Category Archives: media

This Must Be the Place

forest_lgI had the pleasure of sitting down recently with Eric Parkinson, of This Must Be the Place, a podcast that seeks to reveal “the unique physical, cultural, and emotional layers of places.”

We talked about foraging in the deep emerald forests of the Pacific Northwest, the tenets of slow food, and the myriad charms of nature in its many guises, among other topics.

Eric is a curious and penetrating interviewer determined to get at the heart of both our individual and collective sense of place. You can listen to our conversation here.

Dept. of Horn-tooting

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of introducing national NPR correspondent Martin Kaste to the woods—and all the possibilities for nourishment that await within. The segment was part of a week-long series devoted to “West Coast Innovators.”Short radio interviews can be tricky, but I think Martin did an excellent job of capturing the many levels of awareness that go into foraging, from the sheer visceral pleasure of it to the culinary to the cautionary.

Listen to my NPR interview:

The following week, while in the Cascades hunting spring porcini, I took a break on the edge of cell range to speak with James Beard Award-winning food writer and personality Anthony Dias Blue. Listen to our conversation on “Blue Lifestyle” (starts around 18 minute mark):

Exploring Taste

Last summer the founders of Sahale Snacks approached me about participating in a film shoot in a remote location to highlight their passion for quality portable food. They started by telling me the origin of their business. Josh and Edmond, old friends, had climbed Mt. Rainier a few years back and while sitting on a glacier heating up nasty, freeze-dried camp food, they vowed to produce something better—healthier and tastier—that outdoors enthusiasts could eat in the harshest, most abject conditions. Or in the most splendid, beautiful conditions. This was the birth of Sahale Snacks.

The story resonated with me. I had experienced a similar food letdown while climbing Mt. Rainier. A package of ramen at 11,000 feet hardly seemed like the right way—nutritionally or spiritually—to prepare for the summit. So I signed on, joining ranks with a few other hand-picked recruits: Eric Rivera, a young and wildly ambitious sous chef at Blueacre Seafood; Jennifer Adler, a kelp-eating kayaker, teacher, and sought-after nutritionist; and Scott Heimendinger, the mad scientist in the group, aka Seattle Food Geek, who would be an aide-de-camp to Eric.

We spent three days in an out of the way corner of the San Juan Islands, foraging, frolicking, and camping on a hidden, cliff-lined beach in preparation for the Big Meal that would take place on the final day. The foraging wasn’t always literal—notably that bottle of Glen Livet found in Edmond’s duffel that produced a late night ’80s singalong by the fire (sadly not captured on film). But by and large, the ingredients for our meal came either from the woods and surf right outside our tents, or else—as in the case of some delicious free range duck eggs—from locally produced sources nearby.

That meal is etched into my memory along with a few other all-time favorites that transcend the idea of dinner. Part of it was the atmosphere. We ate on the beach at a table fashioned by Scott from found driftwood, with kelp candle holders made by Jennifer, and the fickle San Juan weather gods smiling sunshine on us despite ominous weather reports. Eric pulled off an epic 10-course extravaganza that combined local and foraged foods with his madcap imagination and a fitting sense of the absurd.

Riffing on our location, Eric, with help from Scott and Jennifer, produced dishes like Angry Crab (Dungeness crab claws mounded up as if ready to strike and bathed in a spicy red sauce), High Tide (you can see my version here), Low Tide (manila clams plated on edible sand made from Redhook malt), and a creative take on Pasta Carbonara using squares of kelp frond as the “pasta,” the aforementioned duck eggs cooked sous vide, and morel mushrooms poached in locally cured bacon fat. The entire meal was cooked on the beach over a campfire. Shortly afterward, not surprisingly, Eric got lured away by Chicago’s renowned Alinea.

The videos for this adventure in foraging and food were professionally shot and edited by a film team from Austin. You can watch them here.

Pickled Fiddleheads

If you live in the Seattle area, next time you’re at a farmers market look for the Foraged and Found Edibles booth and pick up a copy of Christina Choi’s Wild Foods Recipe Calendar, with illustrations by Emily Counts. This month-by-month catalog of the Pacific Northwest’s wild cornucopia is a treasure trove of recipes and information. Oh, and take a gander at Christina’s new blog too, Nettletown.

I tried the Pickled Fiddleheads recipe first.

1 lb fiddleheads, cleaned
2 lemons
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
8-inch piece wild ginger (optional)
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole allspice
1/2 lb shallots, sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 pint jars with lids and screwcaps, sterilized

1. Remove strips of lemon zest with a peeler, then juice lemons.
2. Pack fiddleheads tightly into canning jars, layered with shallots and lemon zest.
3. Bring to boil water, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, spices, and optional ginger.
4. Pour over fiddleheads so that liquid reaches to within a 1/4 inch of rim, then secure lids and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

The biggest challenge of fiddleheads isn’t finding and picking them—that’s relatively easy once you have an understanding of their habitat (moist woodlands, stream banks, swampy areas). No, the hardest part is cleaning the curly little buggers. (Before and after photos above.) Fiddleheads emerge out of an underground root system in tight, sheathed coils. The choicest fiddleheads are those closest to emergence, which also means those dressed in the shaggiest coats.

Here’s a cleaning tip: Use two large bowls filled with water. Soak your fiddleheads in one and use the other as a rinsing dish. The chaff will come off easily enough with a little rubbing. When chaff begins to accumulate in your rinsing bowl, strain it out. This tedious sink-side work will be paid off handsomely with a pickled batch of springtime.

Dept. of Horn Tooting

If you enjoy a fish story, head over to your quality news stand and pick up a copy of the May/June Gray’s Sporting Journal—and I’m not saying that just because I have a piece in the current issue, adapted from a chapter in the book. If you’re not familiar with GSJ, check it out here. There are few better outlets for the reader (or writer) who could care less about trophies, secret spots, and the latest outdoorsy fashion statements.

I really like the artwork the editors paired with the story. Though a salmon fisherman isn’t likely to encounter such breakers along the beaches of Puget Sound, the painting captures the feel of the elements, how you can disappear into your thoughts on a good day of saltwater casting even when the beach is crowded with other anglers.

Riding the Radio Waves

Listen to an archived edition >>

I found myself in the U-District studios of NPR Seattle affiliate KUOW 94.9 FM this morning, sitting in a sound room with “Weekday” host Steve Scher and two other local foragers, Patrice Benson, president of the Puget Sound Mycological Society and Christina Choi, a co-founder (along with Jeremy Faber) of Foraged and Found Edibles, a company that provides wild foods to area restaurants. If the other two guests were nervous they certainly didn’t show it. Meanwhile my own stomach was doing back flips.

Despite the nerves, in a fortunate coup of timing I had an ace up my sleeve—or more accurately an elephant in the corner. While en route to the studio this morning I was able to stop off and nab a western giant puffball (Calvatia booniana) that was fruiting on an eroded slope above Martin Luther King Blvd. right in the heart of the Central District (less than half of which is pictured at right). The mushroom was bigger than my head. It looked more like an alien space egg. I had a prop!

Once the show went live all mental preparation went out the window. It was auto-pilot all the way—and I’m pleased to say this auto-piloting forager was able to navigate the radio waves without crashing and burning, landing safely an hour later. I even had fun. Hats off to Steve Scher and all his colleagues at KUOW for making us feel so comfortable.

You can listen to an archived edition of the hour-long show, “Nature’s Bounty: A Forager’s Delight.”

Dept. of Horn Tooting

Here at FOTL Headquarters, we’re happy to announce our inclusion in the March issue of Bon Appétit (Expert Advice Q&A column, page 28). Many thanks to contributing editor Eric Steinman for making it happen (and Emily!).

If you’re a Bon Appétit reader and just found your way here, thanks for dropping by and please take a look around. You’ll find info on:

And plenty more. Use the menu of labels at right to find specific topics.

I also post recipes and cover topics related to tools and food storage.

There are lots of reasons to forage. For one thing, the taste of wild foods can’t be duplicated in domesticity—and for another, they’re good for you. But mostly I like to forage because it’s fun, and I’ll use any excuse to be outside interacting with nature, whether combing woods and beaches, bushwhacking through mountains, or free-diving in Puget Sound. Finding a gourmet meal is a pretty good excuse, too.

Fungus Among Us

Fall mushroom season is in full swing in FOTL’s stomping grounds, which explains my absence of late. Been on a ‘shroom odyssey and will be reporting my finds in the coming days, along with a bunch of recipes to get you out in the woods—unless you want to pay market prices…a tough bet in this economy.

Speaking of wild mushrooms, you can read my article on porcini in the current issue of Seattle Metropolitan magazine.

A Foraging Star Is Born

Remember this name: Sunny Savage. Hard to forget, huh…

Sunny has been sending dispatches from the road to FOTL as she criss-crosses the country in search of delicious wild edibles and the folks who have the knowledge to forage and cook them. Today she’s in Nebraska scouting out common milkweed, lambsquarters, prairie turnips, and wild plums.

Sunny is a wild food expert who operates the Wild Food Plants web site, but she’s about to make the jump to TVLand with her own cable show. She’s been traveling coast to coast, meeting up with some well-known foragers and filming episodes for her new show with a crew that includes a director, two camera people, lights and sound men, and, of course, a grip. She says she’s “been blessed with a great team who are exceptional at what they do and patient with being in bug-infested and poison ivy-laden locales.” Her recent adventures have included stops in the food mecca New Orleans, an educational romp through New York City’s surprisingly bountiful Central Park with “Wildman” Steve Brill, and an Appalachian retreat with Doug Elliott and Frank Cook.

Each episode features Sunny in a new location, where she identifies, harvests, and cooks local plants and fungi. Of course, Mother Nature has her own opinions about what makes good footage: Sunny has had close encounters with ‘gators, plenty of “spring showers with the spring greens,” and uncooperative campfires that made cooking her catch on film nearly impossible.

One of Sunny’s great assets, though, is her optimism (one might even call it her sunny disposition). “It’s been such a treat to connect with folks from around the nation,” she says. “I’m getting to meet all sorts of wild food folks, along with others, who are connected deeply with the earth.” And in this time of rancorous politics and public debate, Sunny still sees the potential of the U.S. being a leader in raising consciousness about health, nutrition, and local food. Says Sunny: “I’m learning to love America again. I am deeply patriotic, which is why I feel so disappointed with our politics and international persona at times. I know we can be better. We still have a lot to be proud of…and we still have a hell of a lot of abundance. There are wild foods everywhere just waiting for us to recognize and use them.”

Amen to that!

Hot on the Trail with Sunny Savage will debut later this year, with weekly half-hour episodes on Veria, a channel dedicated to living naturally, airing on DISH 9575. We’ll announce the official premier when the date is firm.