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Autumn has rounded the corner and sent beautiful October weather to our hills. October gold is spread all over the landscape; gold that cannot be equaled even by the touch of King Midas. The turning leaves have a golden cast, the sunshine is pure gold out of a serene blue sky, and the earth echoes her golden treasures in the blooming coreopsis, the goldenrod, wild sunflower and Jerusalem artichoke.

The dandelion spreads gold dollars all over the lawn, and can be found almost any mild day throughout the year. Jerusalem artichoke is actually a sunflower, which was cultivated by the Indians and has spread eastward. The tubers on this plant are edible, and highly nutritious. They contain no starch but carbohydrate in a form that is turned into natural sugar.

My Dad was fond of these tubers, that when eaten raw have a sweet, nutlike flavor. They can be roasted or boiled like potatoes, and are delicious. I would love to dig some, but I’m not sure which variety of wild sunflower it is. I’d probably have to dig several patches to find the right one. I’m prone to get carried away by edible wild foods.

Our good friend, Jim Good, brought me a box of pawpaws the other day, (I love them) and there was more than I could eat. Enthused by fall, and all the wild goodies of the season, I decided to make a pawpaw pie. In fact I made two of them. The hardest part was separating the pulp from the skin and seeds, but I finally mashed them through a sieve. The crusts turned out beautifully, and the meringue was high and frothy. The pie itself was awful—both pies were. (Why did I make two? It took me all evening to make the homemade crusts, extract the pulp, and make the pies.)

Criss doesn’t like pawpaws anyway, and he definitely didn’t like the pie. I threw away the recipe, and tossed the pies in the dog pan. The dogs wouldn’t eat them either. Kevin told me he’d bring me some persimmons, so stay tuned for the next culinary effort. I know better than to make two!

Patty was prowling around in the garden, and found a squash vine that had taken on new growth and produced some tender yellow squash. I found a recipe sent by Betty Banks of Charleston that you might like to try if you are fortunate to still have yellow squash or zucchini. I think I’ll let someone else try it and let me know the results.

4 small squash—two yellow and two zucchini (do not peel)
1 chopped onion
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon parsley
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic or garlic salt
¼ teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ cup mozzarella cheese (or any cheese)
2 well beaten eggs
½ cup crumbled sausage (cooked and drained)
Small can drained mushrooms

Simmer vegetables until tender; drain and cool. Stir in seasonings add eggs, cheese and sausage
Pour into unbaked pie shell (use top and bottom crust) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Betty says that this makes a meal by itself. I am not going to include my pawpaw pie recipe.

It is time for fall mushrooms, but we haven’t found any yet. My sister Mary Ellen found some nice fresh puffballs which she shared with her neighbor, Geraldine. I thought that was a generous gesture, especially since she picked them in Geraldine’s yard. We usually find meadow mushrooms at this time of year, which are delicious sautéed in butter and eaten for breakfast with an egg.

I love the month of October. My Grandpa Andy O’Dell died in this month 61 years ago. I always felt as if he departed in a blaze of glory! If I could pick the month to make my departure from this earth, I would choose October. When these mellow, golden days are lavished upon us, my heart sings out in praise and gratitude unto the Maker of all this beauty.

I feel like David did in Psalms 44:23 when he wrote, “Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein:” The hills are singing today with October’s beauty. I wish it were possible to lengthen out her days—cool, misty mornings when the hilltops are shrouded with fog, the warm sunny days filled with the sweet fragrance of ripening nuts and turning leaves, and the chilly nights with the threat of frost. October is a balm to the soul.
We miss the morning melody of the songbirds now, as most of them have gone south for the winter. The lone song of a cardinal fills the air with his “cheeter-cheeter”, and the chirping of the fall insects grows fainter and fainter. We haven’t had frost yet. But it is coming. We need to bring in our potted plants and flowers, and prepare for colder weather ahead. There is still the prospect of Indian Summer.

Ripe apples are dropping fast, and someone requested the recipe for canned apple pie filling that appeared in my column several years ago. It came from my late Aunt Lucille O’Dell of Grants Pass, Oregon, and I think this is the recipe she wanted.

Combine four and half cups sugar, one cup cornstarch, three teaspoons ground cinnamon, one-half teaspoon nutmeg, and one teaspoon salt. Add 14 cups water, and cook until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat, add three tablespoons lemon juice, and two or three drops of yellow food coloring (optional.) Fill freezer containers with peeled and sliced raw apples, leaving one inch head space. Pour sauce to top of apples; cool and freeze. A quart of apples makes one delicious pie. Thaw and pour into prepared unbaked crust, and bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

While we are on the subject of seasonal foods, if you are fortunate enough to find elderberries, they make excellent jelly when laced with a little lemon juice. You don’t have to pick off the individual berries, but simply clean and wash the cluster well (break off the larger stems but don’t worry about the tiny ones,) cook and strain the juice.

Mary Ellen says that apple juice, and especially crabapple juice, is very good mixed with elderberry juice. Like blueberries or huckleberries, these berries freeze well. In today’s economy, it is wise to preserve everything that you can.
God bless you all!

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer