If you see Fogo Island Inn chef Murray McDonald crawling around scanning the rocks near the inn, don’t worry. He has neither lost his mind nor a contact lens, he is looking for wild plants for the evening menu.
The edible greens growing on the shoreline and in the forest offer a surprising array of flavours and textures. You can use what are essentially weeds to build the aromatic spiciness and heat required for curry or to suggest the salty, fleshy taste of shellfish. Murray works with wild plants to help create a unique sense of place through food.
Here are a few of his favourites and their culinary uses:
(From left to right)
“One of the staples that I use in a lot of things, because it’s very aromatic and flavorful, is wild celery. It’s also known as Scottish lovage. If you combine the flavours of celery, cilantro, and parsley, that’s what you get. We use it in gremolatas, purees, baking, salads and garnishes.”
“Seaside rocket tastes like horseradish. It’s nice to find something with spiciness to it, growing right here by the ocean. Take sea rocket, wild celery and garlic scapes, and you’ve made a curry paste, just with things you found in rural Newfoundland.”
“I use oyster leaf mainly in salads—it doesn’t puree or cook up very well. It grows hanging off cliffs and on little corners of rocks by the ocean, and it’s a plant, but it tastes just like oysters. I love serving it to people who have shellfish allergies, so they can experience that oyster flavour without falling over and dying.”
“Seaside plantain is kind of cool. It’s a long chivey-looking thing that curls. It tastes like sea salt and works well in wild foraged pestos.”
“There’s wild sorrel everywhere on Fogo Island; it grows mainly in disturbed areas—places that have been dug up. On people’s root cellars, there’s always sorrel. It’s a fun addition to salads, because it has a bitter green-apple flavour.
Check back in tomorrow for local forager and jam maker Mona Brown’s guide to the most popular berries on Fogo Island–there are around 20 edible species.