Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter Color

As fall gives way to winter and the gray gets grayer and the dark gets darker, I start craving color in my life. Short of buying fresh bouquets every week, there is a very easy way to forage up some winter color, and it's a great, covert way to store food.

Foraged winter bouquets:

1 - sumac and goldenrod

My favorite bouquet by far is the one I made of sumac and goldenrod. Find yourself some Staghorn Sumac, which you will find on tree-like shrubs pretty much anywhere on the edge of a forest and a field, including roadsides. You'll know it by the burgundy cluster of tiny, tightly-packed, fuzzy fruit forming an upright point (we call them 'red points' sometimes). Get some pruning sheers and cut the stems with the fruit at the end as long as you can get them (they'll be about 3 feet tall). Then go get some goldenrod which should be taking over an old field or the space right at the edge of a cultivated area. Goldenrod is yellow in late summer, and this time of year it's puffy smoke-color. Cut it to the same length as the sumac.

Bring it inside and arrange! I stood up my bouquet of about 5 branches of sumac (some Y-shaped, some not) and 7-8 goldenrod stems in the corner of my dining nook (it's not really a room) in an extra stand for fireplace tools I had lying around. Don't add water - this is a dry bouquet. Now you have dark red in your life!

Sumac makes a delicious lemonade-like drink if squeezed in water and mixed with sugar. You can also steep it as a tea. I intend to mix some sumac juice into my cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving. And now I have some conveniently lying around, though the bouquet is so pretty I think I'm not going to use that sumac, but harvest some more instead.

2 - rosehips

this one is really easy. Go out into the woods and find a wild rose (aka multiflora). They're EVERYWHERE. cut off some stems with the fattest, redest rosehips (be careful of the thorns). If you want, cut off the thorns for easier handling, and then put as many as you can get in a vase and you're done! Again, no water.

Rosehips are an excellent source of vitamin C. I crack them open into my tea. You can also make a painstakingly annoying jam or jelly out of it, if you're so inclined.

Both bouquets should stand fine through the winter. You can also add color with bright red chili peppers braided in the kitchen, wreaths, and dried flowers.

pictures and the continuation of the root cellar saga soon.

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