On Monday I was fortunate enough to go on a foraging trip with Hank Shaw, writer of the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. The blog is a wonderful resource on finding food in a more unconventional way – by either foraging, hunting, fishing or growing it and has some great recipes to go with them. He just won the James Beard Award for best Food Blog so his site is legit.
To be honest, I had never really thought about foraging. Mostly because I have no idea what is edible and what is not and am not sure where to even begin to learn that stuff. I don’t even know what poison oak looks like, so I am not the best person to be eating wild fruit with (or hiking with for that matter).
Along with a couple friends, we met him in Bodega Bay which is about 1 1/2 hours north of San Francisco on the coast. Our first stop was the Salmon Creek Beach. I was a little hesitant because it just seemed like just any old beach and it was freezing. But we set off in search of something that we could eat. Our first find was literally in front of my car. Wild mustard.
I love mustard but I had no idea what it looked like. Depending on the season we could have eaten the leaves, but since it was summer, the leaves were pretty bitter so we left them alone. But who knew, mustard just grows on the sidewalk? We continued to walk down to the beach and on our way we found wild radishes and sea beans – both edible. Once we got down to the beach we found this guy – escargot anyone?
Hank said we could eat him – cooked of course – but that would have been a whole of effort for one little snail. It was his lucky day.
We continued on the trail and found New Zealand spinach, as well as wild arugula. Craziness. We had literally only walked about 250 yards from the car and had already found mustard, a snail, wild radishes, sea beans, arugula and New Zealand spinach! And this is what I remember – there were a bunch that I forgot.
We walked down to the beach and found huge kelp “bull whips” that we strewn across the sand from the rough waves. Apparently you can eat those too! They are best pickled. There were a lot of flies on those suckers so I decided to pass on that.
After Salmon Creek Beach, we drove south on Rt 1 towards Pt. Reyes. Our next stop was Tomales Bay State Park. Once we parked Hank immediately found 2 different things we could eat- huckleberries and hazelnuts- in the parking lot! Right in front of where the cars park. We tasted the huckleberries which were sweet and tart. We tried to eat the hazelnuts but they need to be dried before eating. But in a pinch, they would work.
After that find we stumbled upon hemlock! You know the deadly plant that killed Socrates in 399 B.C.
We passed on the hemlock thankfully and instead found some stinging nettles. I had them on a pizza recently and they are delicious. I am definitley going to look for those from now on. But they really do sting you so watch out.
We walked down to the beach where we discovered thousands, and thousands of mussels just waiting to be eaten.
Sadly you can’t eat them this time of year they are quarantined because of toxins in the water. I love a good moules frites but I am going to pass on the side of toxins.
Our last stop was up a path from the beach that led us to the find of the day -blackberries.
The blackberries were not the sweetest berries I have ever had – they were delicious but sour – but completely natural and organic and free! (Take that Whole Foods)
I really love the idea of foraging for food. Now that I know there are edible plants and fruit everywhere, I can’t stop looking. I have seen wild fennel in every crevice of the city as well as wild peas and thimbleberries on a recent hike. This doesn’t mean that I am only going to forage my food, although that could be a great way to save some money, but I love the idea that not everythng comes from Whole Foods. Most things but not everything.
Check out Hank’s blog. He is pretty much a walking encyclopedia on all thing edible and could not have been more helpful during our first foraging attempt. What do you think, could you start foraging for your food?