Foraging the Cowichan

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One thing that gives me hope for the future of this planet is seeing how resilient it is after we inflict damage on the landscape. Looking at the valley over many years we see how logged forests can regrow, disturbed soil can regenerate and plants can reclaim the soil they were uprooted from. Each spring we see a new cycle of wild plants emerge, many of the plants are edible. Some of these edible plants have been introduced from many parts of the world and have naturalized themselves in our midst. Plants like dandelion and pepper cress are some of the first to spring from the warming soils. In fact in mild winters, like we just experienced, they never really stopped growing. One of the first really good edible plants to sprout in the spring is one of my all-time favourites – Miners Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Look for the small diamond shaped young leaves (turning round when matured) under Douglas Fir trees on the sides of paths and in areas with a good supply of moisture. The greens are mild and delicate and make an outstanding base for a wild salad. Young dandelion leaves make a nice addition adding bitterness and lots of phyto-nutrients. Pepper cress adds a subtle bite of mustard-like flavor and blend well with the other two greens.

This year looks like it is almost a month ahead of recent springs. We are already seeing stinging nettles coming up at the back end of the valley where we live. Near the water, like the Cowichan delta area is even further ahead on the growing scale. We should also start to see morel mushrooms springing up in the valley sooner than later. Typically we see morels start to fruit around the last week of March, this year we may see some near the first of the month. Look for southern exposure slopes near a good source of water. One of my favourite areas is an abandoned farm with old cherry and apple trees. The local morels seem to really like these trees. As an added bonus, you also see lots of stinging nettles mixed into the morel patches. It is one stop shopping for the soup pot.

We will be holding a wild foods workshops on the farm Saturday March 14th and 28th. The 28-29th is our Morel weekend with the wild food forage on Saturday and a Morel cooking class on Sunday. Details can be found at www.deerholme.com

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