The treetops surrounding the hillside between my window and the garden are filled with dozens of lovely Cedar Waxwing birds. Several at a time have been making quick visits to that big Pokeberry 'Tree' to grab the well ripened berries. That weed/shrub/tree has been feeding birds for months now. When we first moved to the Carolinas a few years ago Poke was the first 'new' plant I noticed and I fell in love with it, hence my blog and my garden have been given its name, I've taken it also for myself.
We've had several very cold nights and frosts now so my favorite big Poke plant no longer has any fresh leaves. The aging leaves hang from it looking sort of like small tobacco leaves drying in the rafters of a barn. The tall stems are no longer pretty bright red but are now just a reddish brown. The berries, which used to show a gorgeous combination of little white flowers, green pinkish and purple berries, are all nearly black now and hang in clusters full of many that have dried out and look like small raisins. There are still many juicy ones left however and so the birds continue to come.
This morning I've also see mockingbirds and a robin visit the bush.
This big 9 or 10 foot tall plant is dying back for winter. A fresh pretty plant will come up in early spring and at that time, for a little while, the leaves will actually be edible. Poke Salet is a spring green that used to be eaten far more than it is now. I was even comerically canned by Allen's at one time, perhaps also by other companies--I don't know.
The leaves have to be cooked in a particular way. There are various recipes. The ones I've seen call for more than one boiling and changes of water in between. Once the plant begins to mature they are no longer edible and all the parts of the poke plant are dangerous to humans--the berries-- I have read in one source can kill in pretty small doses. The birds love them however and their systems are equipped to digest them. The birds also help the plant grow because the seeds inside the berries have a hard coating that cannot germinate unless it first goes through the acids inside the bird--or it can be hand stratified by a gardener using a dip in acid--sulfuric acid, I believe.
I have some poke seeds but I've never tried to plant them. I don't really need to, the birds do a pretty good job of that in this part of the company.
Well, its always lovely for me to see extra feathered company feasting on my Pokeberry Tree. It puts a smile on my face and gives my day a happy start.
I'm busy here still working on things for Christmas. I am putting finishing touches on my Weasel's tux and top hat and then all my critters will be finished. I made a little washboard yesterday of paper mache and today it is getting its paint job. If it looks good to me I will make a couple more of those and some xxx jugs and wash tubs for the rest of my musical instruments. I think I may also make some stools for some of my critters to sit on while they hold their instruments. Some can stand very well on their own, others need help.
Other preps for Christmas I still need to do--I'm having my sons tune up two of the family vehicles and deep clean them for the trip. I am also baking banana bread and corn bread to take along. Those will travel frozen. I froze some empty 2 liter coke bottles for cooler ice for our trip. That is a free way to keep the cooler full of frozen things cold on our drive and it works much better than bagged ice. No mess in the cooler either! We do this when we go fishing too. Then we bring along lots of coolers of frozen pop bottles for our lunch and drinks and also to cool the fish we catch.
I love to use recycled containers. I use milk jugs to store dry beans and cornmeal and popcorn. I use plastic coffee cans for freezing soups and stocks and I recycle jars for spice mixes. I also use lots of cottage cheese and sour cream containers to store things in my fridge--like leftovers. My 'best' leftovers and my mise en place I usually keep in clear containers so I can SEE them and they get used. My rule for any chopped or minced onions in the fridge is they MUST be in sealed glass or hard plastic containers so they don't flavor the butter and things like that. I have a nifty little funnel I made myself out of some plastic disposable party cups and masking tape. It fits inside a milk jug and will sit there nicely while I pour in beans or corn for storage. I like the milk jugs because they hold alot and they are light to grab and carry and they are FREE!
Well back to my chores--there are plenty of them! I am right on pace though for Christmas so that's great!