Peppermint – How to ID and Enjoy

One week ago, we experienced our first frost. So, I thought it a good idea to check out a large patch of peppermint that I found along a trail for which I have been conducting a wildflower inventory this year. No worries. It remains a vibrant green today!

Peppermint

Peppermint – a closer look.

How to ID –

Peppermint is a non-native forb that prefers wet soils and is occasionally found in our area. Watch a brief video about distinguishing between peppermint and spearmint. Read about planting, growing and harvesting mint.

Enjoy your harvest –

After collecting fresh mint leaves, you are free to use them in a variety of ways – fresh or dried, or perhaps an extract.

My batch of today’s Homemade Mint Jelly (see recipe below).

Read about how to dry the mint you harvested.

Recipes with fresh mint to consider –

Before we have a killing frost later this month, I encourage you to check out your favorite peppermint patch and try some of the recipes listed above. Enjoy!

Peppermint along trail

Happy trails!

Autumn-olive Fruit – How to ID and Enjoy

Autumn-olive leaves

View a video on how to identify Autumn-olive. Autumn-olive is considered an invasive species in New York; read more about this plant.

Autumn-olive fruit

The fruit of Autumn-olive contain carotenoids, including considerable amounts of lycopene. A study from 2001 found that “lycopene content per 100 g ranged from 15 to 54 mg in fresh fruit from the naturalized plants” (Fruit of Autumn Olive: A Rich Source of Lycopene. HortScience. 36. 1136-1137); plants like the ones that we find locally and as shown in the photos above. For comparison, tomatoes also contain lycopene, but typically only 3mg per 100 g. Autumn olive berries are also a good source of vitamin C and vitamin E, and they exhibit a strong antioxidant activity (J Med Plants Res. 2012. 6:5196–5203 and Food Technol Biotechnol. 2007. 45:402–409).

Read about how to forage for Autumn-olive berries.

Today’s harvest – 10 cups

Recipes to consider after your harvest –

Please note: By cooking (i.e., boiling) the whole berries, you will kill the seeds. Therefore, if you choose to remove the cooked seeds in preparing this fruit for a recipe, you may simply discard the seeds outdoors without fear of helping to spread this invasive species.  Read more about this plant.

Happy trails!

Hickory nuts now falling

Hickory trees are now dropping their individual loads of ripened nuts.  Shagbark Hickory and Pignut Hickory nuts are the most common and tastiest of the hickory trees found in our area.  Today, I began harvesting some because they are my favorite tree nut and I enjoy the rich flavor that develops when using them in baked goods, especially cookies.

Pignut Hickory nuts

Most of what I found today were Pignut Hickory nuts.  Their husk clings tightly to the shell and each segment must be peeled from the shell before the nut can be cracked open to retrieve those tasty morsels of nutmeats inside.  Other critters also enjoy hickory nuts –

Squirrel’s dinner table…with a view

For more info about how to ID these two species (and also how to ID Bitternut Hickory, which is unpalatable), the best nutcracker to use, and some recipes to try to enjoy your harvest, please view my prior post.

Fall colors mosaic

Happy trails!

Nannyberry in Autumn: Tasty fruit, then beautiful fall color!

So, what’s a Nannyberry?

How to ID –

It is a native shrub (sometimes a small tree) that prefers moist soils and is commonly found throughout our area. Read about and view photographs on how to identify this plant. Watch a brief video about the distinguishing characteristics of this plant. Read more about Nannyberry from a sample page from one of my wildflowers guides. Read a plant guide about this species.

Ripe fruit of Nannyberry

Read how to harvest and prepare nannyberries.  Nannyberry fruit are ripe and ready for harvest now.

Enjoy your harvest –

After sampling a few ripe raw berries for the first time a few years ago, I so enjoyed their sweet and unique flavor that I was inspired to create a spread (intended for my morning toast) similar to apple butter in its texture. Thus, “Nannyberry Butter” was born!  If you decide to try my recipe, let me know what you think of it.  Here it is.

Nannyberry Butter
Ingredients:
• 12 cups whole berries
• 2-1/4 cups water
• sugar
• ground cinnamon
• ground allspice
• ground cloves
• ground nutmeg

Preparation:
Put berries in large pot, add water. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Put soft fruit in food mill to remove skins and large seeds. Measure fruit back into pot; about 3 cups.

Add: 1 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/8 teaspoon allspice, 3/8 ground cloves and 3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars, attach covers and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove and let cool for 24 hours, then store in cool, dark place.

Nannyberry Butter

I was then inspired to create another recipe to use my Nannyberry Butter.  Read on the link immediately below to see if Nannyberry Butter Mini Pumpkin Pies are for you.

Nannyberry Butter Pumpkin Pie with Hickory Nut Streusel Topping

Other recipes to consider –

After the ripened fruit are harvested, keep watch for Nannyberry’s fall colors…gorgeous!

Nannyberry

Happy trails!

Autumn arriving soon

Equinox Tree – half fall colors, half greenery

Autumn arrives in the pre-dawn hours on September 23.

Read about the fall color exhibited by the leaves of New York trees. Read the Guide to Fall Colors in Upstate New York. Read about the science of fall colors. View my presentation, “Fall Colors…from a Different Perspective,” as photos or video.

When will fall colors begin and when will they peak? View The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map.

Track the progress of developing fall colors across New York here.

Leaf peeping opportunities:

Blugold – Ash Trees on October Sky

Outdoor activities to consider:

Fruit of Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Fall crafts to consider:

Autumn-inspired recipes:

Happy trails!

How to ID, Harvest and Enjoy Wild Hazelnuts

There are two species of hazelnuts, both native, that grow in the wild in our area typically in woodland borders or thickets. Sites receiving more sunlight are more likely to produce more nuts.

How to Identify –

American Hazelnut (Corylus americana), which look like the filberts you will find in grocery stores, and Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). The husk surrounding the individual or, more often, cluster of nuts is the easiest way to distinguish between the two species.

Your targets will look like these:

This is the nut of American Hazelnut.

American Hazelnut

Read more about American Hazelnut from a sample page from one of my wildflower guides.

This is the nut of Beaked Hazelnut.

Beaked Hazelnut

Read more about Beaked Hazelnut from a sample page from one of my wildflower guides. Read even more info about Beaked Hazelnut.

How to Harvest –

I usually begin collecting ripened hazelnuts during the last week or so of August. To wait any longer ensures that the chipmunks and red squirrels (and other foragers!) will have already been there to collect the delicious nuts.

Each is ripe when the shell has turned to a brown color, which occurs before the outer husk turns brown.  However, do not pick any nut if its shell is green, cream or whitish in color – it is simply not yet ripe.

When picking them, I recommend wearing leather gloves (or rubber dishwashing gloves) because of the tiny sticky hairs on the husks.  If you don’t, your fingertips can become quite painful to the touch – it may feel like you’ve been handling fiberglass insulation.

Read more about how to recognize these two species and how to harvest the nuts.

I remove the husk from each nut while I am picking them. However, you can also let your harvest air dry for several days; doing do should enable you to peel the husk off of each nut more easily.

After you remove the outer husk, I suggest that you put all of your harvested nuts (still in shell) into a sink filled with 2-3” of water. Do so for two reasons: (1) remove any floaters, and (2) rinse any debris from the shells. You should discard the floaters because none of those shells contain a ripened nut. Floaters result from either the nut not forming (perhaps due to a dry summer period) or there is a larva inside that is devouring the nut and will soon make its exit by burrowing through the shell!  Let your husked harvest air dry for at least a couple of weeks before cracking open – doing so will help ensure the nut separates easily from the shell when you crack them open and it will be ample time for any larvae to make their escape! If you discover any such critters, simply find the shell with a small hole in it and throw both of them away. All of the other nuts should now be ready for cracking.

I find use of this type of nutcracker works best –

For all of us who can enjoy these tasty nuts, please view these recipes for ideas and inspirations of how to enjoy them.

Read how to roast and skin hazelnuts. Read about another method to roast hazelnuts.

Enjoy Your Harvest! –

View nutrition information regarding hazelnuts.  Unfortunately, some people have an allergic reaction when eating hazelnuts.

Recipes:

I recommend adding a cup of chopped hazelnuts to your favorite shortbread cookie recipe.

A few years ago, I enjoyed this bountiful harvest!

Hazelnut harvest (American on left, Beaked on right)

For those of you interested in perhaps growing your own hazelnut shrubs, look to these planting guides for more information –

Happy trails!

One Beautiful Canuck

Now is the time to go explore for a particularly showy native wildflower –

Canada Lily – orange bloom (may sometimes appear more reddish orange)

Canada Lily – yellow bloom

I have observed them at these local destinations:

  1. Anchor Diamond Park at Hawkwood
  2. Ann Lee Pond Nature and Historic Preserve
  3. Ballston Creek Preserve
  4. Bauer Environmental Park
  5. Community Connector Trail
  6. Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve
  7. Hayes Nature Park
  8. Shenantaha Creek Park
  9. Summer Hill Natural Area
  10. Town Park
  11. Ushers Road State Forest
  12. Veterans Bike Path
  13. Veterans Memorial Park
  14. Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve
  15. Woodcock Preserve
  16. Zim Smith Trail

Sometimes you’ll find a whorl of blooms, resembling a candelabra.

In the past, I have seen these remarkable plants at Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve achieve especially tall height.

Canada Lily nearly ten feet tall!

Other times, I’ve also observed specimens at Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve that feature multiple blooms in a couple of tiers such that it resembles a chandelier.

Canada Lily

Happy trails!