Monday, March 8, 2010

Keep It Simple

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

A friend recently gave me a recipe book on “free” wild foods. Without exception, these recipes included components that were not at all wild and certainly not free.

For me, the whole idea of foraging is to procure a pure, wholesome product from nature that, when prepared with a minimum of muss and fuss, results in a palatable and healthful meal. The idea of going shopping for a half-dozen commercial products to make my wild food more acceptable goes against my grain.

A few of these concoctions involved so many different ingredients that the one, wild ingredient became of only secondary importance. If that’s what it’s all about, then why bother, I ask?

Sure, it’s fun to experiment. And yes, sometimes a relatively involved recipe that incorporates wild plants is a thing of beauty. In fact, my new book, Wild Plants of Maine, A Useful Guide, includes a few complex recipes. But for the day-in, day-out wild plant fan, I feel it best to keep it simple.

Let me give an analogy to illustrate my point. I’m a dedicated fisherman, one who sometimes kills and eats his catch. To me, nothing beats the simple elegance of a native brook trout, cooked within hours of its being taken from the stream. Sprinkled with fresh-ground, black pepper, placed under the broiler and cooked only until the meat flakes, nothing beats it. But sometimes, people tell me of catching a trout, taking it home and stuffing it with who-knows-what, pouring marinades and sauces over it and then baking it in an oven. Yek!

So before subjecting that lovely trout to something better suited for farm-raised tilapia, or when considering how those dandelions or fiddleheads might fit into some long and drawn-out recipe, try my advice and just keep it simple. Often that’s the best way of all.

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