The morning dawns, clear and sparkling, after days of rain and gloomy weather. We live in a green world, with leaves on the trees full and flowing. Our hills have been washed clean by the abundant moisture, and stand fresh and inviting in the morning sunshine. May is a flowering month, and this spring the shrubs and trees have bloomed in abundance. The dogwoods and redbuds were heavy with bloom, and now the locust trees are hung with white clusters of bloom.
The drooping purple flowers of the Royal Paulownia tree, also called the princess tree, attracts the attention of travelers as they drive along our highways. This showy tree, a native of China, has been cultivated and naturalized from New York to Florida, and west to Texas, and north to Missouri. Each year, we see more and more of them in our forests.
They command attention as they grow to 50 feet tall, and are valuable for lumber. The wood of the locust tree is unmatched for fence posts, as it is so durable. Our son Michael claims that deep-fried locust bloom is a tasty wild food. I think that he batter-dipped them before frying. That is a wild food I have never tried, so I will try to obtain his recipe while the locust is still blooming.
The blackberry vines, along with our black raspberries, are covered with white blossoms. The weather has much to do with the berry crop and last year was a poor season. Hopefully, we will be able to pick these luscious wild berries for cobblers, jams and jellies.
May is a perfect month to forage for wild foods. Although the morel mushroom season has ended, there are still many wild foods for the reaping. The beans are tender on the redbud, lending their unique flavor to stir-fries. (Make sure they are tender, or they will taste like a mouthful of hay.)
Daylilies grow practically everywhere, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. The unopened buds can be steamed and served simply with butter, salt and pepper, or stir-fried in oil just until tender, with the addition of garlic and chopped onion. Season this oriental dish with soy sauce, and serve over rice if desired.
The fully opened flower can be fixed as fritters. Prepare batter with two eggs, half a cup of flour, and one-fourth cup finely chopped onions. Use wild onions if you dare. Mix into a thin batter, dip fully opened flowers into mixture, coating evenly. Fry a few at a time in hot oil until golden brown, and drain well on paper towels. Serve hot.
There is one word of caution — daylilies have a laxative effect on some people. That is why I limit my intake. Live and learn. Poke greens are abundant now, and they are my favorite wild green. As they are growing taller, they can be prepared in the following manner — just be sure the stalks are still green with no purple color. Peel thick young shoots and parboil in two changes of water until barely tender. Discard water, roll stalks in cornmeal and flour mixture, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Fry in hot oil (bacon grease is lovely, but olive oil is healthier.)
Whether you indulge in wild foods or not, May is the month to explore the woods and rejoice in the wonderful world which the Lord has made. Sometimes as I view nature in all its beauty, I cry out to God, “Lord, your handiwork is so wonderful! If it were any more beautiful, my mind could not take it in!”
I got some feedback concerning the column that I wrote on odd names. Our friendly dentist, familiarly known as RB, explained how Barren She got its name. Virgil Taylor (an old man when RB was just a pup) told him it was named for a she bear that never produced cubs. There is also a place called Devil’s Den (according to RB) where another bad-tempered female bear, also barren, lived. It looks as if Barren Bear would have been more appropriate. There is also a Barren She Run in the Cranberry River area.
As for Hungry Mother State Park, my niece Julie told me the legend. It seems that when the American Indians destroyed several settlements in southwestern Virginia, Molly Marley and her small child were among the survivors taken by the raiders. They escaped and wandered through the wilderness, eating berries. Molly finally collapsed, and the child wandered down a creek until help was found. The only words the child could say were “hungry mother.” The settlers arrived at the foot of the mountain where Molly collapsed to find her dead. Today that mountain is Molly’s Knob, and the creek is Hungry Mother Creek.
This sounds similar to the way our own Strange Creek got its name. A man named Adam Strange was lost in that area in an earlier time. His remains, plus his gun was found near the mouth of that creek. He had carved the following on a beech tree: “Strange is my name, and I am on strange ground; And strange it is that I can’t be found.”
Cousin Ray, there is still time to place orders for “This Holler Is My Home” and “Homesick for the Hills.” The price is $15.33 each, which includes postage and tax. I will personally autograph each book. Send orders to: Alyce Faye Bragg, HC 72 Box 1-F, Ovapa, WV 25150. Books will be sent out promptly.
Cousin Alyce Faye
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