Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
A rare treat from the wilds of the Gaspe peninsula
I doubt there were many people walking around southeastern Michigan last week wondering where they could source some wild caraway seed. Having tasted a sample from our friends at Épices de Cru in Montreal a few months ago though, I was one of them. And if you’re a caraway lover like I am, it’s worth making your way to the Deli or ordering online! I love the stuff.
The caraway plant is indigenous to Europe, and, having been carried across the Atlantic by colonists, it found conditions similar to its original environment in northern Canada. As the de Viennes at Épices de Cru explain:
It now grows wild in many regions of Quebec. Wild caraway is considerably more complex and robust than the farmed variety, so it’s generally used in smaller doses. It goes great with game, cabbage (sauerkraut, for example) or potatoes. It’s also a great way to kick up a soup or grilled vegetables. Our wild caraway is hand harvested. … The seed pods are dried, then beaten to release the precious spice.
Like so much that we love here at Zingerman’s, wild caraway seed is very hard to get. Philippe de Vienne says, “It is wild, rare, tedious, and time consuming to collect. Few are willing to collect it. It is not native, and it has naturalized only in some places in Quebec.” Through the de Viennes, we’re able to score the small amount we have only because of the hard handwork of Catherine Jacob and Gérard Mathar at Gaspésie Sauvage who live near the small village of Douglastown on the North Atlantic Coast, who proudly declare, “We only harvest wild products.” They speak our language:
Our professional activity is an integral part of our life, we put all our heart and a lot of time into it, but it is not an end in itself. It is a way to achieve the life we want for our family: an existence respectful of Nature and its treasures, close to the values that are essential to us. To live better, with less. To know what is essential, to leave behind the unnecessary, to relearn self-sufficiency, to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of things. … We are building a business on a human scale that we are passionate about. We don’t want to be the most publicized and we don’t want to own the largest forest products foraging company. We leave those “needs” to others. If money stopped existing tomorrow, we would probably be among the most satisfied. We do not live off the land, we live with the land.
The flavor and aroma of the wild caraway seed is pretty much what you might imagine you’d get with wild foods in comparison with the cultivated offerings we’re used to. More intense, more concentrated, more complex, more compelling. I LOVE it sprinkled onto fresh goat cheese, and also tossed into a grilled cheese sandwich. Great on steamed potatoes. Very good with sautéed vegetables or braised cabbage. Really nice in a beef or venison stew, or in this fabulous fish masala recipe from the folks at Épices de Cru.
We have only a small amount of the Quebecois Wild Caraway seed, so swing by soon!