Monday 23 September 2013

Nature's Pantry - September 23

I haven't posted one of these for a while, not because I haven't been foraging but because it's harvest season.  I'm busy in the kitchen these days, canning produce while it's at its best and most affordable.  It's satisfying work, but time consuming.  There's not a lot of time left for writing when I'm done.  

I do have a few minutes now though, so I thought I'd pause and bring you up to date on what I've been gathering.

There are a great many hazelnut trees around our neighbourhood and on public lands in our area.  No one (other than the neighbourhood squirrels) seems to take much notice of them.  Fallen hazelnuts are considered litter.  They're walked on, and driven over, and left to spoil on the pavement.  

It drives me crazy!

I take my carrier bag with me on my daily walks and I've been gathering a quart or so of hazelnuts each day.  My fella cracks them while I'm at work, spreads the shelled nuts on a baking sheet and toasts them just until he can smell them cooking.  Once they're toasted and cooled, he bags the shelled hazelnuts and stores them in the freezer.

Apple trees grow at the edges of the woods near railroad tracks, and beside roadways all over the island, likely seeded from apple cores tossed from train and car windows by passersby. Unlike the apples we buy at the market or the varieties we plant in our yards, these accidentally-seeded apples are often small and quite sour, but they're useful even so.  I use them to make jelly, and as a source of pectin for use in other preserves.

A few heavily laden pear trees grow along the sides of our roads but they're not quite ready for picking.  I'm watching them closely.  I put by pears every year, and the fruit on these un-pruned trees tends to be on the small side; perfect for canning whole.

The chicory roots that I dug up from the roadside and replanted in pots on our balcony are still producing greens.  I cut each plant back completely and cover it with a black plant pot to keep the greens from getting too bitter.  They're producing this quantity weekly; a tasty addition to our salads.

For projects not food related, I'm gathering some maple leaves.  Our big leaf maple trees are aptly named and the leaves are at their very largest just before they fall from the trees.  I've picked some while they are still supple enough for use in print making.  You will probably see a maple leaf project of some sort from me soon.

Do you forage for food in your area?  What are you gathering right now?  I'd love to hear about it.  Please stop by my Facebook page or Twitter feed and join the conversation.