Monday, September 17, 2007

Wild Food Day: Stink Currants and Licorice Root

Stink Currants:
Stink currants are one of the indigenous berries, here, apparently eaten still by many native peoples in various manners (dried in cakes, or with oil, or more recently as jam), but totally ignored by the rest of us. But as we play in and around them, I can't help noticing the lovely sappy smell of the plants, though the berries really aren't very tasty. So I thought it was about time we tried them.

This was our first harvest, today. The look on Taliesin's face here is his reaction to the berries' fresh flavour: pretty bitter, but powerful! Rhiannon worked hardest of all, harvesting berries and holding her bucket out for those berries only I could reach.

Unfortunately, stink currants are harvested by other animals, too, and the berries are few and far between. I estimate we traveled more than a kilometer over logs and brush, through ferns, hollow stumps and a few devil's club plants, to find as many as we did. And in the end, after scouring all the plants on the property, and the various patches we know about in the woods, we had enough to make about 1/4 cup of jam.

Recipe: cover the berries with water, bring to boil and stir with chopstick until the mixture is a deep, thick purple, and the berries begin to fall apart. Add a bit of sugar, a teeny tiny bit of gelatin to help it set, and a very small amount of lemon juice. Stir stir stir, and then cool. The jam was really wonderful; even the children and our guests agreed. It tastes very full and has a lot of character. It's different, but not in an off-putting sort of way! Too bad we didn't manage to make more!

Licorice Fern:
On our stink currant journey, we of course found plenty of licorice fern growing on the mossy trees, and decided we should bring some home for tea. The sword ferns are at the moment all loosing their spores in great clouds on the forest, and we walked through many a brown fertile-haze, today. If you click this licorice fern-closeup you will see the little sori in great detail. They're so very tidy! The licorice roots are all drying up for the winter, so we harvested a few teapots worth of roots, for storage. On the way home Taliesin and Rhiannon chewed licorice root, and became so entranced with it that they began drifting off into faery. At one point I turned around and Tali was gone. I called a bit nervously (we had just passed the bones of a deer and some bird remains, which to me appeared to have been crunched by a cougar...), and heard a faint reply from the ferns: "hmmmm...".

"What are you doing? Where are you?"

"Having a little licorice root..." Here in this photo is Taliesin, the way I found him, drifted off into faery with a little freshly harvested licorice root in his mouth and the rest of the harvest in his hand.

Wild Food Teatime:
When we finally made it home, (and after a good lunch, because after all, a kilometer-long bush-hike is hard work for 3-5 year olds), Taliesin cleaned the roots of their moss, then I gave them a good scrub, and we chopped them up for tea (sampling a little as we did...). Yes those are Tal's hands using the big sharp knife!

We had guests over, and they were very happy to join in our wild food day. Here's the spread: Homemade gluten-free toast with stink-currant jam and licorice-root tea! Lovely!!


  1. I used to think stink currants were rather sparse, but sometimes stink currants are THICK. Today in Sitka I easily filled a gallon bucket in 10 minutes with loaded stink currant bunches. Keep your eyes out...

    I look forward to trying some jam!

  2. I have been curious about stink currants too for some time and today my boys(1 and 3) and I finally picked a large bowl full of them. For some reason they are very abundant here in Oona River. I thought it perhaps was due to a lack of bears but noticed the bushes closer to the road were picked over pretty good compared to the dripping branches in the woods near our home. I just logged on to check your recipe and am about to finally give it a try. I think the jam would pair well with deer meat. Your post was also about the only recipe I have been able to find on stink currants. Were you able to find some information on them and there uses online? Thanks for the recipe, it led me to your blog which I enjoy reading very much.

  3. Hi Shona!
    I have never seen much about them, and just came up with that recipe, myself. I have eaten the jam with moose meat, and that was great, too, so I assume they'd be great with venison.
    Enjoy! And thank you for the kind words!

  4. I found some in Olympic National Park, and they were very good tasting. Similar to a kiwi fruit. There is lots of Devil's Club in the area, as well, so picking them is difficult.


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