“Crow’s Feet, Lettuce, Raspberries,” read the sign in front of the garden stand at the side of the road in Nova Scotia. I almost cycled by, but wheeled in to talk to the two women behind the stand.
“What on earth are Crow’s Feet?” I asked curiously, giving away the fact that I was “from away.”
Their eyes lit up and they showed me a bag of odd looking greens. Crow’s Feet are a plant that is picked from the marshy areas at the side of the ocean, they told me. The greens are long and spindly and look, well – like Crow’s feet.
The vegetable stand women told me with great enthusiasm how to cook the greens, which I snapped up in a hurry, as it turns out that they are a great delicacy, and very popular. Turns out Crow’s Feet have been popular since the Acadians settled this area.
“Just fry them in butter with some garlic and add lemon if you want.”
“Then pull them off the woody stalks.”
Which I did that evening and this was a wild find that was out of this world.
After some research I found that this was a food that was foraged and eaten commonly by the Acadians that settled Canada’s east coast. They dined well back in the 1700’s and developed prosperous farms, using dykes to irrigate and lived from the land much more successfully than early settlers from other countries. They were eventually driven off their lands by the British and were forced to settle in the United States or live hidden in the forests. Their farms were burnt or taken over by the British.
Crow’s Feet, I learned are also known by other names. The Acadians called them Tétines de Souris, which translated to mouse nipples.
In my favorite book about cooking, in times past from Nova Scotia; Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, Marie Nightingale has a recipe for Sandfire Greens, another name for Crow’s Feet. They are also known as Samphire Greens.
Here is a recipe from Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens by Marie Nightingale
In early spring these greens appear on the fertile marshes of the Bay of Fundy and are delicious.
Cut off the roots and wash well. Cook until tender in small amount of water. Cool enough so that they can be handled, and remove woody centers by grasping stem and pulling gently. Reheat with butter. Add a few drops of vinegar, if desired.
I noticed the Crow’s Feet advertised for sale from trucks, at the side of the road and at market stands. But the biggest surprise was to find Crow’s Feet for sale at a grocery store in a small Nova Scotia town. The chalkboard outside advertised Crow’s Feet.
“Do you know what Crow’s Feet are?” I asked the young woman at check out?
“ No, I know that we sell them, but I don’t really know what they are,” she said politely.
“Well,” I said, “They are delicious, and you should try them sometime, but be sure to take out the toenails.”
I smiled and walked off.