Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Wild Summer of Love

Ok, ok, so the title is a little misinforming. What I am talking about is the foods of the wild. Here in Poland, as in many of the European locations, wild food really is actually closer than you think. In Australia.... I don't remember much else than the obvious animal protein, but then again that probably shows my simple ignorance and lack of attachment to the land, during my city slicker time living there. In Poland, however, it really is something that people add to their diet. It may come from the times when queues were long and supply was short, so they did the most natural thing and turned to the natural larder to get them through the leaner times. Either way, they certainly have some great traditions that I want to be part of!

We went to Sokolka so that I could vote in the elections. Yes, I voted. Well..... I put the voting slip into the box! So technically I am saying I was on the winning team even if it wasn't me registered to vote. So I am now a PPP - Polish Political Person. :) Whilst in Sokolka I continually pestered the family to take me looking for Jagoda, blueberries. To be perfectly honest, I have never seen a plant of blueberries on a farm, let alone in the forest. I knew that they were in abundance, as I had bought some recently in our local Saturday markets. Then, on the way to the far East Outpost that is Sokolka, there were scores of kiddies, grannies and the old leather jacket clad scooter rider trying to sell their deftly picked windfall on the side of the highway. I was amazed looking at them, most people with two or 3 Nescafe styled and sized jars to sell. I thought "How lazy! Couldn't they even be bothered to pick a decent amount?" Of course, this was all prior to me attempting to pick said dark purple berries.

So after getting in early Friday afternoon, and dropping the hint every hour or so that I wanted to go, Marta and her Mum finally caved in to my persistent pressure and took me to the forest. Sure I could go on my own, but I wouldn't know what was poisonous and alternatively deliciously edible. That is until I would fall over crying and hallucinating like Ralph Wiggum (see the Simpsons episode Das Bus). Ahhh, the Simpsons, always there for a reference.

So off we went, up the road maybe a whole kilometre (or to those old schoolers aka Americans, English and all Australian older persons, that is 0.621371192237 miles) we came to a stop. It was a beautiful place, opposite some tractors making hay while the sun shone. Yes, that was a literal interpretation of the site, along with 4 storks in the field hunting frogs or equally scrumptious creatures. We hopped out of the car on this dirt road and the first thing we saw was a little plant with a tiny red berry on it. I presumed that as many things in nature, red = certain death. However, Marta's mum walked over and pulled it off the plant and offered it to me. I shook my head kind of vigorously and then she popped it into her mouth. Marta made it round to the other the side of the car. "Oh goody! Wild Strawberries!"she exclaimed, as I suddenly felt like an ignorant fool. Ela wasn't trying to kill me, just give me a nice present. So we picked a few and popped them into our greedy mouths, hoping there were no bugs or sticks caught up in the collecting process. Hungry for more we climbed the steep bank of the road leading us into a small woodland.

Once there I was amazed! Originally, we had been hunting Jagodas, the elusive blueberry or maybe the odd kurki (Chanterelle), but instead we found a never ending field of wild strawberries! Well gatherers can't be chosers, so we started to pick. We picked and picked and picked and picked. Here is how kiddies without buckets would store berries for the stroll home. I personally don't know how they could survive the temptation to eat them long enough!
Ela showing a happy strawberry smile.

Non-stop for about 45 minutes or so, apart of course from the stretching to stop the knees locking, and the sneaky little munch here and there on a berry or three.
At this stage we had half a bucket full, which probably would have weighed in at about 500 or 600 grams.
It is hard to contain yourself to stop picking sometimes, when you see the almost red glow coming from these little berries when they catch the sunlight.
Quite a lot when you think most berries grow solo and none are bigger than an index fingers nail. We also did a few strawbs lay backs. Which is pick a handful and tip them all into your mouth and basically let them dissolve. These little things have the most intense flavour of strawberries ever. They are so delicate and sweet. Due to this delicate nature, there is really no point collecting huge masses of them as they won't last more than a few hours. Unless of course you are planning to make jam..... which crossed my mind, but I let the Vuvuzelas rule me. I wanted to get back to watch the Argentina vs Germany World Cup match. For once my belly didn't win! I will be back next time though.... to murder that wild field of berries and make some of the most intense jam ever! I promise this.

So what to do with these? Well other than eat them like the great healthy little snacks that they are..... I decided at half time to make some pancakes with them and a little vanilla flavoured whipped cream.
First get rid of all sticks and bugs that may be hiding there.
Distribute onto pancakes.
Stare at them in marvel.
Cover with cream, roll and add more cream and a little grated chocolate to make it look pretty. These were fantastic and I found it hard to stop at one. Luckily I only made enough batter for two rounds of pancakes each!


Erin said...

Oh man. That is amazing. I'm so jealous. Flip. Yum

Garth said...

Yes Erin, they really are amazing! I was surprised. I had seen these little things sold in markets before but never bought any as had no idea what they would be like, nor what to do with them. Glad I got some free ones ;) Next stop...... Blueberries!

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