This year the squirrels have been exhibiting the most radical behavior most of us has ever seen. What? Are they nuts? I mean seriously!! Every year I move my hibiscus outside for the summer. It thrives in the warm weather, blooms profusely, and grows new branches. After it was outside for a month, I noticed the blooms had been eaten off, and the new branches were nipped through – as well as some of the old branches. I moved it back inside. Squirrels!
To screen the southern end of the front porch from sun and the neighbors, a friend helped me hang netting for the hops to climb. They were lush and full of those little shrimp-like pods with the yellow oil under the green ‘scales’. My head was full of notions of homemade ale when I came home one night to see that the netting and most of the hop vines were nipped through leaving raggedy bits of string and a scattering of hops all across the porch. The squirrels had struck again! The weedy sumac growing next to the porch had branches missing, tattered leaves, and gnawed stems! Really?
Checking with my daughters I found that at one house the squirrels were seen in a committed community action, four of them working a ripe tomato over to the net and finally eating it through the plastic bird netting when they couldn’t get it out! Her squash vines were nubs with a leaf or two, and so were the cucumber vines. My other daughter’s veggies fared better only because there is a huge oak tree in the back yard. Of course it is hard to sit out there because of a constant rain of shell bits and nut casings. All over town I hear of peculiar squirrel activities: all the flowers gone from a row of sunflowers; biting through screens and coming into homes to eat the pet food; stripping grapes off the vine and many such vandalistic activities!
Well, actually I do know why this is happening and what the solution used to be! Thinking back to the farm days, it was to be expected. You see, last year we had the most prolific crop of stone fruits to be seen in the Denver area for a long time. Everything that produces fruit was so full to overflowing, branches were breaking with the weight of peaches, apricots, apples, and plums. June berries were ripe by the thousands, grapes hung in great clusters, and cherries were picked by walking by on the sidewalks of the city! Foraging fruits was a full time job, and even then, many fruits rotted on the ground, on trees, on vines, and in alleys. The squirrels were in ‘hog heaven’ so to speak. Their solution? Let’s have more babies!
Last year, a thought rose unbidden in me: harvest and save all the fruit you can this year because with a year this good, next year will be very poor. Now my modern, rational mind said “Oh, that’s just an old wives tale!” Not so! For this spring had two late killing frosts that pretty much took out all the blossoms for stone fruits. But what about the squirrels? They still had those big litters of babies and no super abundance to feed them! What to do now?
If this were back on the farm, this year would be a time to harvest squirrels – or ‘limb chickens’ as they were also known. There would be squirrel stew, squirrel lining to mittens, hats and warm furry neck scarves. Squirrels would be dried, frozen and smoked. You harvested what was abundant in it’s own time, put it by, and knew it might be awhile before it was abundant again. Not harvesting the squirrels pretty much guarantees the up-surge of city foxes and coyotes next year since they consider squirrels their food!
The circle of life. Remember when this had distinct meaning and rhythm to all of us? It still does, you know. We can become distanced from the cycle of life, but it comes to us anyway. Basically this is another example of Nature being outside of our control. I suggest we go with the flow, and stop bucking what is true. Also next year I would definitely keep all little pets inside since that abundance of squirrels will not survive the winter, and the abundance of city foxes will be hungry come spring!
As the summer winds down, albeit slowly, the weeds are also on their way to Autumn shapes and colors. This is a fine time to see what to do to harvest wild amaranth seeds, and which plants to flag for picking even under snow! All the regular characters are still present and available and so one more weed walk is called for!! Come learn about eating, saving, harvesting, and using these wonderful plants for home remedies. Sign up at: http://tentiko.com/products/finding-food-in-the-city We are meeting on Saturday, September 14th from 9 – 11 am, so make sure you sign up and show up! It’s going to be another Wild Walk!
Get ready to start picking and eating from your yard and garden! The young Spring plants are starting to show themselves and the next Wild Edible Walk of the season is May 11th, this Saturday! Join me at 9 am on the corner of 44th Avenue & Vallejo Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood to see what we can find out there to eat! To sign up and read more about this event go to: http://www.feeddenver.com/classes–events.html
Have you ever been to Four Mile Park? Maybe it’s time to give this historical Park in the city a closer look. I will be doing just that on Saturday May 4th. I have been invited to give a foraging talk at their Victorian Tea on that day, and I am really looking forward to it! I will learn as much as the people who attend this event, I’m sure.
Saturday, May 04 | 1:00 pm–3:00pm
As a working farm and ranch, Four Mile Historic Park was once supplied with edibles primarily from the land around the buildings, either in organized gardens or by gathering wild edibles that grew in the area. Join us at our Victorian Tea where Kate Armstrong, Urban Forager, will share the usefulness of the plants we normally ignore now; how some of them were brought to America from Europe because of their use as food and medicine; and how most rural and urban people knew how to supply themselves with simple meals, home remedies, and household products from these plants.
About the Presenter: Kate Armstrong has an educational and entertaining style that will add to your knowledge of these earlier times, give you food for thought, and may even interest you in harvesting some of the plants you now consider weeds! She brings a lifetime of experience to the subject as well as a wealth of helpful information. There will also be examples of the products she makes and uses from her backyard, the alley ways, and the neighborhoods in Denver. You will be able to identify (and taste) plants that are already up and growing since she will be bringing examples of these with her. http://urbanforager.co/about-kate-armstrong/
$30 Non-Members | $25 FMHP Members
Advance payment is required by Thursday, May 2 at 4:00pm. Limited seating available.
For more information, please call 720-865-0815 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a new link on this site for the First Wild Edible Walk of the season. Space is limited, so get your name on the list now! This is going to be surprising and fun! On April 13th we will be finding out what is emerging for a really tiny, yummy, nutrient rich salad. Don’t miss this one…or if you do, book me for your yard and neighborhood. Let’s see what we can find.
It’s hard to imagine wandering around looking for greens and fruits in this snowy weather. So I don’t. I’m relaxing with the knowledge that I have lots of fruits and veggies on the pantry shelves in the basement, a delicious reminder of the abundance of last summer and fall. There are still dried apples and apple sauce, dried apricots, canned apricots and apricot jam, dried plums, plum chutney and jam, and …well the same sorts of deliciousness with cherries, peaches, and pears. I love to gaze on three kinds of tomato sauce, quart jars filled with various colors of heirloom tomatoes, dilly beans and pickles.
Now is the time to use my dried ‘weeds’ and herbs to make oils and salves for healing. These little pots of green goodness are prized in my family for their amazing properties of healing chapped skin, rashes, rubs, minor burns, and scrapes. My Grandchildren ask for it when they have a “booboo”, and the youngest has to be watched like a hawk since she knows how to get the screw top off and uses it by the hand full in her hair! That’s how we found out it’s good for cradle cap, too. Best of all the ingredients are organic and/or wild crafted from plants that are also eaten, so if the little ones get it in their mouths, it won’t hurt them!
So, in part, that’s what an urban forager does during the Winter – other than wait for the first signs of Spring!
Tomorrow morning, Saturday June 23rd, meet me at 9 am in the back yard of People House, 3035 W 25th Ave, to take a walk in the immediate neighborhood and explore the opportunities for fruits in the city. Learn about identification, etiquette, public spaces, and what’s good as well as what’s not! After you start to see what is available in our ‘hood’, you’ll look at the trees and bushes around you differently. I’d love to see you there! This is going to be fun!
If you are the type of person who loves to find really fresh fruits to pick, eat, and preserve for later, this is the time for berries and late cherries. What a great year it’s been for fruits! The mulberries were falling off the trees a few weeks ago, the cherries came next – both sour pie cherries and sweet black cherries. There are a few left, however it is becoming harder and harder to harvest them and then eliminate the little white worms eating around the pit. Everything loves cherries!!
I’m focusing on the huge crop of Saskatoons – also known as Juneberries, Serviceberries, and Shadbush. There botanical name is Amelanchier alnifolia, and they grow from Alaska to Colorado. In Denver they are used as an ornamental bush or tree, and they are getting ripe now! Looking like blueberries on a large bush or tree, (check out my video) they are best when cooked. I like to make jam or jelly, syrup, and use them in pie, muffins, or pancakes. This fruit was also used dried and mixed with dried meat and fat to make pemmican by the Native Americans.
Let me know if you have too many to pick and use or don’t want to bother. I’m still looking for sources of Elderberry and want flowers as well as berries. The flowers are out now (I think). Enjoy!!
Next Saturday, June 23rd, there is a walk to look at and gather some edible neighborhood plants. We will meet in the backyard of People House, 3035 25th Ave at 9 am. There is a parking lot behind the building as on street parking is not always available. Come find out what you can eat and enjoy in most neighborhoods throughout Denver! $15.00 suggested donation and children are free if they bring a grown-up!
Last night I was invited to speak about edible weeds at a community garden potluck at Ellis Elementary School. As you most often find with gardeners, the food was outstanding, and there was a very special dish exactly to my liking! As soon as I saw it, I knew it was made with the wild vegetables commonly called weeds. The woman who made it is originally from Afghanistan and her seasonings were just delicious! Just the right combinations of savory and spicy with a nice level of heat!
As our discussion of weeds moved through sour grass, purslane, dandelions, pigweed, lambs quarters, chickweed and dock, this woman kept nodding her head and saying “Oh, yes, we eat this.” I could not begin to tell you the names she used! However these little friends of mine are found in countries around the world, that is perfectly clear!
[Another woman commented that she had gone on a trip to Iceland and points north where dandelions still grew! These plants are so good for you, and found everywhere. Doesn’t that tell you something?]
Finally I stopped talking and asked my new friend to show me what she picked and cooked for the supper. Spreading her hands over a place that was not anyone’s garden plot, she told me she just pulled out the grass (unwanted it turns out) and cut off everything else with scissors and cooked it! There in a 3’x3’ plot was a wonderful combination of pigweed, lambs quarters, purslane, and some mustard – all tiny and all so tasty! Simple and delicious greens for dinner? A big YES in my Urban Forager book!
So next time you are weeding your garden, set aside the edible weeds for dinner while your other greens grow. You’ll have twice the amount of produce from your beds and lots more nutrition! You also know exactly what’s been done to the ground and don’t have to guess if they are safe! Ahhhhh! That’s the good life!