It is now mid-February and we are seeing the first signs of spring, the grasses and many other plants are sprouting, the Hazelnuts have bloomed and the willows are blooming, there are several other types of trees that are showing signs of bursting forth in the next few weeks. But most important of all the nettles are sprouting and the fiddle heads are coming up. We often speak of “Flu season” or the time when we are most susceptible to colds and the flu. You can imagine what it was like in the old days going for several months without fresh food especially when it is dark and rainy outside. We have a hard time staying well even with vitamins and other supplements, so when the nettles and fiddleheads appeared it was time to stock up on vitamin C and other delicious nutrients.
I case you are not aware of fiddleheads, they are the first sprouts of ferns. They are called fiddleheads because the look like the top of a fiddle where the tuning pegs are. They are one of the earliest vegetable foods to appear along with nettles and are bursting with much needed vitamins and vegetable nutrients. Extremely good for you! Another plant food that will appear soon is fireweed sprouts they are also good for you. There would not have been much other foraging going on except on the beach where clam season is well underway with late night low tides and cold water making the clams most delicious. We overlook just how nutritious clams are. Clams filter seawater and filter out plankton. When we eat the clam we usually eat all of the clam including the contents of its stomach, which gives us every trace mineral in the sea and all of the goodness that the clam has filtered out for its own dinner. The same goes for mussels which would have been harvested and eaten in large amounts at this time of year. The mussels are also full of eggs this time of year which makes them extra nutritious and extra delicious. Paralytic shellfish poisoning is a hazard here in the Salish Sea, but only in the warmer months. When I first moved here the old timers told us to eat shellfish (clams, mussels, and oysters) only in months that have an “R” in them. All the cold water months! There was still plenty of dried salmon and berries, some dried herring roe and some herrings and maybe some halibut or rockfish. No one was going hungry.
School would have been in full swing, and other than an occasional hunting trip, things would have been pretty quiet.