Early Fall Foraging

Fall in Southern Ontario brings many things to those who crave the outdoors.  Hunting season arrives with the fast paced action of waterfowl.  Fall colours explode onto the forestscape with brilliant reds, golds and yellows. But perhaps one of my favourite things to do in the fall is to spend some time in the woods searching for wild edibles.  The most interesting of these, are arguable mushrooms.

Typical fall mushroom fare includes your chanterelles and boletus which, if I may add, are mighty tasty.  Along with morels and puffballs, these are some of the more tasty and desirable fungi to be had.  So with this in mind I headed out to a stretch of woods near Parham, Ontario to test my luck and eyes in search of some chanterelles.

As luck would have it, no Chanterelles were found during the walk.  But all was not lost because the beauty of mushroom hunting is that even if you don’t find edibles, you will likely find some mushrooms, and often a wide variety.  Part of the fun can be learning to identify the wide variety available and enjoying the wide variety of shapes and colours.

Its at this point I would like to remind readers that some mushrooms are toxic and can be fatal.  Mushroom should only be consumed when they have been 100% properly identified.  I recommend taking a course to assist with this (see link below) or consulting an expert.

So with that, here are a few pictures of several mushrooms that were encountered during the walk.  Any look familiar to you?

DSC_1256 DSC_1253

(above: bracket fungi – mostly inedible except for certain species like chicken of the woods – not shown here)

DSC_1247

(above: the remnants of a lobster mushroom?)

DSC_1243

(above: coral fungi)

DSC_1238 DSC_1237

(above: a young amanita sprouts through the leaf litter.  Amanitas are more often that not poisonous and should be avoided.)

 

For those interested in furthering their mushroom knowledge I recommend checking out the following resources:

http://mushroomobserver.org/

For those local Kingstonians, Queens offers an identification course:

http://www.queensu.ca/qubs/sites/webpublish.queensu.ca.qubswww/files/files/pdf%20files/Fabulous_Fall_Fungi_2014_details_register_twosessions.pdf

Harvesting Dandelions – Syrup!

Each year I try to get out in the woods and learn a little but more about foraging.  Last year was leeks.  The year before, mushrooms.  This year its dandelions!

DSC_9534

Yes, dandelions. No joke.  Dandelions are an incredibly delicious foragable.  Not to mention so plentiful you can pretty much pick your fill anywhere inthe province (any wherenot sprayed by pesticides that is!).  In my case I needed to do something about hte dandelion infestation in my back yard and decided, why not make use of the plant?

DSC_9539

Dandelions have three main uses that I am aware of:

1) Salad.  the leaves of a young dandelion plant make an exception green to be added to any salad.

2) Coffee.  the roots are roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute.

3) Syrup or so called “May-Honey” in Poland.  I was skeptical at first but suffer from a uncurable sense of curiosity so I had to try this.

Everyone has a favourite salad which dandelion greens can be substituted into and I have yet to try dandelion coffee so I will focus on the syrup here.

Dandelion syrup has a rich sweet taste very similar to maple syrup except I has a slight herbal undertone.  The syrup can be made to be thin, viscous, dark, light, pretty much any way you please and pairs well with fruit.

Step 1) pick a crap load of dandlion buds.  The bigger the better and try to limit it to the heads only.  Stems can impart a nasty acrid taste.  I usually pick around 100 buds.

DSC_9540

Step 2) wash the buds and set out to dry.  This will get rid of any hitchhiking bugs.

DSC_9543

Step 3) pinch the bottom of the buds just above the hips of the bud itself with four fingers.  After pinching just pullout the petals of the danelion. Save the petals, discard the bud.

DSC_9548

Step 4) cover with water and bring to rolling boil.  Let the petals steep in the water over night.  Remeber the more petals you use the stronger the taste of the syrup.

DSC_9551

Step 5) strain out the petals and add a half a cup of sugar to the remaining juice.  boil this mixture to whatever viscosity you like but be careful of letting this dry out.  Cooking for too long and not paying attention is a good way to wreck a pot and make a mess.DSC_9554DSC_9556

Step 6) use in place of maple syrup on almost anything.

DSC_9562DSC_9560

Dandelion Wiki in case you would like to know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taraxacum_officinale

Harvesting Wild Leeks

Ontario is blessed with foragable wild foods for almost every season.  The least of which is definitely not Spring.  Spring in Ontario, means some of the finest table fare can be gathered including leeks, fiddle heads, cattail hearts and morels.

Finding most of these treasures can be difficult as they are heavily dependant on temperature, sufficient rain and their ability to hide from other foragers!  Thankfully leeks are one of the easiest to spot due to the stark contrast of their green on the brown hue of last years fallen leaves.  Leeks are also very plentiful in Ontario and can often been seen after the first couple weeks of 10 – 15 degree weather.  Just remember when looking for leeks early on, the contrasting green is the key.  They are one of the first plants to sprout.  Also, you will probably smell the delicious onion odour a mile a way!

*****Please keep in mind when you are harvesting wild leeks it is best to only remove one or two leeks from a cluster or, more preferably, clip off the green and leave the bulb in the ground.  This way they will continue to proliferate in the area.  Consider it an investment for next year!

My recent foraging trip saw me getting up at 5:30, heading out my door at 6:00, stopping quickly at Tim’s on highway 15 and blasting up Sydenham Road by 6:15.

DSC_9409

I met with a friend of mine at a favourite spot about an hour north of Kingston.  Set with bags, a large bladed knife for digging leeks and our trout gear (cause you never know when a fishing oppourtunity will present itself), we headed up the trail with eyes focused on the ground in search of green gold.  I guess it was by chance then that my friend spotted a decent sized Barred Owl perched on a nearby pine.

DSC_9420(i)

Quite the specimen!  Further down the trail, and after some failed attempts at some speckles in a few local lakes, we found the spot we were looking for and began our harvest.

DSC_9410 DSC_9446

DSC_9449

Lots of leeks to be had but no sign of any other forageables.  Lots of signs of spring and remnants from last winter. I am always impressed by how fresh and stunning Southern Ontario looks in the spring.  Not to mention how tasty it can be too!  More on this once I have cooked a few of these tasty guys into a soup or two.

DSC_9426(i) DSC_9440 DSC_9441 DSC_9443

 

DSC_9456