Each year, I have been trying my hand at observing the changing of seasons. This practice has a term, and it’s called Phenology. In short, Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. Plainly speaking it’s paying attention to who and what is going on around certain times of the year. I love this little graphic below that shows where an Oak tree is in each season. We can observe when the oak begins to drop leaves and acorns that fall is here. If we watch closely each year we can begin to guess about where in what season we are based on what we know about oaks.
This year, I was elated but also slightly panicked at the early signs of spring because of unusually warm weather we’ve had for our region this year. While I enjoyed the sunnier and warmer days during what is usually the most extreme of our winter, I still took advantage of the spring ephemerals and following along closely to what was blooming.
The Red Buds began to bloom earlier than normal and with a few cold snaps in between the warmer days, the buds held on tightly closer to the trunk of the trees while the ends of the branches buds had already been spent due to being “nipped in the bud” from the cold and hot fluctuations.
Uses of Red Buds: Native Americans used various parts of the Red Bud tree from medicine to food. Parts of the bark were used to treat Whooping Cough , fever and congestion, while the flowers were harvested and eaten fresh.
In nature, many plants that are bright in color are said to have high antioxidant content to them. This isn’t the case for all foods such as the bright red holly berry which is poisonous to humans if ingested, but for a purple cabbage or a lovely deep magenta red bud, they are loaded with antioxidant benefits.
Foraging for Red Buds: Check out this quick read on properly identifying a red bud tree. Don’t forget to look for local resources such as your local garden clubs, arborists, or nature enthusiasts and get familiar first hand with what grows in your area. This tree is found in zone 4-9 in the United States.
To Make An Infused Red Bud Vinegar:
- Gather Red Buds from the Proper Tree (I chose to gather flowers and buds for the vinegar)
2. Separate spent flowers/buds, and twigs and place flowers and buds into clean jar.
3. Place in a clean jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. If I have a half inch of plant material, I like to use a full inch of vinegar. That’s a .5:1 ratio. Yes, you can use other vinegars like plain ‘ole white vinegar, or white wine vinegar too but for the sake of my use for this vinegar, I like the flavor of apple cider.
If you “need” a recipe here is one for wild violet vinegar from Grow Cook Forage.
4. Use a plastic lid or cover your metal lid with plastic wrap as vinegar WILL corrode.
Shake daily and let it steep for a week or so.
5. After a week or (two or three, not that you’d forget like I do), strain off the buds and store those as a tangy toppings in the fridge and use on any dish. Keep the vinegar for marinades, oxymels, or salad dressings.
(More of that explained in The Compendium subscription in April’s drop- Are you a Member yet?)
Here is the AFTER: