Indigenous trumps local food
Without question our unstable weather patterns from winter have carried over into spring and this is challenging for those who like to harvest their own food. It has been hard resisting the temptation to plant my vegetable garden as the weather has often felt like summer on many days since February. Although the risk of frost continues until May 24th weekend it is hard to believe that the first long weekend of summer is still almost five weeks away.
Switching our attention from the garden to the forest might help feed our instinctive hunter-gatherer needs by allowing us to harvest the many foods that are available in nature such as ramps, morels, fiddle heads, elm seeds, nettles and dandelions to name a few of the many .
These wild and free foods are ahead of schedule and ready to harvest throughout the region. I don’t know of any other way to eat more locally than by eating indigenously.
I strongly encourage you to know how to correctly identify any foods that you are harvesting from the wild. Always inspect the foods you harvest and discard any diseased or insect infested pieces.
For long term preservation of your forest foraging bounty you can dry the morels, pickle the ramps and blanch/freeze down the extra fiddleheads; there is never a shortage of dandelions so only harvest what you need.
If you are not comfortable with the thought of harvesting these foods on your own then I recommend heading down to the Peterborough Farmers Market on Saturday and forage around the many vendors who are selling these wild ingredients safely in a tame manner.
Where the Wild Things Are Chicken
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 tbsp. canola oil
½ cup morel mushrooms cleaned, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1-2 ramps cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. thyme
¼ cup fiddleheads
¼ cup chopped dandelion greens
1 cup light cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour for dredging
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Pre-heat a large sized Dutch oven over med-high heat. Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off excess. Add the canola oil to the Dutch oven and add the chicken to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Allow chicken to lightly brown on each side. Now add the morels and ramps to the pot and continue cooking for few minutes. Stir in the wine, chicken stock and herbs. Secure the lid on your Dutch oven and place it on a lower rack in the oven. Cook or braise chicken mixture for 90 minutes. While waiting for the chicken to cook prepare a few cups of egg noodles.
Once cooked remove chicken from the Dutch oven, and place the thighs over the egg noodles. Skim off any fat from the braising liquid with a large spoon. Stir in the fiddleheads, dandelion greens and the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the braising liquid over the chicken and serve immediately.