Last weekend, I visited some friends I had not seen in years at their home in southern Virginia. Amparo and Kurt retired to an 1840’s farm house on 150 acres and have been consumed with varied projects—many in the house itself—ever since.
Their farm acreage consists of woods, meadows and wetlands and took me back to my childhood along a wooded creek in central Illinois. While Kurt and Amparo have the mountains rather than woodland and prairie, the vegetation has many similarities and the woods are full of food. On our first hike, the day I got there, Amparo spotted mushrooms called indigo milkies or indigo milkcaps.
To my delight, I also spotted a small, ripe paw paw, which I picked and ate for breakfast the next morning. These fruit are sweet and custard like, and the best way to eat them is to cut them length wise and scoop the fruit out with a spoon.
The other native fruit that was ripe was the persimmon. These are smaller than the Asian fruit sold in stores and also beautifully sweet and flavorful.
On a walk the next day, I spotted field cress, which is every bit as tasty and peppery as good arugula, and among the wildlife we spotted were five turtles, out foraging themselves.
Kurt told me that he had discovered a peach tree back in the wetland area that was bearing prolifically and all around the tree, feasting on freshly fallen peaches, were box turtles.
I cleaned the indigo milkcaps and Amparo sautéed them with garlic. They were very tasty, with a texture more like a cooked vegetable than a crimini or other commercial mushroom.
When I left on Monday afternoon, Amparo sent me off with four quarts of tomatoes Kurt had canned that week, three jars of fruit preserves, and a jar of pickles.