Friday, April 13, 2012

Tree of the Week

Black Cherry, Prunus serotina  Ehrh.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Leaves simple, alternate, oblong-lanceolate, 2 to 6 inches long with petioles ½ to ¾ inch long; margins finely toothed, the tips of the teeth curving inward; 1 or 2 glands normally present on the upper portion of the petiole near the base of the blade. Winter twigs slender, red-brown, glabrous; leaf scars small, half-round, with 3 bundle scars. Buds ovoid, 1/8 to ¼ inch long (occasionally larger), with about 6 glabrous, dark red-brown scales; the terminal bud equal to or only slightly larger than the laterals. Flowers perfect, regular, in showy racemes, appearing shortly after the leaves in mid to late spring; petals 5, white, broadly obovate. Fruit a drupe about 1/3 inch in diameter, purple-black when ripe, with a persistent calyx. Bark smooth with prominent lenticels, eventually separating into thin, light gray to black scales with upturned edges.

SIMILAR TREES: Chokecherry and wild plum are much smaller trees; their leaves have sharp-pointed, outward-directed teeth and are broader relative to their length. In winter, bud scales of chokecherry are brown with tan margins; other trees with similar twigs have false terminal buds.

IOWA DISTRIBUTION: Native as far west as the natural lakes area in northwestern Iowa and the Missouri River in southwestern Iowa.

Forest and Shade Trees of Iowa by Peter J. van der Linden and Donald R. Farrar

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Winter Sport

Things along the Upper River slow down in the winter, but never come to a standstill. With the first hard freeze of the backwater lakes and sloughs, as the window-pane ice thickens into plate glass just strong enough to bear a man's weight, some rivermen go turtle-hunting. Easing over this thin ice and winter-clear water that is only a couple of feet deep, the hunters watch for snapping turtles that haven't completely buried themselves in the mud. A heavy iron rod sharpened at one end with the other bent into a hook is driven through the ice, turtle, and all. The turtles are at their yearly prime, heavy with winter fat, and will bring top dollar at the fish markets. As the ice thickens on deeper bays and backwaters, there are panfish and pike to be hand-lined through holes cut with auger or ice spud. This can produce quantities of the sweetest panfish fillets of the year.

Up on the River by John Madson

Monday, April 9, 2012

Comfort Food From Iowa

Stormy Weather Chili

2 medium onions, diced
1 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
4 cups canned tomatoes
1 15 1/2-ounce can chili beans
1 to 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder

Sauté onions and celery in cooking oil in large kettle or pressure pan. When golden, stir in ground beef and brown until red is gone. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. A pressure pan will lower cooking time. Cook for about 20 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. Put pan under cold running water until pressure is down before trying to open the lid. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Up a Country Lane Cookbook, by Evelyn Birkby