Hawthorn Tea


Above left are the slices off the berries. Top right, the cores. Right, whole berries. Bottom, dried, ugly berries.

I was making some Hawthorn Tea and decided to do a quick post.
Here is what you will find by the hypersensitives on the internet.
First, most of them are more worried about amygdalin, a chemical similar in structure to cyanide, but which is not cyanide. (actually it is a cyanogenic glycoside)
It is found in the hawthorn berry seeds.
I ask myself (because as a hermit I often talk to myself and my dog) how many people have I known that have died from eating apple cores. I have known personally several people who have crunched the whole apple all their lives. And they are very healthy. And I have done it too.
Not to mention Hawthorn berries that myself and millions others have consumed for thousands of years.
So here is my warning.
If you are concerned about a minute amount of amygdalin, or most anything else in wild edible foods, or you panic when a product you buy on Amazon says something about the state of California’s opinion, then maybe you should stay away from all wild foods.

Nature is weird. It combines many things in the foods it provides for living creatures. It is not made up of isolated chemicals in a factory like other processed food. Bits and pieces of many chemicals are in every natural thing you eat. If you saw a chemical analysis of every plant you consume (like the ingredients on processed food)you would never touch the stuff. Well, if you are easily panicked.
A hawthorn berry contains MANY other chemicals that do marvelous things for people. Including (quick search because I don’t want to get in too deep):
“angina, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, cholesterol, irregular heart beat and even congestive heart failure and it is an anti-inflammatory”
So that is my soapbox speech. I do know that most of the people on the internet warning about amygdalin in Hawthorn aren’t really worried about it themselves. They are worried about lawyers and lawsuit happy idiots who are out to steal money from people and not take responsibility for themselves.
On to my tea.
I had noticed that most people online who talk about hawthorn tea seem to have never really made it. Their descriptions are not very accurate. Even for as simple as it is. They say get the berries (not when) and make the tea and enjoy. (that ‘enjoy’ thing must be from some TV cooking show I’ve never seen.  Because people online feel the need to put it at the end of every post. Just like ‘yummy’)  So people get berries and make the tea and it is not wonderful as described.
You can make the tea from the leaves or the berries.
The leaves are healthy but not great as a tea by themselves. Much better mixed with dried flowers.  And even the berries are not that great tasting by if you include the whole berry.  The ripe ‘meaty’ part is best and a bit sweet.
But leaves mixed with flowers do have a hint of rose hip tea and can be quite good.
I use mostly the berries when they are available.  
You can dry them. But they do not dry like other teas you are used to. They dry like the sugar containing fruit that they are. They never really dry completely. They shrivel, get ugly and are still squishy. Like raisins and other dried fruit.
You can also make them whole. Which requires boiling for quite a few minutes to actually get anything out.
I prefer slicing the outside off of them like you are cutting the fruit off the core of an apple. (which you are since they are the same family)
It takes time, which is the blessing we all have but don’t make good use of.
The outside is sweet. Well, sweeter. You need to get it right in it’s “sweet spot”, where it is fully ripe, but not yet shrivelling or rotten. Again, just like how you harvest apples.
So I slice the “meat” off and make tea with it fresh if possible. And steep in boiled water like any tea. But I also dry them for use later.
And as I said, they still don’t taste great. But pretty decent.
I always add some other flavor too. Like today I have added Apple Mint.
The two together are much better than either one by itself.
I also add sassafras, birch bark, and many other foraged plants.

The cut berry pieces in the tea ball infuser. And some Apple Mint.

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North Country Trail, Allegheny National Forest

A short introduction and walk on the North Country Trail in the Allegheny National Forest near Kellettville, PA.

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Pickled Milkweed Pods

(These recipes are a work in progress for the Hermit to store gathered recipes or ideas. Many have not been tried or perfected. Try them at your own risk.)

I have eaten many boiled milkweed pods. This year I am trying out pickling them. This is a basic pickling recipe I will try as soon as the pods are ready. As of today some plants already have pods but most are still in the flowering stage. Don’t wait too long to collect or the fluff starts to develop inside. I like about 1 to 2 inch pods. They are crunchier.

Pickled Milkweed Pods

8 cups young milkweed pods
2 cups vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 cup lemon juice (or more vinegar if desired)
Spices as desired (ie. cloves, garlic, onion, pepper)
Pack jars with pods
Mix other ingredient and bring to boil
Add hot liquid to the jars
Water bath for 10 minutes if desired (not needed as vinegar preserves)
Here is how I actually prepared them.
I gathered and cleaned them.

I lightly simmered for a few minutes to wash away some latex. Not all but most washed out.

From there I veered off the recipe.

That’s right. I added them to hot peppers, carrots, brocolli, garlic and ginger.
I simply packed the jars, added about half a tsp canning salt and some Creole seasoning. Then I boiled half vinegar and half water. Poured the hot vinegar water over the hot mix and put the lids on.
That’s it. No water bath. No pressure. Just crunchy vinegar pickled vegetables.
This is the same basic hot mix I made with my dad for years. I just added milkweed pods
As the jars cool the lids vacuum seal. We kept them through the winter lined up on our basement wall with all of our other canned vegetables and soups. We never owned a pressure canner.

And by the way. I know the internet has made everyone scared of living. So much so that you will be told if you don’t pressure can most low acid vegetables or meats you will die.
Guess what? Even if you do everything correct, sterilize everything and pressure cook everything until it is mush it is STILL possible that a botulism spore could be hiding in a jar.
Pressure canners were not even available to most until relatively recently.
So how did we survive?
Very simple. Vegetables that are not high acid or have acid vinegar added were just water bathed. This kills bacteria, including botulism. It does not kill the botulism spores. So over time the spores CAN (not always or even very often) develop into bacteria and the bacteria produce toxins (Bo-tox that makes certain politicians look like wax mannequins) that can kill you.
But you don’t just crack the jar open and pour it down your throat.
The growth of bacteria cause gas which will break the seal.
It also makes the food look bad. When you open it it will smell bad.
At that point you throw it out.
But in reality you could still eat it.
Botulism bacteria itself can be eaten. Your stomach will kill it.
And most importantly don’t eat your food raw.
Heating the food will kill the bacteria AND it will neutralize (officially called denature) the botulism toxin.
All it takes is 160 degrees for about 5 mintues (not even boiling although it is best to bring to a boil). Not even regular cooking.
The only part of botulism that is deadly is the toxin that you just neutralized (made safe) by heating it.
In summary. Heat those water bathed beans, even if you ignore all the other signs that they went bad or enjoy eating rotten, smelly beans, and you will be fine.
There are plenty other bacteria that might not kill you but could make you sick. (stomach ache and diarrhea).
High heat will also take care of them but the food will still taste and smell just as bad.
And finally…
Shockingly, this applies to canning meat too.
I know. You’ve been told on the internet that people are dropping dead everywhere by not pressure canning their meat.
If you have a pressure canner go ahead a use it and feel superior in your belief that you will never get sick again. You still could anyway because you get cocky thinking you are protected and not heat your food.
But if you aren’t independently wealthy, or the seal failed on your pressure canner and you have no way to replace it, you can water bath canned meat too. JUST COOK IT BEFORE YOU EAT IT. And as always pay attention to the normal signs of spoilage. It isn’t rocket surgery.
Like I said, even if you followed all safety rules for pressure canning, botulism could still form so you could get very sick eating ANYTHING not well pickled, right out of the jar.
Cook it after opening.
Of course this doesn’t apply to higher acid items such as jams and preserves. Or items pickled in vinegar.
And by the way, many of my canning recipes are vinegar pickling. This is because I like vinegar. And also I am lazy and vinegar pickling is very easy. I keep saying vinegar pickling because there is also fermentation pickling which I might cover later. This actually uses good bacteria to preserve by blocking out bad bacteria. Sauerkraut is a form of this. As a kid I punched a lot of cabbage in a crock down in the basement.

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Freedom – No Grids To Be Seen

Finally. Yesterday I closed the sale of my house. No more mowing. No more upkeep. No more utilities. No more property taxes. On that house.

I bought it in 2000. Raised my daughter there. I haven’t lived there for years but have had to maintain it.

Now my only regular bills are vehicle license, inspection, insurance and registration. And the much lower property taxes for my land.

No electric bills, No gas bills, No water, sewage and trash bills.

Zero debt! In fact I’ve been debt free for years. Here’s the obligatory, if late, shout out to Dave Ramsey. “I’m Debt Free!!!”

And most of all. NO MORE TRIPS TO TOWN!!!

I really feel free.

I’ve been waiting months for the sale to complete before I go on an extended camping trip. I plan on leaving Monday. Just in time for September and cool weather.

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The Pithole Hermit – Ramblings at the Hickory Creek Wilderness

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The Pithole Hermit – What is Pithole?

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A Walk in the Allegheny National Forest

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The Pithole Hermit – A short tour of his off-grid camp

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Day is Done

Yeah. I got bored. I have made it 9 days and don’t care to go all 30. I know I am capable. But living on just wild vegetables is not only boring but also drains all my energy. I have no energy to do other tasks or even take walks with my dog. I could survive on it but who wants to? I don’t know how vegetarians do it. Manufactured supplements I guess. No wonder cultures who just gathered vegetables never had any other accomplishment. They were too weak.

Here is a PDF of the original 30 days I actually completed in 2010. But I had meat then. And I was younger. I never did video then.

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Day 9 – Snow Day

Yes, it is snowing today. I will be munching on leftovers of previous plants. The ones that don’t wilt.


Here is a video of the spring sunshine.

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