I see the purple bunches of berries hiding behind the pokey, holly-like leaves every summer. I walk past them without a thought, thinking “most likely poisonous”.
For five years I’ve never given Oregon Grapes so much as a second glance – until my husband picked up a fifteen-dollar book on local edibles. Now when we go out, he’s always on the alert and you’d be amazed at what you’re missing if you live near the woods.
Everywhere we’ve always walked, hiked, gardened, and just been – there are tons of wild plants you can eat, use as a medicine or make tea out of.
Dandelions, Bear Berries, Cat Tails, Rose Hips, Oregon Grapes, Miner’s Lettuce…you could walk outside with a bottle of dressing and have a salad within minutes and within a hundred feet of your front door.
Last week we grabbed some containers and scoured the hillsides of our property for Oregon Grapes. The berries are a deep purple and grow in bunches – like grapes. They’re bitter and will need sugar to make into jam – or jelly.
When we got back to the RV, we spilled our bags out like Trick or Treaters to see who’d picked the most. A trip to the store for a large pot, some pectin, and jars was all we needed to prepare for The Jam Making or The Making Of The Jam – or jelly.
This was a first for both of us but it was my husband’s project. We had several recipes floating around, some slightly contradictory and all of them missing important information such as “when or do you squish the berries before or after boiling them?” and some other “holes” we had to fill in.
My husband did most of the work but I stuck my nose in a couple of times when asked for an opinion. Together we managed to not mess it up and some guessing later, he had the mixture in the containers and ready to can or jar.
The jarring or canning part has to be done carefully but after following the directions from five different publications, we had Oregon Grape Jelly or Jam. The jars have to cool for about twenty-four hours for the contents to set and for the lid to seal.
Then came the first taste: good. No, better than good: excellent!
We’ve spent the past week discovering new ways to enjoy the stuff. Corn bread with melted butter and Oregon Grape Jam or Jelly, peanut butter and Oregon Grape Jam or Jelly sandwiches, cheese and crackers with a dab of Oregon Grape Jam or Jelly.
I’m sold but is it jam or jelly and canning or jarring?
Next – Rose Hips Tea.