Sunday, November 23, 2014

Overlooked Olives: A Fantastic Forager Find

“There’s a man in the street picking our tomatoes!”- Thor’s daughter

“I know honey. He was very polite and asked if he could take the fruit that we were throwing away!”-Thor

Well, last year I was hell bent on gathering and curing some of the abundant olives that grow in the area. Yet, as the quarter progressed, I got so busy with school I completely missed the harvest. In fact we tried to gather some after they passed prime and only succeeded in finding some milkshakes at the local burger shop. This year however, I took note of immature fruit, watched them begin to ripen, and the moment they were ready I headed out with a cooking pot to fill.

A moment before I reached the stand of public olive trees (the city planted them just for us foragers to enjoy…how cool is that?) I noticed that a local had just pulled up his cherry tomato vines and tossed them in the street for the green waste pick up. The vines were loaded with ripe fruit and my inner hobo couldn’t resist! I knocked on the stranger’s door and a man named Thor answered. He was delighted that I was hoping to make use of the last of this season's tomatoes so I told him I’d come back after seeing about the olives.

There are several varieties of olives planted along this stretch but I was interested in green ripe olives that day. I made off like a bandit with a bountiful harvest in no time flat and returned to gather Thor’s tomatoes.

That night we enjoyed tomato basil pasta and then I set to work curing the olives.

The first step is to wash and crack each olive. These are then weighted down under a vessel in fresh water which is switched out daily for around 10 days. After that, the olives are brined in a mixture of vinegar, salt, lemon, garlic and herbs.

I used the homemade apple cider vinegar my best friend Alex made from the cider we pressed at my family’s orchard a couple of years back.

When all was said and done I grilled some bell pepper, baked some garlic and pulverized some of this season’s foraged English walnuts. Some salt and spices were tossed in the mix and my first ever foraged olive tapenade was ready to eat.

I am all smiles! That was well worth the effort! Well, there are still a few days before the first frost so get out there and grab some olives. I know I will (black ripe olives this time).

For more specifics on olive curing check out this link!

Keep the old ways alive!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Eyes in the Back of Your Head

"Carry a big stick for the dogs"- Alfred Kroeber, Anthropologist.

I got out to the creek with my trusty quadrupedal companion, Abalone. She swam while I looked around at the last of this season's wild blackberries and wild grapes. I even found another fishing lure!

At one point I caught wind of the unmistakable smell of death...a smell I usually associate with coyotes. For whatever reason, this day I was distracted and thought nothing of it. A few minutes later however, I felt like I was being watched. Turning 180 degrees I laid eyes on a large and very bold coyote hot on our tracks! This animal was sniffing the air, scratching the ground and advancing quickly.
I positioned myself between my dog and the coyote and yelled at him to "go away." If the animal had been a bear, he would have left the scene, but for some reason the coyote didn't bat an eye. He kept coming towards us, now a mere 30 meters away. I yelled at him again, this time even louder...still he continued to advance. I kept my eye on him but backtracked to my dog. Swooping her up in my left hand and drawing my Buck Ranger lockblade knife in my right. It must have been quite the sight. A 6'6" tall guy with a soggy Jack Russell terrier under one arm and a blade in the other yelling insults at a mangy coyote! Anyways, by the time the coyote was 15 meters away I summoned all the hellfire I could muster and bellowed "If you try to hurt me or her, I promise you will not walk away unscathed!" The coyote stopped advancing, but kept pacing back and forth evaluating the situation. This gave us just enough time to make our way back to the vehicle.

This story took place a mere 10 minutes from downtown. It just goes to show that you never know who else you will encounter on foraging adventures. If it had been National Forest I would have likely had a bow or .22 cal and a warning shot would have sent the coyote running. But where we were firearms and archery equipment are strictly prohibited. I guess when we go back I'll have to "carry a big stick for the dogs"...or coyotes!

When we got back I decided it was a good evening for fish and chips. Luckily my brother had just speared a halibut. So even though we had a crazy day, we still enjoyed a foragers feast that evening!

Trust your instincts and always watch your back. Happy foraging! Keep the old ways alive!