Forager’s Forecast

It was evident at last weekend’s Wild Edible Plants and Food Foraging class that berry season is upon us!  It has been an unusual harvest year with many wild foods appearing and ripening here much earlier than “normal.”  Here are just a few of the edible favorites that we gathered and enjoyed in the varied dishes gracing our table.

RED HUCKLEBERRY (VACCINIUM PARVIFOLIUM)

Red huckleberry bushes can be found atop decomposing logs and tree stumps. Now is the perfect time to harvest red huckleberries; bushes in the Puget Sound area are laden with some of the fattest berries we’ve seen in a long time. Many people enjoy these small, tart berries as a trailside snack. We used them to adorn our cattail pollen crepes.

SALAL (GAULTHERIA SHALLON)

salal berries
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Contrary to what you might have heard, salal berries are not only edible, they are quite tasty! These berries are typically at their peak in August and September. Surprisingly, we were already finding ripe salal berries over the 4th of July weekend in the San Juan Islands. They are packed with Vitamin C and make a great trailside snack as well as jelly and base for fruit leather.

GOLDENROD (SOLIDAGO CANADENSIS)

Goldenrod likes moist soil and often can be found growing in damp meadows, at the edges of fields and in ditches along the sides of roads. The just-opening flower buds make a sunny addition to muffins and hotcakes (which we lovingly refer to as “golden cakes”). The leaves can also make a medicinal tea.

CATTAIL (TYPHA SPP.)

Cattail offers us a year-round supply of food. In the spring, we collected protein-rich pollen which we used for the beautiful crepes pictured above. On this trip, we harvested the vegetative stalks (the ones without the “hot dog”) and scraped out the “flour” from the rhizome. Once blended, we teased the fibers out and used the cattail flour in our acorn muffins. Note: Always harvest from a non-polluted area!

We also enjoyed delectable thimbleberries, tiny but flavorful trailing blackberries, and tender dandelion and dock leaves to name just a few. We invite you to indulge in these nutritious and tasty wild foods that are just waiting for you!

For more detailed information on identification, harvesting techniques, and ethics as well as additional suggestions for preparations, here are some of our favorite foraging books.  We carry these books in our school store.  Please call our office (425.746.7267) or email (earthskills@earthwalknorthwest.com) to order.  We appreciate your support!

  1. Discovering Wild Plants, Janice Schofield Eaton
  2. The Forager’s Harvest, Samuel Thayer
  3. Nature’s Garden,Samuel Thayer
  4. The Boreal Herbal, Beverley Gray

Happy Foraging!

Forager’s Forecast

Seaweed Harvest

We weren’t  sure what the weather had in store as we headed out the first day in the San Juans to gather seaweeds. For those of you who read our previous post with pictures of students gathering under the sun last year, you’ll notice quite a difference this year:

 

Even with the wind blowing, we were able to harvest enough bullwhip kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana), winged kelp (Alaria marginata), nori or laver, (Porphyra spp.), and bladderwrack (Fucus spp.) to make some delicious meals and condiments.

Bullwhip kelp pickles

Bullwhip kelp relish

Sushi rolls and Alaria with lentils

We also enjoyed other gifts from the sea, mussels and gooseneck barnacles:

We wanted to include the perennial favorite, Navarro “oysters” with nori, but they were gone before we could snap a photo!

 

Seaweed Harvest

How to Practice Your Skills

At Earthwalk, students learn a variety of ancestral living skills such as bow and arrow making, weaving, flintknapping, wild food foraging, fire making and shelter building.  Anyone who has studied ancestral living skills knows that there are a vast number to be learned – and hopefully, some to be mastered.  With so many skills to learn, it can be overwhelming.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.  Start easy – maybe one skill per week.  Make it manageable so you don’t get bogged down.  Be patient, including with yourself.  As you practice over time, your confidence and skills will increase.

Tips on Practicing Your Skills

  • Pick one at a time.
  • Start easy (crawl first, then walk, then run).
  • Go slow. Take your time. Don’t rush.
    • If you rush, you are more likely to make mistakes.
    • Speed will come with experience.
  • There is no magic pill!
  • The more you get into the skills, the deeper the connection you will feel to the earth.
  • Be well-rounded with your skills.
    • You will specialize in some skills, but should practice and enjoy them all.
  • As you practice the skills, let them become a meditation.
  • Go over your notes.
  • Get some good quality tools (cheap ones break).
  • At the end of the day, ask yourself:
    • What went well?
    • What could be improved?
    • If you could do it again, what would you change?
  • Don’t forget to have a life.
  • Don’t neglect your family while practicing! Try to include them.
  • Share the skills with friends and family members who are open to them.
  • Enjoy the experience!

– Frank Sherwood

How to Practice Your Skills

Benefits of Seaweeds

As we are preparing for our Seaweeds and Coastal Foraging class over Independence Day weekend, we are reflecting on the many benefits of seaweeds and feeling grateful for this wonderful gift from the sea.

Seaweed

 

 

What are Seaweeds?

Seaweeds, or sea vegetables, are edible plants from the sea that are rich in minerals and nutrients. Sea vegetables are classified by color: reds, browns, greens, blue-greens, and yellow-greens. The color depends in part on the light spectrum available to the plant.

Sea vegetables have been used for thousands of years to help prolong life, prevent disease, promote health and enhance beauty.  Throughout the Pacific Northwest, local nori seaweed was eaten abundantly by indigenous peoples.

17 IMG_2289

Benefits of Seaweed

According to Paul Pitchford in Healing with Whole Foods, sea vegetables contain ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants. Ounce per ounce, seaweed is higher in vitamins and minerals than any other class of food.  All minerals needed by humans are found in seaweeds including calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc.  Nutrients include vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B6, niacin, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, folic acid, soluble fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and trace amounts of vitamin B12. As well, seaweeds contain all of the trace elements that the body needs in the correct balance.

Although there are many different types of seaweed, all of them have health benefits.  Seaweeds help:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Cleanse the body of toxins and pollutants
  • Strengthen bones and teeth
  • Regulate hormones
  • Promote thyroid health
  • Enrich the bloodstream
  • Stimulate and improve blood and lymph circulation
  • Nourish, oxygenate and detoxify the skin
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Correct mineral deficiencies
  • Soften hardened masses or tumors
  • Improve nerve transmission
  • Stabilize blood pressure
  • Strengthen digestion
  • Reduce tension
  • Relieve muscle pain and fatigue

Those are some powerful “weeds”!

In our class, we will be focusing on new and fun ways to incorporate seaweeds into every aspect of our diet to improve health and vitality.  Here is one of the many recipes we will share with students:

San Juan Sea Snacks – from the kitchen of Karen Sherwood

1/2 cup kelp power (Nereocystis, bullwhip kelp fronds)

2 cups hazelnuts, divided

1 cup cranberries, divided

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut flakes

  1. Put 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts into food processor and process until they are a chunky butter texture.
  2. Add 1/2 cup cranberries, kelp powder, maple syrup and mix well.
  3. Add remainder of hazelnuts and cranberries and process until just blended.
  4. Scoop out and roll into small balls.
  5. Roll in coconut flakes.

This is the best trail snack ever!

We have a few unexpected openings left in this very popular class.  Email us at earthskills@earthwalknorthwest.com if you’re interested in joining us!

 

Benefits of Seaweeds

Wilderness Survival Trek

Last week, Frank and Karen led students into the wilderness to test their survival skills.  First, students spent a few days at base camp preparing for the trek.  Tasks included drying jerky and making pemmican (nutritious survival food)…

wild food foraging…

and learning to prepare the wild foods.

Once on the trek students practiced shelter-making,

fire-making,

and food foraging among other valuable skills.

New this year was a “solo” night at the end of the trek where students separated and spent the night alone in the wilderness.  Everyone made it through with flying colors!

Wilderness Survival Trek

To Eat or Knot to Eat…

…that is the question.  The answer is:  to eat, of course!

Japanese knotweed
Photo:  Washington State Department of Ecology

We first asked this culinary question in our Late Spring 2008 newsletter.  When we saw a recent article in Bon Appetit magazine about invasive Japanese knotweed’s growing popularity (no pun intended) with upscale restaurants, we thought it would be a good time to repeat this article.

Japanese knotweed, or Polygonum cuspidatum, is a stout-stalked perennial herb, sometimes reaching 10 feet in length that loves to grow in neglected places. Once established, watch out! as it grows and spreads very quickly.  It is on the invasive species list in Washington as well as many other states. One tasty solution to its invasiveness is found in the recipe below.

Using last year’s stalks as the sentinels to guide you, harvest the top 4-6 inches of knee-high new shoots. Don’t delay. As they become older, the stalks will become be too fibrous to enjoy. They can be steamed and served like a sour asparagus, creamed into soup, or made into Karen’s personal favorite, knotweed crunch.

For identifying characteristics, please use a reputable plant identification guide. One of our favorites here in the northwest is Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and MacKinnon. As always, be safe, know what you are harvesting, and be certain to harvest in areas that have not been sprayed.  Because this is a very invasive species, be careful not to disturb the roots or do anything else that might spread the plant. Most of all, remember that if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!

Knotweed Crunch 

The crust and topping:

Mix ingredients and spread half into a 9″ x 13″ pan.  Reserve the other half for topping.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter

Add 8 cups chopped knotweed and spread over crust.

In a medium sauce pan combine:

  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar or honey
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • pinch of salt

Bring to boil and cook until thickened.  Remove from heat and add 1 tsp vanilla.  Pour over chopped knotweed.  Sprinkle on remaining topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

 

To Eat or Knot to Eat…

Delectable Roses

One of the highlights of the Ethnobotany Apprenticeship program is gathering rose petals in the spring to make jelly, infused honey and hydrosol.

IMG_3753

 

Keeping with the “everything seems to be early this year” theme, this week was the peak time in our area to harvest lush, fragrant roses.

 

After gathering, students brought the roses back to the Earthwalk kitchen to prepare rose petal jelly.

 

The abundance of rose petals allowed us to add more petals than the recipe originally called for – making the jelly even more vibrant and flavorful.  What an amazing shade of pink!

 

We ended up having enough petals for a double batch of jelly in addition to rose hydrosol. Oh, and enough for sampling with toasted baguettes and butter to make sure it tasted as wonderful as it smelled.  (It was even better!)

 

 

Delectable Roses