Monday, June 29, 2009

The Lilac Line

I was reading the British magazine Country Living the other week and a feature article about lilacs suggested drying the flower heads on a line.
New idea for me so I had a go at it with shrivelled results. Not sure if there was too much humidity in the air, but they are not the most beautiful things and no great lilac smell remains. Perhaps try again next year....
In the meantime, the linden trees on the property where I live are about set to blossom and those will be fabulous fragrant flowers for drying. Anyone who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia will know the smell well as the downtown streets are lined with linden trees and summer nights are filled with the clean grassy smell of the blossoms.

Lupin Season

The season of the lupins is here and the roadsides & fields
of Prince Edward Island are brimming with their
wonderful colourful selves.
Personally, I've always thought roadsides the best place for them. After flowering they are pretty untidy wretched looking things and very prone to insect infestation.
Apparently, they are highly useful plants and one of the great unexploited possibilities for multipurpose greenery. In 1917 Dr Albert Thomas hosted a conference for botanists which featured the many splendid uses of this plant - they had lupin coffee served on lupin tablecloths and were even served liqueur distilled from lupins.
Sounds like the possibilities are pretty broad - for now am going to stick to admiring them on roadsides. Experimenting in the future is always possible - just need to find the time.

Foraging season is well underway. The roses are out now and so am harvesting in between gardening jobs. Very soon I'll need to be harvesting varieties of other plants for drying aswell - meadow sweet, pineapple weed, ferns, yarrow, etc...
Its all go...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hummingbird Feeder

This is another nature side note but truely one of note for me.

A little female hummingbird got herself stuck in the back porch the other evening. I left the back door open hoping she would find her way out. No luck as she was still there the next morning in a very battered state. I coaxed her outside where she continued to frantically fly about in the roof of the outer porch.

Finally got her down from the rafters and she clung to branches I have fixed around the doorway. There she stayed for a very long time quivering and covered in spider webs. Her mate whizzed about close by. He appeared so quickly that he must have been watching for her.

I thought she must be dehydrated after her long bad ordeal so brought out a small bowl with sugar syrup for her. She did not respond to the bowl held closely but when I dropped some syrup from my finger tip she began feeding. I could actually feel her tongue

It was an amazing experience. We stayed feeding for quite a long time and she flew off shortly afterward.

A rare and wonderful happening that will last with me for a lifetime.

Wild food harvesting

This really is'nt wildcrafting, but once you are out in the countryside looking for useful, lovely things you just naturally end up broadening the range of possibilities.

Wild food is now available. Took Dianna Linder of Historic Maplethorpe B&B on a fiddlehead identification jaunt recently. View her Blog at to read all about it. A visiting friend came along and we later turned our harvestings into cream of nettle soup and fiddleheads in parmesan butter. Tasty stuff.

I've also been into the streams hereabouts for fresh watercress - lovely peppery greenness.

The cooking experimentation continued with fiddlehead tart concocted the other night and inspired by Dianna's comment that you could use fiddleheads in pretty much any recipe calling for asparagus. Its true.
Busy these days getting the gardening side of the Forage operation fully up and running. Am now at capacity for clients and am just fine tuning their scheduling - need to forage aswell. The growing season is going to be very very busy. Hopefully better Summer than last year or things could be very challenging indeed.

Garden Toad

While prepping my "Potager" bed the other day I unearthed a good sized toad. He hung about for a while posing for photos. Someone told me largish toads are becoming a rarity here on the Island. Glad to have this guy in the garden. Now I just need about a million bats to deal with the recently emerged mosquito population.....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spring harvests

Cattail shoots ready for prepping Spring bouquet of marsh marigolds

Tis the Season

The foraging season begins in earnest....
I have always maintained that Spring in the Maritimes is not really a season but two weeks of frenzied growth. Living on Prince Edward Island has done nothing to change my mind on this contention.

The gardening season is in full force after a slow start due to lingering snow and cold temperatures. I have a growing band of gardening clients and will soon be at maximum for the season. Must be careful to retain a balance between the gardening and the foraging - both must be done during the growing season and there are only so many hours in the day and only one me. Plus there is always the weather to consider....

I get quite a number of queries from folks who want to come foraging with me. An interesting development I had'nt really considered as foraging has always been a largely solitary occupation of mine and not something I thought of others as being interested in. Frankly, I always thought I was considered odd but mostly harmless in my foraging ways. I don't mind sharing knowledge at all, in fact I enjoy it, so this may be a business development down the road.

In the meantime, I am taking a local chef on a fiddlehead hunting expedition tomorrow. She would like to learn how to identify the right type of fiddlehead. While I can't show her extensive beds of ostrich ferns at present because I hav'nt found them myself - yet - I am happy to show her a couple of small patches and talk about habitat and such.

Marsh marigolds - or as some Islanders call them "cowslips" - are in full bloom. This is a new plant for me discovered last Spring and while considered edible I have yet to do more than nibble a leaf. Any plant that has instructions to boil before eating due to toxicity of uncook greens is something I approach with caution. In fact, do I really need to eat it at all? Think I'll wait for local guide knowledge before attempting anything drastic. Seems to me there is a tradition in the Acadian community of a special soup associated with a Saint's feast day...?? For now I'll content myself with a bouquet on the windowsill.

While sinking in the marsh picking flowers I remembered bullrush or cattail shoots and harvested some of those growing nearby for supper. A bit messy to pick and clean but worth the eating. Steamed they are similar to a very mild asparagus in flavour and have a nice texture. Need to be sure its a clean bog they are harvested from with serious washing and cooking on the preparation end of things.

An interesting wild food cookbook given me by a friend last year is "A Taste of the Wild" by Blanche Pownall Garrett. It is Canadian and was published in 1975. Some very interesting recipes and ideas included though I think further reading for sure identification of plants would be helpful.