Dried Bay leaves are magnificent spice in meats, stews, and fowl.
Persea barbonea is abundant in the South. Gather the leaves
and dry them before use, either in the oven or on racks in the garage.
Lay a couple of Bay leaves on fish for broiling or put one or two in
the dressing when you fix your Thanksgiving bird.
Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
The narrow leaves of this
pretty shrub are, in our opinion, one of the world's
fine spices. They are especially good with seafoods, but also great in
meat and fowl.
Myrica is a chief ingredient of most commercial 'Crab-Boils."
A combination of this and Bay leaves makes the finest possible flavoring
for stuffing poultry.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
This tree produces more than tea.
The dried and powdered leaves are the
file' of gumbos, stews, and soups. Sassafras wood is the world's finest
for barbecue smoke. Add some to your oak or hickory next time you barbecue.
Good in everything. The tiny bulbs are tedious to clean, but marvellous in
food. The tops can be used in every way that you would use chives.
Smartweed (Polygonum species)
The peppery leaves are a good camp spice when you've left the black
pepper at home. The seeds of Peppergrass can be used the same way.
The ''fruit" of wild or cultivated roses. Rich in vitamin C, and good
as flavoring material in soups and stews.
Back to the flower garden! Put a Marigold flower or two in your soup
or stew. A bit like onion, but milder.
Our native violets (or the cultivated kinds) have a mucilaginous quality,
like Okra, which makes them nice in soups and stews.
The finest flour and bread material in North America, with the
possible exception of some of our native grasses, is the acorn.
The early settlers of the country found the Native Americans engaged
in an advanced agriculture. Many of the great food plants of today
were contributed by the American Indian. In addition to the things
they grew, the Indian tribes gathered fruits, nuts, and berries from
the wild. Somehow, the great harvest of acorns faded with the Indian
culture, and the pioneers missed the importance of this particular
Every year, America's oaks shed tons of nutritious nuts.
The only problem is how to harvest and how to utilize this bounty.
The Indians leached the tannic acid from acorns by either boiling
them or placing them in wicker baskets in a stream, where the running
water could tumble them for hours, removing all the tannin. Since we
have few streams in America anymore that are pure enough to utilize
this method, we will boil our acorns.
Try the white oak group, as they have large acorns and less tannic
acid than the dark oaks. Shell the acorns by cutting off the top,
and then split down the sides. Wash. Put the cleaned acorns in a
pot of water and heat. By the time the water boils, it will be dark
with the tannin. Pour it off, and repeat this several times until the
acorns no longer taste bitter. Then dry them slowly in the oven, and
use a grinder or blender to reduce tham to a dark flour.
This acorn flour can be used in almost any bread or biscuit recipe.
You may prefer mixing it with wheat flour. Every Thanksgiving, we
make acorn bread and muffins. When it's brought hot from the oven and
buttered, it has a good nutty flavor, and never lasts long.
Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)
An excellent tea can be made from the dried leaves of this native member
of the holly group. Strip the pointed twigs of the shrub, gathering both
newer and older leaves. Pick the trash out, wash the leaves, and then put
them in a pan or colander in the oven to dry. Keep the oven at about 200
degrees, and stir the leaves occasionally. When you can barely crisp the
leaves between your fingers, remove them from the heat and break them up.
Use exactly as you would use oriental tea leaves. They contain caffeine in
nearly the same amounts as oriental teas.
I once served this to a Lion's Club without telling them it wasn't a
standard tea brand. They kept coming for more, remarking how good the
tea was, and were incredulous when I told them it was Yaupon.
Horsemint (Monarda species)
The Monardas are all aromatic, have quite pretty flowers, and are very
common in eastern North America. Some of the native horsemints make
interesting teas. One, Monarda didyma, is the Oswego-Tea of the Indians
and early European settlers.
These plants make strong tea, and people usually like it a lot, or not at all.
We found that mixing some horsemint with a few strawberry leaves from the
garden, and then steeping the mixture, makes a heady and interesting drink.