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Author Topic: Foraging for Treats
Eaquae Legit
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Since I moved to England, I've gained a bit of a reputation in my house. I'm the one who's always bringing home wild food and doing weird stuff with it.

I picked elder flowers in June for tea and cordial and cheesecake. I picked sumac berries for tea and Middle Eastern cooking. I never buy rosemary. I go off hunting blackberries and blackberry leaves (for tea). Today I brought home a basket of elder berries. Rose petals for dainty sandwiches, or garnish for baked goods. Alas, I couldn't reach the cherries on the tree I found.

Partly I do it for the fun of it. It's a challenge to identify a new species and figure out how to use it. Plus, I just enjoy berry picking.

Partly I do it because I don't understand why I should pay for some packaged and transported supermarket version when I can go walk and get it myself for free. And anyway, most shops don't carry the things I find.

And partly, I enjoy feeling connected to the world around me. It's so easy to forget that food comes from somewhere. It's even easier to never realise that where food is coming from is right here. The world is simply full of wonderful edible treats, and people walk on by them.

My housemates generally think it's kind of neat (except one, who is comically worried I might mis-identify something and have to be taken to the hospital*), but I've never seen anyone else doing it. Our backyard alone is a bounty, with chives, rosemary, lavender, blackberries, elder, and another herb I haven't identified yet. No one's ever even realised they were there! I suppose it's partly an inherited trait - I have plenty of childhood memories of going to the berry farm during strawberry, cherry, and raspberry seasons, and as long as I can remember, my father has been finding apple trees and pear orchards and wild grapes and fiddleheads.

Is there anyone else who does this? It's something I would like to pass on to my children someday. I'm a horrible gardener, so we'll have to go on adventure walks and discover what is hiding out there to enjoy. But surely I'm not alone?


* I'm very careful, and I don't eat things I'm not sure I can identify. And I do not go mushrooming.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Yes, indeed. Blackberries, pears, crabapples for jelly. [Smile]

I love that the land wants to feed me.

PS: Also my herb garden. Rosemary, chives, cilantro, basil, oregano, marjoram, sage. Rose petals and rose hips, too.

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scholarette
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I love the idea, but growing up in a city in the desert, I never really got to do that. Where I live now is also not the most hospitable place for free food. We did however drive about an hour to pay someone to pick blueberries. And next year I'm going to try to get strawberries.
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Eaquae Legit
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A desert would be tough, yeah. But I'm not in a rural area right now, myself. A lot of my foraging takes place along the sidewalk, where overhanging branches can be reached. According to the law, if it's over the fence, you can take whatever you want, so a number of the neighbourhood trees have been surreptitiously harvested. I'm just amazed at the things I've found. Back home, I knew the locations of a couple mulberry trees.

I guess there are regions where this would be tough or even impossible, but kudos to you for doing the U-pick thing! Yay for blueberries! Strawberries are easier to fill a basket with, but make sure you wear closed shoes, because sandals just get itchy and prickly.

***

What do you do with the rose hips, CT? I've been seeing them around, but I'm not sure what to do with them, so I've left them alone. (Also, I am jealous of your gardening skill.)

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King of Men
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My parents' garden has blueberries in it, and there were raspberries within a short walk. I can't eat the 'blueberries' that are sold in American markets, they seem to be pure water. Bred for size, I suspect. Or perhaps for shelf life.
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orlox
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I have sworn to make raspberry jam this year, my patch is still producing like crazy. We are lucky in Vancouver, I have more pears, plums and apples from neighbourhood trees than I could ever use. I did add orange thyme and nutmeg thyme to the herb garden this year which has inspired some experimentation. I have heard of rose hip jam but stick to the tea myself.
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Kwea
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My parents have a HUGE rosemary bush growing right outside their front door in AZ. My mom makes the BEST rosemary chicken.....and they used to have blackberries all in the back yard when they lived in RI. We loved those too.


I have always gone berry picking, and we had a garden when I was younger but the soil was poor and most of our stuff was just plain sad looking. [Smile]

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ketchupqueen
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Growing up, I found mulberries, rosemary, oranges, lemons (Meyers and otherwise), and avocados growing/hanging over onto public property.

Your stuff sounds yummy though. Just don't mistake foxglove for mint! [Eek!]

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quidscribis
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Back in Canada, I must admit that I did, um, *cough* occasionally *cough* liberate rhubarb. But only from patches where it wouldn't be missed, and only a few stalks here and there. *cough* I lived in a great neighborhood for that.

Here, I don't know enough about local vegetation to really find random edible vegetation.

On the other hand, my container garden is growing, but slowly. I planted some herbs but either the ants stole the seeds - again - or the seeds are too old, so I might have to order a bunch from some place other than here. I planted the stems from store-bought mint, and that's growing very very nicely, although not quite big enough to harvest daily yet. Same thing with store-bought lemongrass and kataramarunga. The gotakola died during monsoon rains, so I'll have to try that again. Our lime tree gave off one flower which then fruited, but then it fell off, which, I'm told, sometimes happens.

I really think I'm going to have to break down and order seeds, though. The kinds of herbs that I want to grow just don't exist here. Of course.

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ketchupqueen
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quid, I've found that a year or two after you have one or two flowers and the fruit falls off, you get a bumper crop. Four years at the very most.
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quidscribis
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Yup, that's pretty much what I've been told. [Smile] This is the first flower the lime tree has had, so it's not at all a surprise that there was one, one only. The other thing is that, here, apparently, once it starts flowering and fruiting, it carries on all year or pretty close to it. [Smile]

Considering that I go through limes, I'm looking forward to it. [Big Grin]

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ketchupqueen
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That's how my dad's lemon tree is. It took a good two and a half years to "rev up" but it hasn't stopped since!
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martha
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Eaquae Legit, my grandmother used to make rose hip jelly. They have enough natural pectin in them that all you have to do is boil them with sugar, strain them, and can the juice.

My garden is currently overrun with some very happy mint. I like to make mint sun-tea: you put several sprigs of mint and some green tea bags in a mason jar with honey and a few drops of rose water, then you leave the jar out in the sun for a few hours.

I found a beautiful peach tree in a nearby neighborhood recently. It's in someone's yard, but some of the branches hang out over the sidewalk. I was about to pick a peach to try it, but an old lady opened a window and yelled at me, so I didn't. I'm pretty sure that fruit overhanging public walkways is fair game, though, so I'll go back sometime when she's not watching.

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ketchupqueen
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I remember sun tea! We used to make it with just mint and water, though. Mmmm.

We just brought home the last peaches from my mom's crop this year. (She is sad because she got put on a diet and can only eat 3 pieces of fruit a day-- and tomatoes count. Apparently her triglicerides were too high. So we got the rest of her peaches.)

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Paul Goldner
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Last april my now-ex-girlfriend gave me a few potted herbs for my birthday. Since then, my herb garden has been growing... it now includes rosemary (2 varieties, one for salads, one for cooking), marjoram, mint, basil (2 varieties), chives, lettuce, sage, thyme, and mizuna. It will continue to grow next spring, as I add at least lavender, and probably one or two others, as well as expanding the vegetables beyond lettuce. Maybe scallions, snow peas, and cucumber. I pick my own blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples, and pears at a nearby farm. (Not allowed to pick the peaches and plums, there). My brother moved and has a huge blackberry bush in his backyard, so next year I'll harvest the leaves off of that for my bunny, or perhaps for tea. (Incidentally, I've owned a dutch black and white bunny for three weeks. Or maybe he's owned me. He loves basil. And lettuce). When I eventually own my own land, I do intend to have a huge plot of the soil as a garden, because I want to grow berries, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, peas, peppers, maybe tomatoes for my girlfriend or for saucing, and expand my herb garden into a monstrosity.
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ElJay
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I can't eat the 'blueberries' that are sold in American markets, they seem to be pure water. Bred for size, I suspect. Or perhaps for shelf life.

That's how I feel about store-bought raspberries. I have a huge patch, but it only bears for a couple of weeks, so that's the only time of year I eat raspberries. The ones from the store don't taste like anything.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Eaquae Legit:
What do you do with the rose hips, CT? I've been seeing them around, but I'm not sure what to do with them, so I've left them alone. (Also, I am jealous of your gardening skill.)

I just make the tea, but as martha and orlox noted, you can make jelly. Looking around, it seems there are a lot of things to try, even a Swedish soup. Fun.

My gardening skills consist of buying a tiny plant, plopping it in a bigger pot with some soil, and trying to remember to water it. [Smile] But thanks.

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by ElJay:
quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I can't eat the 'blueberries' that are sold in American markets, they seem to be pure water. Bred for size, I suspect. Or perhaps for shelf life.

That's how I feel about store-bought raspberries. I have a huge patch, but it only bears for a couple of weeks, so that's the only time of year I eat raspberries. The ones from the store don't taste like anything.
Those are my favorite berries, and we had a patch growing up behind our shed by the garden.

I miss those.

At our cottage in northern MI we have an area which has wild blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.

I call it heaven. [Smile]

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Uprooted
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quote:
Originally posted by ClaudiaTherese:
I love that the land wants to feed me.

I love that line so much that I want to use it as a sig somewhere. Except that I don't really forage much, so it seems rather dishonest.

Maybe I'll write it into a story someday!

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Eaquae Legit
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Or get out and find something! [Razz]

I discovered the bramble bush in our backyard is orders of magnitude bigger than I thought, so now I have a big container of blackberries in my fridge. And I remembered I found a chamomile bush on the rail bridge a couple weeks ago, so I am going to go see if there's anything left tomorrow.

I've contemplated dandylion greens, but there's no way I can make sure they haven't been peed on by dogs, so I'm leaving them out of things for now.

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ketchupqueen
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I now have "The Blackberry Blossom" running through my head. [Smile] That's not a bad thing...
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orlox
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Watch out near railways, they spray all sorts of nasties.
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ketchupqueen
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Oh! I forgot one we used to eat as kids-- "sourgrass." Actually it was the crunchy, juicy stems of the flowers of some kind of local clover or clover-type plant. You picked the flower, pulled off the blossom, washed the stem (if you were me-- plenty of kids didn't), and chewed it, then threw away the roughage. I have always liked sour things and I loved it. It also seemed to be a quite effective appetite suppresant in the short term, so if I'd eaten my after-school snack and it was hours until my mom would pick me up and I didn't have enough change after foraging in my backpack to go to the grocery store and get a bagel, I'd eat sourgrass.
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orlox
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http://www.playlist.com/standalone/29114892/yes
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ketchupqueen
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[Big Grin]

Have you ever heard the words Michelle Shocked wrote to it? You can find the lyrics and a 30 second clip at AOL music (sorry I'm on the computer I can't link from or I'd link you.)

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theCrowsWife
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I thought I had posted to this thread, but I guess I navigated away before I actually did. Anyhow, there are lots of wild foods in eastern Ohio, and we learn more every year. I've foraged for black raspberry, blackberry, black walnut, black cherry, and two kinds of grapes (riverbank and frost). I recently read that stinging nettles can be eaten before they flower, so I plan to try that next spring. There are also ground cherries (closely related to tomatillos) around, but I haven't ever found any. Oh, and there are a couple of volunteer apple trees in our forest, one of which actually produces fairly decent fruit.

We also go to West Virginia every year to pick wild blueberries and huckleberries. This year, we might go back for the wild cranberry harvest as well.

--Mel

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by ketchupqueen:
Oh! I forgot one we used to eat as kids-- "sourgrass." Actually it was the crunchy, juicy stems of the flowers of some kind of local clover or clover-type plant. You picked the flower, pulled off the blossom, washed the stem (if you were me-- plenty of kids didn't), and chewed it, then threw away the roughage. I have always liked sour things and I loved it. It also seemed to be a quite effective appetite suppresant in the short term, so if I'd eaten my after-school snack and it was hours until my mom would pick me up and I didn't have enough change after foraging in my backpack to go to the grocery store and get a bagel, I'd eat sourgrass.

Curious, the kids in my neighbourhood did this too. Even had the same name for it, 'surgress', sour grass. It doesn't seem likely that it was the same species, though. Never heard of anyone washing the stuff, though - how sissy! A bit of diarrhea builds character.

Then there was the plant whose name I don't recall, whose flower consisted of purplish tubes, maybe a cm long and a mm in diameter. If you were careful you could suck a sweet liquid out of each stem. Presumably it was there to attract pollinators. Not much actual food in it, for a human, but it tasted great.

There were small, sour apples on a tree in one of our neighbours' yards; nobody particularly cared if the kids 'stole' some. My friend's back yard had a plum tree, and his mother grew rhubarb. My father is a teacher at the naval academy; there are plenty of blueberries on its grounds, with armed guards! (Actually, they don't carry weapons as a general thing. But guards, anyway.) Alas, the best field was reduced to rubble when they expanded the old wing to make the new navigation simulator. Such is progress.

[ August 25, 2008, 01:11 PM: Message edited by: King of Men ]

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orlox
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I haven't heard the Michelle Shocked version. I seem to have lost track of her career of late!

Say, anyone know of a good use for lemon balm? We are overrun with the stuff. How is citronella extracted?

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Then there was the plant whose name I don't recall, whose flower consisted of purplish tubes, maybe a cm long and a mm in diameter. If you were careful you could suck a sweet liquid out of each stem. Presumably it was there to attract pollinators. Not much actual food in it, for a human, but it tasted great.

We had one of these too but it had yellow flowers and grew on a bush!

I washed the sourgrass because my dad is a doctor, my mom is a nurse, I had germs pounded into my head, and we lived in a suburban area (which both increased the probability of pollution and increased the number of handy water fountains around for washing things.)
quote:
I haven't heard the Michelle Shocked version. I seem to have lost track of her career of late!
Well, this was a looong time ago. [Smile] It's on Arkansas Traveller, which I think is not in "print" any more and came out in the 90s (I think.)
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orlox
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Apparently, I'm getting old. In my mind there was Short, Sharp, Shocked, Texas Campfire Tapes, somethingorother about Green then a big blank. [Big Grin]
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Artemisia Tridentata
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quote:
A desert would be tough, yeah
OK Speaking up for the desert, it's tough alright. But, there are rose hips all over any little canyon. If the Canyon has running water for most of the year, there will be elderberrys, chokecherrys and willows in case you have a headache. Out on the flat, there is Mormon tea (ephedra). Any self-respecting desert has ripiarian areas. The roots of cat-tails cook like, and kind of taste like, Jerusalem Artichokes. The best aspargus ever grows by the bushel along almost any fenced ditch. As a kid, we used to spend most Sunday afternoons, in the spring, driving down by the Great Salt Lake picking aspargus. By the end of June we were tired of it. Best of all are pinyon nuts. You can roast them and eat them like peanuts. Or you can grind and winnow them to make a flour substitute. (grind, winnow, grind) Use the flour to thicken the rabbit stew you make with the odd jack-rabbit that happens past. Oh, I forgot watercress. If the water is clean enough to drink, there will be watercress.
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Eaquae Legit
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Someone once showed me the edible bit of cattails/bullrushes, but I forgot which bit it was and I've never been able to find it again. Sounds like heaven with the asparagus!
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scholarette
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In the actual desert, there can be some yummy stuff. But city around desert tends to be pretty scarce. Phoenix area- lots of rock yards with cacti.
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Eaquae Legit
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Do any cacti produce fruit? What does cactus water taste like, does anyone know? (It was featured in a survival story in elementary school, and I've always been curious.)
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scifibum
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I tasted cactus once. It was like a less-flavorful, more slimy cucumber. If you have an aloe plant around, taste that.
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Eaquae Legit
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But I like aloe... (Which reminds me that we have an abandoned aloe plant in the hallway. Hmmm...)
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Artemisia Tridentata
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There are three cactus products that are very commonly eaten in Mexico. Tuna: Which is the fruit of some types of prickly pear. (Old movie buffs will remember Baloo the Bear picking some during his bear necessities song). Tuna comes in red and green. It needs to be peeled before eating. The peel takes away the spines. The red ones kind of taste like rasberry. The green ones taste a little like kiwi fruit. Both fruits have lots of seeds. You just crunch them and eat on. Nopal: Which is the leaf of some types of prickly pear, that is peeled and cut into strips, then cooked like string beans. They have a mild kick to them and make a good side dish with beans and rice. And the ever popular Pulke: That is the fermented sap of the Maguay cactus. The raw sap or Agua Miel ferments very rapidly. So fast you can't keep it in a closed container, or it would explode. When fermented, it has a refreshing carbonated, yeasty flavor, kind of like the dregs from homebrewed Root Beer, if anyone is familar with that. Water from a barrel cactus has a slight grassy taste. It is not unpleasant. I've had jam made from Sauaro too. It tastes like jam.
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ketchupqueen
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I like prickly pear (only red is usually sold/growing where I live) but it is INCREDIBLY sweet. My kids love it. It doesn't taste like raspberries at all to me. More like super-sweet red currants crossed with star fruit.
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scholarette
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I picked fruit from a sagauro before. And then we had a meal of desert food. It was pretty yummy. Lots of crunchiness.
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theCrowsWife
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I still have a lot of prickly pear jelly that I made when we lived in Tucson. If I'd had the time and inclination, I could have made gallons of it from the fruit just on our land. It's delicious, but my experience with commercial prickly pear products is that they are way too sweet and don't really taste like prickly pear. I think they must water down the juice or something. Or maybe the ones on our property were a more flavorful species. I don't know.

--Mel

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Tatiana
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I taught Grisha and BunnV how to eat honeysuckle! It's so fun, you pull out the little stamen or pistils or whatever and if you're lucky there will be a drop of nectar that tastes sweet to your tongue. I also taught them how to make clover chains.

When we were kids we picked wild blackberries and mom would make a cobbler from them. It took tons of sugar because the wild berries were so sour. [Smile] It was great, though!

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ketchupqueen
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I have never seen commercial prickly pear products! Well, maybe jelly ONCE at the Farmer's Market. Mostly around here you can get pre-picked fruit at the grocery or produce store, or you can go out and pick your own.
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LargeTuna
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catarpillars ate my parsley plat [Frown] ... at least they don't like eating sage, i couldnt bear to lose both of my fav herbs. [Big Grin]
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theCrowsWife
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Oh, I only saw prickly pear products at the touristy places in Arizona. You know, the kind of place that would sell you seeds to grow a giant saquaro of your very own. They had jelly and lollipops for sure...I think there were probably also syrups.

--Mel

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scifibum
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I had a prickly pear lollipop from a tourist trap once. It didn't taste like anything other than sugar. Big disappointment.

I'm almost certain I should be able to find Mormon tea around me. I want to try it out because the new substitute for pseudoephedrine doesn't work at all as far as I can tell, and I don't like lining up for my Sudafed at the pharmacy like its a methadone clinic.

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ketchupqueen
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I tried four pharmacies and none of them even CARRY regular Sudafed products anymore. They ONLY carry Sudafed PE. I'm pretty sure that Target's pharmacy still carries it but it's out of the way, closes early, and they're the ONLY ones that carry it. I'm a bit annoyed because I didn't want to expose my kids to the PE (I was buying Childrens' Sudafed, obviously) because my sister has a bad reaction. Luckily they didn't react.

To make it worse, none of the other pharmacies carried a store brand Sudafed PE like product either, only the combination "cough and cold" formula. In fact I went to three before I found plain Sudafed brand Sudafed PE without added cough medicine. That really, really ticked me off, because I do NOT dose my skinny four year old and my two year old with combination drugs.

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rivka
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Not wanting to use unnecessary combinations is why I've always liked the Triaminic line. It's what my pediatricians recommend too.
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Eaquae Legit
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I had Triaminic as a kid. To this day I can't taste anything that remotely tastes like cough syrup. Actual cough syrup makes me vomit. I can't believe how incredibly awful that stuff tastes. It's like they're trying to scare kids out of being sick.
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