Thursday, April 26, 2007

Foraged Food is Free, and Fun

Seriously, I would never expect to survive on found food alone, but I can't resist going out and beating the bushes now and then.
During my Penny-Wise Eat Local Challenge week I saw a quail under a bush, but I wasn't sure how to catch it (and would it be legal?). I know there are deer, hares and wild turkeys in the woods behind my house, but the same questions apply.
Well, so much for free, local fauna (and lucky you, Bambi).
Flora, on the other hand, I can catch. Still not certain if I was violating any ordinances by going out and catching some, but I did it anyway. Weeds (dandelion, miner's lettuce) are probably fair game but swiping tender, young grape leaves off the vine at my local Basque eatery might be a no-no if I didn't ask first. (I asked. A-OK.)
I didn't know who to ask about the pickleweed in the picture, though. It grows in a salt marsh, and salt marshes in California tend to be all tree-huggy and protected. So I snuck it, on the sly. A few quick slashes, a couple furtive stashes, and I had my sack of salicornia, aka glasswort, samphire, or in a marketer's idea of charming sellability, "seabeans." Around my neighborhood, it's known colloquially as pickleweed, and I like that.
I like pickleweed, too. It's crunchy, tender, juicy, and kind of salty. You can eat it raw, although historically it was pickled. (I pickled some last year, but this year I felt much braver and just snacked on the fresh spikes.)
Cranky's idea for using them in a dish was a play on food words: Three Bean Salad. We cooked, separately, two kinds of dried local beans (one from a Napa boutique, and a much cheaper one from the Sacramento Valley), and stirred them into a handful cut-up seabeans. The dressing was local olive oil, homemade local cider vinegar, a pinch of local habanero powder. No salt needed.
Cost for two servings (and there were leftovers): $2.25.

19 comments:

Beccy said...

I'm having a chuckle imagining you chasing that quail...

kudzu said...

What, no squirrel burgoo or maybe some roasted possum? Just kidding. I continue to applaud your ingenuity.

Catherine said...

hmm..seem brave of you to try this. was it good?

jen's mom said...

You have a Basque restaurant in your wood's neck? Wow. Lucky you.

jen's mom again said...

woods' neck :)

Willa said...

There is a berry that grows wild around here- looks like a raspberry only more intense. I did a little research, found out that it is a Japanese import locally called a wineberry, that has gone native and, like kudzu, is hell on the native plants. But the berries are really excellent, especially over ice cream. And I always feel virtuous when we go out and gather, then eat it; not only am I getting a delicacy for free, but I am also saving the local black raspberries from the onslaught of Evil Aliens.

Ed Bruske said...

We could all do a little more foraging, no?

ChrisB said...

CC you need my brother he would have been out there foraging the wildlife provided it 60-40% in his favour (if legal of course!!).

julie said...

Mmmm I've eaten pickleweed right off the plant but have never made a salad of it. Will have to try that next. I am a little wary of eating too much of it--since it takes up salts from the bay, who knows what else it takes up! Moderation is good. I have noticed that Far West Fungi in the Ferry Building sells pickleweed. I don't think I would buy it since it's so easy to gather fresh.

I could relate to the quail thing too--last year during the challenge I was eyeing the canada geese that are so abundant at Lake Merritt. I contemplated a portable hibachi! (I know--it's highly illegal to barbecue migratory waterfowl!)

cookiecrumb said...

Beccy: It was too cute to chase. Good thing, eh? Or I'd have had me a little roast.

Kudzu: Burgoo! I forgot that one. I was thinking Brunswick stew.

Catherine: You'll have to try some. It's crisp like celery, with a salty flavor.

Jen's Mom: It's not very Basquey, truth to tell. Lousy wines, artificial onion soup (you can taste the "base")... But a decent steak on a sunny patio. And it will shortly be a mile or so farther from my neck.

Willa: Fascinating. I want to try it! Maybe if we all gang up on it, it will eventually go away.

Ed: I think some people are turned off by it, or scared of it. I'm no expert, but I sure do get a kick out of foraging.

ChrisB: I could use the help of a seasoned pro. I might even let him help me find mushrooms.

Julie: Bingo! Ding, ding, ding. I was afraid of eating too much of it, too, because it seems to be a little processing factory for bay water. But a tiny bit is fun, and I lived to tell about it. Well, I think I did.

Jenny said...

Oh gosh I love that stuff, I've had it in england where its called samphire with tons of butter. MMMM

Sher said...

Oh, I wish I had some! There's a great recipe in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook that calls for it. Loved the picture!

Tea said...

Hands off the little quails! I'm thinking since they are the state bird killing them is verboten (isn't it forbidden to pick California state poppies?)

I saw sea beans foraged up in Canada last summer, didn't get to eat any though. Now I can't bring myself to actually purchase them, since buying "free" food is wrong (can't bring myself to buy summer blackberries around here either).

cookiecrumb said...

Jenny: I haven't tried cooking it yet. I know Ilva at Lucullian Delights serves it cooked over pasta. Mm, drowned in butter? I might have to go back to the salt marsh with my knife and sack again.

Sher: I know there's a recipe in the Zuni book, and she goes to some length to explain that you probably won't be able to find any, depending on where you live... But I forgot what the recipe does. I was just about to run down and look in my book, but it's packed in a box for our upcoming move. Heh.

Tea: I think it's a myth that you can't pick poppies in California, but I have no doubt that it would be wrong (in so many ways) for me to grab a quail. For one thing, I'm sure I'd botch the butchering. I'm a butcher botcher.

Tana said...

Beautiful photo.

Anonymous said...

The poppy thing? It's true. We've had several different gardening services, and they all detoured around the poppies when they weed-wacked or sprayed. Also, I was pulled off to the side of 280 once, to pick something entirely different, and a Highway Patrolman stopped to warn me about picking the poppies, which grew in profusion there.

Does this stuff (the pickleweed) grow in any wetland kind of environment? If it does, I'll have to go looking.

cookiecrumb said...

Hi, Anonymous: I've only seen pickleweed in Marin County, on the Bay side. A botany student at Davis says she spotted some on a field trip, but it might have been cultivated for the students to learn from.
I think the wetlands need to be salty.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it on the Peninsula along the Bay.

Wizard said...

It is not illegal to pick poppies, it is illegal to collect wildflowers (any wildflowers) on public land, including freeway verges. If you grow your own, it is perfectly legal, but makes little sense, because they drop their petals easily.

cookiecrumb said...

Wizard, thanks for the fine tuning! Where have you been?
;)