Foraging and Wildcrafting week two with Pascal Baudar has been very insightful. We, as a class, have walked through the forests and gardens collecting wild edibles of the Northeast Kingdom.
Our first project was to learn and experiment with developing wild yeasts. We found that all sorts of wild ingredients are especially good at developing the level of natural fermentation necessary to make a successful batch of yeast. Ingredients like Dandelion, Apple flowers, Yellow Birch bark, Ostrich Fern fiddleheads, Red Maple, White Pine, and Red Spruce tips have all proved to work in our favor.
Our second project was to forage different types of plants such as White Pine, Stinging Nettle, Yellow Birch, Sarsparilla, Red Spruce, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Sweet Grass, Balsam Fir, Ginger, and Mint. These plants were all used in varying amounts to produce new and exciting flavored sodas. Awaiting the stages of carbonation took a day or so, until the plants, sugar, and water had a chance to blend together.
Currently, we’re in the midst of making Vermont wild salad, mint ice cream, rabbit cooked in primitive forest brew (includes spruce, white pine, yarrow, wood sorrel, grass), sweet-grass butter, fish and chips (includes white sage, spruce, grass, and burdock root), berry nectar popsicles, apple in the elfin swamp – all of which will be prepared on Friday for our class and selected guests.
Throughout the week that we’ve spent together, Laura Beebe (our teacher from Sterling), along with Pascal Baudar (our other teacher from Los Angeles, California), and students, Eliza, AnnaLisa, Savannah, Lana, Zoe, Key, and myself have re-created recipes that are somewhat traditional and inspired by the foragers and wildcrafters of the world. Our class has shared great moments of appreciation in the journey of wildcrafting and foraging, while building our connectivity skills with nature.
One of the most important things the class has learned while working with our wonderful teachers, is that foraging and wildcrafting is not simply about learning the plants of the environment and following specific recipes. One doesn’t learn painting and try to portray the sameness of their beloved artist, but instead should instill their own creative style upon their work – and this is when a forager and wildcrafter becomes an artist in their craft.
Unfolding along nature, with an open mind and heart, is essential to substantiating works of talent. Not only does it take a creative eye: a forager and wildcrafter must be speculative, and of utmost importance, knowledgeable about the wild edibles – their properties, how they can be used in the kitchen, what is safe and what isn’t when concerned with a plant. For example: buttercups may be a beautiful flower, but they aren’t edible and can cause intestinal issues. Birch bark may be nice to look at, but it doesn’t ferment properly. Mostly, a wise forager and wildcrafter is essentially a beginner, who has done much research, and has provided his work with information and food intelligence that is necessary to create an edible dish. In order to be a well-achieved wildcrafting chef, one must be able to know these things.
We are all so thankful for our natural world here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and the uniqueness our mountainous lands have to offer. From our abundance of Birch, White Pine, and Spruce trees, we’ve engaged in techniques from fermentation to wild plating dishes. From the boreal forests enlivened with native Dock, Wild Ginger, various Violets, and Bedstraw, we’ve been able to forage and create through wildcrafting healthful remedies, and delicious tasting excursions through our bountiful nature journeys – onto a singular table. Currently Painted Trilliums, Fairybells, Basswood, and Horsetails are nourishing the forest, as you read. So go discover what might await you at nature’s table.
Written by Ashley Buschmann.