Buried treasure, shipwrecks, legends of smuggling and piracy fascinate my family, young and old. Growing up in Atlantic Canada provided so many opportunities to become engrossed in tales of lore. On the South Shore is Oak Island, a small, mysterious isle where treasure hunters have been trying since 1795 to unearth what could be one of the biggest troves, ever! 6 people have died trying, millions have been supposedly spent on excavating and countless hours have been spent dreaming about what could be buried hundreds of feet underground in booby trapped vaults! My big girl’s voracious appetite for theories and speculations cannot get enough of Templar intrigue and Capt. Kidd rumblings.
Cape Breton’s natural beauty is booty enough for me, but for treasure hunters the call of hundreds of shipwrecks cannot be quelled. In 1965, wreck hunter Alex Storm and his crew brought up gold and silver from the treasure ship, Le Chameau. It was rumoured to be worth almost a million dollars, but given a political scandal and settlement, no one knows for sure! Another Cape Breton legend holds that the Louisbourg treasure, mysteriously missing following the siege of 1758, contained the annual gold and silver payroll of the French colonies, priceless relics and religious artifacts. It has never been recovered, nor its resting site located…some think it is hidden on a small island in a lake off Mira Bay that was once an estuary, safe from the invading British forces and blockade.
As a kid, my Papa would take us on boat rides looking for the island and the booty. If the motor was out of commission, he would resort to rowing us, dory style, on our epic hunts. Now that my Dad is the Papa, the legend of the Louisbourg treasure and the traditional excursions to “Treasure Island” continues to have deep roots in our family. Annual trips still elicit squeals of delight from my little buccaneers, curious cousins and any little scallywags who visit! Of course I can’t share the name of the lake, that would break the treasure hunter’s solemn code.
Maritimers are blessed with other treasures as well! Though my girls don’t find my adventures seeking out new garden markets to visit, farms to explore on Open Farm Day, or digging for buried treasure in our potato plot nearly as mystical, they indulge (read: put up with) me! We hide our treasures throughout the house for the winter. In the garage we store root veggies, pumpkins, squash for a mid-winter homegrown pot of soup, rich as any king. In the windows, we hang herbs as decorations to dry and enjoy warm, aromatic teas all winter. My little one loves delivering her prized mint next door on a regular basis! The pantry is full of jars of pickles, beets and salsa. We freeze and puree and jelly. We even keep a few greens growing under the lights! There is no greater gold to me than that of sparkling crab apple jelly on a hot biscuit after a great day of skiing!
Last fall, I tried to “overwinter” some cold hardy root veggies and kale in a secret spot in the garden. Sadly, the strong North east winds and sly deer who share our inclination for treasure hunting had other plans. They found them. My PVC hoop tunnels and frost blankets were no match for them; somewhere a very content deer is gloating over his victory in securing my garden’s plunders. Next year I will have to reinforce my tunnels with better support, stronger plastic, bigger rocks and more insulation. Lesson learned! The only thing they left alone were my leeks and a few rogue kale, both of which are quite a treat to dig out from under the protection of the snow in the middle of January.
My big girl (staff photographer) thought it would be fun to share a bit of our winter treasures by taking pictures of a yummy winter soup we made on a blustery day and providing a “treasure map” of how we made it. It is not exactly a recipe because I tend to measure by tasting! First she roasted pie pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash with garlic hidden under the cored out centres. Next the last of our stash of potatoes were chopped and sautéed with fresh picked leeks, dried sage, thyme, chilis and chives. By accident I added nutmeg instead of pepper – I told you I was easily distracted! I get that from my Grandma. Chicken stock was added to the potatoes and leeks to simmer while the squash cooled and sweat under foil, making them easier to peel. Once cooled and peeled, the were blendered with the roasted garlic and added to the soup. We added some fresh cilantro, easily grown in windowsill pots, for a little something extra! Though we may never actually uncover the Louisbourg treasure, I hope my girls will never lose their innocent sense of wonder and adventure. In time, they may even come to treasure all the spoils this beautiful province has to offer, especially those from our own back yard. Who knows, maybe one day they will take their own kids hunting for buried treasure, even if it is only potatoes.
When planning our garden for the year, we try to think about what we will grow to store for the winter, here are our thoughts..
Things we grow to store: Pie Pumpkin, Acorn squash, Butternut squash, Cheiftan and Norland potatoes, carrots, onions
To freeze: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, Haskap berries, beans, shell peas, beets and greens, Swiss chard, basil, dill
To can: Salsa, berries for jam, jalapeños for pepper jellies, beets and pickling cucumbers
To dry: Mint, oregano, sage, thyme, chives, tarragon, savoury, rosemary, I would like to try chamomile this year!
To tunnel: Beets, carrots, leeks, kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, mustard, parsley, mizuna
Under the lights: Mesclun, romaine, cilantro, basil, arugula
“Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte