort Harrod has been rebuilt. Let’s help get Fort Logan rebuilt!

 

Enjoy Fall in the Kentucky Mountains

As I mentioned in my last post, Fall has come to Kentucky.  It’s October and the leaves are in color.  My family and I took a drive up US 25E this past weekend, and it got me to thinking about scenic drives.  Kentucky has so many beautiful scenic routes, I thought I would mention a few you might want to explore.

Kentucky is such a beautiful place, it isn’t difficult to find a scenic byway.  Even much of our interstates are scenic.  But I’m not going to talk about the interstates.  I want to talk about the secondary roads, roads that were, in their day, the main arteries for visitors and locals alike.  Some of them still serve that purpose.

On the 45 miles via US25E from Middlesboro to Corbin, you see some of the best mountain scenery Kentucky has to offer.  Even though this road has been greatly improved in recent years and certain dangerous sections rerouted, most US25E still ambles through the same mountain passes and river valleys that Daniel Boone once explored, following the path of the old Wilderness Road.  You’ll see gorgeous views of Pine Mountain and the Cumberland River, and pass through towns that are still major hubs of commerce in their areas, Middlesboro, Pineville, Barbourville, and Corbin.

The approximately 130 miles of US421 from Berea south to the Virginia state line is another beautiful drive through some of Kentucky’s most scenic forested hill country.  Just south of Berea, you’ll see the interesting knob formations of the aptly named Bighill area.  A couple of miles further and you’ll approach a deep pass cut from the rock.  For you geology buffs, the 80 ft high man-made cliffs contain fascinating striations.  There are also some amazing long distance views from this stretch of 421.  Continuing south you’ll travel over ridges and through winding valleys.  US421 courses atop a ridge through Sand Gap, and at 1400 feet elevation you can relish some fantastic views.  Leaving Sand Gap, the road descends into a valley carved by Birch Lick Creek.  Allow yourself to be transported back to a simpler time as you pass  homes, barns, and abandoned store buildings straight out of the 1950s.  You can see the effects of our society’s move from local to national economies, from small family owned businesses to one stop big-box mega stores, from made-in-America to made-in-anywherebut.  The next town, McKee, the Jackson county seat, lies in a valley, so you’ll need to look up to enjoy the Fall colors.  As you approach Grayhawk, the terrain begins to open up, and the hills have a gentler slope, granting wider vistas.  Then the hills begin to rise again along the 22 mile drive to Manchester, the Clay county seat. Continuing on US 421, a 30 mile drive through the mountains will bring you to Hyden, the Leslie county seat.  Hyden is a beautiful little mountain town of only about 400 residents, yet it is home to the Mary Breckinridge Hospital and the Frontier Nursing University.  From Hyden to Harlan and on to the Virginia state line, you are in Eastern Kentucky coal country.  You’ll pass through communities like Harlan, Grays Knob, Chevrolet, and Cawood each steeped in coal history.

US460 from West Liberty to Prestonsburg, via Salyersville, is a beautiful 50 mile stretch of highway full of gorgeous mountain views.  On this route you see the mountains from the valley below.  The highest peak along this route is 1500′ Stuffley Knob.  The best view of this peak is to turn right about a half mile past KY825 on Salyer Fork Road, and look up to your left.  But note that this is a dead-end road, and you must turn around to get back on US460.  Continue on 460 about five more miles.  Just before you reach Paintsville, you’ll turn right to stay on US460.  Continue south about 15 miles past more mountain scenery, to Prestonsburg.  If you like the trip to Prestonsburg, you may continue south on US460 to Pikeville, where US460 joins with KY80.  About nine miles past Pikeville at Belcher, 460 splits from 80 and bears east through some spectacular mountain scenery.  Some of the best views are of the 1600′ peaks at Mouthcard, where 460 bears right, heading south once again.  Leaving Mouthcard you’ll get a real treat from the 1800′ peaks when the Fall colors are at their best.  At this point you’ll be just a few miles from the Virginia state line.

Let me know if you get the chance to travel any of these scenic Kentucky roads.  Good travels to you.

Fall in Kentucky

Days are getting shorter, and color is starting to show in the trees.  After Labor day the fall festival season kicks into high gear.  It’s the time of folk festivals, hayrides, and pumpkins.  Yes, Fall has come to Kentucky.

If you’re looking for some economical weekend entertainment, a fall festival might be just what you need.  Most of the festivals are free, some charge admission. Click a festival’s link for more information and driving directions.

September offers:

The first weekend of October:

The rest of October:

  • Appalachian Harvest Festival, Renfro Valley – mule drawn molasses making, tractor display, music, and games
  • Bittersweet festival, Mt Vernon – music, crafts, food, and games
  • Jenny Wiley Pioneer Festival, Prestonsburg – music, crafts, food, and carnival
  • Foothills festival, Albany – wide variety of live music, flea market, beauty pageants, pumpkin carving and decorating contests, scarecrow contest, and more
  • Glendale Crossing festival, Glendale – arts & crafts, food, and parade in 1800s-style town
  • Woolly Worm festival, Beattyville – craft vendors, food, and music

And for you New-Age fans out there:

Get out and enjoy Kentucky’s wide variety of fall festivals.

Logan’s Fort

A group of dedicated historians are recreating Logan’s Fort in Lincoln County just at the edge of Stanford near Buffalo Springs Cemetery.

Borrowed from the http://www.logansfort.org website–

“Logan’s Fort set on a slight elevation about fifty yards west of the smaller spring at St. Asaph. The fort was 90 X 150 feet and was constructed of logs. Gates were located at each end and were raised and lowered by leather thongs. The main gate faced east.

Along the south side, two blockhouses were built, one on each end, with three cabins between, which were occupied by Wm. Menniffee, Wm. Whitley and the James Mason families. On the north side, only one blockhouse was built. It was on the northwest corner. There were four cabins adjoining occupied by George Clark, Benjamin Logan, Benjamin Pettit and Samuel Coburn.”

In 1775, Logan’s Fort, along with Fort Boonesborough, and Fort Harrod, were the triple threat of European settlement in the dark and unknown land that would become the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  Hostile natives and harsh living conditions attracted only the bravest and hardiest of pioneers to inhabit these three communities.  The city of Stanford grew from the little community once known as Logan’s Fort.

The rebuilding of Logan’s Fort has been a long time coming.  The Logan-Whitley Chapter of DAR originally took up the torch, then passed it to a non-profit organized specifically for this project, Logan’s Fort Foundation, Inc.

Currently, there are no signs directing the curious to the building site.  I assume this is to limit traffic in the area and leave the builders to their work.  Therefore, I won’t give directions either.

As you can see in the photo, the blockhouse, front gate, and one of the cabins are complete.  Part of the side stockade walls that come off the blockhouse and the first cabin have been started as well.

Logan’s Fort Foundation, inc. is a non-profit and will gladly accept donations.  Just click on their name and you can visit their website for more information.  When you get there, look to the bottom of the page for a donations link.

I hope to come back here soon with updates, and let you know how the fort is progressing.

More photos of the progress so far:

                     

Clay County

one of the petroglyphs

19 Feb 2011.  We spent the Saturday in Clay County.  We went especially to see the Red Bird Petroglyph rock, known to locals for over 200 years.  “Petroglyphs” is just another word for rock engravings.  The story, mystery, and ensuing controversy intrigued me.  I wanted to see this rock for myself.  The symbols on this stone were scratched into it probably with a metal tool, like a knife.  No one really knows how old the markings are.  Some are probably older than others.  As you can see in the photo at left, some of the symbols have been traced with modern gray paint, presumably to help define the markings.

In 1989, this stone was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, being named the Red Bird River Shelter Petroglyphs.  It was removed from the National Register in December 2003, but remains a point of curiosity and interest to visitors.

An information board posted at the site states that the rock “contains eight Old World alphabets…extinct when Columbus arrived in the New World,” including “first century Greek and Hebrew, Old Libyan, Old Arabic, and Iberian-Punic, Ogam (ancient Celtic code), Germanic Runes, and Tiffinag-Numidian.”

There is some debate as to whether these symbols actually represent these ancient alphabets.  There are some who believe the symbols to be of Cherokee origin.  These folks believe the original Cherokee symbols were altered to produce ‘evidence’ that there were Europeans in Kentucky previous to the Cherokees.  This would mean that the Cherokee did not have possession of these lands from prehistory; therefore, the government wouldn’t have to pay retribution to the Cherokee for the lands that were taken from them.  One has to wonder, who was knowledgeable enough, 200+ years ago here in Kentucky, to perpetrate such a hoax.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a staunch supporter of the Native Americans; and I think we owe them more than we could ever repay by way of monetary retribution.  As badly as I hate to admit it, in looking at these symbols on the Red Bird Petroglyph, I see more of the ancient European style than of the Cherokee.  The Cherokee alphabet has more curves.  The ancient Europeans’ alphabet was mostly straight lines, such as you’ll find on this rock.  Lord knows I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  That’s just my opinion.  I hope that you readers will do your own research and decide for yourselves.

On a lighter note, our trip to Clay County also gleaned a nice experience at a beautiful, secluded, rustic campground called Big Double.  We were traveling North on KY66 near Marcum, when we saw a sign for Big Double Campground and picnic area.  We decided to take a chance on the picnic area because it had been a long time since breakfast.  We turned off KY66 and drove for what seemed like forever back into the wilderness. I kept praying that we didn’t meet another car, because the road didn’t seem wide enough for two, and there weren’t many wide spots to pull over.  After driving for a couple of miles and seeing nothing but forest, the view suddenly opened up to a beautiful cleared field complete with picnic tables, and a wooden walking bridge over Big Double Creek, which flows by the campground.  There are even fancy concrete outhouses!

Be aware, if you want to camp at Big Double, it is very rustic.  The only amenities are garbage cans and the outhouses.  The forestry service has also posted a sign about how to not attract bears.  No tellin’ what might come out of this remote forest at night.  During our visit, I spotted a bobcat track on the creek bank, plus many deer tracks.  Just for your information, there have also been Bigfoot sightings in this region.  I’m just sayin’…

Our First Geocaching Day of 2011

Friday, February 18, 2001.  We decided to do a little geocaching today.  The weather was pretty nice–60 degrees, cloudy, breezy, but no rain.  Hubby and I decided to stay fairly close to home because we had an appointment at 2:00 pm and didn’t have much time to kill today.  We went to Lincoln County, which is one of Kentucky’s original three counties; and a lot of history is embedded in this area.

We went to Stanford, headed West down Main Street, then turned onto KY-78.  A quarter-mile or so and we reached Buffalo Springs Cemetery for our first cache of the day.  This is a beautiful old cemetery with a lot of history.  If you enjoy looking at the craftsmanship and artistry of old hand carved headstones, then you might want to stop by Buffalo Springs.  Some of the graves here date back 200+ years.  It is very fortunate and unusual to see a cemetery of this age so consistently well maintained.  There are some fine examples of early 19th century stone carving here.

From there we continued West, then turned onto KY-1194.  A couple more miles and we reached McCormack Christian Church, sitting at the banks of Hanging Fork Creek.  The banks here are low and inviting, the water slow and a gorgeous emerald green.  I find myself wishing I’d packed my fishing pole.  A KY Historical Marker sits prominently in front of the church.  We learned that the land for a church, cemetery, and school was donated by Daniel McCormack in 1819.  This church replaced a log structure built in 1785, and has been operating continuously, under the affiliation of the Disciples of Christ, since 1830.  A stipulation of Mr. McCormack was that the church be open to all denominations and all people, so there were built galleries at each end of the building for slaves to join in the services.  I would imagine that it was unusual in those days for whites and blacks to have church services together.  This was my favorite bit of history from this place.  This is also a good stop for you Old Cemetery fans out there.  The stones are mostly very simple, but also very old.  There is also a geocache here, but we weren’t able to locate it.

Back to KY-78 and a few more miles towards Hustonville, we found our second cache of the day hidden in a guard rail along the side of the road. In ‘cacher-speak’ a quick P&G, meaning park and grab, a cache near parking that takes less than five minutes total.

We continued on to Hustonville.  The only cache we found here was one at the city park.  A quick find.  We decided to stop here and enjoy our picnic lunch, then on toward Danville.

We traveled north on old US-127.  Our next cache find was at the Moreland Fire Department.  A quick P&G. Then we found another P&G in a guard rail near the intersection of old and new US-127.

By this time it was getting late and we decided to head for our appointment; but, not before we swung by McDonald’s in Danville to grab a St. Paddy’s Green milkshake and an iced Mocha.  Yum!!

All in all it was a nice outing for us old folks, sans kids.

Spring is just around the corner!

The weather this week, with its 60 degree temps, has me itching to get out and do some exploring.  Springtime means Hubby and I will be out geocaching.  If you don’t know what that is, check out http://www.geocaching.com and you might discover a new hobby.  We also enjoy fishing, and hiking.  There are so many wild and wonderful choices in Kentucky for the outdoor enthusiast you just never know where we’ll turn up next.

Plans right now look good for a Friday Fishing/Caching outing.  Just the old folks.  No kids! :)

By the way, if you have any ideas for outings, places or people I should visit, just fill in the form at the bottom of this page.  And don’t worry, I’ll never give your information to anyone else, period.

Stay tuned for all the adventures.  We might discover your next favorite place.

See y’all soon!