Sunday, March 13, 2011

My recent foraging trip

I don't get out much anymore. I used to get the dogs out for a good walk almost every day and sometimes twice a day. But with my kitchen duties increasing I have much less time out in our wilderness. About a week ago I went to one of my favorite spots - a favorite because there are rarely other hikers, but also because of the marked change in flora and ideal spot for me to forage. The trail is call Tadpole Ridge and has a true Southern and Northern side leaving one side sparse of tree and thick of thorn, while the other side is a netting of moss and pine and often berries.

After about a 10 minute uphill section you come out into an area with this view:

The area had suffered a forest fire a few years back (maybe 8 or 9 years ago) so the ground is cleared with the exception of thorn and charred debris.

But after just a few minutes of the thorns the oasis appears and my dogs, Lexi and Lucia, turn back to make sure we're heading in.

Lexi, the hound, is my hiking buddy. Lucia, the minpinpoo, is the cleanup girl (meaning she eats lots of crap and dead animals). Lexi is keen to keep us on trail but will quickly head off-trail with me, as I tend to do.

On both sides of the ridge there is beauty at every turn.

and right now a bit of snow which turns Lexi into a maniac.

The North side of Tadpole is also where we tend to scent the most bears and commonly find fresh scat. And look who's caught a scent.

And when a scent is found, look who's runnin' to papa! That's no jack rabbit.

But this is a post about foraging for our restaurant. The trip brought up more questions than answers. Like, what about this moss - very plentiful and thick...but that in itself suggests a problem. Why aren't animals eating it. I'll pass for today and do more research.

Or what about this one? I think this is lichen, but I'm bad with my terminology. Same questions and concerns but I'd sure like to fry this bad boy.

A couple of years ago I took the very risky (aka - do NOT try this at home) step to eat ferns. In general ferns are poisonous. But its not fair because Northeasterners have fiddleheads and I wanted my own version. So I took the youngest of the baby tips of ferns and lightly sauteed them. Very good taste and texture but ultimately too risky to do again. I always find it odd though that there are so many ferns on the exposed section of Tadpole.

And just when I was ready to head back, Lexi reminded me that there are edible ingredients in some of the most obvious, but not acknowledged places. She loves eating the snow!

I did end up with two types of pine needle tips both with great taste and texture, and neither with the astringency or sappy texture. I served them fresh in this past week's dinners and will work on cold infusions next week as I'm worried about heat pulling out the bitter oils.

Hope you enjoyed the trip.

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