Can’t Stop Reading!
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: