The biggest surprise of last weekend’s Native Shores Rendezvous was the edibility—make that downright delectability—of the humble barnacle. On Sunday in the vicinity of Lincoln City we collected the biggest specimens we could find attached to California mussels (Mytilus californianus), a foraging twofer. Once boiled, the colonies of barnacles can be peeled off their host shells and the meat extracted with a single chopstick by pushing it through each individual barnacle shell. You hold onto the beak like a popsicle stick and eat the rest. It’s a rich, buttery flavor even without melted butter for dipping.
Of course, not every new foraging experience works out so well. Some wild foods are more appealing than others…
In addition to cow parsnip (which I rather enjoyed), during stops at a few different seashore locations we identified several other species of seaweed, including sea cabbage, feather boa kelp, ribbon kelp, iridescent kelp, sea palm, and a poisonous species, Desmarestia ligulata. At a bay to the south we used clam guns to dig mahogany clams (pictured) and ghost shrimp, as mentioned in an earlier post. A marshy area inland provided tender hearts of cat-tail.
Our last stop of the day was at a private residence where we picked the leaves of cat’s ear, oxeye daisy (pictured), and Siberian miner’s lettuce, and munched on the cool and refreshing peeled stalks of salmonberry.
While the previous evening’s feast had been composed almost entirely of foraged foods—and unadorned at that—the Sunday meal was more relaxed. With ample help I made a vat of New England Clam Chowder to get our cream, butter, and bacon quotient back into the red.
The workshop concluded Monday morning with a “weed walk” around the neighborhood, with John identifying all sorts of mostly non-native plants that the average person considers weeds and the forager might consider food. I think I can speak for the two-dozen of us who attended that we were exhausted by the end but also energized by the possibilities for gathering and cooking wild foods. I’ll be attending more Wild Food Adventures in the future.