My favorite vendor at the Lane County Farmer's Market is named Freeman Rowe. Freeman used to be a biology instructor at our local community college and is the mastermind behind the Mt. Pisgah Mushroom Festival that takes place here the last weekend of every October, which also happens to be my favorite place to pick up fresh porcinis (unless you've got the skills to go and get them in the forest yourself, of course). I also love Freeman because he has the most unusual items for sale at the Market - some of my finds from his booth have included fresh porcinis, huckleberries, beautifully carved gourds, mason bees, and baby kiwis - all things that he gathers from the forest, finds, or cultivates himself as is evident by his hands, which have that grandfatherly roughness that comes from spending a large portion of your life being outdoors, working with soil, or gathering your own tasty treats from nature. And he's very friendly to boot!
Here's a picture of Freeman from our local events newpaper, the Eugene Weekly. You can read more about him (he's very fascinating) here. Can't you just tell how sweet he is from that smile?
This last summer, when I walked up to his booth (I always go there first so that I don't miss out on whatever cool thing he's offering that week), he had boxes of elderberries. My only previous experience with elderberries comes from Monty Python movies, so I asked Freeman what I could possibly do with these little blue-hued berries.
Well, it makes the most delicious wine. Some people make it into jam, or my favorite is to just make a tincture! he told me. Just don't drink too much elderberry at once, or you'll have a hangover like you'd never believe! Woo-wee!
Since we'd already made wine from the blackberries in our yard, and I've got a whole cupboard full of jams that I made from various fruits all summer long as they came and went with the season, so I decided on the tincture...even though I didn't really know what it was. I've since looked it up: An alcohol solution of a nonvolatile medicine. Sounds boring, but that's the definition! It's actually pretty cool. Read on...
He gave me the instructions:
Elderberry tincture: Stuff as many elderberries as you can in a glass jar, then fill it with vodka to the top (thus the alcohol solution). Close up the lid, and stick it in a dark place for 6 weeks or up to 3 months. Shake it every day for the first month or so (I just did it when I remembered), then strain it out, toss out the berries, and there's your tincture!
I guess this also means that it's nonvolatile once it's finished? How does that work?!) Anyway, I followed them to the letter (except perhaps for the shaking part), then stuck it in the cupboard to mature...anxious to see what this 'tincture' was all about.
When it finished, around Christmas, I did some searching on the Internet, and found that these tinctures are actually quite common. You can even buy them in health food stores. And they allegedly will cure everything from the common cold to the flu, according to some people. There is some clinical evidence that elderberry has some properties that are useful to shorten the length and even prevent you from getting the common cold. It's now found in lots of teas and other natural cold remedies, but you should absolutely read up on it before trying this, of course. Some people have allergies to it as well, so make sure you're not one of those people. I don't know if it actually works, but I started to get a nasty cold last week, took my tincture dutifully, and didn't end up getting sick past the second day. It may be mind over matter, I suppose. Who knows? But it tastes good, it's a small amount, and Freeman has been around a long time...
If you decide to make it, mix 1 tsp. of the finished tincture into an 8 oz. glass of water, and take it three times a day. It's got sort of a tangy berry flavor...like raspberries, but more tangy. The water can be hot or cold, but we really like it mixed into a steaming mug of hot water...besides, if you're getting sick, or think you are, there's nothing like a steaming mug of anything!
The market won't be around again until April 1, but if you're here in Eugene (or anywhere nearby), be on the lookout for Freeman's booth. While you're there, go say hello and check out some of the treasures he's got to offer.
Eugene Saturday Market
8th and Oak, downtown Eugene
April 1 - November 11
P.S. Stay tuned for more local products and vendors to come...I had a wonderful time at the 1st Annual Oregon Truffle Festival on Sunday, and I'm excited to tell you all about the people and products I discovered.
written by Michelle at 10:35 AM