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.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Days

First a report on experiments

Forcing branches - the hawthorn started off really well with the leaves opening with their lovely lacey edges. The blossoms failed to mature and withered. Not sure if they were picked just to soon to succesfully force, or could be bacteria in the water or some thing attacked from the air. Worth trying again I think. The bay branches are slow to bud but now seem to be coming along nicely. Finally happening a month after cutting - very long time to be forcing something but not surprising as bay leaves are some of the last to emerge in the spring.

The branch glycerine experiment seems to be working out ok. Time will tell on this but I am encouraged and will follow through on making the door wreath. Must remember to take photos...

Been off in the ditches harvesting willow and red osier for various projects. Its the best time of year to be doing this as the sap is flowing and no leaves to contend with, also the red osier is at its brightest. Time to some sorting and bunching for storage as at present they are all lying outside in strategic clumps.
A local craft store has agreed to take my potpourri blends on consignment. This is a good start and will continue to develop this end of things. Also means must get more blending underway. It takes 6 weeks to mature a potpourri blend and they can only be done in small batches and need to be turned daily. Labour intensive work to be sure.

Nature Side Note: Stinky the Fox has been seen by a visiting friend who was most impressed with his size. He is a fine specimen of fox indeed - too bad he stinks.

Yesterday evening there was a strange metallic rat a tat tat outside. I roamed about to find the source and eventually saw a Hairy Woodpecker standing squarely on the top of the metal mail box. He'd pause for an even space of time and then repeat his tapping sequence - a bird in the groove.