san francisco

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

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

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

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

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!

 

Edible seaweeds

Where to Harvest Seaweed and How to Eat It

Where to Harvest Seaweed and How to Eat It

 

 

Most of us never give a thought to using seaweed as a food, but it’s actually one of nature’s most nutritious edibles, and is usually easily available to anyone who lives near the coast. Seaweed is actually an alga, writ large, and many species are found in abundance along most marine shores, either attached to the substrate or washed up onto the beach. The Japanese have been eating seaweed, in various forms, for centuries, but North Americans are now beginning to use this bounty as well.

For those who wish to forage for seaweed, it’s important to check local regulations before beginning. You should also make sure that the area you are planning to use for your harvest has clean water, and is far from any sources of pollution. In most cases, you will be allowed to harvest 10 pounds of wet seaweed for your personal use. Seaweeds can be brown, red, purple, or green in coloration. Avoid fresh water seaweeds as they are often poisonous; stick to marine seaweed.

 

Edible Seaweeds of the West Coast

Seaweed can be found growing from the ocean floor, or can be attached to rocks.  Low tide is the best time to reach the plants connected to rocks. Unlike vascular plants, seaweeds do not have roots, they have holdfasts instead. Although almost anywhere along the coast will probably have seaweed, tide pools are a great place to find this edible, but you must pay attention to the tides when going out to harvest seaweed.

In addition to a pair of waterproof gloves and a collection bucket, you will need a sharp knife. When harvesting seaweed, it is important not to pull the seaweed off the rock or ocean floor, doing this will destroy the holdfast. By using a sharp knife to cut well above the holdfast, in this way you will ensure that the seaweed will regrow in time. Some of the best edible seaweeds include:

·      Nori is one of the most delicious of the local edible seaweeds. Identify it by its dark green color and it can be found attached to rocks in the intertidal zone. 

·      Giant Kelp is usually found in dense beds, and is one of the fastest growing plants. Herring often lay their eggs on kelp fronds, and in some locales, it is illegal to harvest kelp containing eggs.

·      Sea Lettuce looks almost exactly like the lettuce you may grow in your garden.

·      Purple Laver grows on coastal rocks, and while the blades of this seaweed can be over 3 feet wide, they are only several cells thick.

·      Alaria fistulosa is another edible member of the kelp family, and the fronds can reach 100 feet in length.


Seaweed Classes: Learn How To Harvest and Eat Seaweed on the California Coast


Seaweeds are a great source of vitamins and minerals and some of them are also surprisingly high in protein. Seaweeds contain iodine, iron, chromium, calcium, potassium, and manganese, among other minerals. Most seaweed is dried before being used, and can be hung from a line or spread on a clean cloth or plastic sheet to do so. The drying seaweed should be turned every hour to speed drying.

 

How to Eat Edible Seaweed 

Edible seaweed can be eaten raw, or used in cooked recipes. Adding either fresh or dried seaweed to your cuisine can add flavor, body, and extra nutrition.

·      Seaweed can be used in soups either as a major component, or as a thickener – dried seaweed is particularly valuable as a thickener.

·      Salads do not have to consist mainly of lettuce, Sea Lettuce or Purple Laver are good for this.

·      Alaria can be cooked just as you would any green leafy vegetable from your garden, and is great with butter and a sprinkle of salt.

·      Either dried or fresh fronds or blades can be used as wraps in a number of recipes. Nearly any recipe that calls for a cabbage or corn husk wrap can use seaweed as a substitute.

·      Dried seaweed fronds can also be broken up into chip-sized pieces and used as a snack food; they are naturally salty and are low in calories.

In addition to the uses both dried and fresh seaweed have in the kitchen, these macroalgae have another advantage if you harvest them yourself; they are free. Respect the area where you are harvesting seaweeds and cut carefully when you do gather so that the plant can regrow again.

 

 

 

forageSF

Spearfishing in Mendo with our chef Ty.

Just went on my first spearfishing trip with Ty, our new chef, in Albion, on the Mendocino coast. It was a family affair. I showed up to the campground and was greeted by his brother, his dad, a crew of friends, and burgers smoking on the BBQ.  Freediving is definitely one of my favorite things, and I try to get out whenever I can. There is something incredibly meditative about being underwater without a tank. Nothing mediating the experience except your goggles. Its amazing to get down to the bottom and just pause, resting with the sway of the ocean, quietly drifting with the kelp. Nothing is better. 

Since abalone ("abs" to the veteran), season is closed, we went up to a spot for some straight spearfishing, but I have never seen so many abs before in my life! Amazing abundance. Since I dont have my own boat I usually shore dive (basically just swim off the shore with a float to carry my catch), but taking the boats out this time really opened my eyes to how abundant the seas just beyond a few hundreds yards out can be. The one good size fish I caught, a 24 inch ling cod, was more than enough for a meal for me and my girlfriend. I wanted to treat it lightly, so I sauteed and roasted the filets, and wrapped the head in tinfoil with garlic and roasted that in a 400 degree oven. Delicious ling cod cheeks! Some other divers got scallops, which you'll see me holding in the pic below, but I couldn't manage to get any myself. We had some fresh raw scallop on the beach when we got back, amazing flavor. Fresh, briny, I think much better than cooked. 

Forgot the GoPro this time around, so unfortunately no sea shots, but here's a couple pics of us getting in, taking a superman pose in our suits, and what we caught. Wasn't the best day for fish, but as always any day in the water is a great day.

Iso 

interested in booking a dinner with us: Click here

Uncategorized

Glove law repeal passes Assembly Health Committee 18-0!

The bill to repeal the glove law, AB2130, passed the Assembly yesterday 18-0! Thanks to everyone who sent in letters of support, they really made a difference. We still have to get through the Assembly Appropriations Committee and then on to the Assembly Floor and the Senate. Still a long road to go, but the unanimous vote today shows that folks in Sacramento see this is a bill that the people dont want. Exciting stuff! Iso

Uncategorized

URGENT: Today is the day to show you hate the glove law: Vote in sacramento tomorrow

Tomorrow is a big day. Its the day the health committee decides whether to repeal the glove law. Your support on this petition is one of the reasons they're meeting at all, but now we need to show them you really mean it.

Two ways to help:

1. Send a letter of support to Benjamin.Russell@asm.ca.gov. There is a sample letter below, but you can also let them know in your own words that you support AB2130 (the bill to repeal the law). If you send a letter please let me know.

2. Go to Sacramento! I know its a drive, but its important that we have people there to show their support. The meeting is at 1:30pm in room 4202 of the State Capitol. Let us know if you can make it.

Thanks again for your support. Your voice is working to change a misguided law that will effect millions of people. We're in the homestretch now, we can do it!

Iso

 

Sample Letter:

[Date]

The Honorable Dr. Richard Pan

Assemblymember, 9th District

State Capitol, Room 6005

Sacramento, CA 95814

Fax: (916) 319-2109

Re: AB 2130 (Pan) – SUPPORT

Dear Assemblymember Pan,

[Name of your organization] writes to express our support of your AB 2130, which would

roll back the recently enacted law prohibiting bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food.

This prohibition, created last year by AB 1252 (Committee on Health), will require bars and

restaurants to buy and discard thousands of disposable gloves, imposing a significant financial

burden and environmental impact. The numerous glove changes workers will be required to

undertake will further result in a loss of operational efficiency. Though we are in full support

of ensuring food safety for restaurant customers, small restaurants and bars were not involved

in the discussion surrounding AB 1252. As a result, substantive changes that directly affect our

business and livelihood were put into place without our input.

[Optional: include a brief statement about your organization and the problems created by the

glove law.]

We thank you for introducing AB 2130 to roll back the glove law.

Sincerely,

[Name and title]

cc: Members of the Assembly Health Committee

 

 

 

 

 

 

thoughts

IT'S NOT A TREND!

Sometimes I worry that it is. That all this; local food, local community, organic food, humane treatment of animals, developing local economies based on people running their own businesses, mutual trust built on real relationships, the move away from industrial food, that it’ll all go away. It’s happened before. This philosophy was popular back in the 1960’s; canning, foraging (Euell Gibbons is still my go to for wild edible knowledge), small-scale farming… all the kids were doing it. Then came the 80’s with TV dinners and… well, honestly, I wasn’t too aware of what was going on in the 80’s, but I do know that in the 90’s I went to a hippie boarding school (Buxton!) where we chopped our own wood, the dorm I lived in was called “The Barn,”  but we still had chicken patty Wednesdays and “Orange Drink” on the table at every meal.  By then the pendulum had swung back, and no one gave a second thought to what they were putting in their bodies.  I sometimes worry that this decline will happen again. I got a book in the mail the other day that gives me hope that this won’t be the case. It’s called “Farming the City” , a book created in Amsterdam, and at its heart it’s a glossary of food movements taking place around the planet.  There’s Brook Park Chickens in the Bronx, a small volunteer run chicken coop; Turntable Urban Garden In Helsinki, a government-funded community garden, educational space, and café; Culinary Misfits in Berlin, started by two women who reclaim produce deemed unsuitable for sale (which is often thrown away) to repurpose into jams and preserves; I could go on. For that list I just opened the book to random pages, and throughout there are scores of similar projects, great examples of people who come up with an idea, then fight to make it happen. From starting my own business I know how hard it must have been for each and every one of them. From the day they had that light bulb moment, to the days and months and years it took to tear it out of their brain and manifest it for the world to see.

What gives me hope is that people seem to keep doing it, and not just here, but all over the world. There’s a lot of talk of us living in a bubble here in The Bay Area, and we do, there is no arguing that. What we are, and what the bubble allows us to be, is an incubator for ideas that spread across the world.   The support and excitement that people here show for new ideas catapults things that otherwise may have never existed into reality. People look to our ideas and create their own, and the freedom of our bubble inspires others to see the ability in themselves to create the change they want to see in their own world.  What is great about all this is that we're not the only bubble. We're part of a global community of people, all with their heads down working hard to reshape the world into one they want to exist. We look to others for inspiration and they look to us. I truly do believe that if we all keep it up, the world will be a very different place when we’re done.

-Iso

thoughts

Selling Life: Why a Soybean is Not a Stereo

Selling Life: Why a Soybean is Not a Stereo

I heard a story on my way into work today and am feeling compelled to write something about it. It covered the Supreme Court case of a soybean farmer vs. Monsanto. The case, as I understand it, boils down to this: a man went to a grain mill, bought seeds, and planted them.

These seeds were Monsanto seeds: genetically engineered to produce incredible yields and illegal to replant. The farmer contends that he had always bought seeds from the grain mill to plant, and it wasn’t his fault that the Monsanto seeds were mixed in there.

Monsanto’s basic argument is that if farmers are allowed to replant their seeds without paying, there is no incentive for innovation. The Obama administration is behind them (which really pisses me off), on the grounds that the case has far-reaching implications for “self-reproducing” technologies in other fields (most notably medical devices).

Patents were created to protect inventors. If someone has the bright idea to make a better mouse trap (or stereo, or smartphone, or computer), then they should be able to maintain rights on that invention. If there is no protection, what’s the point of spending time creating it? This makes sense in most cases, and I understand why a court would argue on the side of Monsanto. If the decision applies to all technologies, then they would want set a precedent that is applied correctly.

But this is different. As genetically modified seeds become ever more ingrained in our food supply, it will be increasingly hard for farmers to refuse to use them. Even if they don’t buy them, seeds from neighboring fields could blow in, setting off lawsuits. Over time our food supply will become ever more dependent on the whims of these technologies, at the cost of thousands of years of slow selective breeding.  This is just wrong. We should not treat our food supply like an iPhone; whether it’s similar in a legal sense is not the point. In a real sense, they need to be seen as worlds apart!

I'm not trying to fear-monger,  and I realize that technology, especially bio-technology, has created some real wonders that have pushed us forward as a species, but the issue of patenting life is not only a food issue. A decision in a case like this could have more far-reaching consequences than we could imagine. Just one example is the fact that genes are now patented, and soon, I’m sure, more efficient forms of organs will be patented (grown in factories by handy 3D printers). What will the courts say then? What does a child owe for the superior genes that his parents bought from the lab, and what is it going to cost if he can’t pay? Health would be going to the highest bidder (although that's not too far from the reality at the moment). I know this is taking the issue to its most extreme reaches of science fiction , but all too soon. fiction will become reality. These are the real questions we should be asking ourselves. If we don’t, these questions that will be answered for us by the very companies who stand to profit from our lives.

So what do we do? I think the first step is simply letting people know that they are eating these foods. That is why I was so behind Prop 37. I feel like the issues of health are almost secondary to the issues that are being brought up in this case. One company should not have a monopoly on our food supply. Negative effects of GMO's are to this point unproven, but it seems that science has had one too many "oops" moments. Moments where something that was "proven" safe reveals itself to be anything but. These are bets. Bets that wager advancement of our species against some unseen consequence. The problem with this bet is that if we lose, the loss will be far greater than we can pay. It will be the loss of thousands of years of careful small advancements in food production, advancements that will be much harder to regain once they are lost.

 

 

wild kitchen

A Basque Feast: Recap and photos

The Basque feasts were a great success. We sold out both nights, with around 160 people each night, seated at long communal tables. This was my first foray into serving a family style meal, and I think it went really well. Something I've always liked about The Wild Kitchen is how much people interact with eachother. A lot of the dishes we serve have ingredients they've never had before, so there is almost always a pleasant din of "Is that the miners lettuce?"...."I've never had local uni before"....."I had no idea you could make ice cream with acorn flour".  New friends are always made. We also had the special treat of having hand painted menus by Juniper Harrower. She paints with local wine and ink made from ink cap mushrooms she forages. Pretty amazing stuff. The same thing happened with these past meals. Trays of asparagus with guanciale were passed in exchange for salt code rice with piperade, and a similar din ensued. Thanks to everyone that came out, we'll definitely be doing it again.

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photos by Andria Lo