Thursday, April 14, 2011

From the Wedding Tree: Kalina Berries

Thanks to Peace Corps Volunteer Barb Trecker for soliciting another contribution to the Pickle Project.  Kalina berries are a vital part of Ukrainian traditions, and here's a short article and recipe by text by Larisa Malykh of Kiliya, Ukraine, above photo by Viacheslav Malykh, and translation by Barbara Trecker.
From ancient times, viburnum (kalina) was a favorite tree in Ukraine, loved by all people for the beauty she gives. In spring, viburnum blossoms are little snow-white umbrellas that look like the headdress of a fiancée. In autumn, viburnum makes the eye happy with its bushes and blood-red berries, which hang on through the frosts. Kalina was the traditional symbol of love and beauty, so wedding tables were decorated with these branches – and  thus the name “wedding tree.” But viburnum was not only admired for its beautiful attributes. This is also a remarkable medicinal plant! The viburnum plant contains ascorbic acid, tannins and glycosides, and for health maintenance, has enough vitamins to exceed the exotic lemon! In antiquity, the bark of viburnum was used as a styptic agent, and as a sedative for cramps. 

Kalina berries are very delicious, especially after frosts. From recipes dating back to olden times, remarkable pies can be prepared, as well as cheesecakes, jams, fruit jellies, and pastries. All these sweets were easily accessible, and favorite for any family.  

Viburnum also has applications in cosmetics and dermatology: the extract of viburnum flowers is a treatment for allergic skin reactions, and viburnum juice is a treatment for blemishes.

Babushka's  Recipe 
Try it – it’s delicious! 
To prepare a delicious and nourishing drink, the best thing to do is collect viburnum berries in winter, and grab them right after a frost. Pour boiling water over the frozen berries, and immediately pour the water back off. Then mash the berries, and again inundate them with boiling water. This will be ready to drink in 10-15 minutes. For better taste, add a globule of honey and a splash of lemon. 
Second photo:  Kalina berries in a house at Pyrohiv,  the outdoor museum;  bottom:  dried kalina berries for sale at a market,  April, 2011