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Foraging

No Longer Chicken of Wild Mushrooms

As kids my brothers and I split our time pretty evenly between sports in our backyard and sports out front in the driveway. In the frontyard we played under a lot of rules that pertained to not get running over by a car; there were a few out back but the one I really remember is: “Don’t Eat The Mushrooms.” (more…)

Pickled Spruce Tips

Young spruce tips with their papery husks still attached in places.

Forbes Wild Foods is a unique source for a wide variety of foraged Canadian edibles. Frankly, though, some of their prices are a little steep so I have to admit that instead of buying from them I’ve borrowed ideas from their website or market table that inspire my own foraging. Most recently, I gathered spruce tips and used them to make the pickled spruce tips recipe below.

Spruce trees grow upwards in the usual, obvious way but because they don’t drop and regenerate their needles every year the outward growth is a bit more complicated. Every spring the tip of almost every branch has a bud-like tip that sheds a papery brown husk and produces a new bunch of needles. (more…)

Hawthorn Jelly

Earlier this week I wrote a post about finding haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree. The obvious next question is: Who eats these things?

Well, for one, native residents of Manitoulin Island do. As this post on Bill Casselman’s site and the wikipedia entry describe they are colloquially known as haweaters.  Folklore holds that the island’s early residents avoided scurvy by eating the vitamin C rich fruit.

In chattering about them on Twitter I had a bunch of people tell me that haws are available as a delicious candy in China.

They also make an excellent jelly. If you are careful to choose haws whose texture is firm, not mushy, they should have enough natural pectin to set without adding any extra.

I’ve never made jelly before, let alone from wild fruit, so I’m going to spread my impressions between this post and another on the grape-apple jelly I made. (more…)

Hunting Haws

If I knew where to find wild blueberries I don’t think I’d tell you. Choice wild mushrooms like morels or chanterelles? Definitely not. But haws? Haws are every where, my friends.

They grow abundantly in Asia, Europe, and here in North America. Sometimes planted as a windbreak for fields or as an ornamental for their showy flowers in the spring and bright red fruit in the fall. The fruit of the hawthorn, called haws, can have a strong flavour and they’re not very suited for eating out of hand but with their abundant natural pectin make an excellent jelly.

Now I know no one really reads disclaimers. I know this because I don’t read disclaimers. So, I’m throwing this one in the middle of the post here in hopes that you’ll actually be jarred into reading it. Don’t go around eating red berries off random bushes. Best-ish case scenario: You’ll spend a lot of time on the porcelain throne. You fill in the blank for the worst case. Get yourself a proper field guide to edible plants and take it with you. (more…)

How do you like them apples?

The last two weeks of August and the first two of September are, in my opinion, the most interesting time to be at the cottage in Ontario.  The lake is at its warmest, the mosquitoes have gone, the nights are cool enough to actually sleep and hot days are now a welcome surprise.  Best of all, my favourite wild produce is finally ripe enough to eat.

Apples picked from a neighbours tree

Apples picked from a neighbour's tree

Picking apples in an orchard sounds like fun–I’ve never done it–but not really that much different than visiting a farmers’ market.  The fruit is fresher and you’re outside but where is the challenge?  The varieties are known and more often than not the apples are sprayed with something and grow on dwarf trees that are pruned to make the apples as accessible as possible.  Consider this Sunday afternoon in contrast: I was out walking on an ATV trail that cuts through the middle of a pasture that hasn’t seen a cow in fifty years.  No buildings, power lines, or roads in sight I was surrounded by nothing but grass, wildflowers, and the occasional clump of trees.  Walking on this track–to my chagrin google maps has somehow managed to detect it and marked it as a road–one gets to a point where the view is dominated by a haphazard-looking oak tree surrounded by a clump of smaller trees and assorted bushes.  Every time I walk this track my attention is always diverted by the oak tree’s peculiar shape–it has probably lost a major branch or two on the track-side –for long enough that its neighbours remain unnoticed until I’m almost right on top of them.  At this time of year one of these trees has vibrant spots of red interspersed amongst its coat of green leaves.  An apple tree, of course. (more…)