Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Tasty Native Wild Ginger
I'm drawn to unusual edible wild plants and foraging. But I'm also keenly aware that our few remaining natural areas just can't sustain much wild harvesting. One great way to deal with this conundrum is to grow native plants in our own gardens and harvest them from this sustainable source.
So this weekend, for the first time, I harvested and ate some of the wild ginger I've been growing for years. Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is a woodland perennial groundcover native to the forests of northeastern North America. It spreads quickly, creating a dense, gorgeous mat of heart-shaped leaves, perfect for shade gardens. The root is an excellent substitute for ginger--the flavour isn't as strongly ginger-ish as the Asian ginger from the supermarket, but it is, I'd say, more complex and interesting. It's peppery and almost perfumey.
I dug up a couple of roots, cleaned them, and chopped them up into very fine slices (using only the white part of the root--as the root gets greener and turns into stem, it becomes bitter). I then took some boneless chicken breasts, sliced them in half and stuffed the wild ginger in between the slabs. I cooked the chicken in the oven (wrapped in paperbark--something I'll save for another blog posting later) and served it with a simple mayo/lemon accompaniment.
Another thing I did was to steam fresh peas with a bit of wild ginger root.
I'll be doing a workshop on growing edible native plants where I talk about these and other unusual culinary garden ornamental natives. It's on July 17, 10am to noon, at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto (http://ebw.evergreen.ca/cal/event/edible-native-landscapes).