For a minute in August, I always get sad as many wild plants go to seed (the cycle over), which means fewer tender leaves for picking, but also that the array of beautiful flowers (some tasty too!) dwindles to a measly palette of golden rod, wild parsnip and aster for the tables, some yarrow for medicinal purposes.. You see, beyond cooking the wild edibles, picking wild summer flowers makes me happy – being surounded by the scents and colours, arranging bouquets for the house and restaurant.
Thankfully it’s always around the same time that mushroom season starts kicking so I don’t have much time to wallow. Not that ‘normal’ means anything anymore in terms of nature’s timeline apart from that. You’d think with all the rain and intermittent nice weather, it would be a good mushroom season, but apparently it's not a given yet. Like with many summer plants, marine greens and berries, everything is late. Looks like a good berry season though thanks to the water. The blueberries are amazing; we’re picking the first wild blackberries and sarsaparilla.
As for the shrooms, around here, the early summer boletes (like yellow granulee, pied rouge and glabrescent) are on their way out while the lobsters, lactaires delicieux are showing up. Chanterelles and porcini have been present for a couple of weeks, the Flocons and Black trumpets appearing now. Puffballs and Hedgehogs won’t be far off. Some Chicken mushroom, so Hen of the Woods soon too. Looks like it might be a better fall season, fingers crossed.
Other things that make me happy in August, not just wild:
Ontario peaches and they are good this year. Especially when you have a forager guy that can choose fruit like François. Peaches are best eaten as is, but during the season, inspiring to cook with too. I put some in my berrry chaussons and some compound salads at home (with something salty, think melon proscuito).
Fresh peas and favas, however a bad season for them, but the few sacs we were lucky to get were good, always labour intensive but worth it.
Corn – you need to buy (Denault’s) yellow at Jean Talon Market, so good. Look for Le Roi du Mais.. Corn on the cob, a rite of summer; great in salsas and compound salads, in soup.. A favourite sidedish this summer has been a new potato salad with corn, yellow beans, sweet pepper, sea spinach and our wild herb chimichurri.. Corn is a sure crowd pleaser in soup too: I nowhave a corn and wild mushroom chowder on the menu at the restaurant, a good way to use up all the broth I make from the empty cobs.
Back to the wild: sea spinach of course! My absolute favourite wild green, raw or cooked, especially just wilted with garlic, EVOO and butter or chopped up and added to a salad or pasta/rice dish/omelet... If you've never tasted it, it's just like 'super duper' spinach - more flavour and a touch of salt and pepper built in.. Like with spinach, I prefer the bigger leaves of late season available now and for another week.. Hopefully I won't be sick of it by week's end, the last stretch in my race of putting up for the year, hundreds of pounds, a good chunk for Joe La Croute's popular Popeye bread.
The sea rocket and salicorne are good this year too, if hard to find; the stormy weather and tides having completely transformed the landscape, forcing Francois, Claudie and team to hunt far and wide.