There is much to look forward to. The winter has been a harsh one, with frosts and fog and frozen days/fingers/face, and it has seemed so long. But now there are little green shoots pushing up through the ground, warmed by February sunshine, the fruit trees are budding, the insects are beginning their daily patrols.
I have been in Burgundy, France, for some six months now, having moved here from the UK with my partner in a grand experiment in self-sufficient living. To this end we are growing fruits and vegetables, we have chickens for eggs (and amusement, strange little birds as they are), we have a well, we are awaiting a swarm of bees with which to populate our new beehive, we will keep pigs and possibly a couple of goats. We forage, we preserve, we brew. We wait.
We are surrounded by old pasture, grazed by the famous white Charolais cattle, and we can see the forest, a mix of pine and oak. from our house. We are visited by egrets and buzzards, and we share the area with deer, wild boar, and coypu. (Hopefully we will not share too many of our crops.)
Wild food will play a key part in our plans. There are so many unique flavours and textures to be found, and, done responsibly, gathering of these ingredients helps one to form a connection to the land, a deeper understanding and appreciation of one’s place in the world, and of one’s impact upon it (both positive and negative). It is a small act of rebellion against the ways food is produced and consumed, ways that are increasingly alarming and unethical, out of season and out of kilter and out of touch with nature. It is a way of enjoying ingredients long before they reach the kitchen, and the flavour is all the better for this.
The harvest can be extended in much the same way as from the garden; fermented and pickled and turned into booze. Wild garlic pesto is a must, mixed with fresh pasta and washed down with a glass of nettle beer, and can be enjoyed well after the plants themselves have tucked themselves out of sight.