Edible Plants

Wild Huckleberries: Natures tart-sweet treasure

Todays guest post is from my all time favorite favorite foraging book, The Flavors of Home. This amazing book, written by Margit-Roos Collins, is my go to on foraging for wild edibles in The Bay, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about what nature has to offer in our area (I like it so much I even wrote the forward for the new edition!). Check out her post below and make sure to click the link at the bottom to get a copy of your own with a special discount.

Happy foraging!
Iso Rabins
Founder: forageSF

Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)

Just thinking of huckleberries is relaxing. They are a dependable, democratic berry. Their flavor pleases most people, and enough berries grow here to supply every piemaker who's willing to harvest them.

Huckleberry shrubs grow 3 to 7 feet tall and have small, stiff, shiny leaves that stay dark green the year round. The blossoms are pale pink or white and bell shaped, and the berries turn blue-black when ripe. Basically, they look like blueberries, only smaller, shinier, and darker. Sometimes they are covered with a white bloom that makes them look light blue.

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What tranquil afternoons I have spent at Point Reyes, absorbed in the pleasant tedium of trying to fill a bag with those tiny, dark berries. Except when we compare sacks to see who's ahead, my husband and I are each on our own in the shrubbery, listening to bird calls and letting our thoughts run free. I love to look up and see the ocean sparkling in the distance; thoughts of its long horizons and expansive beaches balance the forest's myriad close-up details. The sunlight makes the grasses shine in the hidden meadow where we eat our lunch. Every breeze finds a voice as it passes through the fir branches high overhead.

Sooner or later, one of us gets bored and is ready to move on. With luck it hits us at the same time, so that neither has to feel like the martyred nature lover. An hour or two of picking is all we need to recapture what we came for. Which is what? Basically, it is time spent outdoors without an agenda -- who cares how many berries we pick? Without deep conversation, or small talk, or any real interaction with another human bundle of desires and demands. Without a certain mileage to be covered, or a need to match paces, or a plant or animal to be found and observed. And because picking the berries is an accomplishment, no matter how small, it frees me from the feeling that I need to make the time count by thinking about something important or making plans. When I pick huckleberries, 1 just exist, like a kid floating through summer vacation.

Maybe you find berry picking fun, or even tedious, but not a transcendent experience. No matter. At least you come home with a bag of berries -- extremely valuable berries, considering the time you have invested in harvesting them -- and now you want to make something delicious with them.

First, you need to pull off any green stems that are still attached. Then put the berries in a pot of water. Swish them around and bits of stem or leaf will float to the top along with the tiny, green berries. Strain those off and then pick out any red, unripe berries. Cleaning and sorting them can be a tiresome chore; do it in good company, if possible.

Any blueberry recipe can be used for huckleberries, except that you will need to add more sugar to get the same effect because huckleberries are more tart. You may find the taste of pure huckleberry desserts slightly thin: sweet and sour but without any depth. My appreciation for the berries increased dramatically when I began cooking them with other fruits. The recipes for fruit pie and dessert sauce are two that we have enjoyed.

I used to work for a lawyer named Barbara Phillips. One night, she invited my husband and me over for dinner, and we brought huckleberries as our contribution to the meal. For dessert, I began making a simple, straightforward sauce with them, to go over her homemade yogurt. Barbara tasted it, her mind started ticking, and soon she had transformed it into something far more subtle and exciting. I have regarded huckleberries -- and fruit sauces -- with a new appreciation after that night.

Huckleberry Dessert Sauce Extraordinaire

• 1 cup huckleberries

• 1 lemon

• sugar or honey

• Cointreau

• cornstarch

Put aside 1/3 of the huckleberries. Put the other 2/3 in a saucepan, crush them with the bottom of a jar or other blunt object, and add barely enough water to cover them. Cook, stirring, over low heat, adding sugar or honey to taste. Add cornstarch, dissolved in a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce reaches the thickness you desire. After each tablespoon, stir for a few minutes to see what effect it has on the thickness, before adding more.

When the texture is right, add the uncrushed berries. Remove the peel and white rind from a lemon and cut the pulp into small pieces, adding them to the sauce. You'd think that extra tartness would be the last thing huckleberries needed, but the lemon is a tremendous addition.

Finally, stir in some spoonfuls of Cointreau to taste. This orange-flavored liqueur adds warmth, depth, and interest to the sauce, transforming it remarkably. The wild and civilized flavors bring out the best in each other. Bon appetite!

Triple Fruit Pie

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• pie crust

• 1½ lemons

• 1 pippin or other tart apple

• a cup or so of huckleberries

• 1½ cups of Concord grapes

• 1/3 to ½ cup sugar

• cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a pie pan with any type of crust. Cut the apple into thin slices and cover the bottom of the pie crust with them. Slip the skins off the grapes and reserve the skins. Cook the grape pulp for a minute or two to soften it, and put it through a sieve to remove the seeds. Dissolve 3 tablespoons cornstarch in the juice of ½ lemon plus a little water, if necessary. Mix together the huckleberries, the grape pulp and skins, the cornstarch and lemon, and the sugar -- I like tart foods and use only 1/3 cup; using 1/3 cup produces a normal, sweet pie. Pour the mixture over the apple slices.

Bake the pie at 450° F. for 10 minutes, and then bake it at 350° for another 40 to 45 minutes. The grapes contribute sweetness and rich flavor, the apple adds body and texture, and the little huckleberries give a contrasting texture and their own tartness. Other wonderful combinations are huckleberries with peaches or mangos.

Where and When to Find Them

Marin and the Peninsula are the places to go for huckleberries; they are a coastal species. The best-bearing plants are usually on ridges or hillsides. For example, at one park I noticed disappointingly few berries on the shrubs down along a stream, but only a quarter of a mile up the trail, on the ridge, the berries were numerous.

Because they are so abundant, huckleberries are unusually dependable. No matter what the weather, you can count on finding some. But the quantity and quality of berries varies a lot from year to year. After the extraordinarily wet winter of 1981-1982, for example, they were more grainy and sour than usual, and the small crop was mostly gone by August. In other years, equally unusual, you'll find enough berries in late November to make pies for Thanksgiving. In a typical year, the shrubs bloom from February through June. The first ripe berries appear in mid-July, but the great huckleberry months are August, September, and October. The heavy coastal fogs of June and July have broken up by then, and you can usually count on sunny weather for your huckleberrying expedition. If you live in the fog zone, there's nothing like a September afternoon spent berry picking to make summer seem real again, and not just a sweet memory from other places and other times.

 

Link for purchase: https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-2614623-4706.html

Edible Plants

Mallow: you've gotta try any plant that has a "cheese wheel"

Todays guest post is from Kevin Feinstein (the leader of our wild food walks), and Mia Adler’s book The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area. Check at the bottom of the post for a purchase link to their great guide to all things wild and edible!

Common Mallow, Malva (Malva neglecta)

Family:  Malvaceae (okra, hisbiscus, kenaf, marsh mallow)

Eurasian Weed

 

Many readers might have actually eaten this plant before and didn’t know it. The young leaves are often found in good salad mixes that you get at the farmer’s market and even sometimes in stores like Whole Foods, albeit in small (perhaps accidental) amounts. This plant is also called malva, and it is in the Malvaceae family. Okra is also in this family. I ask people in my walks, “what is the first thing you think of when you think of okra?” and 99% of the time I get the response, “slimy,” which is what I’m fishing for, of course.   Mallow is also slimy, or mucilagenous (see below).   It is also in the same family as hibiscus (indeed, mallow flowers look like tiny, weedy, pinkish-purple hibiscus flowers).   Mallow is closely related to another plant, the marsh mallow -- yes, the same plant that marshmallows used to be made from (now they are just chemicals and sugar).    It is also related to kenaf, a plant used commercially and traditionally to make fibers and fabrics. 

 

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What does it look like?  Herbaceous perennial, whose mature stalks once gone to seed, typically die back to the ground.   It’s a tough and common weed with a very deep and penetrating taproot, as gardeners will attest to.  The leaves are a bit course and crinkly, with a geranium-like look.   They have no real scent when crushed.  The texture is somewhat unique.   The flowers are small and purple-pink, resembling tiny hibiscus flowers or okra flowers as noted above.   The plant then forms seedpods, that resemble little cheesewheels (especially when green.)   Many of the kids I teach have called this plant the cheesewheel plant as the immature seedpods, or cheesewheels, are perhaps the most tasty and interesting part of the mallow plant.  

 

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 When is it available?  Depending on the microclimate, edible parts of the plant can be available all year.   In warmer, drier climates (think away from the coast), the leaves are good in fall, winter, and early spring (the rainy season.)   The immature pods or cheesewheels, typically April-June.     In cooler, moister microclimates (think near the coast), leaves might be available all year, especially if grazed or weedwacked, and the mallow “cheesewheels” May-September.  

 

Where can I find it?    Disturbed areas:  gardens, fields, parks, grassy hills, forest edges (but usually near people). It is a garden and agricultural weed.    Very common in the Bay Area, you’ll even see it on trails as it regrows from disturbances such as weed whacking or trampling.   Although I don’t recommend eating trampled mallow!   I usually don’t see it in more remote wilderness areas.  


How to use/forage:     Young and medium age leaves are fine to eat in a salad, although they have an interesting texture and not much flavor by themselves.  Old leaves aren’t recommended (because of texture and flavor).   You can cook mallow leaves as a potherb as well.  What I recommend is drying the leaves, crumbling them into a powder, and adding this to soups or smoothies, or gumbo-like dishes.  They will thicken the dish, as they are mucilaginous.   The immature seedpods (cheesewheels) are great snacks raw and delicious like okra if sauteed. 

 

Sustainability:  Considered to be an invasive or noxious weed by many, a very tough and abundant plant.  So I say, go for it.   If you want/need more, let some go to seed, and cut and come again with the leaves.   Mallow is a plant that in some places, such as small farms and gardens, is discarded as a weed.    By eating it rather than it going in the compost, I feel that it is a way of honoring the plant.   If you want to eat this plant and don’t have access to safe local mallow foraging, ask your organic farmers at the market; they’ll know it and might be willing to provide it.  

 

Recipes:  Mallow miso soup.    Mallow behaves a lot like seaweed in a recipe.  So take the miner’s miso recipe (found in the chapter on miner’s lettuce) and replace the seaweed with dried and ground mallow leaves.  

 

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Bonus Box: Here’s the scoop I give my wild food walkers:  The leaves don’t taste like much of anything.  You can detect a bit of sliminess; it’s not bad, but it’s not really good either. I don’t particularly enjoy just grazing on mallow leaves.  But mix a few in a salad with other succulent greens (such as miner’s lettuce or chickweed) with a good dressing, sure. I could even go as far as 1/4 of my salad greens being mallow, maybe.    So why bother with the leaves?   Mainly because they are super nutritious!   Loads of plant-based precursors to vitamin A, minerals, and other phytonutrients.  Containing this mucilage, the slimy part, it’s a great anti-inflammatory and has many soothing medicinal properties.   Another use of the slimy property, one a chef might argue as being the main reason for eating mallow leaves: they help thicken dishes.  

 

Bonus Box 2:   What Kevin does with mallow.   My favorite thing to do with mallow is cut off a whole plant (it’ll most likely grow back with healthier growth) or pluck one from your garden.  Remember this is a common garden weed.    I then dry the whole plant (it dries really amazingly well).  This the lazy forager’s way:  Get the whole plant and lay it on the counter at home, then in a few days it’s dry.   I’ll then hold the plant over a large bowl or paper grocery bag and with a few quick strokes I’ll partially crush (they are surprisingly brittle) as I strip the leaves off the stalk, removing any yellow, brown or bad looking leaves first.    I then put this into a coffee grinder, and I have a very nutritious green powder that I can use to thicken soups and gumbo-like dishes.   

 

Bonus Box 3: WARNING:  Mallow often inhabits wasteground and can accumulate poisons from polluted soils and waters.   This goes for many of the plants in this book, but much of the mallow I see is essentially inedible because of the sidewalk or parking lot where it accumulates poisons or biological contaminants.   The research suggests that mallow should not be eaten if it has received inorganic fertilizers or runoff.    Don’t be discouraged, though, there’s lots of good clean mallow to go around! 

 

To purchase: https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-2066659-4706.html

 

 

Edible seaweeds

Nori Seaweed (Laver): The Intriguing Health Benefits of the World’s Most Popular Seaweed

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Laver, or nori, is a kind of red algae and is probably the most widely-eaten seaweed in the world, primarily as the wrapping for sushi. Laver is also commonly served as flat crispy seaweed sheets that you can get at most grocery stores. Aside from having a delicious nutty flavor once dried, laver is packed with nutrients. Check out the long list of vitamins and minerals found in laver:

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•   Calcium

•   Choline

•   Copper

•   Folate

•   Iron

•   Magnesium

•   Manganese

•   Niacin

•   Omega-3 Fatty Acids

•   Omega-6 Fatty Acids

•   Pantothenic Acid

•   Phosphorus

•   Potassium

•   Riboflavin

•   Selenium

•   Sodium

•   Thiamin

•   Vitamin A

•   Vitamin B12

•   Vitamin B6

•   Vitamin C

•   Vitamin E

•   Vitamin K

•   Zinc

As you can see, laver is dense with daily essentials and unique health benefits. For one, it is rich in iodine, which supports thyroid health. Like so much seaweed, laver is renowned for its anti-cancer and anti-viral properties.

Laver has also been shown to improve gut health and is recommended for people suffering from certain types of digestive ailments. The list of laver’s health benefits goes on and on, so it’s not crazy to call it a superfood.

Now that you know laver’s health benefits, you might be interested in foraging for it yourself. That’s right, you can collect your own laver right on the coast of California! It likes to grow on rocks by the water, and when you find some, there should be plenty of it to harvest. Take a look at the picture below so you know w
hat to look for:

 

Proceed with caution when harvesting, as the rocks will be slippery. Make sure you

have somewhere safe to store the laver, such as a cooler. Once you get it back

home, there are several ways to prepare it. You can make something simple, like

seaweed chips, or you can get a bit more adventurous with some unique recipes.

 

Welsh Laverbread Recipe:

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•                       600g fresh laver seaweed

•                       3 tablespoons olive oil

•                       1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

•                       salt and pepper, to taste

•                       4 slices bread

•                       butter, to taste

Prep the seaweed by rinsing it off and then letting it simmer for 6 hours until it turns pulpy. Once this is done, simply mix in the seasoning, olive oil, and lemon juice, and give it a good stir. All that’s left to do is to toast the bread, add some butter, and spoon the laverbread on top. Serve immediately after making.

In Wales, this dish is known as bara lawr. It’s so popular there that you can actually buy canned laverbread. However, there’s nothing quite like cooking something that you foraged for yourself. Not only does this ensure you have the freshest ingredients, but there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with eating something that you harvested in the wild. What better way to spend a day by the beautiful California coast than harvesting delicious and nutritious seaweed?

Ready to get out there and collect your own? Our Seaweed Adventures on the Sonoma coast are great for the beginner or veteran forager. Click below for dates and see you on the beach!



Edible seaweeds

Seabeans: The perfect "pickle weed" of the tide zone

Todays guest post is from my all time favorite favorite foraging book, The Flavors of Home. This amazing book, written by Margit-Roos Collins, is my go to on foraging for wild edibles in The Bay, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about what nature has to offer in our area (I like it so much I even wrote the forward for the new edition!). Check out her post below and make sure to click the link at the bottom to get a copy of your own with a special discount.

Happy foraging!
Iso Rabins
Founder: forageSF


Pickleweed (Salicornia virginica)

Some edible wild plants are hard to find. Not pickleweed. You will find lush stands of it at virtually every marsh that borders bay or ocean waters in this area. In winter and early spring, the plants stay brown even though the surrounding hills are covered in fresh grass. Then in April and May, pickleweed comes into its own. The new growth appears, rejuvenating the marshes with fresh green. Just about the time that your favorite leafy spring greens are becoming too mature to be tasty, the prime season for pickleweed foraging begins.

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Pickleweed looks unusual, so it is easy to identify. Each plant consists of round, branching stems that are divided by joints into individual segments. The leaves and flowers are so tiny that you will probably never notice them. The plants look simple, tidy, and primitive.

This plant's story is bittersweet. A salt marsh is a difficult environment; such concentrations of salt would kill most land plants. Pickleweed dominates large areas of marsh here and on other continents because its succulent tissues can store up water in the spring, when rain runoff reduces the saltiness of the marsh. The plant then uses that stored, relatively fresh water through the summer growing season. Its tissues can also withstand an internal salt level that is much higher than most species could bear (whereas some other salt-marsh species have special mechanisms for excreting the salt). So, at first glance, the plant appears to be a standard ecological success story: adapt to a unique niche and thrive.

The truth is more poignant. Scientists who grew some pickleweed in soil dryer than its normal marsh setting found that it grew faster and better than normal. And the less salty the water they gave it, the more it thrived. It appears that pickleweed would "love" to be a normal dry-land plant, but something in its makeup renders it unable to compete with dry-land species. So it survived by adapting to a hostile setting that its competitors could not tolerate. The cost of the adaptation is that individual plants never grow as luxuriantly as they could if pickleweed had evolved a way to compete directly with the rain-watered land species.

The science of plant ecology is still so young and primitive that we are unaccustomed to feeling tenderness for the hardships of plants, for the drama of their lost potential. For most plant species, we don 't yet have a clue about the nature of those hardships and trade-offs. As we learn more about other species' mechanisms for survival, surely some of the false distance and sentimentality that many feel toward the plant kingdom will ebb, replaced by greater intimacy and identification.

What do you do with a harvest of these odd-looking, jointed stems? Refrigerate it in an airtight bag or container, just as you would any green vegetable. It will stay fresh for three weeks or longer. I ignored some in my refrigerator that long and they tasted fine when I finally got up the courage to prepare them.

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Eaten by itself, raw, it is too salty for my taste, even when it is well washed. However, pickleweed can contribute attractive looks and refined flavor to a salad. My husband and I ate it with lettuce, avocado, scallions, tomatoes, and fresh raw peas. Like the peas, it was slightly bitter and slightly sweet. The pickleweed also tasted a bit sour. We didn't add any salt to the oil and vinegar dressing, since pickleweed contains so much. That way, its saltiness was not a problem and, in fact, tasted good in combination with all the other vegetables.

As you have probably guessed from its name, pickleweed is good pickled as well as fresh. It has been gathered for that purpose from the marshes of northern Europe for centuries. Most of the pickleweed pickle recipes given in books are similar to each other. The recipe given here is a modified version. If you decide to use an entirely different pickling recipe, adapted for cucumbers and the like, skip the brining step. Pickleweed amply reflects its own briny origins.

Making these pickles is fun and simple. And they are pretty! A wedge of ordinary cucumber pickle looks dull compared with the delicate, branching shape of pickleweed and its clear, dark green color. As for flavor, pickleweed pickles taste much like any sweet pickles. The pickleweed's own flavor is completely masked by the pleasing combination of pickling spices, vinegar, onion, and sugar. You can alter the flavor to your taste by reducing or omitting the sugar or by adding bay leaves or other seasonings.

Pickleweed Pickle

Have ready clean half-pint glass jars. I use the ones with coated metal lids and metal screw rims. Half-pint-sized pickles are perfect for sandwiches; if you want even longer pickles, you can double the ingredients and use pint jars just as well. For every half pint of pickles, mix together:

• 1¼ cups vinegar

• 2 1/3 teaspoons whole pickling spices (you can buy them already mixed)

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• ¼ onion, sliced

Boil the mixture for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the pickleweed, and wash and rinse your jars, lids, and rims very well. Just before the 10 minutes are up, rinse the jars in hot water and pack the pickleweed into them so that the leaves stand vertically. Pour the vinegar mixture boiling hot over the pickleweed, filling the jars to the rim. Immediately put on the metal lids and screw them down tightly.

When the jars have cooled, test them for a vacuum by pressing on the lids. If the lids do not give under your fingers, the jars are vacuum sealed. Store them for at least three weeks in a dry place out of direct sunlight, and then the pickles will be ready to eat. Try them on open-face sandwiches, since their shape and color are so attractive.

If the metal lid clicks down and up as you press and release it, the vacuum did not form and the pickles will spoil if left on a shelf. (A vacuum denies bacteria the oxygen they need to decompose food.) Put that jar in the refrigerator. You can still enjoy that batch in salads, especially in seafood or chicken salad.

Making pickles is one of the most relaxing types of canning because the dread botulinus toxin can't grow in such strongly acidic foods. Some people like to dilute the vinegar in pickle recipes with water to make a milder pickle. That's fine, but take care that at least half of the pickling liquid is always vinegar. As long as the mixture is at least 50 percent vinegar, it will be completely safe.

 

Gathering pickleweed is satisfying in part because you can snap each piece off neatly at a joint, leaving little trace of your action. Because the stems snap off so easily, walking through a stand of pickleweed leaves an ugly trail of broken plants. If you harvest from the edge of a patch, your work can be invisible.

This plant really is a delight. If you make pickles in the spring, they 'll be ready in time for all the salads, sandwiches, and elegant cold dishes of summer. And come June and July, if you itch to bring home some wild green tidbit, pickleweed will be one of the few still in its prime. That's a great time to head for a marsh and savor its lushness, within sight of the tawny, dry hills.

Where and When to Find It

The best time to gather pickleweed is from April through July, although you may find the tips green and succulent earlier or later, depending on the marsh. For example, at Grizzly Island, large areas are kept flooded until late in the spring. The new year's growth tends not to develop until May. However, the pickleweed in those fields will still be lushly green through August, whereas the stands in less-managed marshes will be drying out by mid-July. In autumn, pickleweed has more to offer your eyes than your tastebuds. As it dries, it takes on new tones, coloring the marshes with broad sweeps of deep red and purple.

Pickleweed grows in most, if not all, of the brackish or salt-water marshes around the Bay Area.

Some of these marshes are small, heavily visited, and thus not good places to forage. Some may be too polluted. Others are clean enough and well able to spare some pickleweed stems. Use your judgment and follow the posted regulations or talk with a ranger. You can enjoy pickleweed's beautiful autumn colors in any of these spots.

 

Link for purchase: https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-2614623-4706.html

 

Edible Plants

Wild Radish: A spicy and abundant wild edible you need to know!

Todays guest post is from my all time favorite favorite foraging book, The Flavors of Home. This amazing book, written by Margit-Roos Collins, is my go to on foraging for wild edibles in The Bay, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about what nature has to offer in our area (I like it so much I even wrote the forward for the new edition!). Check out her post below and make sure to click the link at the bottom to get a copy of your own.

Happy foraging!
Iso Rabins
Founder: forageSF


Wild Radish (Raphanus sativas)

Common or Field Mustard (Brassica campestris)

Charlock (B. kaber, also B. arvensis)

Mediterranean or Summer Mustard (B. geniculata)

Black Mustard (B. nigra)

I have nothing but affection for these members of the Mustard family. Foraging for them is pure pleasure. Few paths are more inviting than those which lead through waist-high fields of blooming mustard or radish. When I am introducing friends to edible wild plants, these two are frequently the ones with which we begin. Even if they never eat another wild mouthful in their lives, they remember their first bites fondly.

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Radish and all the local mustards belong to the Mustard family or Cruciferae. The family contains an unusually wide variety of edible, cultivated species: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and turnips among them. The radish species that grows wild here is the same species as the domesticated radish which is just bred to have a larger root. It was eaten in Egypt even before the pyramids were built and has been raised in China and Japan for at least as long. Most of our wild mustards are also grown as crops for their seeds or leaves. The Latin name, Cruciferae, comes from the shape of the blossoms: four petals arranged like a cross or crucifix.

The blossoms are my favorite part. Though the skies are cool with rain and deciduous trees are still bare, mustard is in its fullest bloom in March, coloring vast fields and orchards pure yellow. Our blooming season begins subtly, with scattered harbingers like the snowy plums, but mustards announce the season's arrival to whole valleys at a time.

There's a story about the introduction of mustard to California that botany writers keep passing on without being able to confirm it. It is fact that the mustards and radish are native to Europe. And we know that black mustard arrived in California sometime during the Spanish Mission period between 1769 and 1824, because its seeds have been found in adobe building bricks from that period. It is legend that the Spanish padres spread black mustard between the southern missions and San Francisco to keep themselves from getting lost. The idea is that they dropped seeds along the way as they explored northward, counting on the seeds to produce a trail of yellow flowers that they could follow home in the spring. At least one respected botanist disputes this tale, saying that the padres simply followed well-worn Indian trails. But I think writers will keep passing the story on as long as possible, because we love so much to imagine it.

Field mustard, radish, and charlock were here by the time the '49ers arrived, so that wave of eastern migrants never knew a California without its fields of yellow in March. Summer mustard came much later than the others and wasn't observed in the Bay Area until 1915.

Radish blossoms also appear in March, with a pastel prettiness that lasts into the summer. Each plant produces flowers that are predominantly white, pink, purple, or occasionally, yellow. The colors are all mixed together in thickly blooming, sweet-smelling patches. Try sitting a while in such a radish patch, head deep in flowers, on a warm April day. Give yourself up to that pastel ocean until it seems utterly natural to be there. If part of you is Ferdinand the bull, this is your chance to wallow in flowers until you are buzzy and light headed with contentment. My Ferdinand self has been happier in radish patches than anywhere else I have been.

Much of the fun in all this flower appreciation comes from eating the blossoms and privately savoring their down-to-earth, unflowery flavors. Mustard buds and blossoms taste just like raw broccoli heads. And those sweetly pink radish flowers have a decidedly radishy bite that warms the mouth and makes them doubly irresistible. Try sprinkling a handful on a vegetable dip. What a joy it is each time we find something (or someone) with a combination of positive traits that cuts across the usual expectations. Radish blossoms have that refreshing quality, with a look and fragrance that's ultrafeminine and a taste that's salt of the earth.

The plump, wild radish seedpods are good raw in salads, to be consumed by true radish lovers; they pack enough of a punch that I wouldn't recommend them except to people who voluntarily eat cultivated radishes. Mustard seedpods are long and thin and lined with the proverbially tiny seeds. Black mustard seeds are the ones traditionally used for mustard, though the others can be substituted. The Romans crushed and mixed them with a little new wine as a condiment; later cultures used vinegar as the binder.

When fully ripe, the seedpods split open. If you want to make mustard from the wild seeds, you need to gather the pods just before they split. I have not done this, but the recommended way is to gather the still closed, upper pods from plants whose lower pods have already opened.

Dry the pods on a clean surface for several days, then flail them to break them open and release the seeds. The dry seeds can be ground in a blender to make powdered mustard. Mixing 1/4 cup of the powder with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water, vinegar, or beer will produce a very hot, Chinese-style mustard sauce. To make the milder American style, follow the recipe in any basic cookbook, such as Joy of Cooking.

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Radish and mustard leaves are among the first greens to appear after the rains begin. Along with miner's lettuce, dock, and chickweed, they are my favorite wild greens -- abundant, tender, tasty, and easy to harvest. It is likely that the mustard varieties vary somewhat in their flavor, but I haven't paid attention to which ones I was eating so can only tell you that all the mustard greens I have tried have tasted at least okay and usually quite good. One book mentions that charlock leaves are particularly tasty, but that's the least common mustard in this area. I generally prefer radish to mustard greens, so if you don't like mustard greens be sure to give radish leaves a chance to please you.

By November (October in rainy years), you can go to mustard and radish areas and find a thick covering of healthy new leaves, about a foot high. The young leaves can feel rough, almost prickly, but that quality disappears with even brief cooking.

Both types of leaves are large and irregularly lobed. The flavor is better in winter, before the plants flower, although I have eaten and enjoyed them after flowering began. Raw, the leaves are slightly peppery and can be good in salads if they are chopped coarsely. Steamed until tender, they become milder in flavor. Radish leaves lose their radish taste completely. Mustard greens keep a trace of bitterness but it is not objectionable. Both greens taste best with a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar.

I like to make a simple, crustless quiche with these leaves. It is good hot or cold, and makes a fine light meal or picnic food. You can use wild radish and mustard leaves in any of the ways you would use the stronger-tasting grocery-store greens such as cultivated mustard or kale. Like their domesticated peers, they are loaded with Vitamin A.

Radish or Mustard Pie

• 1 onion

• 4 to 6 cups radish or mustard leaves

• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar

• 1 cup grated mozzarella

• 2 eggs

• nutmeg, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce

Chop the onion and saute it in a little oil until tender. Rinse the radish or mustard leaves (or a combination of the two) and chop coarsely.

Add the leaves to the onion and stir them over low to medium heat until the leaves have wilted. Whisk the eggs until lightly beaten.

Then, in a 9-inch pie pan, cake pan, or ovenproof frying pan, combine the onions and greens, the grated cheeses, and the eggs. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce, all to taste. A thin layer of grated cheddar sprinkled over the surface gives the pie an especially pleasing color.

Bake the pie at 375° F. for about 30 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Slice it and eat.

Where and When to Find Them

Finding mustard in bloom is no problem in any Bay Area county, for it is common to abundant and widespread throughout the area in disturbed or cultivated ground. The great displays tend to be in agricultural areas, although not always. At Ft. Cronkhite in Marin County, the hidden oceanside vale (toward San Francisco from the main valley) is solid yellow in March. The farming region of Brentwood and Byron in the East Bay is good, but my favorite mustard displays are those along Route 1, near Half Moon Bay. The vast, bright fields are framed between the Coast Range and the Pacific in what must surely be one of the most beautiful agricultural settings in America.

The spring-blooming mustard species that colors these vast areas, common mustard, begins flowering in February and is at full strength in March. Black mustard does most of its blooming between March and May. Summer mustard flowers primarily in the summer (did you guess?), although you will see it along trails and roads and in vacant places from spring through early fall.

Radish is common to abundant in Marin and on the Peninsula. In the East Bay, you will find more of it between the shore and the first row of hills than further inland. One beautiful radish patch is at the end of Pierce Point Road on the Point Reyes peninsula. It has enough of the flowers to sweeten the air. Other fine radish displays probably grow within a few miles of you, wherever you live in the Bay Area.

Radish blooms from March through October, depending on the location, but in most areas, April and May are its peak months. The Pierce Point Road patch is at its best in May and turns brown by June, but nearby, radishes bloom all along the path to the beach much later in the summer.

The seedpods of both species appear soon after the plants begin to flower and continue to be available for months. The leaves are at their best from October or November until the end of February, and are most abundant in January and February.

 

Link for purchase: https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-2614623-4706.html

 

Edible seaweeds

Kombu Seaweed: The Umami Superfood!

 

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Sure, when it’s in the sea it might not look very appetizing, but several types of seaweed are delicious when prepared properly. Not only that, but seaweed is packed with nutrients. Take the edible kelp known as kombu, for example. Kombu can be found right off the coast, and there are literally kelp forests packed full of it. Kombu is known for its ability to improve digestion. Packed with amino acids and glutamic acid, eating kombu helps your body break down foods easier and minimizes both intestinal gas and discomfort.

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Sea vegetables like kombu may also help prevent cancer, thanks to their anti-inflammatory benefits. Kombu contains iron, which is a vital mineral for healthy cells, hair, nails, skin, and more. It’s common for people to have an iron-deficient diet, which leads to fatigue and other anemic symptoms. Adding kombu into your diet is a great way to ensure that you’re getting enough.


Kombu is actually the highest in iodine out of all edible seaweeds. In fact, it’s one of the most iodine-rich foods out there. Why is this important? Well, iodine improves thyroid function and is an essential mineral for healthy hormone production. Our bodies do not naturally produce iodine, meaning it’s essential to eat iodine-rich foods like kombu in order to maintain a healthy thyroid.

Lastly, kombu contains a sulfated polysaccharide known as fucoidan, which has been proven to stave off cell inflammation. Therefore, researchers suggest that eating kombu may be a possible treatment for the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. And we haven’t even mentioned all of the vitamins, calcium, and proteins that are found in seaweed! Now that you know all about why you should eat kombu, let’s go over a delicious recipe for you to enjoy.

 

Kombu Dashi (Stock):

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•   Wipe down the surface of kombu, but DO NOT rinse with water (which washes away the umami flavor)

•   Place the kombu into a pot of water (use around 5g of kombu per 500 ml of water)

•   Put on medium heat

•   Take kombu out right before the water begins to boil and enjoy the dashi!

Kombu is famous for its umami flavor, and it is used in Japan to make dashi, which is a soup that can also be used as cooking stock. Dashi is actually the base for many Japanese dishes, including miso soup. While several kinds of seaweeds can be used to make dashi, kombu is one of the tastiest and healthiest choices.

Once you’ve made your kombu dashi, you can store it in your fridge and heat it up when you’re in the mood for some delicious hot soup. Or, you can use it as stock to cook with. It’s an excellent stock alternative for vegetarians. Plus, its unique umami flavor is fun to experiment with and can really open up your cooking options.

 Of course, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the taste and health benefits of kombu than dashi. Kombu can be dried, made into powder, and pickled. It’s even eaten as sashimi in Japan. So, pick up some kombu today and start enjoying its health benefits and unique flavor!

Ready to get out there and collect your own? Our Seaweed Adventures on the Sonoma coast are great for the beginner or veteran forager. Click below for dates and see you on the beach!

Edible seaweeds

The Unique Uses of Turkish Bath Towel Seaweed

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The health benefits of eating seaweed are widely known, but that’s not the only reason to get your hands on some. Have you ever heard of Turkish bath towel? This red seaweed is unique in both appearance and the ways to use it!

As you can see, Turkish towel has a bumpy texture. Actually, the seaweed’s reproductive organs cause these swellings to form on its surface. When placed in fresh water, they create a clear jelly, which is often used as a gelling agent for several different types of food.

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Turkish bath towel’s Latin name is chondracanthus exasperatus, but that’s a bit of a mouthful. It is widely known as the Turkish bath towel because when you touch the rough papillae surface, it feels very similar to a towel from a Turkish bath.

Interestingly, the blade thickness of Turkish bath towel is determined by its level of exposure. In more sheltered habitats, the blades are thinner, but in more natural and exposed areas, the blades are thicker and rougher to the touch. The gel within the blades is used as an ingredient in all types of things, including cosmetics.

Turkish bath towel can be found right off the coast of California, and its distinct look makes it pretty easy to find! Keep your eyes out for it next time you’re by the water. This seaweed likes to attach to rocks in the low intertidal area. It’s best grown in more exposed areas, as mentioned above. However, it is possible to be air-grown, so long as it is sprayed frequently with sea water.

Aside from being an ingredient for cosmetics and different gelling agents, Turkish bath towel has a few other unique uses. For one, as the name suggests, it can be used in baths as a natural exfoliating bath towel. It’s good for the skin, and the texture is perfect to scrub off any unwanted residue.

Turkish bath towel is commonly used for thalassotherapy, a form of therapy using seawater and sea products to refresh the skin’s pores by absorbing the potassium, calcium, sodium, iodine, and magnesium found in sea water.

Practitioners of thalassotherapy will tell you that Turkish bath towel is most effective for washing when it’s used within the sea that it comes from. That’s not to say that using it in a fresh water bath has no benefits, but harvesting some Turkish bath towel off the coast of California and giving yourself a relaxing wash in the ocean sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

Add that to the many reasons you should harvest your own seaweed! Although Turkish bath towel is not edible, it has so many unique uses. With many seaweeds available in the California area, foraging for seaweed gives you another reason to spend a day by the water!

Ready to get out there and collect your own? Our Seaweed Adventures on the Sonoma coast are great for the beginner or veteran forager. Click below for dates and see you on the beach!



wild mushrooms

How to forage wild oyster mushrooms

 

Foraging Wild Oyster Mushrooms

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If you’re in the California area where wine country tours are extremely common, you should think about taking a day to forage some wild oyster mushrooms. While these mushrooms can run you a pretty penny at a gourmet market, there’s no reason why you can’t just go forage for them yourself. In fact, these delicious mushrooms are some of the only ones that you can find year-round. So, whenever you’re ready to go on some California wine tours, keep a lookout for these delicious mushrooms!

 

The Appeal of Wild Oyster Mushrooms

When you buy oyster mushrooms, they are most likely cultivated rather than plucked from the wild. As you probably know from other kinds of foods, there’s nothing like the taste of food that has been taken right from the great outdoors. Plus, foraging for them yourself adds another type of appreciation for the taste.

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Although you can find these in California during every season, many people believe that oyster mushrooms are most tasty in the fall. Autumn is the perfect time to check out some Napa Valley wine country tours, so this works out great if you want to pair these two activities together. You can also stay in the city and schedule some wine country tours from San Francisco. No matter where you are in California, beautiful rural areas are just a short drive away.

 

How to Identify Wild Oyster Mushrooms

Of course, whenever it comes to foraging for wild food, it’s important that you know how to identify what’s what. This is especially true with mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus) break down dead hardwood. It’s a decomposer mushroom that is commonly found on stumps and dead trees. Next, we’ll offer some information to help you with oyster mushroom identification.

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The reason why they are called oyster mushrooms is because they grow together in bunches and look like a bunch of oyster shells stacked up on top of each other. The fact that they grow in bunches makes them a lot more convenient to forage. They are easier to see, and once they are found, you usually have a decent haul right off the bat. Oyster mushrooms are gilled on their undersides as well as part way down their stems. The color of their tops ranges from off-white all the way to brown.

 

Add Mushroom Foraging to Your Trip’s Itinerary!

Whether you plan on going on a Napa and Sonoma wine country tour or some San Francisco wine tours straight from the city, foraging for wild oyster mushrooms is another activity that we recommend adding to your list. Seriously, these clusters of oyster mushrooms are often found pounds at a time! After you’ve spent a lovely day in the beautiful forests of Northern California foraging for some wild oyster mushrooms, you can sit back and relax, knowing that you have some delicious meals on the way. Their mild flavor is perhaps best enjoyed sautéed in butter and oil or added to some creamy sauces. You can also make “oyster” stew!

Want to learn with us? Check out our wild mushroom classes all around northern CA throughout the winter and spring. Check out all our dates here.

wild mushrooms

How to grow your very own oyster mushrooms at home!

 

Have you had the chance to try oyster mushrooms yet? These delicious mushrooms can be bought in markets, foraged, and even grown at home or in your backyard! There are many reasons to start growing oyster mushrooms. For one, it’s fun to care for, harvest, and eat food, all from the convenience of your home. Moreover, oyster mushrooms are delicious and have a number of health benefits!

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Oyster mushrooms make a strong case for being the easiest type of mushroom to grow at home. Not only do they grow quickly but they are also pretty resistant to competing organisms. Plus, this kind of mushroom can grow from a variety of substrate materials. Of course, if you’re foraging for oyster mushrooms in the wild, you’ll want to watch out for oyster mushroom look-alikes. The Angel Wings mushroom, for example, is a potentially poisonous mushroom which looks similar to the oyster mushroom. However, when you grow at home you won’t have to worry about this! Below, we’ll break down how to grow oyster mushrooms so you can get started!



The Grow Process

The first step is inoculation. You’ll want to mix the oyster mushroom spawn with some type of substrate material. This can be coffee grounds, sawdust, cardboard and more! You’ll then place this mixture into bags that have small holes so that air can be exchanged properly.

Next, the incubation period begins. Place the bags in a dark room that is ideally somewhere between 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit. The spawn will grow within 10-14 days. You’ll notice the presence of white webs growing in the bag when the spawn is ready to start fruiting.

To start the fruiting process, the bag should be exposed to fall-like conditions. This includes cooler temperatures, low-level light, lots of fresh oxygen, and high humidity. After you begin this process, these mushrooms will become full size within a week.

 

The Health Benefits

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Oyster mushrooms have reached a new level of popularity in recent years because of their health benefits, how easy they are to grow, and because they make a great addition to all kinds of meals. The list of health benefits from oyster mushrooms really goes on and on. They help boost the immune system. They are antiviral, antimicrobial, and anticancer. Plus, oyster mushrooms are rich in protein, free of cholesterol, and have tons of vitamins including vitamin D and vitamin A.

They are called oyster mushrooms because they grow in bunches and their tops tend to look similar to oyster shells. You can grow quite the haul at home with very little trouble. There is obviously plenty you can do with this mild-tasting mushroom which can help compliment a variety of meals.

You can toss the mushrooms into a pan and sauté them with butter and oil, or you can add them to a creamy sauce. Many people enjoy tossing oyster mushrooms into a stew. Once you have them readily available in the comfort of your own home, you’ll be able to figure out plenty of creative ways to use them.

Edible Plants

Wild Onions: Natures delectable answer to scallions

Todays guest post is from Kevin Feinstein (the leader of our wild food walks), and Mia Adler’s book The Bay Area Forager: Your Guide to Edible Wild Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area. Check at the bottom of the post for a purchase link to their great guide to all things wild and edible!

 

Wild Onion Lily (Allium triquetrum)

Family:  Alliaceae (onion, garlic, lily)

Eurasian Weed


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Wild onions of a sort, are part of the lore and mythology of wild edibles.   Everyone expects them in any foraged dinner of any magnitude, and I get many asking about them in my classes.  This is an Old World and mostly East Coast predilection, where various types of wild onions are available.  In Tennessee where I grew up, in the winter and spring every yard and field would be checked with clusters of a type of wild onion grass.   They were everywhere and were probably the first wild edible I ever tasted.   Ramps of course, a fancy restaurant favorite, are heralded for their culinary experience, but unfortunately are being destructively overharvested in many areas. 

In the Bay Area, however, we really don’t have an abundance of wild onions.  In fact, some would say that we don’t have any at all.   But we do have the wild onion lily, an urban and garden weed that is certainly worth a chapter in the book! 

What does it look like?  Typical onion family look, a monocot, with long grass-like leaves with a flower stalk that shoots up small white, bell-shaped flowers.  Distinguished from other onion family members by its distinctly triangular, wedge, or pyramid-shaped leaves.   All crushed parts of the plant exude a very onion-like odor.   Make sure it smells unquestionably like onion as the death camas lily is a look-alike.

When is it available?   Most of the year, they will go dormant sometimes in very dry or cold weather.  

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Where can I find it?  Lawn and garden weed, parks, suburban woodlands nearly always close to human populations.    If you feel like you are out in the “wilderness” you are probably not anywhere near a wild onion lily.  

How to use/forage:   All parts of the plant are onion-like and edible, the easiest parts to use are the blade-like leaves, use them as you would chives. You can also dig up the corm and eat like a very small onion or use the flower as an edible decoration on a dish.  

Sustainability: This plant can be a super tough and noxious weed once established but isn’t always that abundant.   It is often weeded (or at least attempted to be) out of many lawns, gardens and landscaping situations.  I’ve seen it survive herbicide applications, so beware.   Harvest only when it is clearly growing in large quantities, or only harvest a small amount of the leaves from each plant.   

Much more to learn with their book here: https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-2066659-4706.html

Edible seaweeds

Seaside to Table: Foraging and Cooking Nori Chips!

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There’s plenty of reasons to take a trip to the oceanside when you’re in California. Whether you enjoy swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, or the relaxing sounds and aroma of the sea, a trip to the coast is always a good time. However, have you ever considered spending a day at the water foraging for native nori seaweed? This turns a fun day outside by the water into a productive one as well.

 That’s right, the California coast has several types of edible seaweed just ripe for the picking. The concept of eating the slimy seaweed from the ocean might seem strange at first, but there are tons of simple nori seaweed home recipes that will leave you wanting more. It’s not just the taste, though, that makes nori a plant worth diving into the ocean for; it’s also packed with nutrition!

Nori is an excellent source of iodine, B12, potassium, protein, and fiber. Not only that, but it’s very low in both calories and saturated fat, making it a true super food. Other nutrients in nori worth mentioning include magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and calcium.

 

Foraging Precautions

Harvesting your own nori is both fun and satisfying, but it’s important to be careful and stay aware. You’ll often spot some nori near slippery rocks, so don’t let the excitement compromise your awareness on your quest for edible seaweed. Make sure you take it slow, wear the proper gear, and cherry-pick the best and safest places to forage your nori. Once you bring your haul back home, take time to properly clean the seaweed before beginning the cooking process.

Roasted Nori Chips Recipe:

1.) Set your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit

2.) Cut Nori into thin strips

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3.) Place strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat (so it doesnt stick) with the smooth-side facing down

4.) Gently brush strips with olive oil and season with salt

5.) Slide them in the oven for 3-4 minutes or until crispy

 

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to make a delicious snack with your nori. All you need is some olive oil and salt, and in a few minutes, you’ve got delicious guilt-free chips to munch on. What beats a salty, crunchy, and healthy snack? Plus they taste even better when you harvest and cook the nori yourself!

 

Get Creative with your Nori Chips!

Of course, you don’t need to cut your nori chips into perfect rectangles. For a more rustic-looking snack, you can get creative and let the chips have their own shape:

If you want to spice up your nori chips a bit, sesame seeds are a great addition to the recipe listed above. You can sprinkle some soy sauce over them, add a bit of spice, and more!

Sure, making nori chips is quick and easy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of small changes you can make to keep your nori chips new and exciting. It’s a great snack to experiment with, as there are plenty of different compatible flavor combinations.

Ready to get out there and collect your own? Our Seaweed Adventures on the Sonoma coast are great for the beginner or veteran forager. Click below for dates and see you on the beach!



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Edible seaweeds

Bullwhip Kelp: The Seaweed You Can Pickle!

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When you think of foraging for edible native plants in California, seaweed probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, the truth is that California’s coast has several tasty and healthy types of seaweed that can be easily harvested. Bullwhip kelp, for example, is high in protein and dietary fiber and contains nutrients like potassium, magnesium, iodine, and more. You can usually find it washed up on the beach after a big storm. To tell if its fresh, pick it up and bend it, if it snaps, its good to eat, if not, keep looking. It can be harvested in both the spring and the summer.

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Bring a knife and plastic or mesh bag, so you can cut the choicest bits. Both the stipe (stalk), and blades (flowing fronds on the top), can be eaten. For the stipe you’ll want to peel off the outer layer, I find a regular veggie peeler does the trick.


That’s one of the great things about harvesting seaweed — once you find some, you find a lot. Therefore, keep your eyes peeled for seaweed on the surface of the water so you know where to begin harvesting.

It’s best to collect in areas that seem clean and do not have a lot of pollutants. Since bullwhip kelp forests are so dense, it’s easy to take far more than you can use. Plus, you’ll need to process the bullwhip kelp within the first day or two of harvest, so make sure you’re ready to prepare it right away to limit waste. When choosing which kelp to harvest, beware of any white spots, beaten up edges, or if the texture is not smooth to the touch. These attributes indicate that the kelp is too old for good eating.

 Bullwhip kelp is an interesting seaweed with bulbs, stipes (stems), and blades (leaves). Each part can be eaten. The bulbs and stipes, for example, can be pickled, while the blades can be dried into chips and added to soups and other meals.

Pickled Bullwhip Kelp Recipe:

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Kelp stipes

Kelp bulbs

Cayenne peppers

Garlic

Fresh dill

Pickling spices

2 quarts of apple cider vinegar

3 quarts of water

1/4 cup of pickling salt

1/4 alum or grape leaves

If the kelp looks like it should be rinsed off before you start, make sure you do it with sea water rather than fresh water if you can. but fresh is fine too.. First peel the outer layer off the stipe with your veggie peeler, and cut the bulbs and stipes into roughly ¼ inch pieces. Place the desired amount in a mason jar and add a clove of garlic, cayenne pepper, and a sprig of dill in there with it. 

Next, heat up the vinegar, water, alum/grape leaves, and pickling salt. Once it starts to boil, pour the brine into the mason jars. Sanitize the lid, and then put the cap on and wait for it to pickle!

Pickled kelp is both delicious and versatile. You can basically use it anytime you would use a pickle. Whether you put it in sandwiches, make your own relish, or eat it on its own, there are plenty of ways to enjoy pickled bullwhip kelp. Once you add this nutritious seaweed to your diet, you’ll likely make foraging on the coast a fun part of your spring and summer routine.

Ready to get out there and collect your own seaweed? We’ll take you up the coast to collect all the seaweed you can carry (10 lbs is the limit, which is A TON). Click below to see our current dates:



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Recipes

A Summer Pasta Recipe

Oil Poached Albacore

With Sungold Tomatoes, New Zealand Spinach, Sweet Corn and Feta

Every season is great for produce in California, but the bright crispness of summer is something special. Right now is peak time for tomatoes; the corn is sweet, the albacore are running, and one of our favorite local wild greens, New Zealand spinach, is just right. So I figured, why not just add butter, olive oil, thyme, fresh pasta from  Lucca’s, and leave the flavors to shine through? Serves 4 (with leftovers)

 You’ll need:

1.5 lbs. fresh pappardelle (my favorite place to get this is from Lucca Ravioli in The Mission. They sell it in sheets by the pound then you can cut it to your favorite width)

4 ears corn

1 lb. Sungold tomatoes

1/2 lb. New Zealand spinach (forage this by the beach). If you can't find any you can sub in a hearty veg like radicchio. 

1/2 lb. butter

2 quarts olive oil

1 lb. albacore loin

2 heads garlic

Bay leaf

1 bunch thyme (you'll use about a tablespoon when picked)

Mirepoix (1/2 lb onion, 1/2 lb celery, 2 carrots)

1/2 lb. feta cheese

First, you’ve got to poach your fish and get your pasta water going (basically giving your fishy friend a warm oil bath). To save oil, you can also do this in FoodSaver bags sous vide style. If you need to cheat, you can use tuna canned in olive oil. It won’t be quite as tasty, but still pretty delicious. You probably know how to cook pasta, but just in case, get a large pot of very salty water boiling. Cut albacore into 4-inch chunks.

Add garlic and bay to oil in a large pan. You want the oil to cover the fish.

Heat oil to 120 degrees over low heat, and then add the fish. The timing depends a lot on the consistency of the temperature, as well as the size of the fish. You want the loin to cook through without drying out. When the fish pulls easily apart, it’s done, usually after 20-30 minutes. Don’t stress too much, though; it’s a forgiving process with all that oil around.

While that’s cooking, prepare your sauce.

Clean all your veggies, shuck corn, dice your mirepoix, mince your garlic, and pick your thyme.

Now make your sauce: Sweat onion until translucent in oil and plenty of butter. (The butter is going to be what coats your pasta, so be generous.) Add celery and carrot, cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and corn, simmer 5 more minutes. Then add tomatoes and thyme, and reduce heat to simmer while you prepare the fish

By now the fish should be done. Pull it apart into teeth sinkable chunks and mix into sauce. Add salt and pepper to season.

Now throw your pasta into the water and cook until done. (It’ll float and taste delicious). Drain the water, add it to the sauce, and stir gently for 3 minutes until you get a good coating of deliciousness on there. Mix in cheese. And…you’re done! Eat! Add some bread if you like (which I do). If you’re feeling fancy, grill the bread and brush it with fresh garlic. While not many people support the starch-on-starch thing, we all know it tastes great.

Want to learn how to forage your own New Zealand Spinach right here in SF? Take a walk in the woods with our fearless guide "Feral Kevin".

wild mushrooms, Recipes

A Morel Dilemna: AND a recipe

This is a guest post from our fearless mushroom leader Patrick Hamilton  

The snarkiest of mushroomers, and even the most polite and PC picker, will tell you, "Morels grow where they want to grow."

            Simple as that. And difficult as that.

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            After decades of pursuing these delectable fungi, this morel hunter knows full well what others speak of with either despair or hopefulness, in sarcasm or earnestness: morels seem to appear here and there, but not there and here—at least not consistently.

            Or maybe they do. To find out, you simply have to obey the adage all true mushroom people understand: "If you don't go, you won't know!"

            So come on one of our Sierra mountain forays and explore the opportunities to find the ever elusive morel, or maybe even spring king porcini!

            Here's a quick and easy method for what to do with those you might find.

 

-Morels: The Very Best Way-

Serves 2

            Rinse the morels, making sure no dirt is left on the stem bottoms. Then chop or slice a handful into wheels, and put them into a medium hot sauté pan with 1 1/2 tbsp of sweet butter. Cook for at least 5 minutes, mixing a bit. 

            In the meantime, finely chop about 1 tbsp of shallots and toss them in too. Stir, shake, or agitate the pan to mix. Cook for a minute or two. Add a small splash of dry Sherry; mix and cook au sec, then add a nice amount of heavy cream and cook for just a minute or two over low heat.

            Use your best sea salt flakes and fresh ground pepper to finish.

            Serve over great bread (like brioche, but not any strongly flavored loaf) or toast rounds. This will be another one of those voila moments that will make you the most popular person in the kitchen, period. 

            Do share.

Edible Plants

Outtakes from this weeks forageSF Wild Food Walk

We started this past weekend's wild food walk by tasting one of my favorite local plants, the 3 cornered leek (or wild onion lily.) Right now they are in flower, and the white clusters of flowers are not only beautiful, but they pack a nice oniony spice. The greens are also edible and are very mild in flavor. 

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We quickly moved onto to other seasonal delicacies. The nasturtiums we saw, which were looking super robust and healthy, had just revealed a couple of early flowers. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible, and have a nice cress-like spice.

From there we quickly saw oxalis (sour grass) also with a beautiful and tart edible flower. Miner's lettuce, although soon to be gone for season, was still looking succulent and delicious. Chickweed, growing right next to it, was still in its full green glory as well. We only moved about 10 feet before finding stinging nettle, mallow, yellow dock, black sage, and wild radish. We finally made it a little further before discussing the virtues of the only edible fruit we found, the black nightshade. None were quite ripe though. 

Many other plants were discussed, mostly edible. We barely traveled 200 feet before we realized there was enough there for an amazing salad, full of succulent mild greens, radish and nasturtium spice, onion flavor, flowers for visual appeal, and a tart component in the oxalis. This is why Spring is my favorite time of year!

Kevin Feinstein

Recipes

Wild Mushroom Turkey Stuffing Recipe

Chanterelles and Black Trumpets are my favorite winter mushrooms. The textures go great together to make an amazing stuffing. If you want to forage your own that always the most fun (click here for our mushroom hunting classes if you want to come out with us!), but Far West Fungi in The Ferry Building is a great local source to buy them.                          

Fresh Chanterelle and Black Trumpet Stuffing

            1.5 lb fresh chanterelle mushrooms

            1/2 lb black trumpet mushrooms

            1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread

            3 3/4 cups cubed white bread

            1 pound ground turkey sausage

            1 cup chopped onion

            3/4 cup chopped celery

            2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage

            1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary

            1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

            1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped

            3/4 cup dried cranberries

            1/3 cup minced fresh parsley

            1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped

            3/4 cup turkey stock

            4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degree F (175 degree C). Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.

-Coarsely chop the chanterelle mushrooms

-Clean the Black trumpets (people say you’re not supposed to, but I wash them under cold water, I’ve never noticed a problem)

-In a large skillet, cook the sausage, mushrooms, and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.

-Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, parsley, and liver. Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into turkey to loosely fill. If you’re scared of putting stuffing in the turkey you can bake it in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. I personally don't recommend it though, its so much better cooked in the turkey!

That’s it! Cook your turkey as you usually would, and enjoy.

Recipes

Camping Drinks - Fir Tip Vodka Fizz Recipe

 

To me, fir tips taste like California. You’ll see them in our state in the early spring, and I’m sure throughout much of the country. Look for new, pale green growth. They have a great subtle flavor, in stark contrast to the darker green needles. We use them as often as we can at our events, whenever a dish can handle its citrusy floral bite. Using the recipe below, we make a simple syrup with fir tips, vodka, and—assuming that you’re glamping and not conquering Half Dome—a dash of soda.

Simple Syrup:

Find a local fir tree. (Alternatively, you could substitute an herb like rosemary. It’s a different take on this syrup, but it has a nice flavor). You’ll want to look for the pale green new growth, as the darker green needles will have a bitter tannic flavor.

Ingredients:

30 fir tips – washed with cold water

2 cups water

2 cups white granulated sugar

Vodka

Soda water

 

Equipment:

Small pot

Whisk or wooden spoon

Measuring cup

Strainer

Now make it!

1)    Mix the water and sugar in your pot, turn the heat to medium, then simmer and whisk until the sugar dissolves.

2)    Turn off the heat and steep the tips (put them in the pot and leave them) for 30 minutes. This is where that great flavor comes from.

3)    Strain the tips and allow the syrup to cool in your fridge.

4)    Now make your drink! How you mix the syrup depends on your taste. I like to add one tablespoon, a healthy glug of gin (3 oz. always seems a bit too puritan to me), and a splash of soda. Delicious.

 

 

 

Recipes

Eat your weeds! Nasturtium Pesto Recipe

People love to eat flowers. It’s a fact. I was talking to a vendor at a farmers market one time, and he told me that the $4 salad mixes he sold could sell for $8 if he put in a couple edible flowers. Nothing fancy, just nasturtiums or wild radish, things he found around the farm. There is something about eating something so beautiful that draws people in. Consuming beauty, rather than just observing it…maybe too deep, but maybe true. Anyway, no need to pay $8 for this recipe, just find a patch of nasturtiums.  The best part about this nasturtium pesto is that you actually use the leaves for the recipe, so you can save the flowers for garnish. Pick leaves that are small and deep green, these have the most intense flavor.

 

1 cup fresh nasturtium leaves, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

A lot of people know that nasturtium flowers are edible; a surprise is that the leaves are too. They are amazingly plentiful, and make a great pesto with a mild nasturtium bite.  We made this with fresh gnocchi and wild radish flowers or our last meal, big hit:

1. Pulse the nasturtium leaves in a food processor with an ice cube until well blended (the ice cube helps keep the intense green color. This also works with basil pesto).

2. Add pine nuts and blend. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

3. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, with the food processor running. Stop periodically to scrape the sides.  Check for flavor every once in a while. Decide for yourself the consistency you want.   Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

That's it! Really delicious on Gnocchi or any fresh pasta. Enjoy!

 

Recipes

Leek and Lemon Thyme Tarts with Black Trumpet Mushrooms recipe

This is a super simple recipe that makes you look like a pro and a great one for these rainy nights at home.

Ingredients (makes 10 tarts):

1/4 lb black trumpets
1 T Oregano
1/2 C Chevre
1/4 C Shallots
1 Leek
2 T Parsley
1 Piece bacon
White wine
Lemon
2 bulb garlic, minced
2 T thyme
2 Inch tart shells
3 lemon for juice
1 bunch chives

·       First pre-heat your oven to 400, then cut off dirty ends of mushrooms and wash in several changes of water, lifting the mushrooms out of the water to let the grit fall to the bottom. I’ve found it’ impossible to get these mushrooms clean without washing

·       Now dry sauté your mushrooms. Cook them in a pan without any oil on medium heat to get rid of all that moisture. When the water is mostly gone, and before they start to burn, take them off the heat

·       Chop and start cooking your bacon (add a bit of extra fat if it needs it) while you slice your shallots and leeks thin and pick your herbs. Cut mushrooms into ½ inch pieces

·       Now sauté your veggies, mushrooms, and herbs until soft, add wine, lemon, salt and pepper to taste then remove to mixing bowl

·       Mix veggies with chevre, taste again for seasoning (this recipe wants a good amount of lemon to counter the heavy bacon and cheese)

·       Use a tablespoon to fill tart shells on wax paper lined sheet tray, and cook for 15 minutes or until cheese and tarts begin to brown

·       Take out to cool, chop some chives for garnish, and you’re done!

Recipes

Wild Blackberry Stuffing Recipe

A Wild Stuffing for Thanksgiving

 

While it’s true that there are not too many wild edibles to forage for in late November, even in California (sea beans are past their prime and stringy and miner’s lettuce is definitely past its prime), with a bit of forethought you can bring some of the taste of the summer to your Thanksgiving table. Freezers have made it possible for us to take some of the bounty of the warm season and preserve it for the cooler months.

Preparing a unique stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey can include blackberries that you harvested during the summer and then froze for later use. Although this stuffing recipe is prepared mostly on the stovetop, I would suggest popping it into the oven for the last 15 or 20 minutes of your turkey’s cooking time, to make sure it’s good and hot and to infuse some of the turkey flavor into it. Try this snappy recipe to give family and friends a real treat on Thanksgiving.

Wild Rice and Wild Blackberry Stuffing: Everyone who loves the distinctive flavor of wild rice will love this stuffing. And, although you will be cooking the stuffing next to your turkey in the last states of the process, you can always dribble a bit of the pan drippings over the stuffing to not only help keep it moist, but also to add a bit of turkey flavor, too. This recipe will provide enough stuffing for about 6 people.

·      ½ cup of wild rice

·      ½ cup spelt

·      ½ cup thawed wild blackberries

·      1 cup chopped pecans

·      1 cup diced carrots

·      1 cup diced onion

·      1 cup diced celery

·      2 garlic cloves, grated

·      ¾ cup chopped parsley

·      1 tablespoon chopped sage

·      2 tablespoons olive oil

·      2 tablespoon water

·      ¼ teaspoon pepper

·      ½ teaspoon salt

Place wild rice and spelt into a large pot and cover with water – make sure there is at least 3” of water over the grains. Bring the pot to a boil, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn off heat, cover, and allow the pot to sit for 1 hour. After the grains have expanded, drain and set aside.

While the rice and spelt were sitting, you should be getting the other ingredients ready.

Spread the chopped pecans over a baking sheet and give them 10 minutes in the oven at 325 F.

Sauté the vegetables in the olive oil in a medium saucepan about 5 minutes, then cover the pan and allow the vegetables to cook for another 10 minutes until they are tender.

Add the rice and spelt to the vegetables, along with the salt and pepper. Just before putting into a baking dish, carefully mix the blackberries.

Put everything into a baking dish and stick it into the oven next to your nearly done turkey. Make sure to use the pan drippings from the turkey pan to add flavor and moisture to your wild stuffing.

Once the turkey and the stuffing are out of the oven and on the table – enjoy. This is a different approach to the traditional stuffing most of us are used to, but will add a new dimension and taste treat to this beloved holiday, and is undoubtedly one of which the Pilgrims would heartily approve.