Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ramp Harvest!!

It's that time of year, when Ramps (also known as Wild Leeks) begin to carpet the forest floor with their brilliantly green, pungent, ephemeral beauty.  This post is dedicated to my views on sustainably and joyfully harvesting these spring treats.

Ramps are are a broad-leafed allium, with a mineral-rich onion/garlic taste, one of the first green things to come up in the spring.  They prefer the leaf litter of deciduous forests.  Once it starts getting shady from the leafing out of the trees, the ramp leaves yellow and die - yielding energy to flower and seed production.

The bulb portion gets a lot of attention as a wild substitute for leeks - but also like leeks, the tops are too often ignored :-(  Turns out they are delicious and versatile :-)  You can use them in soups, sautees, garnishes ... anything you would use onions, garlic, or leeks for ... fresh or dried, raw or cooked.  I HARVEST ONLY THE LEAVES now, because of what I've learned about the life cycles of ramps - it takes a number of years for the plants to grow from seed to maturity.
So typical harvesting sustainability rules suggest to only take from large patches, and no more than 1/6th of the plants or so … but even that seems too much.  Never harvest a flower stalk if you can help it.  Last year I harvested only the aerial portion of the plant - the two donkey-ear-like leaves.  This year I realized that it would be very certainly the best option to just take one leaf from any one plant.  This leaves some photosynthesizing capabilities for feeding the perennial bulb, ensuring a perennial harvest.

Another thing to be aware of as you harvest is that other fragile spring ephemerals are coming up - such as Blue Cohosh (look closely in the picture at the top of the page) and Trillium (pictured to the right).  Step with intention.  Not as fragile, but quite edible, is the cuter-than-heck and ubiquitous Trout Leaf (pictured below).

Now, having completed a thoroughly satisfying walk in the woods, and having gathered all the leaves you'll want or need for the day or for the year, be sure to give thanks in whatever way that feels right to you.  It's great to be thankful and appreciative with every leaf you pick, and also good to acknowledge the larger habitat that has supported the abundance of this delicious gift.

 Back at home, I would recommend drying the ramps.  Making pesto is also a favorite preservation method.  Harvesting only one leaf makes the processing very easy - no dirt involved, no parts to clip off.  I basically just tossed the ramp leaves (5 gallons of them) onto trays and put them in the dehydrator on a low temperature until they're completely dry and crumbly.   

 Be sure to store in a cool place in an air-tight container.  5 gallons of fresh leaves yielded 5 quarts of dried and partially-crumbled leaves to store.

That's the whole story for today ....  Happy Spring!!  And remember, harvest with sustainability and regeneration in mind.  Otherwise, the seemingly mild-mannered ramps will slowly impale you like they did this maple leaf.

 - Travis

P.S.  check out the seeds of the future generation of wild leeks!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peacock music


Living at the Ithaca Zen Center / Body Mind Restoration Retreat Center brings with it the (usually positive) bonus of living with 4 peacocks.  1 female, 2 young males, and one older male.  The feathery details of the peacocks' social world are for another time, but today I find myself playing piano for a very curious peahen.  My keyboard is set up right in a window overlooking the pond and far hills, and in the foreground is some of the peacock stomping grounds.  As a young male tried his darndest to impress Ms. Peahen with his half-sized plumage, the object of his affection was curiously tilting her head at me as I fiddled around on the keys.  It's nice to have an audience to play off of, and especially one that is hearing totally different frequencies than you can ever dream of.  Here's a clip of some peacock music:

peacock music

After Peahen left, the young male came back to see what was so interesting about the sounds coming through the window, and he showed me just how cool his feathers are when he shakes them really fast.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Pedaling Permaculture Pianist Continues

Yay!!!  It's been a good 15 months since my first, most wonderful, and only bike tour ended.  It seemed unnecessary to blog again, unless I embarked on another such crusade of joy; but I realized that I can still claim all of the titles a bestowed upon myself upon beginning this blog!  That's 2 "upons," yes.

I am still pedaling, though much less frequently ....  I live 8 miles from town, I have no car, and it's winter - but a very bike-able winter.  So I at least bike to the bus stop and around town.  Still Pedaling, check.

I am still practicing and promoting permaculture, and not just in the abstract inner permaculture/economic permaculture/mental permaculture ways.  I'm managing the vegetable gardens for a real legit healing retreat center.  Not as much perennial food growing and wildharvesting as I'd like, but there's enough scattered throughout my days to keep me satisfied.  Still Permaculture, check.

And I am still being a pianist.  I've gotten to play a good amount of music since my return to a more sedentary lifestyle - check out Polly and Travis music to see what we've been up to, and for my own music site.  Still Pianist, check.

And as far as being "Home-Free" ....  for the residential aspect of the phrase, I've been living on the same property for nearly a year, though never in one structure for more than a couple months ....  And regarding the "woohoo, I'm home-free!" aspect of the phrase, well ... that will take some further consideration.  "Bicycle" has been discussed already.

So, in summary, I still lay claim to my catch-phrase and title, "Pedaling Permaculture Pianist," and my more-or-less "Home-Free Bicycle Blog"

This all was brought about by one silly little thing I wanted to say about spinach.  It made me laugh, and I hold no expectations that it will make anyone else laugh, but at least I hope some folks will smile.  Are you ready?

Here is the beginning of a list of things that I have never said:
1.) "Boy, I'm amazed at what a large amount of spinach I have, now that I see it cooked!"

(list to be continued, or not)

It's an oddly warm winter, so we're taking a chance to plant some spinach at an offensively early date (tomorrow).  Why-the-heck not?  I'll let you know in a few weeks if we get any greens.

For now, stay warm, keep smiling (even if you don't feel like smiling, just try it :-D).