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Native Cooking

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Are you awash in squash? Got a ton of tomatoes, countless ears of corn, plenty of pumpkins, a peck of peaches? Good. That means you have a garden. There are other good things to pick that might not be in the garden but near the roadsides, like staghorn sumac, Jerusalem artichokes, blackberries, chickory, wild grapes, chokecherries, goldenrod, groundnuts ... endless pickings. I love the way late-summer harvesting reminds us of other summers, long ago and far away, that we spent with special people.

I especially remember driving along on old country roads with my mom in her beloved old Ford sedan. She would shout a word like ''sunchokes'' or ''sumac'' and then the brakes would squeal. She'd throw her arm over the seat and back up for what seemed like a mile.

''Get the clippers and the knife! Get my basket, sweetie!''

Off we'd go and scoff all the roadside bounty we could, giggling and grunting. We would sing and plan all the way home.

In later years, I remember walking our land with my young children and showing them various wild foods they would marvel at: wild strawberries, grapes, chestnuts, fiddleheads, puffballs, groundnuts and pinebark for tea; all kinds of edibles. We felt very proud being able to find and grow so much of our own food.

Wild Fall Salad

2 cups sunchokes, cooked, chilled and diced

1 cup wild onions, minced

1/2 cup wild carrot root, cleaned and grated

1 cup firm apple, cut in small pieces

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

2 tablespoons raisins

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with a light fruity dressing. I use a raspberry vinaigrette or a little orange juice concentrate and light vegetable oil.


Corn and Squash

2 lbs. yellow summer squash, sliced thin

1-1/2 cups of fresh corn (about 3 ears)

6 green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded, cut thin

1 onion, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

Saute the onion in oil or bacon fat. Add corn, salt and fry until corn is slightly browned. Add water slowly with the squash and chiles. Cook water away and let squash and chiles brown just a bit, about 10 - 15 minutes. Note: add cut-up fresh tomatoes and a sprinkle of basil at the end of the cooking to make this dish memorable.


Perfect Peach Pie

1 double crust for a 9-inch pie (purchased crust is fine)

5 cups peaches, peeled and cut up

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1 cup sugar (or your choice substitute)

1/2 cup flour (whole wheat works well)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the bottom crust in a glass pie pan and dot with butter evenly. Peel and cut up peaches. Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, then add to the cut-up peaches. Put this all into the baking dish and cover with the top crust. Cut a couple of slits in the top and crump the edges to seal them. Put some foil around the edge to keep it from browning too much, but remove it for the last 15 minutes of baking. Bake pie for 40 - 45 minutes.

Peach pie can be frozen, so you might want to make more than one at a time. Note: to get fancy, add some chopped walnuts.


Baked Honeyed Acorn

2 acorn squash, cut in half, seeded

1/4 cup or more honey

2 tablespoons butter, soft

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup each: chopped walnuts, golden raisins

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash cut-side down in a shallow baking pan and add 1/2-inch of hot water to the pan. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes. Turn the squash so it is cut-side up; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Combine honey, butter, Worcestershire sauce, walnuts and raisins in a small bowl. Spoon this into the squash cavities and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.


Broiled Tomato Side

4 large tomatoes, thick-sliced

1 cup cracker crumbs or bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 tablespoons melted butter

Dash chili sauce

1 tablespoon parsley

Put the tomatoes slices in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the cracker crumbs or bread crumbs; set aside. Melt the butter in a small pan. Add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, vinegar and chili sauce. Bring to a boil and pour sparingly over the tomatoes. Broil tomatoes until the crumbs are brown. Note: you could add some grated cheese on top before broiling if desired.