Foraged Foods to Try
At OUR, not only do we have nine acres in sustainable food production, but we also have another several acres of land, some of which offer up tasty treats of their own accord. This past spring, we harvested and used several foraged foods; here is a little bit about just three of them. Even though we are just going into fall now, these foods give you something to look forward to next spring, even if you don’t have an opportunity to plant a winter garden.
Depending where you live, you may have access to these yourself, or be able to find many of them at your local farmer’s market. As with any foraged food, make sure you are extremely clear on what a specific plant is before you consume it!
The youthful, still-rolled frond of a fern, fiddleheads are high in iron, fibre, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Eaten in Northern France since the Middle Ages, as well as elsewhere around the world, fiddleheads are important in various Asian cuisines and considered a delicacy in foodie circles.
For food safety, Health Canada suggests you remove as much of the brown, papery husk as possible with your fingers and then wash them well, using several changes of water. Make sure you fully cook the fiddleheads, either by boiling them for 15 minutes or steaming them for 10 to 12. Pre-cook like this even if you are going to use them in another preparation such as baking or frying. They can stay frozen for up to a year, but should be prepared as above when you do use them.
Though they can pack an annoying sting, and gloves are advisable when harvesting and handling, nettles are an abundant source of food in OUR region. Once the sting is taken away by soaking or cooking, this dark green leafy plant has a flavour similar to spinach and is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.
Popular uses for nettles include drying for tea or cooking them fresh in soup. You can also make nettle pestos or purees. Many mainstream cooking sites, such as allrecipes.com, will be able to guide you to tested nettle recipes. We recommend a delicious spring soup!
As they can absorb toxins from the water they grow in, eat only cat tail from a source you trust—it’s probably best to avoid cat tails you see growing by the side of the road, in order to avoid run off.
That said, cat tails found in clean, fresh water are a lovely springy vegetable, which, eaten raw, tastes a bit like a mild cucumber or asparagus (in fact, its alternate name is Cossack Asparagus). Honour its delicate flavour by lightly sauteeing in some butter and adding a little bit of salt at the end. In Russia, dill butter is often used. To access the best part of the plant, peel back the outer few layers of the stalk until you reach stems you can cut through with your thumbnail. A thick jelly-like substance will be apparent as you do this. Dispose of it, or use it as a natural thickener for soups and stews.