When I was an anthropology undergraduate student one of my professors always liked to point out to us that this part of the country (the southeast, and most particularly the midsouth) had/has the most biodiversity in both plants and animals of the land of the United States. The indigenous culture here (Mississippian Culture mound builders) built temple mounds second only to those in Mexico in height, and the temple complex/cities, including Chuckalissa here in the Memphis area and Pinson in the Jackson, TN area, and of course Cahokia further north on the Mississippi, were home to populations larger than most European cities at the time. The Mound Building people farmed extensively, had trade routes extending to Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) and population centers in the southwest, and harvested the bounty that our woods and fields here continue to offer: nuts, blackberries, muscadines, passion fruit, pawpaws, jerusalem artichokes, acorns, persimmons, elderberries, and more. I grew up picking these free offerings in the woods and along the roads around here and in the "mother earth"days of the 1970's while I was in college, learned to can and make fruit leathers to preserve the free harvest (adding in crabapples, which a lot of subdivision home owners planted as ornamental trees).
|elderberry flower head|
Those woods and fields and country roads with dirt paths along side are pretty much gone now from my suburban town, but I try to maintain a bit of the feeling in my own yard. These are pictures from my back of the driveway elderberry grove. It's thriving, with plants towering above the back fence. In June and July there were huge heads of almost hydrangia like blooms.
In August the bloom give way to 8 inch in diameter umbrellas of ripening berries. Usually the ripe berries only stay on the bush a moment before being eaten up by birds, but this year I have been able to harvest a lot myself. I don't know if it's because there is more fruit set than the wildlife can eat this year or if the wildlife is feasting better elsewhere (like on my figs and tomatoes, which I find pecked, picked, and littered around the back yard!).
|the ripened fruit|
Thank goodness for being able to plunk berries into freezer bags and into the freezer, to wait for cooler days to transform them into jam or syrup. A mere 50-60 years ago women would have been sweating over enormous kettles of boiling fruits and vegetables, steaming cauldrons of water to immerse the jars containing the garden harvest, without the relief of the air conditioning that we now retreat to recover from a trip to the mailbox!
Linked to Tuesday Garden Party