Growing greens never looked so good

It looks like we’ll have a sunny one for the third week at market! It’ll be a welcome change from last week, where we ended up having to leave early because of the wind, rain, and sleet. But after this muggy week of summerlike temperatures, last Saturday already seems like a distant memory! The black flies sure enjoyed the weather, I happened to notice.

Along with this welcome warmth, the greenhouses have been prolific, and we’re excited this week to bring to market loads of our first beet greens!

Beet greens

We also have lots of salad mix, spinach, arugula, radishes, and yet more fiddleheads (though you can be reasonably sure this will be the last week for those).

Bagging saladFreshly picked salad mix

RadishesArugula growing in the greenhouse

Plus, as always we have duck eggs, chicken eggs, hummus, and goat products.

If you’re in the area, stop by the farm today between 4 and 6pm for Farm-Gate Fridays to pick up your choices in advance of tomorrow’s market. Otherwise, see you at market tomorrow!

Foraging for fresh food from the forest floor!

How’s that for a tongue twister?

At this week’s Saturday market, like the last one, we will have (among other things) an abundance of foraged fiddleheads picked from ostrich ferns, now bursting out of creek floodlands and the forest floor (we won’t tell you exactly where!). Like any wildcrafted food, we harvest them with restraint, picking only 2-3 fronds per plant and leaving the others for the plant’s own use to help ensure sustained vitality. Deryk, who has picked fiddleheads in this area for decades, has observed how some patches have diminished in yield over the years. He owes this to the increasing popularity of wildcrafting in recent years, resulting in over-harvesting.

Now, with temperatures becoming milder, this will be our last week for fiddleheads this season. So get them while you can!

How to cook fiddleheads

This is the way Farmers Paul & Laire prefer to cook these babies! You’ll need:

  • 4-8 ounces fiddleheads
  • water with a pinch of salt for blanching
  • a knob of butter
  • a squeeze of lemon or a splash of good vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • other seasonings, such as crushed garlic or pickled jalepeños
  1. Wash the fiddleheads in cold running water or by soaking them in a bowl of water, to clean off any debris. Many fiddleheads are still wrapped in a brown papery film that is last year’s dried fronds, and those should be removed. Meanwhile, bring your blanching water to a boil, and heat a skillet on medium-high.
  2. Blanch the fiddleheads for 2-3 minutes, until they turn a vibrant green (similar to asparagus). Do not over-boil or they will become too soft.
  3. Melt the butter on the skillet. Drain the fiddleheads, then spread onto the skillet and fry for another couple minutes.
  4. Transfer them to a bowl and give them a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. Season to your taste buds’ content. (Lately we’ve been adding chopped pickled peppers to almost every dish – delish!) Serve immediately.

Fried fiddleheads

A springtime hike around Snow Lake Keep

It’s been almost three months since Laire and I moved to the community, and aside from the hike we went on during our first visit last fall, we still hadn’t got a full tour of this huge property. There’s just always too many projects to do when you’re a homesteader and market gardener, aren’t there?

Well, Deryk has been meaning to take us on a hike during springtime—when there’s enough greenery to get a sense for what’s growing where, but still early enough in the season that you can get a sense of the landscape without a thick canopy blocking your view. Today was a gorgeous spring day (save for the black flies, which I guess I’m getting used to by now), and we took advantage of the warmth, the sunshine, and the breeze to walk most of the acreage’s perimeter.

Twisted old trunk, probably home to an owl
Twisted old trunk, probably home to an owl

Lots of fungi around here
Lots of fungi around here

Amazing how trees regrow after wind storms
Another funny-looking trunk
Another funny-looking trunk
Amazing how trees regrow after wind storms

As soon as you leave the farmyard, it really does feel like you’re hiking the backcountry in a remote park. In the old-growth forest, there are virtually no signs of human interference. Instead you see a plethora of natural abundance: the forest floor thick with spring wildflowers, unfurling fiddleheads, and heaps of spongy mosses; saplings and shrubs bursting with new spring growth; and ancient trees, twisted full revolutions by the prevailing winds, sometimes delimbed in a storm but growing forth nonetheless.

We followed no defined trail, so finding our path demanded an acute sense of our surroundings. The diversity of local flora is just breathtaking. If you take a really close look at the forest floor, as we had to with almost every step, you quickly realize that there’s a whole lot going on down there!

Wintergreen berries - a fresh forest floor snack!
Wintergreen berries – a fresh forest floor snack!
Delicate goldthread flowers in bloom
Delicate goldthread flowers in bloom

Occasionally, you do come across one of the now-overgrown ruts left behind by a logging operation of the past—a reminder that this property was at one time considered just another woodlot by a forestry corporation. The change from old-growth to old clearcut is usually obvious: the difference between a high canopy with relatively walkable terrain, and an impenetrable thicket no more than two storeys tall. In the most accessible clearcuts, Deryk has undertaken as much silvicultural work as he’s had time for during the last eight years to help maintain and improve forest health. His efforts have paid off: Those areas he’s paid the most attention to have given rise to taller and stronger trees, and encouraged the growth of the more desirable species – both for the local ecology as well as for the community’s needs.

It’s really exciting to know that your own backyard is as beautiful and diverse as any of Canada’s great parks. I’m looking forward to doing more of these backyard treks as the season evolves.

—Farmer Paul

Burbling Snow Brook
Burbling Snow Brook