Wild Kitchen – Peach and Grape Leaf
Smelling peach leaves officially launched Wild Kitchen day (held twice a month) at Rancho Arco Iris. Wild Kitchen day is about unlocking the gourmet potential of the commonly ignored plants, along with their superb abilities to heal. Peach is a great example.
While we patiently await its fruits, the leaves, twigs and bark are rarely considered. Well, we’re NOT going to eat them, true. But the leaf makes a delicious beverage that cools and calms. For those of us who enjoy our summer wines and beers, it’s a noteworthy hang-over aid, nipping nausea in the bud.
This is a plant best prepared as a cold infusion. I made a gallon of it starting in the morning and it was ready by dinner. I make it by filling a gallon jar about 1/2 full of fresh leaf, then adding spring water to fill the jar. Stir it every once in awhile. I think this cold infusion is ideal for fermenting into an herbal wine. It tastes like peaches. Just be sure you strain out the leaves and ferment only the remaining liquid.
There’s always a great deal of information to share about a plant, more than can be remembered, so I aim to pick out two key features for the class to commit to memory, amid the hour’s-worth of plant uses we cover. In the case of peach I selected its action as a cooling, relaxing nervine and it’s function as a Yin Deficiency remedy. As we discussed its other attributes I cautioned the class that one NEVER uses wilted leaves. Upon wilting the hydrocyanides convert to actual cyanide. Livestock are known to die from grazing on wilted peach leaves from a fallen branch. Additionally, for the same reason, when we make a peach tincture, we only let it sit for ten days. After ten days we can begin getting some unwanted cyanide in our tincture. Our youngster, Samuel, piped in that there were actually three things we had to remember…the third being “if you don’t make it right it can kill you”.
We went looking for grape leaves before lunch. Very tricky to identify I might add. Close by we found River Bank Grape and Fox Grape. The best time to gather grape leaves is in June with a cut off date of July 4. Aguila and I had both noticed that on July 4th our leaves still looked fresh, and undamaged. But over the next two days, to our July 6th class, they had all radically changed into the more fibrous, bug chewed look. We did find enough good leaves to brine some in a lacto-ferment and set some aside for dinner. But not enough for the wine. The main functions I wanted them to remember about grape was it’s toning action on veins and circulatory problems and as a food, it’s high omega 3 content.
As the heat of the afternoon came on they all hiked down to the swimming hole with the cat. Reaching the pool Aguila instructed them about water moccasins sharing the pool. As if on cue, a young water moccasin lifted its head to great their arrival from the middle of the water. Fear was dispelled with further instruction how to safely share the pool, they have a swimming spot, so do the people, done in peace the snakes disappear into their privacy. For some reason the group thought this a great advertizing motto for us, “Swimming with Water Moccasins”. I’m not sure about that, but if you swim in native Arkansan waters, it’s a lesson that needs to be shared.
We took a few hours to gather more food and prepare dinner together. The menu included a soup made with Wood Nettle, a casserole of grape leaf, zucchini sticks (technically not a wild food, but ours are going wild this summer), and peach leaf infusion. I know a class is successful when folks take action on their learning right away. The next day, folks went home to make peach leaf/twig & grape leaf tinctures.
Wood Nettle Soup
This always turns out differently depending on what I have on hand. Play around with this. Begin with making a good broth as a foundation. This time I used a veggie broth powder and cooked onion and potato in it for about ten minutes. Then we added enough fresh, cleaned wood nettle leaf and stem to fill the broth with just a tad of broth remaining over the leaves. This is cooked just until the leaves wilt. Cool it down until you can blend it without blowing anything up. To this add some nutmeg to taste, Himalayan salt and plain whole milk yogurt is added and mixed together. This simple soup was a big hit.
Next Sunday we’ll zero in on the violet.