Foraging in my part of the world has received quite the setback thanks to a very wet spring. The plantain plants are only now in enough abundance to start harvesting. Wild strawberries are several weeks behind as well. Domestically, we were blessed with a huge amount of Lovage, a cousin to the celery only stronger in flavour. I managed to dry and crush most of the leaves to make a very nice celery spice! After being given some salt, I intend to take some of it and turn it into Lovage celery salt.
We were also given some very nice Rhubarb that has already made one beautiful batch of pancake syrup and seen entrance into batches of scones and pancakes themselves. I plan to make several more batches of the syrup as that will save money having to buy it at the store. Not only will it save money at the store, it will cut down on the chemicals and preservatives being ingested as well.
Sometimes doing things yourself is not always a money-saver, healthier perhaps, but sometimes more expensive. Around this house, we are about both saving money AND eating healthier! So being able to make celery salt without the additives and make syrop without the extra ingredients as well, hits the best of both worlds. Some of my readers might laugh, but I’ve decided to ensure I have enough sugar for baking, cereals, pancake syrop and a pine needle syrop intended for lung ailments. I therefore divided up my current sugar stores into several containers!
We have wild parsley growing up in the hills and have made two harvests so far. One has been nicely crushed into just under half a usual spice bottle. The other harvest still needs to be washed, dried, and crushed. It is currently in the back of the fridge freezing. Gotta love it when fridges do that, not merely their freezer boxes.
We also found Prairie Sage growing on the property where we live. It is a milder smelling sage than what is bought at the store, but still a pleasant smell. It’s first use has been in a bottle of home-made fly spray for the two horses.
That third bottle there on the counter is crushed juniper berries! When crushed and stored like that, it emits a very strong scent when the container is opened. I’ve already learned the hard way that when seasoning meat with it, a little goes a VERY long way! I look forward to experimenting a little bit this coming Canada Day as we cook up some lamb ribs we were given, and creating a stew-like sauce to go with them featuring elements such as diced lovage, wild parsley, crushed juniper among the usual onions and garlic. Yes, the foraging lifestyle has its own unique flavours.
Our dinner salads have finally come back full swing. Plantain, dandelion, false solomon’s seal, purslane, and finally chickweed and a ground vine for good measure. I need to make more chokecherry vinaigrette, but that won’t happen till we are harvesting those berries this summer. One major thing we learned over the winter months was that we hadn’t harvested nearly enough chokecherry to get us through till the next harvest season! We hope to change that sad state of affairs this summer! Nor had we harvested enough purslane! Needless to say when my daughter was asked to weed a garden at her place of work, she came home with a huge haul of both purslane AND chickweed! Both have been divided in half for either immediate consumption or drying and crushing for use in teas, baking and medicine.
Near our home and up a logging road, there are many chokecherry stands, so we hope to overrun the house with them until they are either boiled, frozen, or dried. Those same harvesting areas are also crawling in oregon grape, kinnickinnick, and surprisingly the wild strawberry as well. Our home could be very interesting as we end up with stuff drying all over the place at various times in the season.
Already, we’ve harvested, dried, and begun putting to use the nettle in our area. Nettle gets used in baking, tea, shampoo, conditioner, and its seeds are also a wild seasoning. Again, we almost didn’t have enough once I began using it in crackers and more teas, so we need to get far more this year to last through until next Spring.
Yes, there were some lessons learned over the winter regarding how much we did or did not store up for ourselves! Hopefully this year we display learned behaviour on that front. It isn’t enough to pick only for one week. We are now picking such that we split each week’s harvest in half thanks to our salad fixings also being used for teas, medicines, baking, and hygiene products. So we take each salad harvest and dry half of it for current and future use.
By now, the rough estimate in savings is somewhere around $500 since last August. We have only bought dried cranberries and apple sauce this spring because our windfall apple harvest ran out in April and our berry vinaigrette ran out around March. If we do things correctly this year, we’ll reduce those store purchases even more next year.