Unsettling the Table

Foraging is an excellent way to inspire your holiday concoctions, not to mention a valuable and timeless skill. Even better, it provides a sense of independence and self-reliance that has all but disappeared in a society of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants. Exploring nature for apple trees, rose hips and wild herbs is much more enriching than falling into a stupor at the local grocery store.

Foraging requires increased attention and mindfulness, a headspace free of constant interruptions like messages, emails and assignments, making time to reflect on nature before winter storms come.

In a recent conversation with my father about foraging, he was all too excited to speak to me about the walnuts, hops, white lilacs and wild cherries that he collected near his family’s home in Poland. He pointed out that most of us don’t even recognize food when we see it – especially when a particular ingredient tastes delicious only once it gets infused in spirits, fermented and processed. In the specialized skill sets of today’s busy society, there isn’t room for foraging. And yet, foraging deserves to be valued as a noble way of eating: it liberates us from a food economy in which we have no control and grounds us in our environment.

In Sackville one of the most plentiful foodstuffs ready for picking in October is rose hip, the seed-filled fruit of rose bushes commonly found on campus and around Waterfowl Park. While their shell and tart taste make them difficult to eat raw and actually enjoy, rose hips offer a refreshing flavour for teas, jellies, marmalades, syrups and wine (if you have a few years to experiment).

While by far the easiest way to take advantage of this crop is to prepare a compote or syrup, another recipe deserves mention: the rose hip bourbon sour, my drink of choice this Thanksgiving.

Several rose bushes are located just outside of Flemington. Fill a ball cap’s worth of firm, bright-red fruit and take them home for a good cleaning. Dump the rose hips in a pot and add enough water to cover the fruit – about 8 cups.

To make a syrup, boil the rose hips for at least 2 hours over low heat and let cool overnight so that they are mushy by morning. Strain and mash the pulp to extract as much of the (highly nutritious) compote as possible. Then make a simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of the liquid, ½ cup of water and 1½ cups of sugar until dissolved.

To make the cocktail, shake an egg white in a cocktail mixer until frothy. Add ice, 2 oz of rose hip syrup, 2 oz of bourbon and the juice of half a lemon. Shake until creamy and serve in a chilled coupe or rocks glass.

Alex Lepianka