Over the last twenty-five years, nearly half the forests of Maritime Canada have been clearcut. This is an ecological disaster of apocalyptic scale, but as if it were not enough, the pulp cartel behind the cutting–with the assistance of its allies in government and the Department of Natural Resources–will not even allow the natural forests to regenerate. The forest is systematically exterminated and replaced with pulp plantations consisting of monocropped conifers. These now cover thousands of square miles, depriving wildlife of food and shelter and ruining the forest’s ability to purify air and water as well as absorb atmospheric carbon which is a causative factor in global warming.
Canada is the world’s leader in deforestation, accounting all by itself for over 21% of global clearcutting. Its high temperate and boreal forests are critical carbon sinks. Its Acadian forest is a unique woodland environment of which less than 1% remains. The Maritime provinces along the east coast have suffered more than most at the hands of unbridled timber interests and pulp cartels, and still the mills keep on cutting and the woods keep on falling faster than ever.
Did you know that if you learn the process of taxonomy and telltales, the number of plants you can forage goes from a handful to tens of thousands. For example, if you learn how to differentiate the mustard family, you have added over 80,000 species to your list of forage plants. Likewise, learn to distinguish the bolete fungi and the telltales that tell you if they’re edible, and you can safely forage many species of Maritime mushrooms.
In this advanced class, we will take an in depth look at plant and fungus taxonomy, the use of telltales, and reinforce it all with daily field expeditions to give students opportunity to practice what they’ve learned.
It’s a fine July day in the Canadian north woods. Let’s get in the canoe and glide over a lake. Who knows . . . we might find some interesting things. Perhaps even some lovely Labrador tea.
Only one week til the July foraging class. There are still a few openings. Get ’em while they’re hot! First come, first served!
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They love Nova Scotia woods so much, soon there will be none left.
“No one loves the forest more than the people who care for it.
We live, work and play in the forest – it’s a part of our lives.”
Quoted from ForestNS’ propaganda video: Taking Care of Our Forests.
Only one week til the first foraging class of the season! And the forage is abundant this year! Looking forward to seeing all the students. Some are returning for a refresher.
Today, through pure serendipity, I invented a short cut to pugliese bread that uses whole wheat flour, durum flour, and mashed potatoes and skips the need for the preparation of a biga. I baked it a couple hours ago and, without exaggeration, it is the best bread I have ever tried in my entire life. I am glad I wrote down the recipe and preparation method. It takes very little kneading but about 24 hrs to chill, rise and ferment before baking.
Cliff’s Quick Pugliese
1.5 cups ww flour
.5 cups durum flour
3 oz potatoes mashed smooth
1 tspn yeast
1 1/4 cups water
1 tspn sea salt
1 heaping tspn white or golden sugar
2 ice cubes
In a mixing bowl, without adding water, thoroughly blend ww flour, durum flour and sea salt.
Heat 1 1/4 cups water to about 90F or lukewarm. Pour water into 500 ml or larger jar. Add 1 heaping tspn sugar and dissolve. Add 1 tspn yeast and stir in. Let sit 20 minutes in a warm place til the yeast is vigorous and foaming well over the water.
Add mashed potatoes to flour blend, and yeast-water. Stir with wooden or plastic paddle til it is the consistency of wet paste. Slowly sprinkle in more ww flour and stir til it is more like a damp putty that you can then work by hand.
Dust hands in ww flour and knead for five minutes in bowl, thoroughly blending yeast-water and mashed potatoes with all the other ingredients. If some dough does not stick to your hands, it is too dry. If so, carefully add just a little more warm water. It should be the consistency of damp putty.
After 5 minutes kneading, cover the bowl so it is sealed and place in refrigerator. Let chill for 12 hours. This encourages a glutinous texture.
The next day, remove from fridge and remove cover. Cover with wet towel and place in warm area to rise and ferment for 6 to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Dust a work area with ww flour. Gently remove from bowl onto dusted surface. Flip so top and bottom now have dusting of ww flour. Gently shape dough into a rounded cake. The dough should be air filled, rubbery and glutinous now. Pinch outside and pull out then wrap over, drawing the stretched dough toward the center. Do this all around the dough ball, reforming the ball. This encourages air in the dough and develops the gluten.
Lightly oil a baking sheet and gently place ball of dough on it. It should 8 to 10 inches in diameter at this point. Gently round the sides. Score the top with a sharp knife in a cross pattern.
Place two ice cubes in a small, metal bowl and place in a corner of the oven. This will create humidity that helps form a chewy crust.
Dust the top of the dough with ww flour.
Spray the dough ball with cold water.
Place in oven and let bake at 400F for 40 minutes.
Remove and let cool 20 minutes before serving.
Last winter may have crashed over the highlands like a tidal wave, but spring was fickle. Weakly warm days gave way to snow at the slightest breath of northern breeze, and snow gave way to balmy rain when the breeze turned to the south. Only timidly did the sun ever peek through the clouds long enough to make a difference. Yet bit by sure bit, spring took hold and the meadows and woods slowly greened beneath lengthening days. Let’s head into the back country and discover the forest the moment after it wakens from its long, cold slumber.
As winter struggles to keep hold its grip of our mountain hollow, and spring comes listlessly, let us hearken back to late last summer again and enjoy a little warm sun and soft green grass, the braying of goats and the clucking of hens, as we learn about some of the forage to be found in the rich, hoof and claw turned soil around barns. In particular, we’ll examine wild mustard and lamb’s quarter.