As the days lengthen and I embark on ever-longer forays out into the world, I remember
wistfully the easy goal of foraging. Foraging itself is not effortless, but during the snowless seasons the decision to do so is. It is simply part of the reason I wander — both the carrot and stick that goad me onward.
In the winter, it takes extra effort to get away from the woodstove, even in these weirdly mild times. There are constant questions like, “Which layers do I wear?” and “Which wax do I use on my trusty wooden skis?”
If it is cold, there is the need to bank the fire appropriately so that the house will be toasty when I get back. I often fi nd myself in search of company for these mini winter expeditions, moral support for getting over that hump that is getting out the door.
Once I’m out, I remember.
I remember that foraging in the white land yields bounty less tangible than summer’s greens and autumn’s reds, but no less nourishing. It is the sun itself I am after, and vistas to view it from and by. I seek out the play of light on hoarfrost, icicles, and fields of countless snowflakes.
With my whole body I delight in frictionless flight as I glide through the trees on narrow wooden wings. And nothing tastes as good as the simple trail fare of winter, munched thoughtfully on a bluff.
Homemade granola bars or crackers, dried meat or fish, fruit leather from hand-picked berries — all of these are elevated to the level of haute cuisine by the view of a spreading snow-covered valley, sun winking at me from between the peaks of the mountain range opposite.
This is the other side of gathering — the enjoyment — and it’s just as important as the labour.
I forage, not because it is becoming oh-so-trendy, not only because it is “a good thing to do”, or even because I believe our very survival ultimately depends on the cultivation of these skills and the commune with nature that ensues. I forage for a sublime cup of rosehip and yarrow tea, and a view of a meadow, harvested in summer and cut through by the trail I’ve made to this spot.
Oatcakes are one of my favorite trail snacks, and come in infi
nite variations. By adjusting the ratios of oats:fat:water you can
make anything from shortbread to a crisp cracker. Also try adding
other dried vegetables like tomatoes, cut fi ne, and of course any
herbs or spices that strike your fancy.
2 Cups Oats
3 Tbsp. Butter or other fat
Pinch of salt
½ Cup Dried greens, crumbled (i.e.: kale, chickweed etc.)
¼ – ¾ Cups Water
• Preheat oven to 350°F.
• Place oats in a food processor and buzz briefl y. Remove half to a
bowl, and process the remainder to fl our.
• Add salt and fat and process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Turn out into bowl and mix in greens.
• Add water until you have dough that just sticks together. Press
or roll out fl at on a cookie sheet (lightly greased or lined with
parchment paper) and score into squares.
• Bake for 25 minutes or until edges show the faintest hint of
browning – your nose will tell you when they’re done. If you
don’t have a food processor, a coffee grinder works great to
make the fl our and the rest can be done by hand.