Gathering with Gretchen

By Gretchen Steele

There’s no question that the women of Prois are hunters, and hard core ones at that, But what about the other  part of that  age old tradition – gathering? I must admit that I’m far more proficient at gathering, and may even be a bit more passionate about gathering and foraging than hunting.

It’s no secret that I’d far rather spend a day roaming the forests and the fields, in the woods and on the water than an  hour in any supermarket.  Foraging for me has been a lifelong thing- it’s just part of who I am. I think my mother sealed my fate when she carted my 6 week old fanny out to the muggy, mosquito ridden, creek bottoms and woods papoose style while she dug ginseng and golden seal roots.

The same features that make Prois products such wonderful hunting attire also insure that I have the best foraging and gathering clothes as well. Pocket placement and closures, gusseted knees for all that bending and kneeling, easy care, ability to layer up and down as the temps change, durability.  All these factors are just as needed when gathering groceries as they are when arrowing groceries!

The Summer Solstice is fast approaching and along with this time of year comes some of the best foraging and wild eating around.

Gathering Assistant Willie

Today my ever present sidekick and equipment carrier Willie and I went on a grocery getting mission –  Pro edition pants and an Ultra t shirt made just the right combination of clothing for our outing. It’s warm – bordering on hot, but the pro edition pants weren’t heavy or hot. The zipper pocket insured that I didn’t kick my cell phone out in the thickest part of the berry briar patch, and the adjustable belt tabs made the perfect place to hang my knife and clippers.  The Ultra t kept me cool and wicked away the perspiration as the temps climbed along with the sun.

Fence rows aren’t just great wildlife habitat,  they are a full of treats for foragers. Today we cut day lily buds to stir fry, picked the first ripe berries of the season, trimmed bundles of elder flowers, yarrow and mullien, to make medicines for the upcoming winter. We plucked wild rose petals and red clover blossoms for tea, honey and cooking.  Willie and I worked our way down the fencerow and water way to the stand of cattails at the ponds edge, in order to harvest the last few young seed heads for “cat on the cob” and gathered  pollen from those too old  for cat on the cob. The pollen will make delicious, cheerful yellow pancakes, prettied up with a hand full of dark purple fat blackberries and drizzled with red clover honey.

 

Lily Buds

Now this red clover honey isn’t taken from any beehive but is in truth more of a syrup.  Amazingly it does taste like good wild clover honey, and is a snap to make.  Making red clover honey is favorite summertime activity for the wee ones. Red clover is easy to find, easy to pick, and makes a great first time plant for budding foragers.

Why not try this fun activity with your wee ones? It doesn’t take much in the way of equipment, and you can incorporate several lessons in your gathering adventure.  Equipment needed? A container for the red clover blossoms, some sunscreen and bug spray and you should be set. Pick only the brightest freshest pink blossoms. Just pinch them off at the base of the bloom. Avoid those that are starting to brown. Brown equals bitterness and the more brown – the more bitter.  Clover always attracts lots of bees, and other insects, help your little one learn  what each of them is called while you are picking. Talk about all the different creatures that love to feast on red clover.  (You’ll know the deer have been snacking when you see blossomless stems that look as if they have been neatly cut with a knife or scissors) . Explain what a valuable plant red clover is, and that it’s not just a roadside weed!

Once home give them a good shake in colander to remove any debris or little eight legged creatures, remove any remaining leaves and set them aside.

Nature's Bounty

Here’s the recipe for Red Clover “Honey” – make some today! Then enjoy your creation drizzled over lemon cake, pancakes, stirred into tea or lemonade as a sweetener. Use it anyway you’d use regular honey and I’m willing to bet my Prois you’ll be quickly calling this a new favorite thing!

  • 10 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 5-60 red clover blossoms
  • ¼ cup pink wild rose petals
  • ½ cup fresh blackberries or dew berries
  • 1 teaspoon alum

Directions:

In a medium pot, bring sugar and water to a boil for 6-7 minutes.

Stir in alum.

Remove from heat and add blossoms.

Stir well, smash  plant material and berries with the back of a spoon

Let stand for 20 minutes.

Strain through a fine strainer or doubled cheesecloth and bottle or jar.

Red Clover “Honey”

 

Eating wild! It’s what Prois women do!