Category Archives: Foraging

May UFH Foraging Challenge Round 4: Something for Dessert

Sweetened Salmonberries on a Biscuit

This month on Sustainable Eats, you’ve seen our suggestions for foraging dandelions, morels, and a savory dinner. Our guides have been some of the best foragers on the West Coast. But for the uninitiated, the doorway into foraging is often through the sweet tooth. This is true in my family too, where wild berries are the incentive I use to get my family into the woods.

Salmonberry Harvest

This time of year, there’s really only one game in town: the salmonberry. It’s the first sweet thing to ripen around here, beating out just about every other fruit in both farm and forest. You’ll spot the first ripe berries along stream banks in the lowlands, then increasingly in drier areas and at higher elevations (I harvest mine near the ponds at Seattle’s Discovery Park).

This earliness offers the fruit some advantages. First, it beats by a month the pest insects that infest so many of our soft berries later in the summer. August blackberries may be sweeter, but you have to ignore what’s squirming around inside of them. And as stated before, salmonberries ripen first. So you prefer our local huckleberries? Good luck finding them in the last week of May.

Salmonberry - one of the first NW woodland flowers in spring

If you’ve tried and failed to fall in love with salmonberries, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The only thing separating them from the big boys (such as blackberries) is sugar content. Fruits need an unforgiving sun to develop sugars, and many of our native berries favor the shade of the forest floor, where they develop subtle, woodsy flavors. They may express terroir, but it’s nothing you’d want to put on top of your grandma’s shortcake. But add a little sugar and you’re in for a big, delicious surprise. These berries don’t just compete, they rock.

Salmonberries

Salmonberries

I understand why you would not want to eat sugary preserves all the time. But there’s something delightful about playing the “what if this tasted sweet” game with our native berries. What if oregon grape – that sour berry that tastes a little like lettuce – had high sugar content? Answer: it makes a wonderful jam with an unusual taste. Repeat the experiment with salal berries, and you’ll discover a secret cinammon flavor. Once you’ve used sugar to discover the hidden joys of one of our native berries, you’ll want to try them all. For me, this activity transforms every simple hike in the woods into a treasure hunt.

To wrap up foraging month here at Sustainable Eats, we’re offering you this challenge: Take a walk in the lowland woods, somewhere near a stream, and harvest a few cups full of salmonberries. If you live somewhere else, you can substitute another wild berry of course. Sweeten them with sugar and eat them on top of something. Then, post a comment here and tell us about your experience.

Sweetened Salmonberries on a Biscuit

Salmonberries on a Biscuit

Sweetened Salmonberries on a Biscuit

Topping: 

4 cups salmonberries, gently rinsed, drained and tossed with 1/4 cup of sugar.

Cornmeal-Maple Biscuits (based loosely on recipe from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking):

1 cup (4.875 ounces) cornmeal
1 cup (4 ounces) all-purpose flour (I used fresh ground soft white wheat)
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 T unsalted butter
1/2 c buttermilk (ordinary milk will work in a pinch)
1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Combine liquids and stir into dry mix until just moistened. Form into ball, flatten to 1/2 inch thick, slice in eighths like a pie, dip in flour to prevent sticking and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Top with salmonberry topping and serve warm.

All they needed was a little sugar.

May UFH Foraging Challenge Round 3: Forage for Dinner


image credit Langdon Cook, Fat of the Land

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that Hank and Langdon have joined in for the foraging challenge because the collective knowledge of these two foraging gurus is extensive. I’ve been following both of them for three years now. If ever there is a local ingredient you can tap into on your own, it’s certain to be on one of their sites.

Langdon forages in my neck of the woods (literally), and like Hank, has gorgeously photographed meals prepared to the exacting standards of the highest foodie. His book, Fat of the Land, is an entertaining read that will get you excited to start your own foraging journey. At the end of this month it will be one of the prizes you can win for linking up with your foraging comments or blog posts. If you can’t wait until the end of the month to win it, you can support him by purchasing it through the link on his website. And if you are really lucky you may be able to attend one of his upcoming events and classes. See his site for a list of them.

Now head to his blog and then come back here at the end of the month to enter yourself in to the drawing for a copy of Langdon’s book and some other great foraging prizes. Go forth and forage!

May UFH Foraging Challenge Round 2: Morel Mushrooms.

Have you seen Hank’s website, Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook yet? It’s fantastic, and has been a source of inspiration and personal challenge to me in the three years since I first found it one night in someone’s blog reader list. I knew when I read about curing olives that I had to try my own hand at it. And while I had to buy my olives whereas Hank, who lives in California, managed to forage for his, the thrill of preparing something as mysterious as a cured olive hooked me.

Hank’s site is populated with fantastic recipes from small game like rabbit and squirrel to venison, seafood and pheasant. He’s got vegetarian recipes, acorn recipes, fern recipes and camas bulb recipes. Hank is a creative chef with an eclectic pallet and the photographs are gorgeous. Expect to get lost on his site for days. And while you are there lost on his site, be sure to check out his book, Hunt, Gather, Cook – Finding the Forgotten Feast which is equally fantastic.

Right now Hank has the next foraging challenge for you – and if you find that one doesn’t work, feel free to peruse his site and come up with your own foraging challenge. So trek on over to Hank’s site and get hunting!

Mid-October Foraging

Cornelian Cherries, Oregon Mountain Ash, Pine Needles, Medlars. 
I spent part of the morning foraging in Seattle’s parks, and came home with a selection of interesting materials from which to develop some unusual preserves. The standouts this year were:
  • Cornelian Cherries, which look like an olive but taste like a cherry,
  • Oregon Mountain Ash, with its underrated citrus-like flavor,
  • Pine Needles, from which I hope to make a jelly,
  • Medlars, a medieval fruit that requires “bletting” before reaching edibility.
What are you foraging this fall?