Another glorious autumn day unfolds in our hills, with perfect temperatures and a cloudless sky. The air was invigorating this morning, with the sun peeping out early, inviting a person to capture every minute of this day.
The hills are beginning to clothe themselves in their seasonal glory, while wildflowers still abound. Coreopsis blooms in the ditch line, bordering the roadside with their shiny yellow flowers, looking much like bits of scattered sunshine. Wild asters are coming into their own, with large masses of blue-fringed flowers along the creek bank, looking at the water with wondering yellow eyes.
There are many varieties of wild asters here in the hills. The small-flowered white aster grows in the meadows and fields, and smells sweet as honey when the sun shines upon it. The white woods aster has been blooming in the hills for some time now, while the calico aster is just beginning to show its yellow and purplish-red head.
Fall mushrooms appear after rain saturates the soil, and makes foraging worthwhile. We have enjoyed lots of meadow mushrooms, and a couple of messes of oyster mushrooms. Jeff Braley brought in the grand prize though—a giant puffball that was fresh and succulent.
It was as big as a basketball, and we ate on it for a few days. It is Criss’ favorite, and a little different from other mushrooms. When sliced, it resembles angel food cake and is very tender. I dipped the slices in evaporated milk, then in flour and fried it in a little oil and butter.
My cousin Garland also found a huge one, and asked if there was any method to preserve it. I couldn’t find anything on this particular mushroom, but I did find a delicious sounding recipe for “Puffball Parmesan” using tomato sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It sounded almost like eggplant casserole.
When I got to this part of my column, the woods began calling me so I had to quit and go. It is such a delight to wander in the woods and meadows this time of year. With Louis and Millie at my heels, we climbed up the hill to the cow pasture and adjoining woods. They sniffed in ecstasy at tree roots, brush piles, and invisible tracks.
Although we didn’t find wild foods, we did find food for the soul. As I sat on a fallen log and breathed in the fresh air, I meditated upon the goodness of God and how He has provided for his children. “He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that He may bring forth food out of the earth.” (Psa. 104:13-14)
In Psalms 104, David describes the divine care that God has over all His creation, from the animal and bird kingdom, to all of mankind. I can say with King David, “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise unto my God as long as I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.” (Psalms 104-33:34)
As we came back down the hill, we found pokeberries hanging black and glossy. Mr. J. D. Beam, formerly of Swandale, asks if we ever smeared the wine-colored juice on our faces. We rubbed it all over us and also made lovely ink for our fountain pens. We girls found that the ripe berries made wonderful filling for mud pies. Oh, the days of childhood!
Dolly Netcher of Scott Depot writes to inquire about a wild mushroom that her grandmother called a “brattie.” She describes them as light tan, smooth on top, and the stem had white, sticky milk that stained their fingers as walnut hulls do. She adds that they were wonderful, but she has never seen them since.
I am not familiar with that particular mushroom, but it must be a type of “milky.” The buff fishy milky fits the description, and it is in season from June to November—and it is edible.
Leota Robinson of Charleston writes about “leather britches” or string beans that are dried for winter. She said some of her friends had never heard of them, but we always dried some. They were picked green and strung on twine, then hung up in the attic to dry. After soaking, they were cooked with a hunk of home cured bacon. Yes, they were different—but good.
In response to a previous request, Camille Burgess of Sissonville sent a verse to a song her mother used to sing to her when she was a child. “A barefoot boy with shoes on/ Came a’walking down the street/ His hands were full of pockets/ And his shoes were full of feet. He was born when he was a baby/ His mother’s pride and joy/ His only brother was a girl/ And his sister was a boy.”
I have a request from Rosa Blake of Frametown who is looking for the words to an old poem that her uncle used to recite. It is called, “Me and Pap and Mother.” I have never heard it, but perhaps some of our readers have.
Here is your smile for today: Our great-granddaughter Becca, who is six years old, was all dressed up for a special event the other day. She stepped out of the car, straightened the wrinkles out of her dress, and remarked to her grandmother Patty, “I’m just too cute for my age!”
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