Can’t Stop Read­ing!

The Compass - - NEWS -

Well, over the past two weeks I have started go­ing through some of my gar­den­ing books, cov­er­ing both in­door and out­door spa­ces, and as you may re­mem­ber, my last col­umn dis­cussed The House Plant Ex­pert, a re­source I have used for some time now.

A few weeks ago I picked up a new book in St. John’s and I have found it to be an ex­cel­lent cross­over book for both gar­dener and chef, both hob­bies/ca­reers which are “in vogue” right now.

Be­fore supermarkets and cor­ner s t o r e s , New­foundl an d a n d Labrador was in an era of sub­sis­tence liv­ing where our main sources of food came from the land — hunt­ing, farm­ing, live­stock and plant­ing crops. Also in this time wild plant species of­fered sus­te­nance as well. Many plants that were sim­ply dis­cov­ered to grow wild through­out this “New- Found-Land” of­fered de­li­cious meals, gar­nishes and spices to add flavour.

Ed­i­ble Plants of New­found­land & Labrador by Peter J. Scott takes us on a field trip around the prov­ince through woods, clear­ings, heaths and coast­lines, de­scrib­ing to the reader more than five dozen ed­i­ble plants.

Each plant listed has a pho­to­graph to aid in iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as well as a de­scrip­tion of its ex­pected habi­tat. But as they say on the Shop­ping Chan­nel, “that’s not all!” The book a lso of fers you pages of recipes where many of t hese “un­usual” in­gre­di­ents can be used, as well as a glos­sary of New­found­land’s botan­i­cal bounty that ex­ists out­side your doors.

Be­fore I go fur­ther I should men­tion that Peter Scott was one of my favourite pro­fes­sors dur­ing my univer­sity days. A bril­liant plant tax­onomist and botanist, his teach­ing style was in­vig­o­rat­ing, with the start of each class marked by a story.

In this Boul­der pub­li­ca­tion each sec­tion is thought­fully or­ga­nized into eco-re­gions or en­vi­ron­ments. For ex­am­ple, the book starts with de­scrip­tions on all na­tive ed­i­bles found in heath lands. Here one would find Crow­berry, An­gel­ica, Par­tridge­berry, Rose­root and Soap­berry just to name a few.

Ob­vi­ous is the Par­tridge­berry for eat­ing but per­haps not so ob­vi­ous is the com­mon and at­trac­tive sea­side/heath suc­cu­lent, Rose­root. This fleshly lit­tle plant pro­duces stems in late spring that can be har­vested be­fore flower buds form. Th­ese stems can then be used in sal­ads or steamed like as­para­gus and served with salt and but­ter. Yum Yum Yum!

From heaths, Scott goes on to de­scribe in great de­tail, an ex­haus­tive list of plants com­monly found in clear­ings, most of which pro­duce berries or roots which could be used in al­most end­less recipes. Pin Cherry, Cana­dian Black­berry, Dog­berry, Rasp­berry, Chuck­ley Pear, Skunk Currant, etc can all be used in jams, jel­lies, and wines or some just eaten raw off the bush! Then there are the ed­i­ble greens found in clear­ings like the com­mon Fire­weed which can be har­vested for sal­ads or steamed and served with drawn but­ter.

The book goes on to de­scribe what can be found on the for­est floor, in our prov­ince’s peat­lands, along the sea­side, on river banks and even amongst our most com­mon weeds like Sor­rel, Chick­weed, Pen­ny­cress and Dandelion, all of which can be used in the kitchen!

The book has my stamp of ap­proval for sure and any nat­u­ral­ist, chef or gar­dener (many of us like to be all three) should pur­chase this book.

The best part is go­ing to be in May and June when many of th­ese ex­cit­ing and “free” in­gre­di­ents be­come avail­able once more and I can go gro­cery shop­ping in a ditch along the Cape Bon­av­ista high­way. Well, we have to find sav­ings some­where in this “rich”, yet fis­cally re­strained prov­ince! I won­der, is there a way I could re­place breads with rocks??? I have a de­gree in Geo­physics — I’m sure I could fig­ure it out and some­thing tells me I should start try­ing!

Unti l next t ime, thi s i s the in­creas­ingly thrifty John Nor­man sug­gest­ing you email any ques­tion you may have about gar­den­ing. John Nor­man gar­dens in Bon­av­ista.He can be reached at the fol­low­ing email:


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