It has been a troublesome few weeks, with Noah getting over his back-to-school cold and Owen contracting a wicked cases of hacking coughs. I have been trying to get our kids out for a wilderness hike but between illness and poor weather...it's been tough.
I'm still a novice at foraging. There are only a handful of things I can confidently identify and would bother to grab. A few months ago, I ordered a few edible plant books in an effort to educate myself a bit more. A side-line passion of mine is to identify wild flowers in South Frontenac...but foraging wild edibles is a bigger risk that just which kind of dandelion am I looking at.
I had ordered the book "Identifying Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and not so Wild) Places" by Steve Brill. It just so happens I knew about Steve Brill from one of my favorite foraging blogs called "The 3 Foragers". There are a family (not unlike Hubbie and I) with a child that loves the outdoors and the wonderful surprises that nature provides.
The 3 Foragers posted a video that featured a nature walk hosted by Steve Brill or as he is known "Wildman Steve Brill".
Steve was reknowned as the "Man who was Arrested for Eating a Dandelion in Central Park"...but there's more to that story if you check out his website (link posted above)
I ordered his book without even putting it together that they were in fact the same man. Literally days after I watched the video on Forager's blog, I received by very own Steve Brill book! Coincidence? I think not!
Hubbie and I packed the kids up for a hike in the backwoods of Desert Lake Family Resort (literally 15 min drive from our house). We packed a bag of bags for collecting and a couple of useful books (see below).
Can't go wrong with the Audubon!
He started down the nature trail and it wasn't long before we hit the beaver dam. It's a special place. At night-time in summer, if you can brave the mosquitos, you can listen to the thundering sounds of a million frogs singing their night song to each other.
We discovered our first specimen! I grabbed a stalk and stuck it on an old tree while Noah and I got the identifying books. We thumbed through pages of berries. The berries were orange-red and round. That ruled out a lot of options already! The leaves were oval, toothed and about 2 inches long. That ruled out everything else. We still couldn't identify it using edible guide books...so behind it stayed. I'm not even sure I would have eaten anything that was growing out of a beaver dam....google "Beaver Fever"...trust me.
These were growing right next to the other berries...and I couldn't find them in any of our books either.
Early Canadian writing paper! (aka birch bark)
Owen marches to the beat of his own drum...walking stick and all!
We live in an area with lots of mica. You find it on the ground now and again. This piece was the thickest piece I'd seen yet. Early settlers used this mineral for stove glass due to its ability to withstand high temperatures. There is an old mica mine in Frontenac Park...worth a hike to see it!
The boys were on a steady search for juniper berries. It took them off the beaten trail.
AH HA! Found em!
The juniper bush only sprouts berries on the female trees.
Some valuable father-son time spent in the woods.
Hubbie took this pic as we were coming back from our trek in the woods. This is the long shot of the beaver dam were started out at.
In the end we came back with Foxtail grass seeds, juniper berries and cedar berries. The cedar berries were just falling off the trees in bunches, so I grabbed some on the way out and decided to look them up after we got home.
Foxtail grass is found just about ANYWHERE! At this time of year...you can take the tops and knock them into a bag and collect seeds very easily, provided they are dark. Turns out the sell a form of this seed at health food stores under the name of millet! You can add it anywhere you would normally add poppy seeds. You can grind it up using a grain mill and add a bit to your general baking. We'll find out and let you know!
We had gone fishing a day or so ago...and while the boys were busy catching rock bass...I was looking for vauable foragables. I ended up finding some wild grapes right next to our favorite fishing spot in Verona!!! It was like finding gold! I grabbed a few grapes and had Noah and Hubbie try it out. It tasted just like Welch's grape juice! (be careful of seeds though) I'll be sure to keep an eye on that spot for next year.
Foraging seems to be an act of patience. It requires restraint and knowledge.
I look forward to many more trips out with the family...(i thought I spied some massive glasswort and want to go back next year when its sweeter and new...rather than late in the season and woody.) I will endeavour to read up on stuff this winter. Next year should be full of foraging surprises...
What have you found in the woods?
If you've ever foraged before, let me know what's your favorite forest goody?