I really didn’t know much about foraging when I moved to the country. My years living in Vermont ended as a young adult and those years, I confess I wasn’t much into gathering edible delicacies from the forest or field. In fact, before I moved out to the country ten years ago, I did not know about wild leeks, about the water cress growing in the ditch, about the mushrooms in the woods.
My parents had a friend who was a mushroom forager and I was completely intrigued about the very unusual things he brought over to the house to try. Much of my inspiration comes from return return trips to my hometown, Brattleboro. It is a place that is the grass-routes of food and thought; the local co-op filled with the bounty of every farmer, every person who produces things, it is a great place to see what is being grown around us. I discovered that there were many delicious leaves and roots to be eaten and if they were in the Vermont fields and forests, they might be here too.
My neighbor Ralph and our friend Rolf knew what grew on his land and ours and he introduced me to where hidden patches of delicious treats were nestled away. What you realize about eating things from the wild, is that they are precious and one needs to be minimal and respectful about harvesting them. Taking only what you need, not what you want is the rule, making sure not to disturb other plants habitats around the area. For me, it makes cooking with these things more of an experience and the taste all the more authentic to what true flavours are. I recently made pickerel and as a finishing, layed one wild leek over top letting the flavour of the bulb and the leaf wilt into the flesh. It was subtle and delicious not to mention, it looked amazing.
My mom’s friend Hannelore who is someone I have learned much about cooking and gardening from over the years, showed me how to use johnny jump ups the beautiful violet that grows all over my gardens and is delicious in salads. She also told me where to look for watercress and other things that you can add to a salad – wild mint, dandelion leaves, clover leaves and blossoms.
Chef Kevin also has a few years experience gathering things from the forest and creating delicious recipes with them. He preserves making pesto from the leaves or pickling which allows the treat of using them all year long – a treat in the dead of winter. Wild Things are available throughout these warmer months and I will look forward to learning a little more about them each season. Starting the Spring off is our Wild Things evening on Thursday, it will be a treat.