Sunday, May 17, 2009

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.

1 comment:

  1. Yum. There is a huge batch of Bullrush on my way home. Too mucky to walk in though with my cycling shoes.