June 7, 2013

Almost Like Little House

For several summers, the kids have been bringing in handfuls of a weed they find in the goat field, calling it "wild mint," and making "perfume, bug spray, and foot wash" out of it by mashing it between rocks, swirling it in jars of water, etc.  You know.  The usual stuff a country kid would do with a smell-good weed.  A few times I've seen their play date guests leave with a nasty jar of foul looking liquid and when I ask, they say, "Oh, everyone wants a jar of our mint foot wash!"

Well, this week when a sudden stomach illness in a state park sent us home early from our vacation with Grandma Jamma and aunt Jeanie, the kids were sent out to the field to play so that ailing Grandma Jamma could sleep in peace.  When they came in, it was with a gift of wild mint.  Finally, I agreed to look it up and see if it is in fact a wild mint and if it's safe to take a taste of.  After some searching, we found that it is in the mint family, and is called lemon balm.  All of the first hits that came back to me when I searched lemon balm were for pesto recipes, so I sent Hannah Jane back out with a basket to gather some for a dinner billed to Mother Nature's tab.

She came in with tons of it and said, "I gathered a lot, but I wanted to leave some to grow for another meal.  Isn't it exciting?  It's almost like Little House on the Prairie!"  And it was exciting to identify a plant growing wild and use it in a meal.  It's the kind of thing I always say we should do, but never actually get around to.  So, yay for us!

haven pesto

Haven helped strip the leaves.  He happily packed it in the food processor with the walnuts and garlic and oil.  He was so excited about the idea of a meal from the wild that he could barely contain himself!  

lemon balm

Aunt Jeanie ended up offering to take the family out for dinner since we were technically supposed to be on vacation still, so the pesto had a night to sit in the fridge and let the flavors all blend.  Tonight, as I felt the stomach bug finally heading my way despite the myriad of old wives tales I had committed myself and the kids to today, it was great to have something easy to make for dinner and not have to call Joe and ask him to buy something on the way home from work.  I just boiled up the noodles and stirred in our much anticipated pesto sauce.  

pesto

Hannah Jane obviously wouldn't try any even though the thought had been so enchanting.  Hunter surprisingly said he hated it and asked me to rinse his noodles off, but when I went to rinse them, there were only 2 noodles left.  Haven adored it and wants it every day.  I liked it and Joe seemed to really enjoy it as well.  It had a very earthy flavor.  Not earthy as in bad, but I don't want to admit it, but earthy as in rich and bold flavor that my tongue has never experienced before.  I definitely want to have it again.  I think it might have been better with pine nuts and a little black pepper.  I improvised a little, combining the recipes that called for ingredients that I happened to have on hand.  For now, here's the recipe we used.

SAM_4815

In a food processor, combine:
2 packed cups of lemon balm leaves
1/2 cup of walnuts
6 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp minced garlic (or if you're one of those people who doesn't get your garlic from a jar, 3 cloves)
salt to taste

Joe, having been nervous about me letting the kids cook dinner from something they scrounged up in the goat field, did a little research of his own, and as I sat on the bed eating very little and fearing the feeling of the inevitable stomach bug upon me, mentioned that he read that lemon balm has anti-viral properties.  Handy for a day like today.  Maybe I should have the kids go gather up some more and make a tea from it and see if I can shorten the lifespan of this gut twister!  

I'm excited about our little wild find and can't wait to find more things we can make with lemon balm.  I'm also a little more motivated to see what else we can identify in the wild and cook with.  I have frienda who are way into this and I admire their skills, but have just never quite gotten up and done it.  But it was fun!  Maybe I'll take them up on their expertise!

2 comments:

  1. Yey Skyla! When I was "hiking" with your kids at the park a few weeks ago, I found some mint and offered it to them (taking a taste myself). Hunter said, "Ew, what if an animal peed on that!" It cracked me up! I told him to just eat a newer leaf, but he was not interested. It sounds like he's come a long ways! By the way, you can always tell it's mint if it has square stems. Way to use your foraging skills.

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  2. Haha! Rachel, that sounds just like Hunter. He once refused a rock from a geologist that was supposedly petrified dinosaur poop because it was disgusting. He's the biggest dinosaur fan I know, and he wouldn't get near it. If I didn't know better, I'd say he's just really hygienic! LOL! We washed the lemon balm, so he could stomach it. And Square stems, huh? I'll have to check that out!

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