Sylva Spoon

The Mighty Ash

Thomas BartlettComment
Decorated ash spoon handle

Gandalf's staff, Ron Weasley's wand, Achilles' spear. All ash. 

Ash has had a prominent place in many mythologies. It's Yggdrasil, the world tree, in Norse Mythology, connecting Heaven , Earth and Hel. Norse tradition also had the first man emerging from an ash tree. 

In Greek mythology, when Peleus wed Thetis, the centaur Chiron presented them with an ash shaft that their son, Achilles, later wielded against Hector. 

Pliny the Elder thought ash trees provided protection against snakes, writing that they would even avoid the shade provided by an ash tree. 

Before wood was replaced by steel, ash was a prominent choice for farm equipment, tool handles, boat frames and weapons. Even the WWII aircraft the de Havilland Mosquito, nicknamed the Wooden Wonder, had ash components. 

These days ash is under threat from the Emerald Ash Borer in the US and the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus in Europe. 

Trees for the Earth

Thomas BartlettComment
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
— Chinese proverb

Saturday is Earth Day.

47 years ago, on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. It directly led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

If you're in Madison, join me on the March for Science

By John McConnell (flag designer) https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32330734

Trees for the Earth

Last year the focus was on reforestation. It's a continuing campaign that aims to plant 7.8 billion trees by 2020.  

At the moment, agriculture is the main driving force behind deforestation. However, as noted above, over 20 countries have figured out how to increase food security while also increasing their forest cover. In fact, one of the members of the Madison Chop and Chat uses woodlands to raise their pigs.

Reforestation efforts have been undertaken by a whole host of different actors. South Korea has used a reforestation programme to help improve relations with North Korea. In the Appalachian region of the United States coal mining did tremendous damage. The ARRI has planted millions of trees in the region, repairing the damage, bringing back wildlife and creating sustainable forestry jobs. The two fellows, Jia Haixia and Jia Wenqi, planted 10,000 trees in 10 years. An average of three trees a day might not sound like a lot, but Haixia is blind, and Wenqi has no arms

Woodland on Hallasan, Jeju Island, South Korea.

Woodland on Hallasan, Jeju Island, South Korea.

Maintaining adequate forest cover is extremely important. Forests and trees support sustainable agriculture. They stabilise soils and climate, regulate water flows, give shade and shelter, and provide a habitat for pollinators and the natural predators of agricultural pests.

Forest cover on the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia. 

Forest cover on the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia. 

Trees are really good at absorbing carbon-dioxide. Carbon-dioxide is a major greenhouse gas, one of the main contributors to climate change. If we increase the amount of forests we have, we'll have a better chance of absorbing some of the CO2 we're emitting through burning fossil fuels. 

Researchers from Stanford University found evidence that suggests the Little Ice Age (c.1500 to 1750) was caused by the rapid decline in native human populations in the Americas due to diseases brought over by European explorers. This shows that a concerted effort to increase the number of trees today will help combat climate change. 
 


To help us all plant more trees I'll be including a free packet of birch seeds with all shop orders made through to the end of May.

 

 

Top 5 Wild Edible Plants to Forage

Thomas Bartlett1 Comment

Spring is in the air here in Wisconsin. Strange green things are starting to emerge from the ground. Some of them are make tasty snacks! Here are five tasty and easy-to-find edible wild plants. 

Before you head off an try a few of these delicacies for yourself I would recommend either spending some time with an expert, or getting a good Field Guide to properly identify the plants. One reason I like these five plants is that they're easy to identify. 

Be responsible with your foraging. Searching for, and eating wild food is a rewarding way to connect with your local environment. Remember that other species rely on these plants too. A good rule of thumb when foraging wild edibles is to only take from every seventh plant you find. This ensures that these wild edible plants can propagate and continue to supply you with wild food for years to come.


Dandelion

Dandelion illustration

  The whole of the dandelion plant is edible. You can make dandelion tea, roast the roots for dandelion coffee or just pick the young leaves for a green salad.

Cattails

Cattails are another edible wild plant with lots of different parts you can enjoy. For some recipes click here.

Plantain

plantain illustration

Not to be confused with the banana-like plant of the same name, this little weed has edible leaves you can boil like kale or spinach. The seeds can also be boiled like rice, or ground into flour. Some nice recipes here.

Ramps 

Illustration_Allium_ursinum1.jpg

One of the first edible plants to emerge in Spring, ramps are flavourful and nutritious. You often smell them before you see them.  They don't hang around for long, so here's a recipe that will let you store them for a while longer.

Morels

Morel mushrooms, good luck finding these! Morel mushroom hunting is a serious activity for a lot of folks. Those that have a good hunting ground are often quite secretive about it. Although there is a Wisconsin morel hunting Facebook Group.

 

What are your favourite wild foods? Do you have any recipes you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments. 

Shapes and Fibres

Thomas BartlettComment

All the wood I use comes from urban trees. They get cut down due to damage, disease or circumstance. I collaborate with tree surgeons to make use of these trees. Otherwise they would be chipped or turned into firewood.