northern california

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!

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.

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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the town that will not be named

Seeking mushroom foragers took me up Rt.1 yesterday, into a town whose name I promised not to reveal...suspicious folk up in the mountains. After a 4 hour drive to meet a woman that didn't show up, a casual conversation with a gas station attendant proved fruitful. Turns out her brother picks mushrooms, and his son, and all their friends. Generations of them, hunter gatherers the lot. I also managed to get a promised wild boar hunt out of the deal, so the next forage dinner may be that much more interesting.the coast