Manzanita Cider

We’re appreciating native plant recipes this holiday season! The fall issue of the new CNPS magazine, Flora, features a collection of seasonal native plant recipes from Alicia Funk, founder of the Living Wild Project and co-author of Living Wild — Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California. This week, we’re sharing her recipe for manzanita cider, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic!

Manzanita cider is a traditional drink of California, enjoyed by indigenous inhabitants in many parts of the state. Although all species have edible berries, Alicia uses Arctostaphylos viscida, since it is abundant in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where she lives. The cider is easy to make, high in antioxidants and naturally sweet. Fill a blender with the dry berries and grind on low-medium for about a minute. This is a modern technique to crush the berries and expose the sweet powder, without crushing up the large seeds. Cover the crushed berries with cold water and soak for several hours to overnight. Strain and enjoy cold or hot.

MANZANITA HARD CIDER

Collect berries in summer.
Makes 1 gallon. Ready to drink in 2 months.

YOU’LL NEED:

4 quarts manzanita cider (see above for method)
2 pounds raw cane sugar
8-quart pot
1-gallon jug
Airlock
 for jug
1 packet dry wine yeast
Flip-top bottles
Iodine (for sterilizing)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pour cider into pot, add the 2 pounds of sugar, and allow to simmer over heat until sugar dissolves.

Let cider cool and use a small amount of iodine to sterilize the jug.

Pour cider into sterilized gallon jug and add yeast.

Seal jug with the airlock and store in a cool location, 65-75 degrees F.

Let the cider bubble for approximately a month. After 
the bubbling subsides, allow it to sit for another week.

Siphon the cider into sanitized bottles, avoiding the 
yeast that has settled on the bottom of the jug.  Seal bottles and allow cider to sit for another 2 weeks or more for added flavor.

Avoid problems with wild plant collection

CNPS generally advises against collecting wild native plants, since toxic species can be misidentified as edible plants and wild collection runs the risk of harming sensitive species and habitats. Growing your own native habitat is a great solution that gives you easy access to an abundance of useful plants.

Holiday Native Plant Recipes

Madrone_Berries wikipedia

Late fall is a great time to collect madrone berries.

The holidays are here, and native plants are a great way to enjoy the season. The fall issue of the new CNPS magazine, Flora, features a collection of seasonal native plant recipes from Alicia Funk, founder of the Living Wild Project and co-author of Living Wild — Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites, so give them and try and let us know what you think!

This week, we’re starting with Alicia’s recipe for Madrone “Beyond Cranberry” Sauce. Late fall is a great time to collect madrone berries, but unless you are picking from a tree on your property, please see our notes below the recipe. (Want to grow a madrone tree for your garden? See its profile on Calscape.org to discover where it grows, get landscaping tips, and find out which native nurseries near you carry these beautiful trees.)

Madrone “Beyond Cranberry” Sauce

Collect berries in late fall.

YOU’LL NEED:

1 3⁄4 cup fresh madrone berries (stems removed)

1⁄4 cup fresh toyon berries (stems removed)

1 cup water

1⁄2 cup apple juice, plus 2 tablespoons, divided

1⁄2 cup honey

1 tablespoon arrowroot or organic cornstarch

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix berries, water, apple juice and honey in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir arrowroot or cornstarch into 2 tbsp apple juice.  Pour into berries and stir constantly while bringing 
to a boil. Remove from heat and add orange zest. Allow to cool before serving. Store in refrigerator for 
up to 2 weeks.

Variation: If toyon berries are plentiful, instead of madrone berries, simmer 1 cup dried toyon berries, 1 cup water, 1 cup apple juice and 1⁄2 cup honey, and then follow the same recipe.

Avoid problems with wild plant collection

CNPS generally advises against collecting wild native plants, since toxic species can be misidentified as edible plants and wild collection runs the risk of harming sensitive species and habitats. Growing your own native habitat is a great solution that gives you easy access to an abundance of useful plants.

Next week: Manzanita Hard Cider!

Ribes in Spring

RibesArticle and photos by Jennifer Jewell

The spring woodland garden has many bright stars in the form of shrubs: ceanothus and mahonia come immediately to mind. But look a little closer and you will see how lovely the ribes are as well this time of year. The native ribes are far more soft-spoken but have equally nice things to say as their brighter companions. Continue reading

California Hazelnut – by Vivian Mazur

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

If you have a shade garden, the California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta ssp. Californica) is a natural resident. It is widespread in woodland, particularly in moist or shaded canyons. It can be found along the Coastal Ranges in Northern California, the Siskiyous, and Sierras. If you hike this time of year, you may be rewarded with a crop of nuts unless the squirrels have beaten you to them. The name, Corylus, comes from the Greek ‘coys’, meaning helmet, which refers to the sheath around the nut. The hazelnut is in the birch family (betulaceae), related the alder. It is interesting to notice the similarities between them – from the shape of the leaf to the late winter catkins.

The hazelnut is an attractive addition to the woodland garden. It is a large (12’ – 15’), spreading, deciduous shrub with graceful, arching branches. In late winter the catkins appear. Each plant has separate male and female flowers but it is the males that are most conspicuous as they develop into long, golden tassels, followed by the unfurling of soft, velvety leaves. In late summer or early fall, the nuts ripen, much appreciated by squirrels and birds.

The California hazelnut is an adaptable garden plant. It is drought resistant once established but unlike many native plants, it will accept year-round water. It is a plant that will fend for itself, needing only pruning to keep it looking attractive. Some natural companions are sword ferns, bush monkey flower, and Douglas iris.

Native Moonshine

Tecate Cypress Bourbon V2_edited-1

Last year, I gave you my tried and true shortbread recipe. This year, I experimented with a new fun project: Tecate Cypress-infused bourbon.

Infused whiskeys and bourbons are all the rage of do-it-yourselfers and of artisanal restauranteurs. The idea is to take stems, greenery, berries, flowers or other plant parts and allow them to transfer flavor to a favorite spirited liquor.

Before you think about trying this at your place: warnings and caveats!

Caveat One: Never put anything in your mouth that you think you have the slightest chance of being allergic to. We are not suggesting that this is 100% safe for you. Call the Poison Control Center Hotline (which I did before I started my experiment) and talk to one of their experts. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Caveat Two: Don’t forage wild plants. Please grow your own, and forage your own garden, or ask permission to pick from someone else’s garden.

Caveat Three: Drink responsibly.

Caveat Four: You may not like these sorts of flavors, so test this out in small batches before you go using up all your expensive supplies.

Here is what I did. I took a small sprig of Tecate Cypress (Cupressus forbesii, now called Hesperocyparis forbesii) – about seven inches long and stuffed it into a quart Mason jar and filled it with bourbon. I set it on my counter in my kitchen and let it seep. Every once in a while I took a sip to see how it was coming along. Many online resources say this takes about two weeks, but after about eight days, I felt the flavor was strong enough to make an impact.

If I had found the flavor to be too strong, I would have simply diluted it with more spirits.

But it is just fine. It tastes slightly resinous. Just like it smells. I love it. For our family get-together on New Year’s Day, we swap under $10 gifts and the theme this year is to bring a gift that has a connection to wherever the person comes from. So, my little Mason jar of Tecate Cypress Bourbon is gonna be a hit, I am sure. I do plan to put a cute label on it, in the holiday spirit, excuse the pun.

If you see any members of my family before the gift exchange on the 1st, don’t let on. This is a surprise.

Manzanita Madness – A short summer film

Photo courtesy Alicia Funk.

Photo courtesy Alicia Funk.

Alicia Funk, at The Living Wild Project, just completed a short and beautiful film called “Manzanita Madness.

Alicia writes, “My favorite time of summer is here – the time to gather Manzanita berries. I hope you’ll enjoy our new short film on manzanita, participate in our manzanita recipe contest to win $250 for your favorite non-profit, and enjoy this month’s blog with harvesting tips and recipes.”

I watched the film and loved it. Please check it out.

 

She also suggested this event: the Tahoe foodie community will meet at the premiere of Elevate Tahoe-Food Innovations at 6,000 feet, a film on Saturday Aug. 23 at the Community Arts Center in Truckee. Doors at 6:30 p.m., film at 7:15 p.m. The Living Wild Project is one of the organizations featured in the film.

California Native Sage Shortbread

I love shortbread – crumbly and rich – it is perfect for the holidays. Now that most of you have recovered from the Thanksgiving feasts, it’s time to start on making some treats for all the upcoming parties and celebrations.

This recipe is not too sweet and you can use any of several varieties from your garden. I love hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) for this.

IMG_1581

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Five California native salvia leaves, grown organically, washed and dried
  • Extra granulated sugar for sprinkling on top, if desired

Directions

Pick five to seven sage leaves. All California native sages are edible for culinary purposes. Sage is not commonly considered to be a plant that people are allergic to, but be safe. Ensure you (and other consumers of this treat) are not allergic to any herbal materials before using.

Wash the sage leaves under cool tap water and pat dry. Chop into small mince and hold aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 – 325 degrees. I like to use a cooler temperature and cook for longer – easier to avoid burning the bottom or edges that way.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the two sugars until they are nicely combined. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Add chopped sage. Stir in by hand, at first. Once the mixture is lightly combined, mix on low speed until the dough starts to stick to itself in a ball. Scrape out the dough onto your work surface which has been dusted with flour. Shape the dough with your hands into a thick, flat disk. Wrap or store in a container and chill for 30 minutes.

Bring the dough out of the refrigerator and, before it starts to warm up, roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut into 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped rectangles. Place the cookies on an un-greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Watch carefully to avoid burning, especially if you use the higher temperature. Pull the sheet from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to come to room temperature.

Serve warm from the oven, room-temperature or chilled, whatever is your preference.

Alternatively, you can press the dough into a round pie tin, score the dough with a knife and then break into pie-shaped wedges once they return to room temperature.