Thanksgiving Meals: In the fall, vegetation dies beautifully and generously, in a final surge of energy before the dormancy of winter. Historically, at Thanksgiving, we harvested and reaped the Fruit of the Earth. It was the time to thank Mother Nature. The feast of the Mother Goddess. Fall, the season of plenty!
Mushrooms: Their name alone evokes mould and a series of rather boring images. Mushrooms? Yes, but delicious – stir-fried in the pan. While the prospect of walking the forests in the wet, staring at the ground to uncover these coffee-colored gems has long titillated a small number of retirees and Sunday strollers, it is now also the profile of amateur mycologists: younger, and more diverse. Seduced by the experience of tasting morels, or tempted to give new meaning to their autumn stroll, lovers of mushrooms are inevitably overcome in the fall with excitement. There’s a bit of everything for everyone; American soil contains thousands of species of mushrooms.
However, don’t try to wing it as an amateur mycologist; some mushrooms like the Amanita are deadly poisonous. There are excellent works of reference and introductory courses, though, which equip the curious. Local mycologist groups are an essential reference. Would townspeople then not pay for sliced mushrooms in the grocery store anymore? Not at all, since groups of mycologists engaged with their members throughout the fall with outings in the woods. They also offer the public a free service for identifying specimens.
For those who feel the soul of the lone woodsman though… don’t forget to check with specialized information, reference books or websites before consuming fruits of the forest.
Cranberries (highbush cranberry, Viburnum). October is an ideal month to pick delicious cranberries. The small red berries are cut early on pristine white snow. One can enjoy these as early as October, after the first frost. Enjoy it as a jelly, syrup, or incorporated into a sweeter fruit smoothie.
Dandelion. Who would have thought that eating dandelions by the root could be beneficial to one’s health? Its ability to cleanse the liver and kidneys makes it an ideal plant for those who’ve overindulged in ice cream throughout the summer! The fresh root of this unloved plant does well in salads, grated or steamed.
The Thanksgiving Feast of Plenty
Historically, Thanksgiving was an opportunity to celebrate the fertility of local land and the generosity of farmers that worked all season. Over the years, however, we gradually added to the menu symbolic foods that were from other lands. Why not be heavily loaded with delicious fall fruits and vegetables from across the globe?
Some basic principles of responsible harvesting:
- Whenever possible, try to correctly identify the plants on site, rather than take the risk of needlessly picking inedible or fragile plants.
- The adverse impact of pesticides both on the environment and on the health of consumers of fruits and vegetables is now well-known and documented. Try to pick places that use environmentally-friendly methods of insect control. You could also ask farms and orchards that you think fail an organic certification to adopt different methods, such as encouraging, at the very least, a “sensible” routine of dosing crops with chemicals, rather than a blanket approach to application.