Inviting Birds Home for the Holidays
By Gianna Volpe
‘Tis the holiday season and throughout the East End, those creatures still stirring can be counted as friends. All it takes is an edible wreath on one’s door for the spirit of giving to become one of giving more. Blossom Meadow Farms, which loves native birds as well as bees, encourages all to ‘Save What’s Left’ by feeding birds, which helps bolster the natural environment in general.
For the past few winters, Laura Khlare has been harvesting local berries to create decorative holiday bird feeders in the form of edible wreaths that bolster the native plant population, which the honey-centric North Fork farm owner then sells at Blossom Meadow’s storefont, located within the tasting room of Cutchogue’s Coffee Pot Cellars.
“Anyone can make a seed wreath with black-oiled sunflower seeds, but I mainly use Linden, American Holly and Black Cherry seeds, though Juniper is another really good one to use,” said Mr. Khlare of using native seeds to sets her edible wreath apart from all others.
As with most things that interest the nature-loving wife of Coffee Pot Cellars owner/winemaker, Adam Suprenant, it is the science — particularly pertaining to the co-evolution between animals and plants — that initially spurred Ms. Khlare’s interest in developing an East End edition of the edible holiday wreath.
“Plants have created yummy berries so animals eat them and carry that plant to a new location, so the mother plant gets to disseminate her plants all over the place and the animal gets fed,” she said, adding this mutualism is one of symbiotic need for some Northeast natives. “If an American Holly berry falls on the ground, it actually won’t germinate unless it goes through the gut of an animal,” said Ms. Khlare. “Predominantly that’s a bird, but it can also be a squirrel or even a turtle. It just needs to go through that scarrification process to grow. The seed’s outer coating is removed inside the animal’s intestines, so when the animal goes to the bathroom it is deposited onto the ground with fertilizer around it and that plant grows.”
The holiday season is the perfect time for these edible rings to be placed outdoors since food sources for birds and other critters are generally scarce during winter, but Ms. Khlare said the wreath’s most important function lies within that mutualistic relationship between local flora and fauna.
“When people go to plant a plant, they tend to plant a Bradford pear or a weeping cherry,” she said. “Not only are those trees not native, but their popularity has also affected change in the height of our urban forests, which are suddenly really short because people aren’t planting oaks or beeches; they’re planting these lollipop trees because that’s the ‘in’ thing. Wildlife need big trees and they need shrubs and other things that provide them with nutrition, so these wreaths go that extra step to help restore our suburban and urban areas.”
Blossom Meadow products like the edible wreath align the farm with a paradigm shift away from one where folks go to parks and zoos to find nature.
“Nature is all around us and the best way to call nature in is by having these native trees, plants and flowers, so forget about the lollipop Bradford Pear and weeping cherry” said Ms. Khlare. “Plant a holly, black cherry or juniper instead.”
The succinct “Feed a bird; Plant a tree” tagline — along with an explanation about the symbiosis necessary for an American Holly to germinate — is what the passionate naturalist said ultimately make her seed wreaths a hot holiday item, but it is a Martha Stewart class presentation that first attracts the customer to them like a Monarch butterfly to Asclepias syriaca. After all, this is the woman who makes artisanal crayons and candles from beeswax that is first gathered from Blossom Meadows’ hive combs using a simple contraption that harnesses gravity and the sun itself to collect the sweet-smelling substance.
“A lot of time I’ll be walking through cooking, art or craft stores — even garage sales — daydreaming about all these possibilities of things I want to try and then I’ll just see that perfect mold or ribbon,” Ms. Khlare said of finding love at first sight in the Bundt cake mold she ultimately chose to bring her edible wreaths to life.
“I had the concept in my head, but it’s one thing to have the science behind something and to figure out the recipe,” she said. “Then it also has to look good on the shelf because if you have a crappy looking product, you’re not going to get it into the hands of people to help nature.”
If one visits Blossom Meadow Farm’s store in the Coffee Pot Cellars tasting room on Main Road in Cutchogue and finds her edible wreath stock has already sold through, don’t forget to do some seed and berry hunting this winter and try making a native seed wreath of your own using Laura Khlare’s recipe.
“There’s papers out there saying that even if seeds are dried, they remain viable,” she said. “Just make sure you have all your ingredients, your counter is clean and everything is set-up, so it’s easier to move around and get ‘er done!”;