Monday, June 23, 2014

Foraging Sundays - Week 4

This week might be more appropriately named Seafood Sunday.  People have been very supportive of our project.  Some have given us fish.  Some have taken us out to learn to fish ... or ... harvest periwinkles.  I am careful to tell everyone that one of the points of the exercise is to stretch our limits and expand our foraging ability.

The fact is that we live in Maine.  While writing "Browsing Nature's Aisles" (which can be purchased by clicking the link on the left side of this page), Wendy and I recognized the importance of this source of support.  We did make an effort to learn to dig clams ... read the book ... but that was pretty much the extent of it.  We do not know much about the various foods available ... seaweeds, shellfish, fish, etc.

This week, we focused much of the effort on the bounty of the sea.  It started early in the week, when we were given the fillet meat of a 21" Striped Bass.  We were also offered the opportunity to go an harvest periwinkles.  And, later in the week, we decided that we should try our hand at ocean fishing.

Saturday, in advance of Foraging Sunday, which the girls have nicknamed Starving Sunday, I planned to meet a friend at the beach to harvest Periwinkles.  We are getting better about planning ahead.  Maine law allows the collection of 2 quarts per day per person.  So, two girls in tow, I ventured forth to meet with someone who knew a little something and was willing to share (thanks, Mike).  After a brief introductory tutorial, I was off and a little over an hour later, I had gathered about 6 quarts of wrinkles.  The girls were off gathering their own treasures ... something about a saltwater fish tank.  I tossed in some seaweed, too - Wild Atlantic Nori, some Bladderwrack, and some Wild Atlantic Kombu.  Of course, we had to run off to pick up a clamming fork and basket (lesson learned).

Sunday, Big Little Sister (check out her fishing outfit) and I got up and left to go fishing.  In spite of the two hours we spent without a nibble, we were rewarded with some cool things, like the shrimp and the Lion's Mane Jellyfish we saw.

But, alas ... there was work to do.  We needed to dash off to pick up some firewood for the coming winter (yes, I know it is only just summer).  We ran home to eat a quick meal of Striped Bass, which was fabulous with blackberries laced with maple syrup.  And, we were off.

After a couple of trips for wood, we then decided late in the afternoon that we should eat again.  Wendy rushed off to cook, while the girls and I continued to unload the trailer.  She sauteed the periwinkles in Peach wine that we bottled just recently and garlic grown in our garden (spices don't count).  She is a Wiz in the kitchen.  Now, if you ask me, I will tell you that I do not like seafood, but ... all I could do was moan in delight as I devoured the tasty little snails.  Oh, the bonus ... Wendy found a bag of frozen Hen of The Woods mushrooms, that I had found while wandering the wood line a year ago, in the back of the freezer.  These, she sauteed in butter and spices.  Oh my!

Wendy pointed out that our fanciest meal in a long time was free.

The greens are now getting too big to eat as salad, but we are still gathering them to dry and use in soups over winter.  The seaweeds are drying to, for the same purpose.  I have been watching the brambles though, and if our black raspberry bushes are any indication ... we are in for a banner berry year!  Bring on the blueberries!

Once again, we thank the Earth for providing such an incredible abundance of foods all around us!

Please, if you are playing along, let us know how you are doing.  And, don't forget to enter our giveaway!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Foraging Sundays - Weeks 2 and 3

In spite of the lack of a post last week, we did continue the project.  It was a little tough given our schedules, but we found that a little advance preparation goes a long way toward success.

Wendy began foraging a day early.  So, even with a schedule full of dance photos and rehearsals, we managed to feed ourselves from the land.  For breakfast, we ate sauteed greens with chive flowers and blackberry jam we made with foraged berries last year.

That was where the advanced searching ended/  We weren't sure what dinner would be, but we trusted that it would.  I found a break in the schedule and took the opportunity to visit a public land trust for the first time since we started foraging.

Precious and I spent an hour walking its fields and wooded paths.  As we walked the fields, I noticed plenty of milkweed, which was to become part of the meal.  The most incredible find, however, was a couple of small Reishi mushrooms.  This was the first time I had found these gems.  I was not even sure of the ID when I found them, but knew they looked familiar, so I took checked the stump and noticed that there were many more fruit popping out, so I took a couple of small fruit bodies.  I was giddy.  In all honesty, with my limited mushrooming experience, I believed, at the time, that I had found Chicken of the Woods.

That is often the way it is with us.  Something calls to us, we answer, and then we try to figure out what we have.  In this case, a quick check in "Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada by local author, David Spahr showed that this was not what we thought.  I thumbed through the book (a photo of the mushroom was on the cover so I knew it was in there) and stumbled upon the ID.  Then, as we describe in "Browsing Nature's Aisles" (which you can buy here by clicking on the link on the left), we sought out more 2 more resources.  The first was a quick internet search, and the second was confirmation on a Facebook group for mushroom ID.

Reishi!  I have heard all about the amazing health benefits of eating this and using it as an anti-tumor medicine.  Fortunately, none of the clan here has cancer, or other major health issues, but we still wanted to honor the spirit of the being, who spoke to me.

Wendy searched for a recipe and came up with this idea ... Reishi soup.  She cubed the tender pieces of the mushroom and boiled them, adding greens and spices.  It was delicious.  The balance of the harvest was dehydrated to be used in a more traditional way.

Which brings us to this week ... bear in mind, the girls had dance rehearsals each night of the week until 20:00 or so, ahead of their dance recital.  Planning ahead was not really an option, but we figured with the recital out of the way, we could spend Sunday fishing and foraging our meal ... until ....

Our son, his wife, and two children made an unannounced, unexpected visit from Kentucky.  They drove the many hours to be here for the final nigh of the girls' recital.  It was a complete surprise to my girls.

On a side note, driving down the road to the recital (at 50+ MPH) I spotted some mushrooms on a tree on the side of the road - I am fairly certain they are the Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus) I have been seeking.  Of course, once I have them in hand, I might sing a different song.

How does that change anything you ask ... well, they are coming over this morning for Father's day breakfast.  So, the project will be put on hold for good reason.  We will take a rain check and make up the date another time.

We are so grateful for the experiences and bounty that the Earth and Great Spirit offer us each day.

Don't forget to enter our give-away for some great books, and don't forget to share your stories.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Foraging Sundays

Wendy and I have been learning and growing over the last few years.  I have bemoaned the fact on many occasions that progress is slow and finding time to go out and see what is happening is difficult.  So, we decided (well, I decided and Wendy agreed to tag along ... the girls have opted out) that we would eat only foraged foods every Sunday for the summer.

I don't normally like to participate in "challenges", but Wendy does.  She seems to thrive on them.  As such, she kept asking me about the "rules".  For me it was simple ... only foraged food, but she wanted to know about cooking fats, spices, drinks, etc.  So, here are the three rules we've agreed upon.

  1. Beverages are exempt.  This means that if we are drinking it, it does not have to be foraged.  So, we can have coffee, store bought teas, milk (only as a drink not added to food), etc.
  2. Dressings, spices, and cooking oils are exempt.
  3. Everything else must be foraged - food we grow does not satisfy this requirement.
Our initial intent was to begin last weekend, but we did not remember until half way through the afternoon. So, today we began.  While Wendy fixed breakfast for the girls and their sleepover friends, I took a stroll to gather a brunch salad.  I did not venture far and that which I gathered provided only a smallish salad for each of us.  It included dandelion leaves and flowers, common blue violet leaves and flowers, plantain leaves, dock leaves, jewelweed leaves, and  a few bits of wood sorrel.  I ate my salad dry ... no additional dressing. Wendy chose a lavender vinegar that she made last fall to top hers.  We both expected to be very hungry before dinner ... and we were.

Thankfully, our son-in-law had delivered some trout to our freezer a few weeks back.  We planned this for dinner.  For sides, we decided that we would have steamed stinging nettles and japanese knotweed.  We figured we might also add some more salad if need be.

By 17:00 or so, after a busy day, we were both very hungry.  Before I dashed off into the woods, Wendy pulled some frozen blackberries from the freezer.  I have never been so happy that we had put up food.  She drizzled a bit of maple syrup over the berries and handed me a spoonful.  Whoa!  I needed that.  Then, I was off into the woods for some nettles.

I picked a bit ... enough for us to have for dinner ... and then, I got distracted.  I noticed some bittersweet vines nearby.  I picked a few from the trees, initially thinking to protect the trees from the choking vines, but ....

After a few minutes, I found myself starting a vine basket.  This is my second attempt ever, but quickly found myself engrossed in the task.  Seeking more vines.  Weaving the ends.  It is only a small basket.

About 10 minutes into it, I heard some rustling in the dry leaves on the ground.  I turned to see a gray fox walking toward me.  It did not see me immediately and got to within 10 yards (meters) or so.  It was then that it came to an abrupt stop and swiveled its head in my direction ... panic was the only message in its posture.  I spoke reassuring words, which must have sounded like "blah, blah, blah, I am human and you'd better run", although I was trying to allay any fear it had of me.  As as quickly as it appeared, it turned and fled, my eyes following the arrow straight path.

At this point, I figured that I should go home so that we could cook dinner.  I must point out that I was no longer thinking of my hunger.  Upon my return, I lit the gas grill.  Wendy and I wrapped the fish in foil with butter and lemon balm leaves and put them on the grill.  Wendy them blanched the nettles and turned them into a wonderful soup ... butter, water, nettles, salt, pepper, and some chives.

When everything was ready, we sat at the table and feasted, rounding out the meal with more sweetened blackberries.

So ends our first Foraging Sunday.  While we do not expect others to follow suit, we are quite satisfied with this and are eager to see what the summer holds.  Be sure to check back next week to see how we did and, if you chose to play along, be sure to share your stories.

Thank you, Earth Mother, for the beasts and plants to sustain me.  Thank you, Great Spirit, for guiding my feet on the path to wisdom.  Thank you, Friends, for helping me to learn and grow and supporting me through both.

Don't forget to go enter our give-away and to share it with your friends and family.