Archive for the ‘Forest Gardening’ Category

Mushrooms For a Salad


My, mushrooms are pretty.

It so happens I was chatting with my buddy Travis yesterday about an unexpected advantage of the urban greens growing project - that it pushes us both to get our act together and do stuff far more diligently than we otherwise would. Turns out that applies again today. Ryan at BTV Edmonton asked me to be on morning TV to chat about blogging and food stuff, which led to me actually having to get my act together to see if I could get something cool to blog and talk about while on the show. So I took my oldest daughter out to a city ravine park, and hooked ourselves up with a cool array of wild mushrooms: red cap [leccinum boreale], comb’s tooth [hericium coralloides], and agaricus.

The mushroom situation this year is vastly different than last. Last year was wet and cool and an epic year for fungi, this year not so much. I wouldn’t say this year’s dry, but the intense heat seems to be playing a factor, at least for the agaricus. They seem to be maturing quickly post emergence – which results in vastly smaller size and lower quality overall. The Comb’s Tooth and Red Caps were in gorgeous shape and didn’t seem to exhibit the same issue at all.

So the salad. Sauteed the mushrooms with some nodding onion and wild thyme, in butter, in the cob oven. Man they smell good. Those will go atop a mix of Lactuca greens, which in turn will be dressed with a saskatoon wine vinaigrette and aged Cheesiry pecorino. Too hot to cook, mushroom salad it is.

Evans Cherries


I’m sorry BC cherry growers, you can keep your bings. I was a newbie to Evans cherries last year when Mary Ellen and Andreas from Green Eggs & Ham mentioned we could help ourselves to their trees after volunteering to do some weeding and carrot harvesting, as they were too slammed with other harvest work to bother getting to them. They had lots. I picked about 20 lbs, and there was many, many, many times that there. Not knowing what to do with them, and having a fair fall load of work myself, I tossed them in a stockpot and cooked them down, strained them, and ended up with a shockingly tasty syrup. Fantastic in sparkling water, or to replace purchased juice for my kids. This year’s hookup is courtesy of Maki, who lives down the street and offered. I’ll be planting my own tree in the spring.

If you’ve tried Evans cherries from the tree and thought ‘ick, holy sour and no flavor‘, I don’t blame you, but implore you to simply cook them with a little sugar to balance the acidity. The flavor that comes from these things is intense, unique, and beautiful. All the cherry awesomeness you could ask for, and more. I’m not sure I’ve encountered a single fruit that intensifies its flavor so much through cooking – you have to try it. I can’t wait for the cherry pie.

If you’re not sure where to get hooked up, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton‘s volunteers will have a crack at some rescued fruit in the coming week or two. Some U-Picks around the province have them too. Or plant your own tree in the spring, like me.

ps. Kudos to Liane for advocating for cooking with fire in the Edmonton Journal today – glad I could help out.

Permaculture, Meet High School


I’ve long looked at vast school grounds, wondering how much food could be produced if there was will. I’ve had friends try to climb that hill to no avail, primarily falling apart on concern for maintenance and who’s going to do the work. Like many things in the food world, perhaps it just took some scale – Jasper Place High School being one of, if not the biggest in western Canada at 2400 students. Maybe it’s just time.

I first noticed Dustin on Twitter, tweeting about permaculture projects at a local high school. After a few months, I figured I should get over there with a camera and see  what he’s up to. So I did.

Turns out they’ve built themselves a food forest in a courtyard along with various setups of self watering raised beds, muck about with aquaponics, and have a greenhouse built a half century ago that may now be put to some good use [again?]. They’re producing food for students, engaging youth in food related issues and providing hands-on experience with plants. They’re sheet mulching and rainwater capturing their way to a more environmentally and socially responsible future generation. Permaculture in high school. I grew up in the wrong decade.

Laissez-Faire Gardening Dividend


I see this ridiculously lovely onion, about as thick as my thumb,  as a dividend of laissez faire gardening. I did not plant it this year. This year being my first with a solid crop rotation in place, last year’s allium patch is this year’s bean patch. But it looks like I missed a dozen or so onions last fall. No biggy. Were I meticulous and the food on my plate couldn’t touch, I’d have weeded them long ago, and accordingly missed out on this lovely piece of produce. Because it was hanging out in place since last year, it’s far ahead of any other onion sown this year. And since I added a pile of soil to said former allium patch, it had to grow 8″ or so before seeing light, making it look far more like a wicked leek than an onion.

This outcome is one of many reasons allium are to play a sizable role in my front yard forest garden. I don’t see why I should fuss about planting shallots each year, for example, when I can seed a pile of them, harvest only a portion in the fall, and let the rest remain in situ to split and produce more down the road. With some well tended neglect, I hope to have roughly a zillion of them in a few years. Zero till. Zero effort other than harvesting a portion in the fall. I wouldn’t call myself ‘lazy’, per se, just minimizing effort allows me to add value somewhere else.