TRY: Discover Foraging (yes, you can!)
It’s a simple as starting with your backyard, and getting used to identifying plants that you see. Get comfortable with a few flowers or foliage (don’t forget weeds), and then build from there. There are many apps that try to make foraging a simple photo, upload and ID, but we really haven’t found any that are wonderful.
We love books - so find some with great images to get you started. Our go to is ‘Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants’ (1999, Lee Peterson). There are drawings and colour photos that help recognize hundreds of species. A more local Nova Scotia option is ‘Eating Wild in Eastern Canada A Guide to Foraging the Forests, Fields and Shorelines’ (2018, Jamie Simpson). This title is a good option for new foragers as it groups foods by location – forests, fields and shorelines – and includes some common and very accessible wild edibles.
Going online and you will find endless foraging resources, but one of the best local sources of information is the active community on Facebook ‘Backyard Foraging in Nova Scotia Group’. There are over 6000 members, and this is an easy, accessible platform to explore some edible wild foods . A really great starting point for many new to foraging. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1655391601368870
“This group is for residents or frequent visitors to Nova Scotia who have a love for our plant life in the context of foraging: using indigenous plants for food and medical purposes. The focus is on what grows wild in our own yards, but what you get out of your gardens and planters are good too. What you find outside your property definitely counts, but what get at a grocery store or market does not. Recipes, medical preps and uses are all good things to do post and discuss. Pictures of plants and how and where to identify them is a great idea too. Have at 'em!” – Backyard foraging in Nova Scotia FB Group
Foraging is really about discovery, and if this is something you’re interested in, it can be a rewarding learning journey. Make time in your day to learn something new about a plant, whether it is in your backyard, at the beach or on the side of your favorite walking trail / route. Start slow and build up your knowledge.
Need a boost of confidence? Try our Shoreline Forage and Feast experience on Aug 7, we’ll be foraging and eating what we find!
Foraging Etiquette: Take as little as necessary – or none at all. Respect that there is a balance; consider how harvesting any plant part may impact the future of the plant (and the ability for other’s to enjoy).
COOK: Over An Open Fire
Never underestimate food prepared over an open fire. The crackling wood, the char grill flavour, that smokiness, the comfort and sounds of watching those beautiful bright orange flames – it’s really a quite spectacular event. And quite easy. Note of caution- always use a safe cooking area, respect weather conditions (any wind can be a hazard), and be aware of any burning or fire restrictions in place https://novascotia.ca/burnsafe/
Cooking over a fire requires a hot, clean burning fire, you will need dry (untreated) wood. Fresh, green or not dry wood will result in a (very) smoky, not hot enough to do it’s job, mess. Using your campfire pit is a good location, but think about what you last burned there – charcoaled remnants of whatever last went into your campfire – may not be what you want to put into your next meal (or your body - think magic flame crystals, chemically treated anything).
In terms of equipment, you don’t need much more than grill grate to get things started. Grill directly on the grate for meat or vegetables, or use it as a stand for pots or pans. Cast iron pans are king at a campfire, they are sturdy and heavy enough to hold even heat. Aluminum foil is also a campfire staple, a simple makeshift bowl or a perfect wrap for anything you’re cooking directly on the coals.
Turn the flame down! Big hot flames will result in big burnt food. Take time to build a sturdy hot fire – and get those coals white hot. This is the best cooking foundation to make sure you get an exterior char and will cook food evenly. Have a spray bottle of water handy to help with any flare ups once your feast is cooking. We use fire cooking in all our experiences – join us and get some cooking tips (and deliciousness) – Wild Experiences Summer 2021.
EAT: Something Wild!
Go for it. Just do it! Try something new (tip: please always make sure you know what you are eating). Those flowers in your garden? Why not add some colour to your green salad and throw a few blossoms in (now, important first step is to identify the flower FIRST, then make sure you can in fact eat this flower). Some common flower garden edibles include pansies, snapdragons, marigolds, nasturtium – even the petals of those big day lilies will add some beautiful flavour.
Go fishing! Get yourself geared up with our friends at Wild Valley Supply Co. www.wildvalley.ca and go drop a line. Not sure where to go? Best resource is the Nova Scotia Anglers’ Handbook it includes everything you need to know, including maps! Some fishing can be a bit of a wild adventure – as you can never be really sure what will come up out of the water – striped bass? Gaspereau? Eel? What? Eel – yes, a delicious treat that can be enjoyed, even if you didn’t mean it to be your first catch.
Why not taste some terroir, from the sea! Local sea salt is becoming increasingly popular, so go ahead and try some wild salt. Sea salt differs from table salt in that it has a unique flavour and texture – minerals from the water flavour the evaporated crystals versus mined salt deposits that goes through processing to remove minerals (which cause clumping). There are several premium local products – check out www.annapolissalt.com and www.tidalsalt.ca . Our video shows a stage in our salt making journey - it turned out beautifully! You can join us in a new workshop to experience a step by step DIY ‘backyard’ process: Aug 5th Sea Salt Workshop.
However you choose to be wild this summer, we hope that you are able to let go and enjoy the heck out of it. We’ve all been travelling a bumpy and difficult road, and with the arrival of summer – it’s time to try, cook and eat anything and everything that makes you smile. Take care!