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Posts Tagged ‘wild foods’

What’s in a name?  That which we call a lingonberry
 By any other name would be as healthy.
~ William Shakesberry

Cowberries grow in Cow Bay.  Of course they do, you say.  Where else would cowberries grow?  Well, in a lot of places actually.  They’re found in most countries located in the circumpolar expanse that encompasses the arctic tundra and the sub-arctic regions of the boreal forest (known as the taiga in Russia).  Vaccinium vitis-idaea goes by a number of names:  partridgeberry, foxberry, redberry, lingonberry, quail berry, csejka berry, mountain bilberry, mountain cranberry, lowbush cranberry and… cowberry.

Regardless of what it is called, this tart red berry is brimming full of anti-oxidants.  Native peoples and Scandinavians have known this for some time, but North Americans are just catching up on the news, making the lingonberry the new superstar natural food recommended for lowering bad cholesterol and fighting cancer.

Dr. Oz puts lingonberries in a smoothie with almond milk while Scandinavians (even IKEA) and Newfoundlanders make them into a jam/preserve which can be spread on toast or served with venison, ideally reindeer meat.  However, I enjoy the berries fresh off the vine, their flavor being a blend of blueberry and cranberry.  Frost enhances their flavor but makes them more mushy.  I also find them tasty crushed fresh and sprinkled with sugar as a topping for vanilla ice-cream.

This evergreen vine often grows in boggy places.  The ones I found were on or near deadfall trees in locations many would consider scrub wastelands.  As old growth forests on the edge of wetlands are destroyed to make way for new  ‘developments,’ I’m sure these wonderful berries will become less common here in Cow Bay Nova Scotia, and consequently even more prized for their healthful properties.

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fungi 10

Fall is an excellent time to see fungi in Nova Scotia’s woods.  Whether growing on the ground or on decaying trees, these life forms are varied, with some species being edible.

fungi

Of the ten types of fungi I managed to photograph in my yard in the past week, I am only confident of the identification of one, the orange jelly at bottom centre which is considered edible if boiled.  Even with the use of an Audubon field guide, I’m still wary of my ability to correctly identify the less colorful varieties.  Despite minute differences, they all look so similar to one another.

Although a distinction is often made between mushrooms and toadstools, with toadstools often considered toxic and with a tapered (as opposed to straight) stalk, there is no scientific basis for this.  The edibility of mushrooms is best determined by experts rather than through trial and error.  The adage that there are old mushroom pickers and bold mushroom pickers, but no old, bold mushroom pickers is probably true. 

fairy rings and toadstools by richard doyle

Due to the poisonous and hallucinogenic nature of some fungi, they have often been given magical properties in art and literature.  Faeries and gnomes are frequently depicted beside toadstools as in the 19th century painting of Fairy Rings and Toadstools (shown above) by Richard Doyle.  I once came across one of these ‘fairy’ rings in my yard.  They originate in the growth of fungi around the outer edge of the decaying underground roots of old trees.  It seemed pretty harmless in the light of day, but who knows what magic transpired in its midst during moonlit nights.

fungi with copper pennies

Copper penny test to determine toxicity of mushrooms as per Wind's comment

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