Burdock & Rose

wildly-crafted plant tales from herbalist, forager & author lisa rose

Month: July, 2016

Wild Summer Refreshments: Sumac “Lemonade”

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In the middle of a hot and steamy July, there’s nothing like a tall glass of refreshing lemonade. But here in the Midwest, lemons aren’t local… but guess what? You can make that pitcher of lemonade – or a copycat “lemonade” without the lemons while using the staghorn sumac berries instead!

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Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina

“What,” you say? Lemonade without lemons??? Well, ok, so sumac “lemonade” would more appropriately be called a tea. But that’s besides the point… Infused in cold water overnight, the sumac berries of Rhus glabra and Rhus typhina make a great-tasting, refreshing sour and citrus-like beverage that is delicious on its own or simply sweetened with honey and garnished with lavender for an extra herbal flavor.

Common in hedgerows and at the edges of the field are the staghorn and smooth sumac (Rhus typhina and Rhus glabra respectively). Both sumacs are common native shrubs whose flower clusters ripen into deep red fruit clusters toward the end of July and into early September. For more tips on identifying sumac, get a copy of my book, Midwest Foraging to take with you into the fields! 

The berries – or drupes in botanical language – taste sour like lemonade. Use hand pruners to gather the drupes into a bucket, choosing the clusters that are most bright in color and most uniformly red. In the kitchen, separate the red and sour drupes from the stems – be warned there may be a scattering of small bugs as you sort the plants.

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To prepare: Pack the drupes into a jar and cover them with cold water. Let them soak for a day or so in the fridge. Strain the liquid into a serving pitcher and voila – a delicious pink lemonade! Serve cold over ice and garnish with sprigs of lavender.

To see my TV segment on Staghorn Sumac Lemonade and easy tips for foraging with kids, visit WZZM13 Online: Staghorn Sumac.

Foodservice from 35000 Feet

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Big Visions for Large Scale Agriculture

On a plane to Monterey. From 35,000 feet above the ground, I think about the stories of the farms below and the food that’s being grown for my table.

From this vantage point I cannot see the soil, rocks, insects, microbes, or the cover crops that shield the plants along the ground. I can’t see the grazing animals and the grasses that feed the cattle. I cannot see the hands of the people tending the plants or the trucks carrying them to market for sale.

But I can see the interrelationship of the farms to the landscape- the mountains, the rivers, the dams.

From this viewpoint, I can see the wind shadow that creates the dry areas of prairie. I can see the verdant green that runs along the riverbanks and the wind farms turning to a cadence of the wind flow to produce energy.

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Traveling to the Salinas Valley

As I travel to California to tour the farms of the Monterey coastline, I think about the complex systems we have in place to deliver food in large scale from the farm to the table. I think of the sustainability of these systems, and the opportunities for innovation that can come from companies like Gordon Food Service that I am working for now in my daytime work.

In my knapsack I carry 20 years of academic and professional experience in food systems. I’ve travelled a delicious journey over these 20 years. This Monterey trip will add another layer to my food systems understanding – this time from the perspective of a food service broadliner.

I plan to learn from our farmers, to draw insights how we can -as North America’s oldest, family owned and managed broadline food service company – highlight the value we bring to the table of our customers every day. To tell the story of what goes into the growing of our Markon brand of produce.

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Digging Deeper: Future of Foodservice

But I want to go deeper to understand what the potential is – as a private corporation – to shape a food system that is sustainable for the next generation. How we can create a demand for food that is grown in a way that hedges the challenges we face in agriculture in regards to land, water, oil, and labor.

Through our market endeavors, I believe that we can translate our Company’s values to grow a food system infrastructure that is good for people and the planet.

Our customers are demanding more from their farmers and suppliers. They want not only freshness and value, but know that the food’s been grown in a healthy manner for people and planet. I believe we can deliver on this challenge.

I look forward to seeing how this story unfolds. I’m betting it will be delicious. Our future as humans and planet depend on it.