Monday, July 23, 2018

Positive Plant Identification: Seasonal Summer Berries!

Summer brings all kinds of bounties! The diversity of berries I am encountering right now is truly astounding!

Remember: do not EVER eat any wild food that you are not 100% certain is edible! There are those that say "when in doubt just eat a few." This is foolish, and I think you would regret it if you ate "just a few" poison nightshade berries or poison oak berries, don't you?

Here's a little image of what I was able to gather in a couple of hours!

From center: Thimble berries, Salal berries, mulberries and red huckleberries, black cap raspberries, and Himalaya blackberries!

Himalaya blackberries are non native and absolutely delicious! These are the blackberries you have always bought in the store... well you need to no longer!

These easy to ID sweet berries abound in clearings near rivers and streams! Go get them! But remember that the vines are armed with sharp thorns, so long pants and closed-toe shoes are recommended.

Also, the berry may be fully black, but it is not truly at its peak sweetness unless it falls almost completely effortlessly into your hand with only the slightest pull. If the fully dark berry feels firm and resists popping off of the vine, it will be fine to eat, but will need to be mixed with sugar and baked in a cobbler, pie, or jam.

Thimble berries like to grow near water and the clearings at the edges of coniferous forests. These seedy, sweet tart raspberry-looking fruits are quite fragile but absolutely incredible! Good news... no thorns and the leaves have a pleasant furry texture that works great for toilet paper. Just kidding, I have never tried that... OK fine, I have, and it is the best leaf in the forest for an unprepared hiker! 

Pay close attention to that leaf shape to help identify abundant patches from a distance!

Red huckleberries are sweet and yet tart. They grow under more shaded conifer canopy of more established forests that look like this.

And the berry-rich shrub often grows right out of old rotten tree trunks.

Again, pay attention to that leaf structure as it is quite distinct. I recommend cooking these little ones with a sweeter berry or a bit of sugar unless you want to throw them in pancake batter, cook, and top with maple syrup to balance the slight tart flavor.

Mulberries are not native to California, but are often planted in suburban ares where they are neglected more often than not. You will note that these berries grow on trees rather than shrubs or vines.

Again, pay attention to the leaf shape. Are we seeing a trend here ;)

Finally black cap native raspberries! These are some of my all time favorites! The thorny shrub-like vine looks like a blackberry vine but is gray-green- and purple in color and does not grow down along the ground but instead grows straight up and then stoops over slightly under the weight of its absolutely unparalleled sweet fruit!

So get the family and friends out in the woods and enjoy the adventure and literal fruits of the harvest!

Keep the old ways alive!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Forager Montage: Old Pics and New Directions

"When I need to get my head clear, I turn off my phone, get lost, get gone, and flat out disappear. Well there aint no tellin where I'm bound, a big city or the country, a little beach town, but you won't find me cuz I can't be found. I'm on a mission to get missing! I'll be back someday I just don't know when, till then I'll be a feather floating in the wind. So don't you go missing me cuz sometimes missing is my favorite place to be!" William Michael Morgan

Hello all! It has been a hot minute since I have posted much here other than links to our new Youtube channel CatchncookCA. That being said, as the quote above indicates, sometime ramblin' fever overtakes my soul and I just have to go and get gone!

My best friend Alex tracking in the desert

I helped lead an amazing foraging workshop the other day at The Little River Inn near Mendocino California. We identified all kinds of wild edible, medicinal, and useful plants, seaweeds, and chowed down on some truly incredible meals prepared by chef's Marc and Jason! Video soon to come! Oh, and if you are interested we will be hosting a few others through the Little River Inn soon (Mussels? Mushrooms? You name it!).

Shark uses scallop as a pillow

This post is a tribute to an idea my brother had. He was looking back though out text and email exchanges and started finding all kinds of funny stories and pictures that for some reason I never put on the blog. Well, this post is a whole bunch of old images from outdoor adventures and cooking wild foods. I hope you like it!

Spiny lobster in a cave

In the meantime check out this email exchange between my brother and his wife!

"Hi Justin,
I just organized the inside of the freezer, and here's the meat and fish I found. There is one of each thing listed.

Deer brain
Deer tongue
Deer liver
Turkey carcass
Turkey confit
Turkey giblets
Mystery meat jar... Rillette?
Lamb chop
Pork shoulder
Black rockfish
Smoked salmon
Unlabeled smoked mystery fish (eel?)

All fish has been moved to garage freezer. Can we brainstorm a good way to keep track of this stuff on an ongoing basis?

This had me laughing pretty hard since 90% of this is wild food and my freezer looks pretty much the same! 

The Seadogs with a nice halibut!

Well anyways, sometimes foraging the freezer for last season's huckleberries can be a good time too!

But really all of this rambling is just a lead up to a bunch of cool old photos I just found on my old computer (which I have been randomly interlacing throughout this post).

That pismo clam chowder on the beach was awesome!

Oh yeah! The pic above was after a very successful freedive for pismo clams. No joke, Ahmed dislocated his shoulder underwater and I had to Lethal Weapon it back into place for him on the sand! He looked at me and Evian, thanked me for popping it back into place, and the said "I'm still three short of a limit! Let's get back to diving!" I couldn't believe the drive this dude had!

Fish and yam chips anyone?

Of course we love to catch, but we also LOVE to cook!

Yeah, it is a teepi!
The hops harvest is always a good time to brew up some fun!

Lings and Dungies! Man I miss you Kirby (you tropical-Island-living gin-clear freediving bastard)!

Anyways, now I am just rambling! Check out the new Youtube channel catchncookca when you get a chance and in the meantime, keep the old ways alive!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Clam, Scallop, and Mussel Mexican Seafood Cocktails

Hello all! We just got another fun video up on our channel CatchnCookCalifornia!!!!

Please check out our new Youtube video on foraging for bivalve shellfish and making one-of-a-kind Mexican Seafood Cocktails!

Keep the old ways alive!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Poke Poling and Smoking Eels with Wild Fruit Wood

Hello my friends,

Please check out the new Youtube video of me and Diane catching eels, gathering wood with my good buddy Alex and smoking eel fillets with my good buddy Martijn. Japanese style hand rolls anyone?
Check out the link below.

Keep the old ways alive!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

My New Youtube Channel!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello all!
I have been away from the blog for a bit but for good reason!

Please check out our new Youtube channel "Catch N Cook California"

I think you will enjoy it! (Click the blue link below the photo).

Keep the old Ways Alive!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Clamming by Kayak

"...the largely urban-suburban vision of nature as a beautiful, peaceful refuge from the stresses and conflicts of civilization, is in fundamental conflict with the rural or less "civilized" perception of nature as a provider of sustenance and wealth. Therin lies the great irony: it is the cities that suck food, energy, and resources from the landscape, yet there is a long and tragic history of industrial and agricultural peoples persecuting "savage" outsiders (in the most literal sense of the word) who hunt and gather."- David Arora

I realized yesterday that wild food had been at my table every day for the last week! Rabbit stew was chased by crab and fish ramen, followed by Cambodian-style clams, followed by clam chowder, followed by Chinese-style rockfish and finally wild mushroom risotto with venison chops! 
There are those who see what hunter-gatherers do as uncivilized and barbaric... a sort of sadistic aggression on a natural world of peace and harmony. These are usually (though not always) the people who will happily cast the first stone towards a mushroom forager, angler, or hunter and then discuss their disgust over Chilean sea bass and European Chardonnay. 

I am sure I am preaching to the choir here, but the vinyard that made that wine necessarily displaced and/or irradicated all of the wildlife that once resided in that fallow land, the carbon footfrint of importing that wine and fish is astounding, and Chilean seabass is hardly a sustainable fishery. 

Wouldn't you rather go gather local, abundant, sustainable, and seasonally available wild foods to provide a unique culinary experience (and relationship with your food) that cuts out the industrial middlemen? 

Hey, wine is argument there, I would not pass up a Bordeaux from Bordeaux (even knowing that any agricultual product necessarily impacts wildlife) but as far as our food is concerned, let's get out and gather in an ethical and yet fantastically fun way just a little more than "normal"! OK, my rant is over.

And so it was that Diane and I made our way to the far shores by kayak!

We were mostly shooting footage for the new Youtube channel (launching as soon as we get the last couple of shots and edits in) so we didn't take too many pictures. However, two seaside nights crabbing, clamming, and cooking was one heck of a good time!

*Remember to always call the biotoxin information line before harvesting to know when and where shellfish (clams, mussels, and crab) are safe to eat (In CA that number is 800 553-4133).

After some very productive clamming, we grabbed a few bay mussels and cooked up a simple little appetizer.

Then we got the ramen going in the wok.

The blend of rock crab, clams, and rockfish fillets added some incredible flavor to the soup and warmed our bones after a day of digging in the cold mud and sand... made colder when I had to wade out pants-less into the water to help a fisherman push his boat off of a sandbar after he ran aground.

Even though I have been seaside camping since I was a young boy, so I know to position the tent far from the water's edge and on higher ground, the highest ground we could find was only a foot or so higher than the surrounding shore. By the next morning at peak high tide, the water was less than two feet from the foot of our tent!

It had crept around us and came in from behind rather than from the ocean side. Luckily, we were just an inch too high for the water to reach us. Next time we will place the tent on the iceplant to gain another inch...though either way that water was too close for comfort! If it had been open ocean rather than a secluded and calm bay there is no way we would have camped so low as we would have surely awoke to deal with a very wet and cold night! Remember when setting up camp at low tide to at least be a few meters away from seagrass and driftwood lines on the sand that indicate the extent of a peak high tide!

After firing up the hobo stove and making some cowboy coffee, we paddled back to "civilization" and left our pirate cove until next time.

The Cambodian style clams were absolutely fantastic and the chowder was incredible!

Well, we finally got a solid rain! And you know what that means fungi fanatics!

Keep the old ways alive!