Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


Easter wildflower hike

We took our annual Easter wildflower hike last weekend. For the past six years, we’ve spent a few hours Easter Sunday on the Austinville section of the New River Trail State Park.

With notebook and pen, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and water, we look for now-familiar flowers and identify new ones. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks now, especially since this will be our final Easter walk on the New River Trail. This year, we left Newcomb’s and the notebook at home.We were too tired from painting the ramp in front of our house, so I captured what I could with my point-and-shoot Kodak camera.

The recent cold snaps didn’t hurt the plants as much as we expected they would. Many of the cut leaf toothwort, Dutchmen’s breeches and wild columbine blooms had fallen victim to the cold, but some of the stragglers were budding or in bloom. The weather was perfect — sunny, but not too warm.

In addition to the blooms, we saw a black Eastern tiger swallowtail, a comma or question mark and a female mallard.

Here are some of the plants we found:

Dutchmen's breeches

Dutchmen’s breeches

Wild columbine

Wild columbine

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bellwort

Bellwort

More violets

Violets

Violets

More violets

Star chickweed

Star chickweed

Hepatica with a spring beauty bloom

Hepatica with a spring beauty bloom

Ginger

Ginger

Virginia waterleaf

Virginia waterleaf

Early Mayapples

Early Mayapples


Flowers in bloom

Last weekend, Chris and I made, what’s becoming an annual Easter trip, to the Austinville end of the New River Trail State Park.

Like last year, we recorded the flowers we saw and the number and type of butterflies and birds we saw.

On Sunday we saw:

Flowers —

Cut Leaf Toothwort

Rue Anemone

Bloodroot

Dutchmen’s Britches

Fragrant Sumac (or, possible, Spicebush)

Coltsfoot

Butterflies — 4 blues, 4 morning cloaks, a painted lady, a question mark (or comma)

Morning Cloak

Question Mark (or a Comma)

Birds — kingfisher, cardinal


Easter Egg hunting in the fall and a Christmas flop

Have you heard of the pawpaw fruit?

Many people may be familar with the traditional childhood folk song that refers to them, but many people have never actually seen or tasted a pawpaw.

According to The PawPaw Foundation, the fruit is a native to the Americas and can be found near creeks and rivers in forests of eastern United States. The fruit sort of looks like a banana and has a very tropical scent.

Chris and I have five, fruit-producing pawpaws at the bottom of our property and there are several more smaller ones growing but not yet old enough to produce fruit.

My grandmother, whom I affectionately call Nannie, was so excited to learn we had pawpaw trees. She used to sit under her uncle’s pawpaw trees and eat the fruit with her cousin, Madeline. She immediately ate one earlier this season when I brought a few to share with her.

The last couple of years have been too dry for the sensitive trees to produce any fruit. But this year we had a bounty.

So, I decided to gather some of the fruit and turn them into preserves. It was like Easter egg hunting in the fall. Supposed to be 3-6 inches in length, our longest fruit was 3 inches. I had to search among tall, green grasses and weeds to find the grass-colored, egg-shaped fruit.

Deseeding the fruit was not fun. It took hours to find the best way to extract the long, slender seeds. Chris and I finally decided the best way was to separate the seeds from the fruit was to use a colander with big holes and to manually pick out the seeds from the cooked fruit.

I used this recipe from the Kentucky State University for the preserves:

Pawpaw Preserves
12 pawpaws (about 5 lbs.)
2 cups water
3/4 cups sugar
1 lemon
1 orange

Peel pawpaws. Put in kettle with water, without removing seeds. Boil until soft, then put through a sieve. Add sugar and juice of orange and lemon. Boil until thick. Grated rind of organge or lemon may be added. Put in sterilized jars and seal.

I tried the fruit for the first time this Sunday. I wasn’t impressed. Neither was Chris. But I’m not one for citrus type preserves, such as citron, so maybe it’s just not my thing.

The Kentucky State University site also lists several other types of recipes that I’m willing to try, such as cookies.

Needless to say, the pints I stashed away for Christmas may not make it into gift bags. Except maybe Nannie’s. She loves pawpaws.