Primal Sacrament: The Joy of Wild Foods and Medicines
The air is heavy and the sky dark nearly all day long. The awaited monsoons are almost here, hovering just beyond the horizon and taunting us with long spikes of silver lightning stabbing the sky. The plants glory in the rare humidity and ripening berries weigh down the branches of Mulberry and Saskatoon trees. We are at the cusp of my favorite season, from now til October I’ll be in absolute heaven and loathe to step indoors away from the lush green beauty that the Monsoons bring.
While all four of us enjoy a huge variety of foods from different traditions, cultures and parts of the world, what we love most of is the intense, close to home nourishment of wild foods. Whether Sweet Clover pesto, creamy Nettle soup or smoked Elk, the taste of this land is like no other. The act of taking in the primal sacrament from what we ourselves are grown from provides us with a feeling of completion, of rightness and a deep sense of satisfaction. I’ve written on this subject before, most recently in my post The Forager’s Song over at the Medicine Woman’s Roots.
Loba’s been gathering Nettles, one batch at a time, and then cooking them down on the outdoor fire for storage in a friend’s freezer. Rhiannon loves helping with the plants and puts on her favorite leather gloves for the task of picking, sorting and processing the Nettles. And in my own spare moment, I relish harvesting huge armloads to carry home to the cabin kitchen. These nutrient rich greens are one our most important staples, along with Lamb’s Quarters and Beebalm. Every year, we harvest as much as possible and store them all away for the cold months ahead and then delight during Winter in our vibrant, delicious greens. We prefer doing as much of the cooking as possible outside during the Summer. There’s nothing like roasting fresh vegetables in the hot ashes of a burned down fires, or grilling a fine steak over red coals. The taste of the mountain air seems imbued in every bite, and all the more nourishing for the vital wildness of it.
Lately we’ve been enjoying a precious supply of fresh caught Cottontail, lovingly hunted and delivered into our hands by our dear Wolf. He regularly heads out into the dusk carrying his antique shotgun with Rhiannon tagging close behind to learn her Papa’s fine hunting skills. She’s also often the one to run to get the rabbit, picking up it’s soft body and whispering a thank you and kiss for its precious life.
Now, you may have heard that rabbit tastes just like chicken, but you heard wrong. And if you’ve ever had domestic rabbit, well, just disregard that. Wild rabbit is a creature until itself, and a plump young bunny makes a wonderful meal (or two) for our small family. While not possessing much in the way of fat, the meat is still tasty and can be surprisingly tender when properly prepared. The addition of pork belly, bacon, lard or other high quality fat increases tenderness, and soaking the meat in the fat can make for a much better grilling experience.
Last night we put together a delicious variation on Lapin Moutarde á la Créme, a rich, almost intoxicating rabbit stew. The original recipe called for pork belly and hard cider in the stock, but we substituted bacon, sauteed apples and a fine chardonnay with very tasty results. The light fruit flavor mingled delightfully with the mild taste of the rabbit. At the last, Loba added a generous splash of cream to the boiled down broth before adding back vegetables and meat. The soup was served over a bed of mixed greens and adorned with crumbled bacon, toasted pecans and finely chopped flat leaf parsley. Truthfully, I believe the recipe resulted in one of the finest broths I’ve ever tasted.
My own evolution of healing has taught me that my body most often prefers the simple fare of meat, veggies and berries, rich with wild greens and local game. These foods have the amazing effect of keeping me balanced, both emotionally and physically. I no longer have blood sugar spikes, chronic fatigue or digestive issues. Some people are horrified at the idea of a life without bread, rice or potatoes but I am delighted by the idea of a life without pain, exhaustion and insulin resistance. One of the wonderful things about this particular approach to eating, is that much of my diet can come directly from here. This wild bit of NM is not suited for intensive agricultural practices and gentle living with the earth means harvesting what is most abundant. Here, that’s greens, game and you guessed it, berries! In fact, tomorrow I’m heading over to a friend’s house to gather a (hopefully) abundant amount of Mulberries from her huge, prolific tree.
Another friend generously allowed me to pick some delicately scented petals from her old fashioned rose bush and this morning Rhiannon and I brewed up some delicious Rose elixir, and she even made her own small bottle of ruby colored magic to have on hand. Each of these every day experiences, from food gathering to medicine making, is filled with a quiet sense of the extraordinary. Of the miracle of each day, and the gratitude that weaves us all together.
~All pics (c) 2008 Kiva Rose
Categories: Sense of Place, Traditional Foodways, Wild Plants & Traditional Healingways