Sunday, July 22, 2012

Foraging: Lazy Crazy Hazy Days of Summer

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. – Henry James

The community beach in the village where I grew up.

Play this while you read. It'll get you in the mood! I remember it from my childhood.

I come back to the village where I grew up often to help my mom. One of my tasks is to mow the lawns, which takes a good chunk of Saturday. But this time I lucked out.

The water level is quite low for this time of year... but it's still beautiful.

It’s been extremely dry in Eastern Canada over the past month with just a fraction of the rain we usually have. As such the grass hadn’t grown hardly at all since the last time I cut it. So for a precious part of the weekend I was left to my own devices.

One of the tasks at hand was bathing Henry, our Bouvier. The best place to bathe a big dog? The lake! Henry loves going to the lake. It’s one of his favourite places. Baths, not so much...

The lake is also one of my favourite places. My village is at the foot of a system of lakes so it’s only a hop, skip and a jump and you’re there. The village has about 200 people from October to May, but come summer the population balloons into the thousands. The entire lake area is literally lined with cottages, and the cottagers are out in full force mid-summer.

The lake is a beautiful, calm place except for the occasional motor boat towing a skier, or jet ski. But that’s the purpose of a cottage on the lake: to have fun and relax. I would live in a cottage on a lake in a heartbeat, if I was ever given one. (Fat chance of that.)

While we were up at the lake I let Henry actually enjoy himself for a while before we got down to spoiling his day with a bath. I spent my time looking at what was growing at the water’s edge.

Unripe cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccus). The spiders were busy overnight preparing for breakfast.
This is the time of year when mother nature is taking the time to develop Fall’s crop. From my standpoint, now is the perfect time to start taking stock of what to expect in the few short months until the wild harvest really kicks into high gear.

This is a Viburnum nudum (known as wild raisin or mooseberry). The fruit
turns dark and somewhat shrivelled when ripe, and is edible.
If you “look” you will “see.” It’s an odd statement, but entirely true. The beach up at the village isn’t any place that is special as far as wild edibles are concerned, but even that small space is bountiful. 

This is Alnus incana (alder). It has medicinal uses.
In the space of 5 minutes (and about 500 square feet) I was able to photograph no less than five wild food plants, and there were more. For example, I didn’t photograph the birch trees, whose bark makes tea. It contains salicylate, the same compound as in aspirin.

Immature hips of Rosa virginiana, the common 5-petalled wild rose. They have
many, many culinary uses, as well as being able to make tea from the leaves.
Birch sap can also be boiled down in Spring for a maple-syrup like product. It’s commercially available, if on the expensive side.

Hard to see, but this is a wild apple tree. The fruit is still green. Wild apples are a bit "iffy"
as far as edibility. Some are excellent, others terribly sour, but still good for jams or jellies.
So it’s a perfect day to open your eyes to what’s around you. Appreciate life and what you have – be that a little or a lot – and thank whoever you pray to for the bounty around you. 

I know I’ll be watching as these (and many other) plants mature so I can enjoy them again, but next time on my plate.

Next on the list with all this “free” time? Henry’s haircut. That’s another of his not-so-favourite things.

Looking up the lake. The pictures on this post are just the foot of the lake system.
It's a lot of area, with a lot of cottagers.
By the way, the lake water was warm and wonderful. Only one thing was missing for a perfect day. My spouse.


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