Savory Buckthorn

Could it be that winter is already over?  No more days spent playing in the snow grilling buckthorn over an open fire?  No more slow cooking The Buckthorn Man‘s favorite recipes for Rhamnus cathartica and Frangula alnus beneath the moonlight?  Well, I have savored the season, and every day I get to spend at the Scuppernong Springs.  It pleases my senses while at the same time being morally exemplary.


People often ask me: “What is your secret Buckthorn Man?”  Ok, here it is, my recipe for Savory Buckthorn:

Savory Buckthorn

  • 1 Chainsaw (I prefer the Stihl 361 pro)
  • 3 sharp chains (no safety chains please)
  • Bar Oil (first cold press virgin oil)
  • 2-cycle engine gas mix (mid-grade gas)
  • triclopyr stump poison mixed to taste with marine anti-freeze
  • 1 pair chaps
  • Safety helmet for everyone in the kitchen
  • Steel-toed boots
  • Deerskin gloves
  • Propane tank with “Red Devil” torch
  • Wheelbarrow or sled for transporting gear
  • Extra bar for chainsaw (optional)
  • Splitting wedges (optional)

Pick a spot where the buckthorn is thick and nasty; a place you suspect might look a whole lot better sans the woody weed.  Don protective gear.  Add gas and oil to the chainsaw and test the stump poison sprayer.  Fire up the chainsaw and commence to prepping the buckthorn by cutting it into manageable chunks and poisoning the stumps to taste.  Make a pile with dead buckthorn branches and braze it with the red devil until burning brightly.  Cut, poison, pile, burn and repeat, until all of the buckthorn in sight has been eradicated.  There you have it — Savory Buckthorn!

We have made modest progress this winter at The Springs, working on the left side of the trail clearing buckthorn in the area marked in red below.

SSTrailMapWinter2015-2016On February 18th, I was joined in the “kitchen” by world renowned chef: Andre Buchtá.  Nobody piles buckthorn on a fire like Andre!  Below are some before and after shots documenting our efforts.  I’m trying something new here by juxtaposing the before and after views side by side for easier comparison (click any photo to open the gallery).

At dusk, as I tended the fire carefully turning the buckthorn logs until they were done just right, I heard the familiar sound of a sand hill crane and looked up to see the adventurous bird languidly floating overhead.

I took some time off to attend to things on the home front, but the pangs of hunger eventually became so strong that I had to return to The Springs to cook another batch of Savory BuckthornAndre again was my right hand, piling brush and tending the fires.


I hope to get out to the woods a couple more times to whip up a batch of Rhamnus cathartica or Frangula alnus before Pati and I head off to Johannesburg South Africa.

See you at The Springs!

p.s. Join me and the Southern Kettle Moraine State Natural Areas Volunteers on March 12 at Bluff Creek West, where we try my new recipe for “Baked Buckthorn”!

And thanks to Ben and Karen Johnson for spicing things up at The Springs by installing two homemade duck houses along the marl pit canal!

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