I imagine by now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve realized a couple of things about me. First, I love to try new recipes, adapt old ones, and cook/bake in general. Second, that I am a huge fan of research and history. When I can combine those two? I’m in heaven! Then I write about what I’ve learned, putting it into my stories to bring it to life for my readers. Take for example the following excerpt from Amy’s Choice (A More Perfect Union Book 2). Oh, and before I get into the excerpt, Amy’s Choice is on sale this week for only $.99 at Amazon! Grab your copy before the sale ends on February 12!
So, in the following snippet, Amy and Samantha have ventured into the woods behind Amy’s sister’s house in the countryside surrounding Charleston, SC, in search of foods to include in their stew that is cooking back at the manor:
They walked along in silence for several minutes, Samantha constantly searching the underbrush for edible plants. Amy wished for a less active imagination at least for this one night. Stories of ghosts blended with her memories of the incidents she’d experienced in her life, occasions that confirmed the existence of spirits.
A spiderweb slipped across her face as she ducked a tree branch. Amy brushed at the nearly invisible thread spun by the unseen traveling spider. “Oh!”
“Chin up, Amy.” Samantha ducked under another limb and chuckled. “I won’t let anything harm you.”
“What do you expect to find growing in November anyway?” Amy trudged along, glancing to either side of the trail as slight rustlings sounded at her feet. Bursts of wind eddied leaves along the trail, hinting at ghostly footfalls behind her. A blur of motion drew her attention. Too big for a songbird and too silent for a man. A shiver wiggled down her back.
“Perhaps some lamb’s-quarters but most likely a good bit of chickweed to add nourishment to the rabbit.” Samantha paused and looked about her. “I wish it were spring, when there would be more variety of appetizing plants.”
“How do you know so much about these wild plants?” Amy glanced over her shoulder as another whirling dervish of leaves rose up behind her.
“My time with the Cherokee shaman taught me many things about survival,” Samantha murmured. “Ah, white pine will help us season the stew.”
“A pine?” Amy blinked in astonishment, noting the swift change in subject. “How?”
“The bark adds a very pleasant smoky flavor.” Samantha pushed through the low bushes to reach the tree in question and carefully pulled off some loose bits of bark and laid them in the basket before returning to the path. “That should do.”
“I never would have thought a tree would be part of my supper.” Amy shook her head as she trailed after Samantha’s retreating figure. “Your knowledge is impressive.”
“The woods are full of wonderfully nutritious plants if you know when to harvest which parts of them.” Samantha held a low branch for Amy to grasp, avoiding a nasty slap in the face. “Timing is the key.”
Now please know that I am not claiming to be any kind of expert on harvesting wild plants, and I’ve likely mischaracterized just how you go about harvesting and eating them. I’m sorry if that is the case! My goal is to tell a good story, not teach others about wild plants. With that caveat, let’s look at why I chose those three wild plants for them to be searching for. The simple answer? Because they had the widest chance of being available in the fall in the South.
Chickweed grows worldwide and most any time of the year if conditions are right, according to John Kallas, PhD, in his Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. It’s also highly nutritious, containing bunches of iron, zinc, and potassium, and tastes good to boot if you know how to harvest it properly.
He also sings the praises of wild spinach, or lamb’s-quarters, sharing that it is better than spinach in how much fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, copper, and manganese. It also grows across the entire country, so the chances of it being where Samantha could find it were good.
Then you have that surprising (to me) ingredient of white pine. I mean, it’s not something I would have even guessed would be edible. But according to Will Brendza of the Skilled Survival site, it most definitely can be eaten and even save your life. If you’d like details on how to prepare and consume pine tree parts, visit Eating Pine – How to Eat A Pine Tree To Survive. He goes into great detail about making pine tea and how to cut and eat pine bark. Knowing that pine trees grow in the South, too, it seemed like a fitting ingredient for Samantha to harvest.
Of course, the other consideration before making my choices was which plants had been in the country during the time period (1782) of my series. All of these fit that criteria, as well.
So there you have it. A peek at my thought process and research for my stories.
One more thing to share with you all! The A More Perfect Union historical romance series is now available in audiobook format! I’ll include the link to Amy’s Choice audiobooks below.
P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!
Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.
When Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.
Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.