Spring has actually, finally, truly sprung (slowly) and that means there’s a bounty for foragers. This month we’re trekking through the ravine on the lookout for Stinging Nettles (bring your gloves), Trout Lilies and Japanese Knotweed. On the way we might stop to gather Garlic Mustard for those pesto fans since it’s fiercely invasive.
As always with our meetings we frolic rain or shine so come dressed for the weather, we’ll meet just outside the main doors of Castle Frank subway station, you can RSVP on our Facebook event page here. The meeting is Monday May 5th, 6-8pm meeting at Castle Frank subway station just outside the main doors – late or can’t find us? Call 416.768.2182
PS Rebecca will be running this meeting solo as Lee is away in Maine taking a bird course – we’re excited to have her share her knowledge of birds (and east coast wild edibles) when she returns!
Lee speaks the language of the birds – like this Grey Jay!
Fun Fact: Lee is known by hundreds of children (and select adults) as Great Blue Heron 🙂
This morning after my alarm sounded, I jumped out of bed to a beautiful sunny Spring morning. At last! I knew it was time to start eating from my backyard. Although it is often a shady place, and the worst place ever to grow tomatoes, this backyard provides a habitat for many amazing understorey and shade tolerant plants.
See me sitting by the hedge and fencerows. I invade this land!
I may be flowering already near you- check south facing walls or fences.
Amidst the seeds of the Honey Locust ( Gleditsia triacanthos) trees that shade my yard, I found two of my favourite spring greens – Jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) and Blow Ball (Taraxacum officinale). You may know them by other names, but whatever the name, they always smell as pungent 😉
I grabbed these oft-named weeds, rinsed them in bowl, and checked my garden for Nettles. Alas, there were none showing their prickly faces yet, and so cooking with nettles will have to wait for another day.
After rinsing and chopping the greens, I set to work. Heating up my cast-iron frying pan with a small spoon of butter (or you could use any cooking oil of preference) I diced up some sweet yellow onions from the farmer’s market. My winter veggie box had sent me home with a dozen organic eggs that were also destined to be in my belly this morning.
After the onions browned, I added the greens and some eggs, and sprinkled them with some wild leek salt I made last year. Delicious breakfast! Thanks backyard!
Almost two weeks ago, eight soggy foragers met up at the top of Pottery Road to join us for the one-year-anniversary of the Wild Foragers Society – although there was significantly less snow, the warm welcome of Spring we were hoping for was nowhere to be found (so it seemed).
We had a plan to seek out one of Ontario’s earliest flowers, most rampant invasive species, collect a bit of bark and enjoy the fruits of last years’ labour. First on the docket: Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus, foetidus).
The cellular respiration performed by Skunk Cabbage generates enough heat to melt snow and even ice allowing the flower to emerge despite the chilly weather. Aside from its vibrant colour, which can range from green with mottled spots of purple to deep purple all over, another indicator of Skunk Cabbage this time of year is the absence of leaves. Pollination is priority and with it’s pungent odour several flies and natives bees are making frequent stops at this time of year can yield little pollen.
Watch your step! Skunk Cabbage can be hard to spot at first – look in wet, boggy, swampy spots poking up through the mud.
Not far from our smelly friend we found a whole mess of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria, petiolata) showing off leaves that had withstood the Winter as well as newly sprouted parts that, although are not welcome in the Wildflower Preserve, were welcomed in our mouths as a savoury treat. This plant is both garlicky and bitter like any other mustard greens so it make a delicious wild pesto!
Garlic Mustard can get lost in a sea of green if you’re not sure what you’re looking for – each leaf is broad like a fan and the “rip and sniff” method works well for confirmation!
Although the promise of Spring kept our hearts warm, the persistent rain and wind was making us a bit cold and miserable – after seeking out shelter at the nearby Fantasy Farm we indulged in our very own Dandelion wine and Milkweed pickles from 2013 while chatting about the medicinal properties of Willow. Salicin is the active ingredient in Willow’s bark that can help with headaches, fever, and pain relief of many varieties – it only takes a few nibbles on a fallen branch to taste which similar over-the-counter drug it resembles. With full bellies and wet bodies we toasted to another great season of foraging in the city – hope you can join us next time, Monday May 5th 6-8pm.