Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meanwhile, in Gotham City...

While we wait around for the weather to warm up, and for actual local produce to trickle in, I'll try to keep you entertained with some food news.

Two Saturdays ago, I very sleepily listened to the early morning news on CBC Radio 1 -yes, I am an unconditional fan of the CBC- and I thought I heard the news reader announce that Monsanto was going to commercialise genetically modified sugar beets in Canada. I waited for the next round of news to listen more carefully, but it was never mentioned again. I looked it up on the internet, again I found no mention about the beets' foray into Canada. However, I did learn that the GE beets were commercially available as of 2008 in the US. I also found a call to boycott Kellogg's cereals because the company deems it unnecessary to avoid the use of GE sugar in their breakfast products.

I don't know how effective boycotts are these days, but if you feel concerned by this issue perhaps you should voice your worries to Kellogg's Canada.

By the way, am I the only one to have heard about Monsanto's sugar beets coming to Canada?

Oh! For my birthday, I received a beautiful book on wild mushroom identification. Now mushroom hunting is a most fascinating occupation, one that does not garner enough respect in North America. In many European countries, pharmacists receive training in mushroom identification as a public service to amateur wild food gatherers, whereas here, you're more or less on your own. You might get lucky finding some help at a university agriculture or ecology department, though I wouldn't hold my breath or want to risk losing a beautiful harvest.

I have gone mushroom hunting in France and Japan, so I do have some basic knowledge, but I only pick fungi I am familiar with. If you decide to try your luck, arm yourself with a good photo guide (colour pictures are pretty, and some abound with interesting anecdotes, but close range colour photos are more reliable for identification). I would also try to find out where to go for help in identification. Some nature clubs offer classes, and guided tours. And don't go out alone, bring a friend -especially one with 'shroom knowledge.

You might be wondering why I'm mentioning wild mushrooms on a drizzly March day... well, fungi are not just an autumn harvest: it is a little early for Eastern Canada, but I know that some regions in North America are warm -and damp- enough for a most lovely spring harvest of morels. So get your wellies out, find a sturdy basket and a good knife! Or head to your local farmers' market: if your area has morel patches, chances are someone will be setting up a stall at the market.

If you live in Montreal: when the weather warms up, and the outdoor stalls open for business at Jean-Talon market, there is a lovely couple you have to visit. I can't recall their name right now, but they specialise in local, wild harvests, and last year they had gorgeous morels... There are also some shops on the market perimeter that sell wild mushrooms, though they are rarely local.

Bon app'!

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