Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Trip Report, a Song, and a Recipe: Paw Paws on the Potomac

One of the best parts of keeping a nature journal is knowing when to look for things. And one of the best parts of leading nature walks is having a dozen pairs of eyes all looking for things with you (as long as they're willing to share!). It doesn't always work -- weather can be unpredictable, shifting seasonal patterns off by a few weeks in one direction or another. But when it works it's so sweet.

Sharing pawpaws
And it was literally sweet to find ripe pawpaws on Saturday, with a lovely group of folks from around the DC area. The fruits are just starting to drop, so keep an eye out over the next few weeks and you may be in for a treat. One of our walkers was reminded of an old song:

Pickin' up pawpaws and puttin 'em in her pockets...way down yonder in the pawpaw patch

Listen to the tune and you, too, can have it stuck in your head all week!

cracking open walnuts
Cracking and eating black walnuts

We also found black walnuts, as we'd hoped (Matt brought a few extras just in case). We spent some time along the river cracking them open with rocks. It's easy to imaging people doing the same thing hundreds of years ago, in the same spot: we were just across the river from the fishing weir at Scott's Run.

This pawpaw and black walnut combination reminded me of a cookie recipe that Matt got when he first started learning about wild edibles, from his classmate Leslie Plant:
Pawpaw Cookies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups mashed pawpaw pulp (for best taste, don't scrape too close to the skin)
1 cup chopped black walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, soda, and salt. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add lemon rind, flour mixture, and pawpaw pulp. Fold in black walnuts. Drop on greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Here's a full list of the things we stopped to look at on our walk. Links are to previous posts on the Natural Capital. Asterisks are the ones we ate, or talked about eating.

tiger swallowtail on woodland sunflower
Tiger swallowtail on woodland sunflower
Woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)
Wingstem (Actinomeris alternifolia)
New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)
Mistflower (aka Wild Ageratum, Eupatorium coelestinum)

With fruits, berries, nuts, or seeds
Spicebush* (Lindera benzoin)
Wood nettle* (Laportea canadensis)
Stinging nettle* (Urtica dioica)
Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)
Wild Rye* (Elymus sp.)
Black walnut* (Juglans nigra)
Wormwood/Sweet Annie (Artemesia sp.)
Bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformus)
Wild grapes* (Vitis sp.)
wild rye and the stems of wingstem
Wild rye and the winged stem of wingstem

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
Box elder (Acer negundo)
Blackberry* (Rubus allegheniensis)
Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Wild ginger* (Asarum canadense)

Sound fun? Our next walk will be to look for more nuts, including a spot we know where chestnuts grow, and whatever else we stumble upon along the way. Sign up here.