As I previously mentioned in last week’s Fiddlehead Frolic part one, I’ve been doing some research into pickling fiddleheads. There aren’t too many recipe books that include recipes for fiddleheads, so I’ve had to experiment a bit. I really enjoy … Continue reading
Spring is in the air, which means fiddleheads are on my plate! This past week, the EAC office kitchen fridge was bursting with stacks of fresh fiddleheads, wild-harvested by our Wilderness co-ordinator, Raymond Plourde, and generously shared with staff. Fiddleheads … Continue reading
Last week, we spent a sunny Friday morning blackberry picking in Point Pleasant Park with a lovely group with the Bayers Westwood Family Resource Centre. Eight adults + 4 kids + 1 hour = 24 berry stained hands and many cups of blackberries.
It seems to be a great season for blackberries. Check out your local park for blackberry bushes. In addition to Point Pleasant Park, I’ve also seen blackberry bushes at York Redoubt.
On Monday, we got together for a jam making workshop. We made one batch of blackberry jam using the recipe from the pectin package (see below) and a a small batch using Splenda for the diabetic in the group. Although Splenda can be substituted on a one-to-one basis for sugar, it didn’t gel quite as nicely. While we worked, we snacked on tomatoes and grapes from the Bayers Westwood garden, and the group brainstormed ideas of foods they’d like to make in future workshops. There was a request for apple pie and pumpkin pie, so Fiona, our Katimavik participant, is going to brush up on her pastry skills and maybe you’ll see a post from us next month on our pie workshop.
We’d like to hear your tips too! Where do you like to pick berries? Have you ever made sugar-free jam? Did you have a pie recipe you’d like to share?
1/3 cup (75 ml) bottled lemon juice
7 1/3 cups (18oo ml) granulated sugar
1 pouch (85 ml) Liquid Pectin
Wash and crush berries, one layer at a time. Sieve part of the pulp to remove seeds, if desired. Measure 3 ¾ cups.
- Place required number of clean 250 ml/236 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180F/ 82C) for at least 10 minutes. Keeps jars and SNAP Lids hot until ready to use.
Combine fruit and lemon juice, in a large, deep stainless steel saucepan.
Stir sugar into fruit mixture.
- Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Stirring constantly, boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- Immediately stir in Liquid Pectin, mixing well. Stir and skim foam.
- Ladle jam into a hot jar to within ¼ inch of top rim. Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre snap lid jar, apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met – fingertip tight. Place jar on canner; repeat for remaining jam.
- Cover canner; bring water to boil. At altitudes up to 1,000 ft, process – boil filled jars – 10 minutes. Remove jars without tilting. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands. After cooling check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.
Today’s post comes from Food Action Committee volunteer and blueberry lover, Shara Vickers.
When we think of the blueberry, we often think of muffins, pies, bagels and a topper for breakfast cereals and the like. But blueberries also make an amazing and flavourful vinaigrette for salads. This vinaigrette can be used on any tossed salad, but goes especially well with mixed greens or spinach. Adding mozzarella, cheddar or parmesan cheese to the salad also serves as a nice complement.
Blueberries are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, manganese and other nutrients. They have high antioxidant power and their phytonutrients have been studied in relation to many degenerative diseases. Blueberries have been shown to be health-supportive in regards to cardiovascular, cognitive and optical health, in particular. So, enjoy while in season and stock up! Studies have also shown that fresh-frozen berries maintain their nutritional properties so you can reap the benefits of health and flavour year-round.
1½ Cups Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 Cup Vinegar (Balsamic or Cider)
1 clove Garlic
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Dash of Salt
Sprinkle of Pepper
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Grape seed oil also works).
Puree in blender or food processor everything except the olive oil until well mixed. Add in oil slowly, as you continue to blend to an even consistency. Can be used as is, or strained for a finer dressing. Also, if you prefer a sweeter dressing, you can add in local honey, to taste. The dressing will keep about 5 days when refrigerated.
We have a great opportunity for all of you to stock up on wild Nova Scotia blueberries! Angus Bonnyman, a no-spray blueberry farmer near Tatamagouche, is holding a Wild Blueberry U-Pick on August 18-21. On Saturday, August 20 there will also be a blueberry raking contest and a wild blueberry baking contest! You can call Angus at 657-2010 or check out his Facebook page for more details: www.facebook.com/NSWildblueberries
All of our favourite vegetables, greens and fruits started off as wild plants, and throughout the centuries humankind has lent a helping hand to cultivate varieties of plants that taste good and are easy to grow.
Part of the excitement of foraging is discovering these wild versions of the plants we already know – I love finding (and eating!) the tiny little wild strawberries on my yard – but many gardeners, myself included, often think of these plants as unwanted weeds. I spent an entire day in my garden last weekend trying to get rid of one of the most invasive weeds in my garden that sends runners underneath my carpets of woolly thyme and pops out everywhere. It seems that no matter how diligent I am at weeding these things - they keep coming up because I can’t get to their roots without digging up the woolly thyme.
I can’t believe that these little weeds turned out to be a type of sorrel!
When I lived out of province, my cultivated sorrel plant was one of my most treasured inhabitants of my garden as it was one of the main ingredients for my favourite soup, Somma Borscht. My Oma used to make this tangy and savoury soup, and every time I eat it I think of her. The lemony taste of sorrel is a perfect complement to the ham bone broth, and together with a bit of cream and a handful of dill it makes the most comforting soup. It also tastes great in salads and in sauces for fish. Sorrel was the first plant on my must-have perennial list this spring to plant at my new house when I moved last fall, since it’s not something you can easily find in stores or the market.
I only figured out the correlation between my nasty weeds – sheep’s sorrel- and my treasured perennial – garden sorrel – when I recently visited a friend with a similar sorrel fetish whose plant had bolted and was flowering.
All of a sudden, it looked very familiar… Same flowers, and although the weed version had tiny leaves compared to the cultivated plant, I realized they had the same shape.
Last weekend as I was once again weeding my woolly thyme, I saved the lushest, greenest sheep’s sorrel leaves and I tried putting it into a batch of Somma borscht. And guess what? Both sorrels taste exactly the same. It’s a perfect match.
I guess it’s comforting to know that I will now never run out of my favourite herb, but I admit that I will continue to attempt to eradicate it from my garden. At least my cultivated plants don’t want to spread everywhere!
It’s always fun to go to a new farmers market because you will inevitably find something that you’ve never seen before!
On a recent trip to the Truro Farmers Market, the three of us discovered Marsh Grass, AKA Goosetongue, AKA Passe-Pierre. After doing a bit of research on the internet, I found that this stuff is a type of seaside plantain called Plantago maritima. According to Bill Casselman, “Passe-pierre is an edible marsh green picked in midsummer, a tidal maritime plant whose spicy saltiness makes it an Acadian favourite picked fresh for salads or pickled in brine for winter use. Briefly, after the expulsion of the Acadians, passe-pierre was one of many subsistence greens for some Acadians who escaped deportation by hiding in remote areas of the Maritimes.’
You’ve got to love food with history!
So what do you do with this stuff? It’s much saltier than your average greens, but otherwise cooks up very similarly and keeps a nice texture after it’s cooked. Marla tried hers a few different ways, but liked it best simply tucked into an omelette.
I played around with mine a bit too, and found that it tasted absolutely phenomenal sauteed in some unsalted butter, and topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar right before serving. Just for fun, I topped it all off with some toasted almonds – probably not the most traditional Nova Scotian preparation, but it sure was tasty, and pretty enough for company!
Yours in Food,
Canada day weekend was the time my family would look out for wild strawberries. The garlic has also started to bloom and it is best to pinch off these “‘scapes” so that the plant puts its energy into the bulb. These can be frozen and stored until the real garlic is ready, and used as garlic would, though it tastes milder and “greener”. I have heard one can make a wicked cream of ‘scape soup.
The bullrushes are also starting to bloom, and my mother would gather the buds before they became covered in pollen and prepared them like corn on the cob. I prefer them steamed. They are flavourful and somewhat mealy. Like corn, the good part must be nibbled off the woody stem.
The Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) are now big enough to eat as well. Their presence is an indication of a soil that is high in nitrogen, and its presence as a weed in your garden a compliment to its fertility. It is a source of protein, vitamin A, phosphorous and potassium, and is a higher source of calcium than any other plant ever analyzed (1), which should come as no surprise when one learns it is related to beets, spinach, amaranth and quinoa. Its seeds have been found in the stomachs of preserved Bronze age Danish bog bodies (2).
As a raw vegetable it is edible but in a stir-fry it is superb. However it should be consumed in moderation as it can be high in oxalic acid (3).
1. Kallas, John. “Amaranth – Staple Food for Modern Foragers.” The Wild Adventurer. Vol 3, oNo. 2. Juy 1, 1998.
2. ^ Miles, David (1978). An introduction to Archaeology. Great Britain: Ward Lock. pp. 99. ISBN 0-7063-5725-6.
3. Johnson, Derek; Kershaw, Linda; MacKinnon, Andy; Pojar, Jim (1995). Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland. Lone Pine Publishing. ISBN 1-5510-5058-7
As a transplanted Manitoban experiencing her first Nova Scotia spring, I’ve been having an easy time keeping my spirits up through all this rain and fog. Don’t get me wrong – when the sun makes its very short appearances, I get delirious like everyone else – and I still am somewhat worried that the slugs will overtake my garden before I even get a chance to put my tomato plants in the ground.
However, I’m having a lot of fun exploring the unique springtime foods of wild Nova Scotia. On my first day on the job last week, I was sent home with a big bag of freshly foraged fiddleheads from Ray Plourde, our wilderness co-ordinator. (This is what you do for ALL new summer student employees, right?) These were a real treat, but the real fun was when I started foraging in my own yard for edibles.
I had just noticed these spiky plants growing in my yard a week or two ago and then learned on this blog that it was Japanese Knotweed, a highly invasive and (highly delicious) plant that tends to be quite destructive if left unchecked. Clearly, I had two important motivations to get out in the rain and pick this stuff!
The larger the stalk, the easier it is to peel – and you do need to peel this stuff if you don’t want to be chewing on woody pulp. I ended up boiling the smaller, unpeeled stalks for a few minutes, draining off the resulting juice and adding honey for a refreshing lemonade-type tea.
This past weekend, I told my mother-in-law about this concoction and she was horrified that I would consume this stuff. She wasn’t quite convinced that it tasted just like rhubarb – so I served her a surprise dessert for lunch – warm stewed knotweed with brown sugar and cinnamon garnished with a large dollop of vanilla foxhill yogurt. She had to admit it was tasty!
I’ve also been spending a lot of time picking dandelions in my yard and garden. It’s still entertaining and novel to me that I can (occasionally) get the entire plant out by the root. This NEVER happened in the clay soils of Winnipeg!
Last weekend after a long rainy morning hunched over picking weeds, I got inspired to turn a few of the thousands of these dandelions in my yard into lunch. Sauteed in a bit of bacon fat, they were a very yummy garnish to my bratwurst and smoked gouda sandwich. A delicious way to eat the fruit of my back-breaking labour!
Yours in food,
It is easy to see why landscapers made the mistake of introducing Japanese Knotweed to North America. Before it became closely associated with feelings of despair, a brake of the 10 feet tall bamboo-like canes made a stunning visual effect. In July they bear delicate sprays of tiny white flowers that exude a sweet jasmine-like scent.
Knotweed also forms dense and spreading colonies that choke out every other plant. It can spread from underground running rhizomes and come back from the tiniest root fragments. As if that weren’t enough, taproots can wedge as deep as 3 m, taking refuge in shallow Halifax bedrock. Clearly when it arrives it is there to stay. But all is not lost, knotweed is also a source of food and medicine. It is even being investigated as a potential source for biomass. (www.phlorum.com/blog/)
Harvest the asparagus-like shoots now, at the last frost, between May 1 and Victoria Day. They must be cooked, and taste (to me) like a cross between rhubarb and artichoke hearts. Knotweed can be eaten as a sweet or savoury vegetable and I like to steam or boil them just as they are. They can also be mixed with sugar or other fruit and used as rhubarb crumble filling.
Here’s a recipe for Knotweed Jelly from the Three Foragers.
It’s fiddlehead time too! For a detailed article on fiddleheads, check out Ray Plourde’s article in Saltscapes magazine.
Spring has sprung and I am thankful now for the spinach, leeks, parsnips and parsley that I planted in August and allowed to winter over. They emerge now from the snow with some tasty edibles and the promise of more on the way. Next year I will add chard, broccoli, beets and rutabagas to my fall planting. Trying to winter-over carrots was a disasterous, slimy corky failure. My friends who are lucky enough to own greenhouses are boasting greens that have thrived all winter; chard and spinach, lettuce and beet and turnip greens, those magical plants that can survive a frost and keep on growing through the feeblest sunlight we have to offer.
All winter I have been taking advantage of dandelions that I have dug up, then “forced” in my basement, planting and watering them in complete darkness. They grow thin blanched leaves in a vain attempt to capture sunlight, rendering their root-energy into a tasty salad green. Cruel perhaps, but a Canadian winter requiers such measures. This year I would like to start some Belgian Endives and force those greens also.
Wild weeds have also wintered over that can be picked now: chickweed, ground ivy, violet leaves, Dandelion crowns, wintergreen leaves and berries, the last cranberries, common mallow. My nettles are sprouting along with the first chives. Back in the garden perennial herbs are still around or coming up; thyme, sage, oregano and lemon balm, and, of course, the maple sap is running.
With some preparation in the late summer, winter and early spring need not be without local fresh greens.