I was lucky enough to be able to accompany my friend on her initial hike into the Manzanos to do research for one of her upcoming refugee wilderness program hikes. It was a beautiful drive a little more than an hour outside of Albuquerque, with mist laying in the low spots between trees and the sun shining a beautiful cerise halo through the smokey clouds as it showed its face to us for the first time that day.
The hike itself was lovely - up into the mountains through heavily wooded trails, with plenty of new plants to identify along the way. It was the first time that I'd seen so many maple trees in New Mexico, and look forward to re-visiting in the fall time when the trees will be brilliant shades of vermilion.
Read more about the refugee wilderness hikes here:
A little sweetness is in order, I do believe, to lift me out of the depths.
I came across this magical recipe to use the last of my beautiful prickly pears (a.k.a. 'tunas').
(You can view the original post from Wildness HERE - I highly recommend visiting this amazing blog for some unusual recipes and the beautifully written intros to the posts.)
I made a couple changes to the recipe - not for any "improvement", as I've not made the recipe previously; the modifications I made were due to my lack of planning and ingredients - haha - it was AMAZING, so, so good!
Here it is, sweet and healing to my soul, Prickly Pear Pie (with my intentional - and otherwise - modifications in italics):
(It's not a traditional pie. It's more like a filled 'dutch baby'. )
3.5 cups prickly pear pulp (I had about 3 cups)
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup agave nectar)
1 cup water
Mix together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. (I boiled for 10-15 minutes...) Set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place 1/4 pound butter in a 13" x 9" baking dish. Put it in the oven while it is heating. You want the butter to be sizzling, but do not let it brown.
While the butter is melting, mix together:
In a blender, mix 6 eggs, 1 cup of milk (I used hemp milk), 1/4 cup orange juice (As I had no orange juice, I subbed 1/4 cup lemon soda... yeah, still worked), 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt. Blend till frothy.
Remove butter from oven and immediately pour batter into the butter. Do not stir. Quickly pour prickly pear filling onto batter. Do not stir.
Place back into the hot oven for 20 minutes or until puffed and brown.
“A little (one) can sometimes see things in others that us older ones cannot because our judgement gets clouded.” ― Brian Jacques, The Bellmaker
With the help of my young assistant, I've been continuing on my path of learning about edible wild plants and their preparation. As with most things, the deeper I go into this well of knowledge, the easier it is to see that there are vast amounts of things that I have yet to know and understand.
In all the spirit of an earthy feast, I went about gathering edibles to make sweet and savory tartlettes...
They were... so/so. The sweet were pretty tasty. The savory, not so much... I have work to do, but am learning from my mistakes. They looked beautiful, anyway, and the day was fun. Bodhi followed the newly awakened turtles and insisted on taking many, many "picture" of them, and most everything else in the yard. Here are a few of the shots.
I've completely revised my "let it be" attitude of yard husbandry. Now, I am very aware of the uses of most of my plants in my vicinity, and those who offer less in the food and medicine areas are given less preferential treatment (I'm looking at YOU, trumpet vine...). I've taken to cutting back all of the new trumpet vine shoots, which come up everywhere - I'm fairly certain the whole house and plot would be one trumpet vine tangle in a few short growing seasons if I didn't cut it back... At one point I thought that might be an interesting environment to live in, but for the lack of nourishment (for people, at least - ants and beetles and hummingbirds seems to thrive on the trumpet flowers, so it's not all for loss, and they are pretty) and photosensitive rash that some people experience from touching the foliage... I'm also at a lack for what to do with the copious amounts of pollen "caterpillars" being gifted to me from the giant male mulberry tree in the yard behind. So far, I've been unsuccessful in finding any uses for them, though I did read about the amazing speed of pollen release (1/2 the speed of sound!), much to the chagrin of those suffering from allergies. It seems that the male mulberry is so popular here, due to it's less messy existence (I'd much rather have purple stains from fruit than mounds of furry, useless, pollen-filled caterpillars...The extent of which has apparently grown to such proportions that it is illegal to plant them in the greater Albuquerque area now, though I've had several mulberry trees start growing on their own in my front yard, and was thrilled to find that one, now taller than the rooftop, after 3 growing years, is a female, producing fruit! She will be staying.)
All in all, a great day, as days go. (I even got around to pasting lily pads to my face and making an art print out of the day...) I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing than spending time taking photos with my son. We even got to visit with family later and I had them be my foraged tartlette guinea pigs, and Bodhi ate some pig...