Squirreling Food Away for the Winter

DSCN5787The sun is shining and it is a comfortable 70 degrees as I sit in the backyard trying to find inspiration to write. In front of me is a squirrel. It is shaking its tail rapidly and balancing on a thin branch. It holds a remarkable bundle of acorns in its mouth. Just before I began to write, I titled this blog entry, “Wild Food Foraging.” A coincidence? Not at all.

autumn olivesMy natural instinct to store away food for the winter is strong this time of year. I’m foraging for wild grapes, autumn olives, burdock, and dandelion root. I make detours to local orchards to pick up bushels of utility apples for sauce. I frequent the Tuesday Farmer’s Market in Northampton for the precious fresh ginger, which I’ll freeze for future smoothies and stir-fries. I cook chicken stock to fill the freezer for winter soups that will keep me warm during the long nights ahead. I even organized several community members to buy half a cow from a local farm so we could fill our freezers with grass fed beef.

DSCN4491Just like the squirrels, I am preparing for a time when the earth is resting. The abundance will go from the garden, fields, and forests to cabinets and freezers. While it sure doesn’t feel like winter is coming on a day like today, I do feel prepared for anything!

Cheers to all the incredible seen and unseen magical gifts the Earth offers!

DSCN5789Enjoy this delicious Autumn Olive Jam recipe.

Autumn Olive Berries are the fruit of a large shrub or small tree (Elaeagnus umbellata) with fragrant, ivory-yellow flowers, silvery-green leaves and silvery-mottled red fruit. This shrub grows wild throughout the eastern United States.  This fruit is crammed with nutritional value.  They are 17 times higher in lycopene than tomatoes (the substance that makes tomatoes red)
“The red berries of autumn olive have a high carotenoid content,” writes Fordham, “and particularly high levels of lycopene (30-70 mg/100g). Lycopene has powerful antioxidant properties, making it of interest for nutraceutical use.”
The berries also contain high levels of vitamins A, C and E, and flavonoids and essential fatty acids. Lycopene is their main attraction, though. Lycopene, adds Clevidence, who heads ARS’ Phytonutrients Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, has generated widespread interest as a possible deterrent to heart disease and cancers of the prostate, cervix and gastrointestinal tract. (http://wildblessings.com/autumn-olive-berry-jam/).

Gather 8 cups of Autumn Olive berries

Bring to a simmer in a pot with ½ cup of water

Process through a food mill to remove the seeds

Heat again and add 3 cups of honey

At this point I let it thicken on low to medium heat. I do not use pectin, but you can if you wish it to be thicker. Can the jam in 8 oz. jars following the proper methods. Otherwise it keeps in the fridge for 1 month.

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