Wild Edibles – Foraging Virginia
I do most of my foraging on the weekends due to the fact that during the week, my time is to school. By the time the weekend rolls around, foraging is all I can think about.
Today I went to one of my reliable foraging spots. With September just beginning, I was expecting to find some Staghorn Sumac, PawPaws, or if I was really lucky, some ripe Persimmons. As I was walking along, I began to see glimpses of purple. I was delightfully surprised to find myself surrounded by Beautyberry!
Callicarpa Americana is native to Eastern North America and the other species, Callicarpa Japonica, is native to Southeast Asia. The plant likes wet, open foresty areas and is also found on the edge of forests (this is where I found my haul). The Beautyberry plant is quite small and barely recognizable without the berries. The flower is an inconspicuous lavender which blooms in Spring, while the berries start to make their appearance in Summer, ripening to their brilliant shade of purple in late August- early September (at least in Virginia that is).
Most foragers avoid the Beautyberry because it has been said it has little to no flavor and the texture can be quite unappealing. I find that Beautyberries have a delicate, floral taste but the texture is a bit lacking. The Beautyberry has some medicinal benefits and the leaves even make a great insect repellent! Overall I would say the Beautyberry is worth collecting if there is a large patch but should be left alone if they are not in abundance.
If trying to identify Beautyberries, look for a small-medium shrub with light green opposite leaves and the eye-catching purple berry. When crushed, the berry should have a somewhat mealy texture and multiple tiny seeds.
Below I have added a recipe for:
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with Beautyberry Icing
The sourness of the sourdough goes well with the sweetness of the bread and the Beautyberry adds a slight floral note to the icing.
- 2 cups sourdough starter
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tbs. butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tbs. butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/3-1/2 stick butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1-2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 package cream cheese
- 1 cup washed Beautyberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Mix together sourdough starter, sugar, and about a cup- cup and a half of flour. Let rise overnight covered in oven.
Day of Baking:
Combine all other sourdough ingredients and mix in bowl until it gets too difficult to mix. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Roll out in rectangle, about an inch thick, and layer filling ingredients on top of the dough. Roll up like sushi and cut the log into smaller rolls, about a finger’s length wide. Spray oven-safe pan and place rolls in oven to rise until doubled. Once doubled, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
While rolls are baking, place sugar, Beautyberries, and water in pot and bring to rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Strain out debris and let cool. When cool, slowly add syrup to cream cheese. When rolls are done, allow to cool for at least 30 minutes then top with icing.
- Add lemon balm, mint, lemon peel or other herbs/spices to syrup for added flavor
- Wait for rolls to cool down after baking or risk 3rd degree burns from caramel
- Serve with ice cream!