Feral celery (Apium graveolens) is something that I didn’t really expect to find while foraging, but there it was in the same patch of damp bush as the asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) that I didn’t expect to find either. In contrast to the meagre asparagus harvest, the celery is there in huge quantities.
The spot is a reserve in Quakers Hill, in the damp soil where water backs up in a swampy spread, queuing to get through a single culvert under the railway. Decent clean bush this, unlike a nearby celery source at Seven Hills that I’m told surrounds a wetland created to hold back heavy metal laden sediment – and yet the story goes that a local restaurant harvests there regularly. Goes to show that you want to know the history of where you are foraging (and perhaps dining in Seven Hills). The convenient thing with the recent spot at least is that I was there for an archaeological assessment that I had preceded with research on land use history. I trust this dirt.
The challenges when faced with more of something than you know what to do with are twofold: First to think of new ways of using or preserving it; and secondly, to resist the temptation to take more than you need (or, as is too often the case, can find the time to process). Perhaps I could have been more imaginative, but with a good bay tree (Laurus nobilis) closer to home also pushing out wonderful fresh growth, stock seemed easiest. With this wiry strong flavoured wild celery (almost like lovage (Levisticum officinale)), and in the absence of the sweetening buffer of carrots or onions, it is an almost bitter kind of stock carrying a strong herbiness.
And here is the twist – with the stock portioned out for freezing, I opened the chest freezer to find a meltdown. The freezer switch is at ground level and has a light, normally covered and hidden, but not when the 3 year old Boy appears to have found it some days previously and so not when I found it in the off position. With a lot of mass in there, everything was still half frozen, but some of it too long in there already for me to want to risk re-freezing. One roo tail and one roo leg to be precise; the fruit will be fine; 2 fish were consigned to bait; the last of Autumn’s dried mushrooms (slippery jack (Suillus luteus) and saffron milk cap (Lactarius deliciosus)) could have stayed in but came out to join the stew.
Stew for which a rich herby stock, conveniently enough, was ready and waiting. And for which everything but the passata was foraged.