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Wild foods -- some thoughts

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Wild foods -- some thoughts

Mrs. Smith | Mar 28, 2003 07:07 PM

If there has been a long post about this topic recently, please forgive me. I've just been thinking about wild versus cultivated food recently, spurred by my experiences with fraises des bois in France. I *think* that this is a wild, uncultivated strawberry (I mean, I know it's a stawberry, but is it truly wild or a wild variety which is cultivated?). My total adoration for this flavor has had me thinking about other wild foods I love.

Longtime posters on this board know that every once and a while I get up on my soapbox about truly wild rice (gathered only from the natural environment, not grown in a paddy -- most of the "wild" rice sold in the US is actually a paddy grown -- unless you were in Minnesota or Canada, or really were in pursuit of it, you probably have never had truly wild rice) and how much different and vastly superior it is to the cultivated varieties. It's not just the scarcity of it that makes it special -- I grew up in a household where "rice" meant wild rice - it was nothing special to us, it truly is a more flavorful product.

Also, I've gone on and on about real wild blueberries (those from Maine know what I mean). The tiny ball-bearing-sized nearly black-all-the-way-through stain-everything nibbles of almost too intense blueberry flavor.

Cloudberries (I've never had fresh, just preserved in syrups and jams) from the Scandinavian countries were one of those revelations to me -- a boozy, golden rasberry, which overtones of apple (they are called bakeapples in parts of Canada, I'm told). They are truly wild, and taste it.

Hunters know that birds and game can be some of the best food around. I don't have an extensive experience, but one of the highlights of my culinary youth was the annual dinner (or two) of just-shot mallard ducks in the late autumn.

I think a lot of the love for seafood that many people have is partially because it is, often, a wild product. I don't know one person who has tried both who doesn't prefer wild salmon whenever they can get it. And tuna, which I don't believe is ever farmed, is even good in cans.

I'm just thinking out loud here -- what other wild foods do you love, and why? Agriculture has made our civilization possible, without a doubt -- and I don't plan on giving up any cultivated food (no bread or butter! never!) -- but the flavor of wild food is, in my experience, so astonishingly good that I wish there were more of it around. It appears that, unconsciously, I've brought about as many easily-available wild foods into my regular diet as I can, and gravitate towards them when offered luxury wild foods (venison, fiddlehead ferns, etc). I did this without thinking of it specifically as wild, just knowing I liked these foods.

Do others feel as I do? What are your favorite wild foods?

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