Sunday, September 14, 2008
The remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through here today. We got a little rain, but it was mostly a wind event. As I walked the trail this morning, the trees were crashing against each other, littering the ground with pecans and hickory nuts still in their husks, green acorns and deceptively ripe-looking persimmons. I've always wondered why the wild foods that appear in autumn--the time of year when everybody needs to pack on some weight--require the most patience and work to eat. There's nothing I like better than hickory nuts, but when I think of the effort involved in gathering and shelling them, the packages of pecans and black walnuts in the supermarket start to look a lot more appealing.
I love mushrooms, too, but I never gather those wild, either--not so much out of laziness as fear. Even knowledgeable 'shroomers make mistakes sometimes, and I'm just not willing to risk agony or death for the sake of a taste experience. Seeing these tree ears almost tempted me to try it, though. As far as I know, they're the same as the tree ears that show up in Chinese food--"as far as I know" being the key qualifier.
That's another irony of the fall harvest: Not only are the good things difficult to get at, so much that looks pretty--from the colorful toadstool to the pokeberry--is poisonous. This fruit of this firethorn bush, which sits just off my carport, is no exception, despite what Wikipedia says. My dog Pearl, a great forager, snarfed down a few one day and was very sick for the next 24 hours. I thought about cutting the bush down after that, but the birds can eat the berries without harm, and they love them. The plant holds its fruit all winter and it's so nice to watch a mockingbird or cardinal chow down on an icy day, I decided the dogs and the firethorn would have to coexist.
This pretty flower is a wingstem, and it's not food for anything except butterfly larvae. It's in abundant bloom right now, along with the equally beautiful--but also poisonous--white snakeroot. Both plants are tall, standing 3-4 feet off the ground, and they create a soft border of yellow and white at the edge of the treeline.
All photos by me, for a change, taken at my house and at Edwin Warner Park in Nashville.