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.
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!
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.