A brief shower fell sometime in the night, washing the summertime dust from the leaves of the trees and refreshing the flowerbeds. The evening primrose shines pale yellow after the refreshing rain, and the garden drinks greedily of the needed moisture.
The evening primrose is a unique plant. It opens at dusk and remains open through late morning. I have always loved its clean, lemon scent, and it is able to perfume an entire garden. I’ve always known that primrose oil has many medical uses, but research tells me that the entire plant is also edible. The leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable (greens?) and the flowers make a beautiful salad garnish.
I discovered that primrose oil has many uses — it is used for preventing high blood pressure in pregnancy and also for PMS, endometriosis and hot flashes during menopause. Acne and eczema patients find it quite useful for their condition. I’ve always valued it for its wonderful aroma, but it seems that it is far more valuable for medicinal usage.
Summer seems anxious to make her departure, as Joe-pye weed and goldenrod make their appearance. Rose of Sharon bushes still present their warm and colorful blossoms, from deep rose to lavender and deep purple. Mom’s mother, Laura Alice Dodd Samples, cherished her “Rosy-churn” bushes. It was years before Mom knew she was speaking of Rose of Sharon! Yard flowers at that time included hollyhocks and black-eyed Susans, which I still favor. I remember the cosmos that Mom planted around our yard when I was a little girl, and in my mind, I can still smell their spicy scent. Fragrances seem to bring back many long ago memories, as honeysuckle brings back high school graduation and heirloom roses remind us of Memorial Day.
Autumn flowers are not scented like the delicate flowers of spring, although their colors are more vivid. Ironweed brings the deep purple color and brilliant blue of the flower we once called blue gentians, but that is not their name at all. They are a low-blooming, bushy little flower, and I wish someone would identify it for me. Asters will soon be blooming, and the New England type are some of the most beautiful. There are many varieties here in West Virginia, and they are all lovely.
Summer is on the wane — the gardens have a ragged look; bedecked by wild morning glories in a riot of color. A late summer fragrance hangs over the garden composed of ripe corn tassels, sweet clover and late cucumber blossoms. The creek runs low and drowsy, while above it the elderberries hang in glossy black clusters. Potato vines turn dry and brown, and orange pumpkins grow fat as the vines creep through the late corn patch. Harvest time is almost here.
Soon the summer will be ended — the farewell dirge of the katydids is a lonesome sound in the night, and the plaintive quirring of the tree frogs add a melancholy note. The nights are becoming blessedly cooler, and the mornings are misty and fall-like. There is a harvest of wild foods for the gathering. Elderberries make a delicious jelly, especially when lemon juice is added. Mom used to combine it with apple juice, and she also combined apple juice and wild grape juice for jams and jellies.
Another wild food appearing at this time is green milkweed pods. Believe it or not, they are really good (I think!) I fixed some when we lived on Phillip’s Run, near Summersville, and fed them to one of our truck drivers. He chewed them reflectively, and then made his decision, “It’s not bad. In fact, it’s sort of good. A little different; kind of like a cross between green beans and broccoli.” (Thank you, Rusty.)
They did look a little peculiar, but the texture was tender and chewy, and the flavor was good. There was a slight tinge of bitterness, but that was probably due to my blanching process. They have to be blanched in boiling water at least three times. If I were able to get out and gather some, I’d try them again.
If you are lucky enough to have sweet corn in your garden, I was sent a tip for freezing it from my friend Gloria. She says, “Barely shuck it, leaving several leaves on the cob. Pull out most silks, wrap in waxed paper, and then foil. Place it in freezer bags and freeze. To cook, thaw in refrigerator overnight, and then cook in water, or in covered pot in the microwave oven.” She adds that this truly tastes fresh, and it is so easy.
She gave another method for cooking fresh corn. She says to put a cooler outside, add the corn, and cover it with boiling water, Close the lid for 30 minutes — no peeking! This is perfect for fresh or thawed corn on the cob.
My late friend, Norma Gray, used to cut corn off the cob, simmer it with butter, and then freeze it. It was absolutely delicious! I don’t know if she cooled it before she froze it, or how she did it. I do know it was so good.
Another late summer wild food is the little meadow mushrooms. They usually appear after a rain shower, and are brownish white on top and pink ruffled underneath. I have always relished them with an egg for breakfast. I remember one year when they were so bountiful that Mom made canned mushroom soup with them.
I am so thankful that the Heavenly Father has let us live here in the hills where wild foods are plentiful, and His beautiful handiwork is seen all around us. I have lived here in the same spot for almost all my 84 years. I was a year old when my parents brought me here, and except for a year in Kanawha County and one year in Jackson County, this has been my home. I aim to stay here until God calls me home.