Sunday, April 25, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Foraged Food Feast

We are lucky enough here in central Ontario to be surrounded by the ultimate in wild foods. Fiddleheads, wild leeks and morels are all native to the area and are easily found if you're willing to put in a little time and effort for the search. Personally, I am totally willing!

This is my first year going out on "forage" and I am totally in love with it. There is something so fulfilling about spending an hour of my day picking the food that I will use for supper that night. My hope was that all three of the mighty edible trilogy of leeks, fiddleheads and morels would be available in time for this post but, you can't rush mother nature, and so we'll have to do without morels. Never fear though, I promise to write another post when they become available.

Saturday afternoon SeaBass and I headed out to the magical neighbourhood forest, grower of all things yummy. Interestingly I seem to be the only one aware of the goodness to be found amongst the trees. Not that I'm complaining...I've taken a rather proprietary stance on the forest in fact.
We headed for an open patch of fiddleheads first and sifted through the layers of leaves to find the tiny, unfurled baby ferns.
 This is what you're looking for in a fiddlehead; tightly furled with a nice stem and a bright green colour. When it comes time to cook them you will brush away any brown fuzz first before doing anything else.
My friendly neighbourhood forest is absolutely blanketed in wild leeks right now. I hop from patch to patch picking a few from each one so that I don't overpick any one area. Just starting to blossom now, and popping up in amongst the fields of leeks are Ontario's official flower, the Trillium. My sources tell me that when the trilliums are in full bloom, the morels will be ready. Unfortunately we have a little ways to go, only about 20 percent of the trilliums have blossomed so far.

We also spent time on Saturday collecting edible trout lilies. Their tender leaves, shoots and flowers are wonderful on their own or in salad. 
After a peaceful afternoon wandering the forest, I laid our bounty out on the table and came up with some plans for our Foraged Feast. 
 The most important thing to me was showcasing the each wild food on it's own, prepared as simply as possible and then including each ingredient in a larger, more elaborate dish.

The trout lilies are so delicate, with a sweet, fresh sweet pea like flavour that I chose to leave them raw and whole and simply dress them to serve as a salad.
With dandelions we collected I made a cream of dandelion soup topped with raw dandelion flowers and dandelion flower fritters. 
The dandelion greens gave the soup a nice bitterness that was balanced by the cream and the slight sweetness of the fritter.

I love the combination of fiddleheads and wild leeks together. I made a light tart with the two. 
While the tart was good (I think SeaBass ate half of it) I have to say that when it comes to wild foods, I really prefer to eat them as simply as possible and without a lot of other ingredients.

Except for pesto.
I have an obsession with leek pesto.
I'm looking in to a 12 step program to help me but in the meantime, I just keep eating pesto. Our guests are lucky I shared any on Saturday. It was not easy seeing my pesto on another's plate!

Back to simplicity.
I sauteed fiddleheads and leeks together, loving the garlicky flavour the leeks lend to the fiddleheads and the slight asparagus note lent to the leeks.
The sauteed veggies accompanied the main course, quail in cream and more wild leeks.
This was a great combination. The rich meat of the quail soaked up the flavours of butter, cream and the strong onion and garlic of the leeks. The leeks cooked down into the quail and into every level of the dish. We couldn't stop eating the yummy little birds. They were the perfect end note for the meal.

Spring is an amazing time of the year. It feels to me like mother nature might be apologizing for the harsh winter. Maybe she's celebrating everything coming back to life. Whatever the reason, I am so glad that I have woken up to all the amazing things around me. 

I've never eaten so well before, or taken so much pleasure in knowing that I have seen my food ripen from a seedling in the snow covered ground to a delicious ingredient on my plate.


Kristen said...

Wow. I am so impressed with this literal "taken from nature" meal. That's two 24, 24, 24's under your belt. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

Heiko said...

I AM SALIVATING!!! These young ferns you can eat? I didn,t know that. Is that any fern, or does it have to be a specific species. I weed them out from my land where they are very invasive, but might eat them in future. I am such a reluctant weeder, because I keep thinking: "ooh, but I could eat that..."

Jenn said...

Hey Heiko,
It's the "ostrich fern" in specific that is safe to eat...anything outside of that I would definitely look into before popping it into your mouth!
Thanks for the comment on the post!

Ivy said...

Congratulations for being one of the other 23. What a great idea !! We do this a lot in Greece and maybe we have different kinds of wild greens but making pies or cooking with them is an amazing experience.

Anonymous said...

Really creative and fascinating post. I'm up in the local woods with my kids all the time and we see all sorts of mushrooms and probably countless other edible plants I know nothing about. You've inspired me to learn more about the local flora and try foraging here!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This truly is a fascinating post! I've never foraged for fiddlehead ferns, ramps, or morels, but ironically I have purchased all three from the farmer's market. One of these days I'll have to recreate this experience.

Miranda said...

Dear Jenn:
We are so much alike. We are the same age and share the same interests. I found your blog because I was looking to see if wild leeks, fiddleheads and morels were ready yet. I just graduated from Georgian College for Culinary Skills-Chef Training and am currently located in Annan. I've got a sweet place where I saw leeks on Easter weekend and was planning on going back there tmw when I'm done working at the nursery I'm living at. I spent the whole day working with hostas, so I'm too tired to go today. I will keep you posted as to my finds. My mom has 100 acres just outside Mount Forest with a coniferous and deciduous forest so I'm going to head there on Friday to check it out too. I'm sorry to hear about you losing your mom and friend. She would be so proud of you now. Chin up! The summer will soon be here. Keep cooking! That always cheers me up.

Best regards,


Al said...

I never knew that trout lilies were edible. I know that they're are a beautiful spring flower and they're blooming all over the local forests right now. I have to try eating them now!

Here's a photo I took last year of a trout lily in Toronto:


alissa said...

wow! i wish i was a bit braver about foraging, i'd be so terrified to pick the wrong thing. but if i could find some sort of expert in my local area, i'd definitely try to find some local wild foods...they must taste amazing!

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