Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Foraging Report 08/31/2011

One might think there would be large amounts of harvesting going on right now, but there is not. Our cold, late spring and very dry, hot summer has messed up our usual schedule of picking and preserving. The recent abundant rains have provided us with a large distraction of mushrooms to hunt and learn about, but we have missed several fruits. One discussion thread I have been following with interest on Yahoo groups, Forage Ahead, is about the poor autumn harvest as a harbinger of a hard winter to come. It seems that many fruits were damaged by bad weather in spring and drought in summer, and nuts are absent or empty in several parts of the US. Animals have been observed nesting earlier, and deer are already fat and losing the velvet from their antlers. Some birds and insects are already absent. Is the fauna aware of a problem with the flora for the season?

elderberries from last year
We somehow completely missed the elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and wild black cherry (Prunus serotina) harvests. We gathered flowers of the elderberry to eat, but never saw any berries. I can find very few black cherries, maybe a handful for an entire tree. The birds seem to have gotten most of them, and the stems are all bare. We have been out searching for some beach plums (Prunus maritima) at the shore, but have seen very few. It also seems to be an off year for white oak acorns (Quercus alba), the less tannic nuts they produce are what we like to gather.

Some of our recent foraging successes have been with glasswort (genus Salcornia), also known as sea beans or samphire. Robert has found them on several occasions, and we have brought them home for pickles, and he is trying to lacto-ferment some with cabbage. They are quite salty, so a little goes a long way in a recipe. This late in the season, they can be tough and only the very tips are tender enough to eat. They compliment a salad or dish with a nice, salty crunch when used raw.

Spicebush berries
Black walnuts
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is producing berries, although they are not red yet. We are trying to make an extract with the leaves, twigs and grain alcohol. It is strong and deep green, but I think it may be too alcoholic and not spicy enough. We'll wait for the berries to ripen, as they are the spiciest part of the plant. Robert may end up adding it to his black walnut (Juglans nigra) liqueur that he made with the green hulls for a more herbal taste. One good thing to come from the recent hurricane is that most of the black walnuts were blown from the tree next door already, making it easy to gather a few bucketfuls.

Surf clam
Another timely success as a result of the same hurricane was our windfall of surf clams (Spisula solidissima). We went back to Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts and came home with a 5 gallon bucket full of the 5" wide clams in mere minutes. The beach was littered with them, freshly tossed up by the high surf. After a quick rinse and freshwater purge, I cooked them up, cleaned them out, and made some delicious clam chowder. I ended up freezing another pint of the chopped meat and about a quart of the clam juice for future use.

Our upcoming days will be filled with preparations for our own letterboxing party, Foraging for Letterboxes, in mid-September. We are keeping our eyes open for grapes, apples, nuts, and more mushrooms. We can still gather rosehips and look forward to a second flush from some of the greens like lamb's quarters and dandelion.


Kristina said...

We have black walnut trees growing along our back woods. I'll have to keep reading about what I can use them for. Thanks.

Angela Watts said...

oooooh, I just managed to remember to harvest my elderberries the day before the storm hit. I spent two hours hanging over an already high river trying to clip those little buggers off the bush it intergrows with....sadly I only got two cups worth if I am lucky.