rainy days

4 09 2008

Like much of Eastern Ontario, this has certainly been a RAINY summer in the Ottawa area. Most people seem to grumble when you bring this up, but I think we’ve been blessed with this rain. Yes, BLESSED!

For starters, the rain has meant my rain barrels have never run dry. In fact, I’ve barely had to use them at all to water the garden – which has saved me buckets (ha!) of time. I had to water a few nights last week and my gosh it took a long time.

This rain has also meant mushrooms GALORE. They’re growing everywhere! So this rainy summer, my beloved and I have been munching away on wild mushrooms. I can hear gasping right now, with people wondering if this is safe. Should I REALLY be recommending mushroom foraging? Well, my answer is… it depends. If you are a cautious and well-researched type, then mushroom hunting may be for you. HOWEVER, if you’re more like me – a nervous bystander – then it is probably best to find someone else to eat the mushrooms (like a beloved) and then wait 24 hours. If no fatalities have occurred then you can probably eat the leftovers.


ginger up

5 06 2008

HURRY!!! After discovering the flavour of wild ginger during my scrumptious foraged dinner, I have JUST learned that we are at the tail end of its season for the whole year! Wild ginger is usually found in April and May – at least in Zone 5. More northerly zones might have it a little later in the season. But I still say HURRY!

Yesterday I went for a walk in the woods, and I was able to find some of this lovely root. It’s easy to identify with its soft heart-shaped leaves, and once you dig the root out, you will notice a pungent ginger aroma.

To use the ginger, you’ll need to break off the darkened root and peel off the outside. Be sure to clean out any dirt that clings to the crevices. You can see the piece I’ve peeled and cleaned off in the middle of the photo.

When using the wild ginger in a recipe, you won’t need very much. Its flavour is VERY strong. So don’t overpick it when you’re out in the forest – I picked three roots for the following recipe.

Wild Ginger Syrup

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

2-3 inches worth of wild ginger root

Combine the water and sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer. Peel 2-3 inches worth of wild ginger root and add. Simmer uncovered for 35 – 45 minutes. When the syrup has reduced to about half its original volume, remove from heat. Strain and discard the ginger.

Store the syrup in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator. It should keep for up to 6 months. Drizzle it over ice cream, or your favourite apple crisp, or… well the list is endless, really!

wild abandon

1 06 2008

Sometimes we forget some of the bounty the Earth gives us. Instead we do our darnedest to control the plant life around us. We coax seedlings along – stressing about water and light levels – we build garden beds, we carefully measure the space between each plant before it goes in, and then we mulch, weed, water, and pray that the weather will work in our favour. But regardless of what we do, plants will always grow. And sometimes we need to appreciate them and their wildness.

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of indulging in a foraged dinner, produced and prepared by Matthew and Jen at Castlegarth Restaurant. I’ve mentioned Castlegarth before. As far as I’m concerned, Matthew and Jen were doing local food before the phrase existed. And that’s exactly why it’s so fantastic. For me, Castlegarth is a relationship and an experience – not just a trendy meal. Matthew and Jen are masters at bringing me closer to my food, and they do that through carefully-produced, prepared and divinely good dishes.

When I asked Matthew and Jen if they would be willing to do a vegetarian version for their foraging dinner, they happily obliged. And not just happily – from the moment I arrived I didn’t feel like an outsider, as I so often do, for not having partaken in the meat-eating version. The service and my dinner was seamless, complete and scrumptious. Have a look at my menu – but be forewarned, you WILL drool:

So, as much as I love my garden, I realize it is just one source of food. And that the Earth is very generous in providing us food without all our gardening attempts.


23 04 2008

This spring, my beloved – white knight that he is – had decided to do battle with the dandelions in our lawn. Now, THANK GOODNESS he is not a black knight who might use pesticides. Instead, he practices traditional warfare, sparring with a dandelion weeder. Otherwise, this fair maiden would likely leave him! Last night, he engaged in a lengthy session that resulted in this bloodshed:

The prisoners might have walked off, had it not been for our heroic warden.

However, despite my sworn pledge of allegiance, in the middle of the battle I stole onto the field and grabbed the prisoners. I knew there was a better way. So I rescued as many as I could and brought them inside for amnesty.

Unbeknownst to the two soldiers, I cleaned up the wounded and invited them for dinner. They joined us incognito, camouflaged in between other greens.

My white knight would agree that our salads were simply divine last night.