Everyday Forage: Urban MIDWEST: Redbud Beet (V/GF) Cheesecake
Hello plant lovers!
It's so good to be sharing with you my beloved beet and red bud cheesecake recipe! I use to make these babies at the 61st street market in Chicago when Everyday Forage was a vendor.-it was always a favorite! I hope to reopen as the possibility of a secure piece of land presents itself clearer everyday. Lets see what the season brings! For now, an additional tid bit before we get started: to all the beautiful bleeding bodies out there -I love and prefer making this treat when I am menstruating because the beets are high in iron and help keep my periods bright and happy. It's fantastic year round, but extra special in the spring when redbuds, Cercis canadensis can be foraged and incorporated for extra vitamin C and a pop of vibrant color.
Cercis canadensis is a perennial, small deciduous tree native to Central/Eastern United States and Northern Mexico. It was introduced to parts of Europe including: Romania, Transcaucasus, and Ukraine (Kew 2022). It's most obvious ID feature would be its pea-like flowers that bloom in early-mid spring depending on where you are located.
I feel incredibly lucky as the spring of 2022 will forever be known to me as "Redbud Spring" due
to the solid two months of redbud blossoming...how is this so you my ask?...As redbuds typically only have a two-three week bloom period. Well, this year was incredibly special as I made my way cross country with my pup Bennie to celebrate my young sister's marriage in Austin earlier this April, later followed by a residency in Ohio followed by our redbuds here in Michigan finally starting to bloom!
I was amazed at their beauty, coming from a rather cold metro-Detroit, south into Memphis where everything seemed to be coming alive full swing. The vibrancy of the pink blossoms next to the neon green of lindera and buckeyes leafing out gave me such hope for new beginnings this spring.
Cercis canadensis is part of the Fabaceae family, indicating that is nitrogen fixing for the soil and neighboring plants, making it a great companion serving as an under or overstory species. Redbud is often an understory canopy growing in mixed deciduous woodlands, although I've seen it thrive on its own as an overstory in many urban residential lots and street trees in Chicago and metro-Detroit. As many species from the Fabaceae (Legumes) family are edible, so are the flowers, leaves and seed pods of Cercis canadensis. As the season continues I'll cover more on the leaves and pods.
When eaten fresh, the flowers are crunchy, slightly sweet and resemble a raw sugar snap pea. They have a pleasant after taste, although later in the season, when the leaves are starting to come out, have a slightly bitter taste. My advice is to enjoy them in earlier days, especially the flowers that bloom out of previously pruned branches (image above). Because of their subtlety and slight sweetness they are versatile in consumption. I love eating them raw and fresh straight off the tree, incorporate them into stir fries as a bright garnish, and of course...use them in sweet treats like the redbud -beet cheesecake. Who says that vegetables can't also be dessert? I hope you enjoy! Happy spring...
Oh, and if you're interested in learning more about culturally salient people plant relationships, sign up for our Spring/Summer session of European descendants: Reconnect to the Land series:
Flow Living protocol: menstrual phase: eating for your hormones.
Plants of the World Online (2022). [Online]. Available from
https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:316243-2 . (Accessed April 30,2022).
* The information provided within these posts are for educational purposes only. Participating in consumption is at the risk of individuals. Please be sure to know the identification of a species 100% before considering consumption. As any long lasting thriving relationship, it is best to get to know each species before harvesting.