SCHUYLER FALLS — Jane Desotelle has engaged in canning since she was tall enough to stand and stir a pot for her grandmother, Jane Underwood Haines, the namesake for her business.
“It takes some stirring,” said Desotelle, an herbalist and owner of Underwood Herbs. “She also taught me how to make my own pectin from the peelings of green apples.”
Jellies are the latest addition to the company’s product line.
“I could not get my kitchen inspected when I lived in Chateaugay. I had a spring and (a) wood stove,” she said. “When I moved to Plattsburgh, I could get my kitchen inspected with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing.”
Desotelle started her business of wild foods and herbs in 1978. She majored in philosophy at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“There was no botany club back then,” Desotelle said. “When I got out of college, I was a hippie, (part of the) back-to-the-land movement in the 1970s. I knew I was too independent to live on a commune. We looked around for our own piece of property, 100 acres in Churubusco.”
She was fascinated with all the plants she could see.
“I was determined to get to know all these plants around me. I was very self-taught. I grabbed every book I could on wild foods and medicinal plants. I was giving away herb teas to people. They were finding them useful and wanted to buy them. That’s how I started my business, Underwood Herbs. I (have) always liked the name. It’s a family name, and I was in the woods all the time,” Desotelle said.
From herbal teas, she branched out to balsam pillows and wreaths.
“The jelly making was another way to use the wild foods we have. The jellies I make are from wild fruits. I also use some herbs and flowers,” she said.