“The goosetongue greens were used in boiled dinner. First, we would cook the goosetongue greens. We would put them in a pot of water, let it come to a boil, and then drain the water, add new water, and bring it to a boil again. In total, the water was changed three times. We did this with both fresh and salted goosetongue greens. This way, they wouldn't taste as strong. My parents would add a bit of baking soda, perhaps to sweeten them or to help keep the green colour.”
“Gathering goosetongue greens was a family activity,” says Nancy Jonah of Hillsborough. “We would go out with huge burlap sacks to collect them.”
“Then we would pickle them in barrels by just adding salt and water. Before eating them, we would rinse them in cold water and boil them. Then we could take them out and boil potatoes in that water. We would have salt pork on the side. We always added vinegar to the goosetongue greens.”
Samphire greens are sometimes called “sandfire greens.” In French, the greens are called “tétines de souris,” which literally translates to “mouse nipples,” a reference to the little bumps on the leaves. Samphire greens grow on the muddy, lower flats rather than the higher areas preferred by goosetongue greens. Jocelyne Gauvin remembers salting them to preserve them in the same way as they salted goosetongue greens.
According to the late Mary Majka, goosetongue and samphire greens are favourite local vegetables which were savoured by the Mi’kmaq, who later who introduced them to the first settlers. In Fundy National Park (1977), she writes, “Albert County residents pick these greens by the bushel from the salt marshes and enjoy them raw, in salads, freshly cooked, as an addition to a main course, pickled or frozen in winter time.”
“Goosetongue greens are best at the end of July. Samphire greens aren't ready until the middle of August. Both contain a great amount of minerals which are normally found in seaweed.
“Samphire greens have to be ‘stripped’ after cooking. The fleshy part is eaten and the inner woody stem is thrown away.”
For both types of greens, Majka writes, “No salt is added to the cooking water, only a piece of salt pork. They may be cooked like spinach and served with butter.”
In the history of Stieffs (now Steeves) who settled around Hillsborough in 1766, it is said that fresh and preserved samphire greens were a major food source during summer and winter.
By Janet Wallace. An excerpt from Fiddleheads, Fricot & Frittata: A Hodgepodge of Atlantic Canadian Recipes, Albert County Museum. 2018. Only $8 including taxes, or buy ten and get one free! Available from the Albert County Museum.