It smells like summer with the heady aroma of acacia blossoms in the air! It’s quite amazing how much olfactory pleasure that one tree in front of my kitchen delivers for one week a year. I feel the need to put them in my new dessert, naturally paired with the beautiful strawberries in season, but damn I already have my spruce tip syrup burning a hole in my fridge for that. I know that summer is here when I have too many beautiful ingredients to possibly cram onto one menu.
I have to say that for once, as I move from my spring menu to summer’s first, I feel completely in sync with mother nature. Right on schedule, in tune with the natural break from one group of wild edibles to the next; my menu and production plan is ready to shift to the call of the summer plants showing up, letting the spring ones fade off. François says it’s already like July out there with respect to certain varieties, but all in all, this year feels relatively ‘normal’ to me, mosquitoes and all..
Regardless of what it looks like outside weather wise - if there is dame’s rocket everywhere or if the nettle is 5ft tall, spring is only really over for me when the fiddlehead rush is done and I’ve put up enough fiddleheads, crinkleroot and ramps for the year.. And by then, the wonderful salad greens of spring are gone without having had proper time to kiss them goodbye.
Once the tree cover is in, the sprouts that make for an abundant spring mesclun disappear. François scurries from one regional micro-climate to another in order to extend the window of spring bounty until it’s absolutely over. The salad bowl takes on a different hue without the spring beauty, trout lily and linden, losing some bite without the dandelion, less garlic mustard leaf and crinkleroot leaf. Out with the violets, in with the dame’s rocket.. Daisy leaves assume a more important role along with the stonecrop that is still good picking in shady spots. The first sea peas and salsify sprouts have arrived to liven up the mix too. Some lady sorrel for lemony surprise. There are baby lambs quarters and soon the marine greens from the Bas du Fleuve will be the green stars. In the wild, spring is salad season; in summer, you have to work harder.
I managed to not miss out on the spruce tips this year (never a priority, but yay), so I candied some and made a delightful bonus syrup, which will go into granite and semi-freddo with the first berries and surely some sweetgrass, alongside a wild ginger chocolate babycake.
Now I’m in the process of drying stinging nettle for tisane, blanching and vacuum packing it for soup and pesto. With 60cases of fiddleheads done, it’s just about time to resume canning - the next big operation will be pickling daisy buds, and following that, day lily buds. Throughout, we will be harvesting the various flowers to make syrup and to dry for our tisane and line of aromates/spices. Then it will be milkweed, cattails, bee balm and day lily petals, the berries and mushrooms. So much to do before the mushroom onslaught..
It’s one thing after another in our race with nature, as our dehydrator starts working round the clock, me and my staff not far behind.. My pots and pans too busy for anything else like protest marches. Meanwhile François’s field crew has a bit of a breather after spring (their hardest season) and before the next big thing, as they work on pulling out bad weeds instead of picking good weeds, planting herbs and other treats for our garden. Yes, gardening is akin to vacation time for the pickers of wild things! We aren’t completely sauvage; we like to have the other stuff too that are indispensible or might like to grow here - say tomatoes, onions and garlic, bee balm, chard, romaine, peppers, crosnes, and pears..