A Hike into the Ravine on a Hot Day - Part 1 of 3

It has been very hot here in Toronto for the last couple of days. It has reached 32 degrees Celsius and with the Humidex quotient (how extra hot it feels because of how humid it is), meteorologists have been saying we have reached the equivalent of 40 degrees Celsius. I think that's 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Toasty.

That's just too damned hot for me. Spring and I (and Monty) have prevailed by putting the air-conditioning on from time to time, but at a reasonable (environmentally-friendly) level.

The strange this about it all is that on Thursday night as I made my way to bed, Spring was curled up in her duvet and in her tiredness could only telegraph in an urgent yet restrained voice that she was too cooooold. I immediately went to get a couple of wool blankets, covered her up, and that made a different. But I think it is enough to say that Toronto weather is wacky, unpredictable, and that we have just got to come to accept this fact.

It is was noon on Saturday and Spring was resting after a poor night of sleep before. So I decided to grab my canvas bag and fill it with a few goodies, and walk on down to the valley through the park behind our house. The willow trees guard the gates of the ravine, and let me pass through without any questions. Spring stayed at home, she's feeling under the weather. Monty stayed home to keep her company - and to snore.

The valley has greened significantly since I was last down there, and mosquitoes are beginning to appear. They didn't seem to want to bother me though. It could my unwashed state. Who knows?

Passing by first-year Burdock leaves, I hoisted my bag onto my shoulder. It contained the following:
  1. Mora carbon steel knife and sheath, with paracord necklace
  2. Aluminum Kettle
  3. A 1-liter Nalgene bottle full of water
  4. 500 mL stainless steel cup with handle
  5. Steel Striker & Flint kit in a tin, containing also a small amount of charcloth
  6. A wooden spoon
  7. A zip lock bag containing dry fat-free milk powder, instant coffee and table sugar, all mixed together - enough for 2 portions and a zip lock bag containing 4 oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies.
  8. A length of string in case I needed to help tie a brace to hold the kettle over the fire with.
  9. My digital camera

I passed by some Greater Plantain and decided that it looked pretty tasty. I gathered up a couple of leaves, cut off the stalks, folded them up and popped them in my mouth. They tasted a bit like raw adult spinach - but a little nicer than that. I could easily imagine gathering several handfuls worth of it, rinsing, blanching it in boiling water and eating it with a little bit of salt and butter and pepper.

I could even spice up the Plantain leaves a bit with the one above - Garlic-Mustard. This is a spicy little plant, full of soft, somewhat bitter leaves. I like the look of the white flowers - tiny like forget-me-nots. I chewed on some of the soft leaves, but the taste is a bit overwhelming after a few of them.

The Plantains were huge! Notice how the stalks resemble Rhubarb stalks? I believe they contain oxalic crystals. Similar to how Jack-in-the-Pulpits do, the most effective way to eliminate these is to air dry them. Cooking won't remove them. And you do not want to eat oxalic crystals.

I'll tell you a story. Twenty years ago I was sitting in my friend Robin's kitchen with our girlfriends at the time and other friends. As Robin sat in a kitchen chair thinking about the beer, he appeared to have decided that it would be prudent to eat one of the leaves brushing against his face attached to a houseplant. He grabbed it and munched away quite happily for a minute.

I should 'fess up. We were all in the midst of playing a drinking game called Century Club. I won't get into the rules, except to say there was a lot of beer to be consumed in a short period of time.

The moment blurred for a second, and then Robin was talking excitedly head-upside-down in the kitchen sink washing his mouth out and trying to rapid-fire explain the pain he was experiencing. Oddly he seemed happy with it all, hardly all that distressed. Or at least that's what I thought.

So I said "Oh, no! There's nothing wrong with this plant Robin!" and selected a choice looking variegated leaf, folded it carefully and popped it in my mouth. I chewed and chewed and it tasted sort of sweet and I called out to Robin head-upside-down in the kitchen sink again that (I was assuming he was just drunk and over-reacting) "Robin, there's nothing wrong with this plant!".

A minute later I was head-upside-down in the kitchen sink beside the one Robin was occupying, negotiating in a monosyllabic manner for a shared-arrangement of the water pouring out of the tap into his mouth. The sensation - once we'd recovered we were able to articulate this - was that someone had poked hundreds of needle holes in our mouths and on our tongues and inside our lips, and then flooded our oral cavities with white vinegar. The pain was almost too much to bear.

This was, I am certain, the result of 2 idiots consuming plant leaves containing oxalic crystals. (sorry Rob - but c'mon - it wasn't all that bright of us, was it?)

Anyone know what this one is above? I don't think it is Colts Foot.

Dandelions will court the wind. I like watching the seeds fly through the air.

It was a nice hike down into the valley.



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