Deep in my genetic makeup, I believe you’ll find the DNA of an ancient hunter-gatherer. Hunter-gatherers existed long ago before we learned to farm, when we had to hunt for meat and forage for plants in the wild. I love to forage, especially when it’s easy and convenient. There’s a certain sense of pride in accumulating good food for nothing but a few hours in nature.
Summer just wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t get out and forage for saskatoon berries. Last summer, I learned to forage for chanterelle mushrooms in the forest near La Ronge. So, I couldn’t pass up an invitation to forage for wild rose petals in the Nisbet Forest. Everyone knows that rose hips make a nutritious tea, but I didn’t know you could eat the flowers, too.
Marie Symes-Grehan lives in a log cabin where she has perfected the technique for making rose petal jam. The petals are suspended ever so delicately in pink that it looks almost too good to eat. We set out in the morning after the dew was gone, down a sandy road through the forest where the wild roses grow abundantly in the roadsides.
"The scent of roses is so intoxicating, I believe it really does affect your well being," says Marie. "It’s like prairie Zen."
After we collect the petals in cotton sacks, we sort them and sift out the stamens. Wearing a big hair net, Marie boils up some water and organic sugar, adding the petals at just the right moment. Then into the jars. She sells her wild jams and syrups under the label Lily Plain Summer, which are especially popular at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver. The jam is too pretty for ordinary toast, so I serve it on crackers with blue cheese. Very chi-chi and delicious.
While the gathering side of my genetic makeup is strong, I am not much of a hunter. But who needs to hunt when you have a friend like Jeff, a woodworking buddy of my husband’s.
One day there was a knock at the door, and there stood Jeff with a box of frozen moose and two grouse breasts, cut and wrapped.
Not sure how to cook them, I delved into my stack of Saveur magazines. I found a Cuban recipe for quail and beans, and a Portuguese dish of beef and Moroccan spices. Both were perfect, proving that even wild Saskatchewan foods are right at home in world cuisine.
The other night, we had Jeff and Susan for dinner with their three children and Jason, another woodworking friend. I served the moose, and for dessert, ice cream with Saskatchewan cherries.
Since April, I have been eating almost exclusively Saskatchewan foods in my own home and it’s going great – with a little help from Mother Nature and from my friends.
(The recipe for Portuguese moose "sopas" is at 4 Nov 2005)
GROUSE AND BEAN STEW
I think this stew might be nice with chicken, though I haven’t tried it yet.
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp vegetable oil
juice of one lime
1/2 lb. dried Saskatchewan pinto (or other) beans
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/21 tsp. cumin
2 grouse breasts
1 onion, chopped in half
handful of chives, chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
leaves from one sprig of oregano, chopped
The day before: Put the beans in a large bowl, cover with 6 cups of water, and leave it to soak overnight. Make marinade: crush the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar and pestle until they form a smooth paste. Stir in the cumin, vegetable oil and lime juice. Mix this with the meat in a large bowl or a ziplock bag and marinate overnight.
The day of: Put the beans and soaking water into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add half the onion, cover and boil. Lower heat and simmer until the beans are soft, about 1.5 hours. When they are cooked, remove and discard the onion.
Take one cup of beans and mash them with a fork until they are quite smooth. Put this back into the pot of beans.
In another pan: Take the meat out of the marinade. Heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the meat on both sides. Remove. In the same pan, lower the heat and add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, the other half of onion (chopped), and the chives. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, cilantro, oregano and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook this down until it forms a paste, 7-10 minutes.
Put everything, including the marinade, into the bean pot. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F until the meat is cooked through. (About an hour.)