Thursday, April 13, 2017 8:31 AM
There was a spindly tree that grew just off of the front porch of our city house. Its trunk was thin, and its scraggly branches seemed to go every which way with no rhyme or reason at all. And every spring, I had to be careful not to park under it, or my car would be covered with a blanket of small red flowers.
I often thought of cutting it down, but when we sold the city house the odd little tree was still there, peeking out from the side of the front porch and leaning out across the driveway. After holding what was surely the world’s largest yard sale, we moved to the creek.
That first spring, I was amazed to find similar red budding trees growing everywhere, not peeking out from behind city houses, but majestically growing much taller and straighter along the edges of our farm fields. I thought that they were beautiful, decorating the early spring hills with a splash of color that contrasted perfectly with the new growing green.
Our first few years at the creek we had so very much to learn, and when I heard that there was going to be a presentation about wild edibles a few hours’ drive east, I knew just what to do. I set the alarm and woke Greg early one morning, and off we headed in the predawn darkness.
The presentation was in an old school gymnasium. Folding wooden chairs were spread out across the floor in front of a wooden stage. I smiled to see that the stage was decorated with my familiar red-flowered boughs.
At the appointed time, there was not a single empty seat, and quite a few folks set out more of the wooden folding chairs.
The organizer took center stage, and after a few words of welcome, introduced the featured speaker, Miss Edelene Wood. She was a sprightly older lady, easily in her 80s, who hailed from the nearby mountains.
She had stalked the wild asparagus with her dear friend, Euell Gibbons. She was a wealth of knowledge, and she easily shared her vast understanding of wild things with the gathered crowd.
In time, she reached back and plucked a red-flowered bough from a vase by the side of the stage. As she continued to talk, she would take occasional nibbles of the flowers, and then, with a broad smile, she offered to share the bough with the gathered crowd.
She cautioned everyone to eat just one or two of the small redbud tree flowers. As with every wild food, one should just eat a small bit at first and then wait to see if there is any allergic reaction.
I eagerly waited, watching the small bough that was headed my way, and when the person sitting next to me passed it, I pinched off two of the small red flowers and popped them into my mouth. Their flavor exploded boldly and pleasantly across my tongue.
They were amazingly crisp, almost crunchy, and had an almost citrus taste to them. They were delicious.
And I learned that redbud flowers are not only edible, but are amazingly high in vitamin C. They can be added as a garnish to salads, pickled in apple cider vinegar and frozen in ice cubes for mid-winter thawing and enjoyment. The twigs can be placed in a roasting pan to add a splash of spice to meat, hence the folk name Spicewood.
So if you happen to pass down the creek road over the next week or so, you might just find Greg and I chewing on a redbud twig as we walk the dogs, or if you happen to stop by a bit later in the evening, you will likely find us dining on a festive salad, brightly adorned with crisp redbud flowers.
If only I had known when we lived in the city!
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.