"In wildness is the preservation of the world." -H.D. Thoreau

Why eat from the wild? The answer is obvious to anyone who has felt the emotional uplift from the weight of a basket brimming with morel mushrooms, the earthy-sweet scent of digging Sassafras roots, or the heavy pulsing of a fish testing the limits of your fly rod.
There are a million reasons to eat wild, to get dirty, to taste fresh food. It is here where we connect to the Earth, our Ancestral past, immediate present and hope for a healthy future...

"Nothing else can build such awareness as surely and powerfully as practicing the ancient ecological art of humankind - foraging. It is not observation of, but rather participation in the phenomena of Nature that brings us to our greatest understanding of our place in the mosaic of life."
-Samuel Thayer The Forager's Harvest

Foraging in the Tip of the Mitten!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Full Egg Moon Recipe: Northwoods "Egg Rolls"

It has been a while since I have seen the Moon at night. The Full Egg Moon has passed and is waning. Birds all over are singing their spring songs and we even heard a Hermit Thrush last night on our 4th annual walk to view the dramatic mating display of the American Woodcock. If he is successful, around three females will nest in his territory and lay a clutch of up to twelve eggs. I pray for their prosperity; I love Woodcocks - both in the field and roasted on a bed of watercress. Habitat loss and herbicides are continuing to create a major population decline. At around a 55% decrease in the last 40 years, the future of the American Woodcock is questionable.

But hope is there. I am reminded every time I see a Trumpeter Swan sailing overhead. Once a common sight centuries ago, these Swans were over-hunted for their fashionable plumage and by 1932 their population in the continental United States was at only 26 individual birds (Grandlund, 1994). Through recovery efforts of places like the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, the count of Swans in Michigan alone 12 years ago was over 400 individuals. Part of the recovery program for both Swans and Loons has shifted in recent years to raising awareness of a growing threat to native waterfowl: the Mute Swan.

Introduced the world over from its Native Eurasia, Mute Swans are beautiful birds who defend their territory with tenacity. This includes knocking over Loon nests and out-competing Trumpeter Swans for nesting spots. They were removed from the Federal Migratory Bird Act around 7 years ago and efforts are being made to control their population and continue to reintroduce our native Trumpeter Swan. The DNR even issues permits to remove nests.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-rl2nfm3BLxQ/TYpBQSQOn_I/AAAAAAABMF0/4Q1caZKgicg/s1600/John%2BD%2Bbatten_swan%2Bmaiden.jpgI personally want the Trumpeters to return in force, but can't help but see the Mute Swan as still an amazing and powerful animal that was revered by my ancestors as an intermediary between worlds. Tales abound in Northern European folklore of Swan Maidens slipping off their swan skins to become beautiful women when no one is looking. Swans swam in the Well of Urd, (one of the most mystical and important places of the ancient Norse cosmology.) They were blessed white by the water, considered holy and the "parents of the race of swans." (Prose Edda; Ch. XVI) In ancient Irish mythology there is mention of Druidic Bards adorned in a sort of magical garment called a Tugen: a cloak of feathers that some believe were from their sacred Mute Swan. (Ulster Journal of Archeology; Vol. 9; pg.296)

So with that said, I cannot bring myself to harm these birds in any way. But with the efforts being made to control the population, no one is going to get upset if I take a couple eggs...

Finding a Mute Swan nest is fairly easy. They stand out as a huge 25lb white lump amongst a mat of dead cattail leaves. Spooking one off the nest can be an ordeal, however and we have been false-charged once and chased away by the large male a couple times too. These birds can put up a mean fight in defense of their territory; they are not to be messed with. Most of the time though, they leave without much of a hassle and circle around making sounds of annoyance.

When I see a pair of Mute Swans, I keep an eye on them during the Egg Moon and try to spot them building their nests. It takes them a couple days to tear up the surrounding dead vegetation and build the large mats that is their nest. Once I see a swan starting incubation, I wait for about a week so that her full clutch is laid before we head out to harvest.

 They generally lay between 4 and 8 eggs which are a light blue-green and weigh about a pound each. If you take them all, she will just re-nest elsewhere, but if you only take a few, she will still have an investment in the remaining eggs and she will re-lay to make up for the lost ones. The yolk is about 65% of the entire thing and is much thicker and richer than chicken egg yolks.

So time for the recipe. Everyone has easy egg recipes, but I wanted to do something unique, something I call:

Northwoods "Egg Rolls"

1 cup white wine
1cup red cabbage, finely sliced
3 wild leeks w/ greens, diced
a good handful of wild leek leaves
1 portabella mushroom
2 cups bean sprouts
1 Mute Swan egg or 6 chicken eggs

Stir fry mushroom with wine until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add cabbage and leeks (not the handful of greens) and cook another 1-2 minutes. Crack in egg(s) and cook. When nearly done, add the bean sprouts and cook one more minute. Lay out the leek greens and spoon this mixture onto leaves and roll them into little bite size appetizers. Enjoy!
I drizzled over mine a 50/50 mixture of Fustini's balsamic vinegar and fresh lime juice. 

If you like your yolk, this egg is for you!