Archive for November, 2010

Foraging in Nature’s Grocery Store

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

This is Passport to Texas

Delicious traditional foods take center stage during holiday meals. And that food doesn’t have to come from a market if you know where to look and what you’re looking for. Savor the flavors of an earlier time in Texas when you forage for and cook with native produce.

10—I almost prefer fall over spring in certain ways because a lot of complex foods – the fruits and beans and seeds and things like that — really ripen in the fall.

Scooter Cheatham is a naturalist and co-author of The Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico, a multi-volume set of encyclopedias detailing the various uses for plants that grow around us. And fall is a great time to forage for some of the edible ones.

20—The Mexican persimmon’s a substantial fruit. Many grapes are still ripening, Mexican plums are ripening. Malvaviscus, Turks’ Cap’s…many species of grass. The seteriars are getting ripe now. That makes a really nice little seed cracker. Dallas grass of Paspalum dilatatum is ripening. Lynn’s made some really good crackers from those.

Before you start snacking on feral foods, make sure you’re 100% certain of what it is. Although you can eat any wild food once, if you don’t know what you’re eating, you may not get a second chance. Join your local chapter of the Native Plant Society to learn about native nourishment.

You can also log onto for more information. Tomorrow…getting nutty about hickories.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

The Roots of Our Thanksgiving Celebration

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

This is Passport to Texas

Thanksgiving, a “uniquely” American observance is, in fact, a variation on an Old English harvest tradition, which makes sense as the colonists came from Britain.

09—What we know as Thanksgiving—centuries ago—was actually called Lammas. And that means Loaf Mass in Old English.

Cynthia Brandimarte is program director for Texas historic sites. On Lammas, farmers brought loaves of bread to mass as a token of thanksgiving.

26—It’s when breads were made from the season’s first grain crop. They were baked, blessed and broken. And it was celebrated on August first or thereabouts. Over some time, especially the 17th and 18th Century, Americans brought over the tradition of observing Thanksgiving at the end of the harvest, which would be closer to our late November date.

New Englanders, the first to observe the day, moved west, bringing their traditions with them. Yet, Thanksgiving did not become a nationally recognized celebration until the mid 19th Century.

10—Sarah Josepha Hale, took it upon herself to make it a widespread celebration; and that was in the 1840s.

As you sit down at the Thanksgiving table this year, remember to give a nod of gratitude for nature’s bounty, and for the people who made this long weekend of food and football possible.

That’s our show for today… from all of us at Passport to Texas…and Texas Parks and Wildlife…we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Bird-friendly Coffee

Friday, November 19th, 2010

This is Passport to Texas

Coffee is an agricultural crop that thrives in the tropics.

14—These areas oftentimes are coincident with biodiversity hot spots; that is, areas of really high biodiversity, whether in birds, or insects, amphibians—what have you.

Dr. Robert Rice works with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, which certifies coffees “Bird Friendly” when growers meet certain stringent criteria. Studies suggest shade grown coffee offers the greatest benefit as habitat.

15—Where coffee still is managed with a shade cover of the kind that we like to see and have defined with “bird friendly” criteria, then coffee oftentimes is some of the last remaining canopy cover—even though it’s not forest—it’s acting very much like a forest.

With habitat loss from deforestation, shade grown coffee estates serve as refuge for neo-tropical migratory bird species that travel through Texas, including the Black and White Warbler, the Baltimore Oriole, the Cerulean Warbler and others.

15—So, they just hang out there. They might be running around with mixed species flocks, and trying to stay alive and ultimately fatten up before they make the trip back north again. So this quality habitat becomes quite important for them in terms of making the trip back.

So next time you order a cup of coffee, you might ask your barrista if it’s for the birds.

That’s our show… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Birds of Prey

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

This is Passport to Texas

Eagles and hawks are raptors—birds of prey; and these amazing creatures hunt primarily using their long, sharp talons.

05—Raptors are the birds that are living just almost the same level as we are.

John Karger is Executive Director of Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy. He rehabilitates injured and orphaned birds and—when feasible—releases them back into the wild, where they play an important role.

13—The raptors are prime indicators. When they get sick, we’re going to be sick. Thus in the 1960s we realized that we put a lot of chemicals on the earth. We knew that we did that because the birds were disappearing.

Karger travels around Texas with his raptors to demonstrate their prowess, and more importantly, to encourage in everyone a sense of stewardship.

18—If could get them to do one thing – just take a moment – realize how incredible nature is, and that it can really give you a sense of awe…a sense of incredible. What I really want people to do it to come to the Expo and realize that the whole outdoor world is there, and it is ours for just enjoying tremendously if we just take care of it.

Find links to information about raptors and the Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy at

That’s our show for today…We receive support from the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program…for Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Hawk Watch website

An Early German Christmas

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This is Passport to Texas

Experience the holidays the way 19th Century German settlers did when you take part in an Early German Christmas at Monument Hill and Kriesche Brewery State Historic Site in La Grange. Bryan Frazier has details.

That part of Texas has such a history with the German influence, so they’re calling it An Early German Christmas. And every year, they light up a quarter-mile hiking trail for night walks.

They decorate the actual old 1850s residence of the Kriesche family, and Monument Hill, overlooking the city of la Grange, and they’ll have refreshments and entertainment.

And on this one there is a reservation required; and it’s $15 per person to get in. We fill up all the time for this, and it will be throughout the month of December. So, check the website and call the park directly.

This is something that people have been going to for years here in the Central Texas area, and every year we hear how beautiful and festive and worthwhile it is.

Do you think that people will get a real sense of what it was like in the day for the Germans at holiday time?

Absolutely. They typically do period costumes and they’re really dressed up nice. So, you’ve got everyone getting in the Christmas spirit in general, and then to see it circa 1850s with the history there, and the interpretation programs they have and the lighted trail…it’s really nice.

Thanks Bryan,

Find more information

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.