Like others here, foraging was an enjoyable childhood activity for me. I used to gather mussels and crab with my maternal grandfather, who was Norwegian and who lived on the Connecticut shore. Ugh, I hated crab back then - what I wouldn't give for a table full of those crustaceans now. He also used to take us out to pick blackberries and wild blueberries. I remember coming home with buckets that my English/Irish grandmother would turn into a crumble -- or we'd eat them with cream. He used to pick mushrooms, but we weren't allowed to touch them.
My paternal grandparents lived in Vermont, where I spend much of my early childhood and summers. We tapped the sugar maples on the property every spring -- the town had a sugaring station, so every year we'd get a couple gallons of syrup in return for our sap. We picked wild strawberries in a meadow owned by my father's best friend, and I remember turning my nose up at a salad made with dandelion greens. My grandfather was a hunter. There were always plenty of game birds, rabbit, and venison on the dinner table. I never acquired a taste for hunting, though. However, I was telling my five-year-old this weekend, during a trip to the fish market where he watched the guy behind the counter clean out a branzino for us, that it was my job to scale and gut the rainbow trout we caught while fishing. I must have been eight or so.
I'm a fairly avid forager today -- I adore dandelion greens, as well as lamb's quarters, purslane, and nettles, which grow like crazy around here in eastern Massachusetts. During the spring and summers I keep cardboard flats in my trunk, along with baskets, bags, and pruning shears, in case I spot something yummy growing alongside a back road. A couple weeks ago I came across an amazing stand of elderflowers. I picked a bag full then came home and made two quarts of elderflower cordial. I'll go back in September and get berries for elderberry syrup, which my son likes better than cough medicine. I also make elderberry jam. I like to look for mushrooms -- I've found morels around here in the spring, and right now it's puffball season.
I'm sure all this foraging will rub off on my son. He can already ID a bunch of wild plants and knows that purslane growing in the garden is not a weed, but an appetizer.
When my husband was ready to kick over some mushrooms, my son instructed him not to because he thought they could be fairy ring mushrooms, and indeed, he was right.
Edited by ninetofive, 08 July 2007 - 08:20 PM.