Goosetongue greens

Posted by on July 14, 2011

I live at the edge of a bay where land and sea come gently together…we have neither the majesty of extreme mountain ranges nor the fury of open ocean…but enjoy a  place of transition, where time has eroded the mountains and salt tides  have softened landforms to create marshes rich and green.

In mid-summer, you might spy local folk tramping those rich emerald fields  in search of  marsh greens.  And most are secretive of their perfect picking spots…not wanting to share.  I now have a stretch of marsh to call my own, but haven’t yet explored to see what grows there.  I do hope I’ll find goosetongue there.

Goosetongue Greens (Plantago maritima)

They aren’t a particularly photogenic plant and tend to clump themselves in with other grasses, making them a mite hard to find if your eyes have not become well-tuned to the fleshy slender ‘tongues’.

But in the meantime, I was delighted when a friend dropped by to share the fruits of his picking excursion with me.

The proper way to pick them, is to pinch or cut the largest leaves from the stem, leaving the smaller leaves and root behind to grow again…however, because it’s easier, most tend to pull them from the soft soil, ripping up the roots (as shown). As a result, goosetongue greens are getting harder to find.

We have to be more careful with our resources – people also tend to over-pick fiddleheads too, not leaving some to grow for the coming year.

The first step of preparation is to rinse them well, washing off the marsh mud.  I then trim the root ends off.

Goosetongue greens can be boiled or lightly steamed for 5-10 minutes. No salt is needed as they are naturally salty  (they do grow on a salt marsh, after all!) . According to Bill Casselman, they are called passe-pierre by the Acadians, who traditionally pickled them for winter use.

I enjoyed mine after tossing with butter and drizzling with white balsamic vinegar. They have a lovely texture and the flavour is salty with a very slight bitter aftertaste. A perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken.

One may find goosetongue greens at local corner stores, but the real pleasure, I think, comes in the gathering…the time spent wading through the marsh grass, listening for the curious whisper of a Nelson’s sparrow – an elusive little bird that looks like he’s been dipped in marsh mud. The pleasure of sunshine, sight and sound…of the subtle smells of the bay, the calls of ducks and glimpses of blue herons and eagles.

I know that my ancestors also gathered these greens…valuing them for the nutrition, taste, and their seasonal delight.  Enjoying these gifts the earth has offered…perhaps not ever considering that when you eat of something the land provides, the land enters your blood, it becomes a part of you.

Perhaps that is why I feel so at home here. Perhaps next year, I’ll be gathering just enough…on the marsh I call my own.

22 Valued Thoughts on Goosetongue greens

  1. Kim

    Deb, I love your description of the area. ‘A place of transition’….describes it perfectly well. I do love how softness and lush green of this place. I always say that here, you have to beat nature off with a stick because everything just grows here, always threatening to take over our human places. BTW copper dish scrubbers at the dollar store, placed in a border around your garden will keep out the slugs. They hate copper and will not cross it.

    • Deborah Carr

      Hi Kim – I bought an armload of those things last year, unraveled a bunch of them and coiled them around my beds like barbed wire. The slimy little critters crawled right over the top. I tried powdered lime this year, too, but the rain kept washing it away. Row covers helped a bit.

  2. Sonya

    Hi Deborah!

    I hope you don’t mind that I posted this on our Maplegrove Facebook Page! I just loved the description of the place and the explanation of Goosetongue Greens! Thanks!

  3. Amy

    Mmmm, Goosetongue Greens; they sound delicious! Something to try, some day …

  4. Sabrina Crager

    We are from Indiana and we are looking for goose tongue greens 🙂 Wehave looked EVERYWHERE with no luck!! Any help would be GREATLY APPRECIATED:)

    • Deborah Carr

      I’m not sure where you would get them in Indiana, Sabrina…they are a salt marsh green. But if you’re in the Bay of Fundy area, they are just starting to be harvested now, so can generally be found in small corner stores or farm markets for purchase.

  5. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    I can almost imagine what they taste like from your post here… Nothing like that around here, but I’m enjoying them vicariously through you… so surely gathering gently. Thanks.

  6. DICK WHITE

    Deb, your descriptions and photos are wonderful. Just had to share a word with you: As sometimes happened,
    I misread your text and read, “I enjoyed mine after tossing with butter and dazzling with white balsamic vinegar.”
    I thought that choice of words was also dazzling — until I re-read the text to correct myself. 😉 Thanks again.

    Dick

    • Deborah Carr

      That is a excellent word to substitute!

  7. Linda Holt

    Love your Blog, your wonderful way with words and recipes! We are going to try the goose tongue with the butter and balsamic vinegar tomorrow. We just had some sauteed with green onion and bacon and a drizzle (dazzle as Dick White says) of spruce tip syrup.Love goose tongue and as gathering provides us with the only fresh food we can get…all the better! Keep up the great writing! Linda
    in Alaska

  8. Dorian

    Wonderful with words and a zen like site , wish you well in you journey .

  9. sybil

    I love how the interweb sometimes can lead you far from the place you thought you were going and you end up somewhere delightful like your blog.

    I started by searching for “Sandfire Greens” and ended up finding this post.

    I’ll keep an eye out for them on my walks and will be careful to cut them and not pull them up.

    Best wishes, Sybil

  10. Amy Johnson

    Dear Ms. Carr,

    My beloved and I have a 20-acre farm on the Bay of Fundy; the first week we were there to close on the property, two lovely gentlemen returned after having stopped to pick up some of our curbside treasures after cleaning out the house. Upon their return they had a gorgeous bouquet of marsh heather and a huge bundle of goose tongue greens. Funny enough they wouldn’t tell us exactly where they found them as I understand it’s quite a competition, everyone having their own secret locations! Anyway, they were accidentally left on the stove on simmer for close to five hours and they were still delicious! What a lovely local treat.

    • Deborah Carr

      So you were able to enjoy TWO maritime treasures – goosetongue greens and good old-fashioned hospitality. I trust you are on the Albert County side of the bay?

  11. sari

    we founds some but there is lots of black spots on them are they eatable or problematic?

    • Deborah Carr

      Hard to say…sometimes goosetongue greens have light discolourations and spotting, but black spots do not sound normal. You should always consider the drainage area where you are picking them..as in where the water flowing into the marsh is coming from and looking to see if there a possibility of contamination nearby.

  12. Deborah

    I have many memories of pucking goose tongue greens passe pierre we called it. We ate ours in boiled pork dinner. Yum it must be high in iron as I always felt a surge if strengthening.

  13. Deborah

    *picking

  14. Wilfred Mader

    My Dad used to get these greens when I was just a small kid, I used to go with him to help him ‘pick
    ‘ them and he always watched me to make sure I picked the ‘right’ ones…lol, I’m not sure what the right ones are now?

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