Friday, October 3, 2014

Maine: foraging for cranberries, apples, and steamers at the Bay of Fundy

When I was a child, I read the Island of the Blue Dolphins and the bit where the water receded and people came out to forage excited me. Of course, in that story everyone got swept away in a tsunami, but the huge tide...oh, my! So, when my folks rented a place in Lubec, ME again this year I HAD to visit. Lubec is set at the entrance of the bay of Fundy, a place known for huge tides and, although we were not there for the big ones (about 24'...those take place in ten days), at least I could revel in 18' tides compared to 6' here in Cape Cod or 1' in St John.

On the first morning, sunny and calm, I walked out onto the gravel, mud, and sand. I strode toward the distant water, a mile or so away across the exposed land, and heard a susurrus around me, a whispering, clicking, bubbling sound.....and realized I found my myself surrounded by more clams than I had ever seen. At my feet the sand showed pockmarks of their holes. I stuck my finger down a hole and could feel the shell only three inches down instead of the usual eight inches. Most exciting! And in minutes dug a dozen clams, small and distorted from living in so much gravel and rock, true, but certainly ones I would happily introduce to my parents.

Hiking at West Quoddy Head Park, I saw an interpretive sign pointing out cranberries.....which were nowhere to be seen. Still, I kept my eyes open and found a couple dozen little berries on a cliff side. Increasingly educated eyes soon spotted nice patches among boulders....and in moss...and along a road where I collected a cup of them in five minutes, storing them in my shirt sleeve.

Last fall I drove to Ontario to look at a boat. That turned out poorly, partly due to a giant hornet nest in the cabin, but along the roads grew thick brush and small trees, often with wild apple trees holding their own. The apples didn't taste very good (most wild apples don't), but isn't it good to know that such genetic diversity still exists! Some of the apples taste quite acceptable, although not commercial flavor, and I picked a couple to go with the cranberries.
Back home at the cottage, I cooked the apples, cranberries, and some sugar and the resulting sauce turned out to be quite tasty. That... along with a couple blueberries that hung on for weeks past harvest time, the clams after they spit their sand, and a few mussels... made a great start to some of the delicious possibilities that wait along the bold coast of Maine. I look forward to next year.

Yep, happy puppy!

Lubec has no cell phone service and no bus, so early Tuesday morning my mom drove with me to Bangor where I caught the bus. Fortunately, the bus was quite crowded and I sat and chatted with a clammer and, later, with a Chatham beekeeper (who sails in the BVIs!) coming home from a beekeeping visit to Slovenia. Now I am back in Chatham, listening to rain pour down and considering breakfast. Hmm...

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