Native edible plants are, for the average consumer, not necessarily cheap or accessible, and as a result they have acquired something of an exotic cast. But at least they still exist, and as well as serving as a blessing to their respective environments, they provide some measure of income to what gatherers there are. In Newfoundland there is someone traipsing through peat bogs plucking Cloudberries, one at a time, just as they grow, one fruit per plant. And these are not at what would be a comfortable hip-height. That would be too easy. One must bend over and reach down to their level, at just a few inches off the ground. I can’t imagine how long it would take to fill a decent sized pail. Over on the other coast, in British Columbia where the living is easier, great hunks of Sea Asparagus (aka Salicornia) might be clipped from a salt marsh, a tidal flat, or even a beach, and although they’re not much higher than the Cloudberries, I’ll bet you could make good time in mowing down a few bushels. Lucky for us, Forbes Wild Foods marshals the fruits of these labors and brings them to Toronto markets that we may grace our tables with something special, possibly exotic, definitely wonderful.
I never meant to like Sea Asparagus. I thought it would taste brackish and that made me squeamish, but it was love at first bite. Maybe the crisp texture lends a hand so that the saltiness seems just the thing. It evokes childhood memories of salted fried food on the beach. The surf. The breeze. Give me more. It is classically paired with fish. I had some leftover broiled salmon in the freezer that I’ve been meaning to deal with and what came to mind was a flan. That’s gourmese for crustless quiche. I just used what I had on hand; feel free to make substitutions.
Recipe: Sea Asparagus and Salmon Flan
1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 to 3 garlic scapes, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
6 large eggs
5 oz. fresh goat cheese
½ c milk
5 to 6 oz. salmon (I used cooked; I’m sure raw would be fine)
1 c sea asparagus, rinsed well
small knob of butter
Place oil in heated skillet and sauté leeks and garlic scapes on medium heat.
Beat eggs in large bowl. In smaller bowl whisk together the goat cheese and milk. Add these to eggs. Whisk until smooth.
Butter a pie plate or similar dish. Place leeks and scapes in bottom. Break up the fish and scatter evenly. Put about half of the sea asparagus on top. Pour the egg mixture over all and place remaining sea asparagus on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 min. Serves 6.
Serve it with Land Asparagus for a new take on Surf ‘n Turf…..
I think of Cloudberries as the Boreal version of Passionfruit. Forbes Wild Foods offers a compote, made simply with the berries and organic sugar. Just a spoonful will get you a cushy spot on one of those clouds; combine it with coffee granita and whipped cream for the expressway to heaven.
Recipe: Coffee Granita
Make some really strong espresso and sweeten to your liking. Freeze it in an ice cube tray, but only to the ‘al dente’ stage. Remove to a bowl and break up with a fork.
Divide into dishes and top with whipped cream. And of course, something special like Cloudberry Compote.