Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mornings Walks

We've had a bit of rain this week-over 2" so far-and the land has greened up seemingly overnight! On my walk this morning the temp was in the low 60's and misty. Beautiful walking weather. And I saw signs that summer is drawing down. Every year I look for the blooming of Snow-on-the-Mountain. It's what tells me that cooler temps are not far down the road. When the girls were little, we would pick Snow-on-the-Mountain bouquets and place them on the dining room table. The next day there would be golden pollen on the table surrounding the vase like rays of the sun. These flowers don't have a scent, but they DO have a milky sap that can raise blisters on some folks. Strangely enough, it never affected me or my girls that way, but one day a neighbor child picked some and within minutes tiny blisters appeared on her hands and wrists. So now I leave them growing by the side of the road and admire them on my walks instead of on my table. I have noticed that there are far fewer Snow-on-the-Mountain plants this year. They are usually thick bordering the road with the plants having multiple branches. This year the plants themselves are much smaller, frequently only a single stalk as in the picture here.

The wild persimmons are finally ripening! I ate one on a walk a few days ago and my fingers were stained with the brown juice which wouldn't wipe off. I was glad I didn't encounter anyone on the road as I was sure my tongue and teeth were stained, too! The skin is slightly fuzzy and tough, but it splits with a burst in your mouth and the sweet pulp surrounds a few smooth, russet colored seeds. All along the road this time of year you see raccoon scat full of wild persimmon seed. There always seems to be enough for the raccoons and us. I've made jelly from them before, but they are so sweet that it seems ludicrous to add more sugar for processing. I'm thinking this year I will simply press the pulp through a sieve and freeze the result. It think it would make a nice dessert sauce or maybe I could try to boil it down a bit to make a thick paste and dry it and then crumble it up for a natural sweetener. The flavor would be great in coffee...maybe as the sweetener in a tiramisu! I think it would also substitute for the sugar in a Korean or Asian dipping sauce making for a more complex flavor. Boiled down it might make a molasses- like syrup!

The cactus tunas are just starting to turn their vivid crimson. There are still more green ones than red, but I am finally noticing some bright spots in the patches of prickly pear. These probably won't be ready to pick for a month or more, but in the meantime I am going to investigate ways to use them. AND get a pair of thick leather gloves for harvesting! I've made jelly with the pulp before and I still may do a jar or two (I was thinking about a Texas linzer torte for Christmas made with cactus pear jelly instead of raspberry jam) but I'd like to branch out a bit and use them for something new. Lots of time to figure this one out.

My walking companion, Sophie. Every morning when I walk out the front door, she jumps up and runs to me knowing that we are heading out into the hills. On the rare morning I don't walk (Saturdays-when my early morning foray is to Comfort for the Farmer's Market) she sulks away to lie down in the tall grass and wait for me to return. If the weather is cool enough we may take an afternoon walk, although in the August heat (or even July for that matter) it is doubtful. We were lucky this week and twice we were able to walk in the afternoon, once with Natalie and an umbrella as it was still raining on and off. At almost three, Natalie helps me see the land in a new light. Everything is an adventure...a place where the trees meet overhead and the deep shade of the woods are upon us become, in her words, "the secret jungle" where "snakes go s-s-s-s-s-s and crocodiles and monkeys" live. Every puddle deserves to be jumped in and she won't allow me to stand aside and watch. Oh noooo, it's "C'mon Gramma, splash with me!" And know what? It's FUN! We came home wet and muddy and immediately peeled out of our dirty clothes and hopped in the shower, which really was just another opportunity to splash!

1 comment:

martita said...

ooh prickly pear margaritas!!!