For those of you who get really tired of blogs, tweets and status updates crowding your inboxes and phone message banks…have no fear! You can call me many things, but I’m confident that you will never accuse me of being an overzealous blog poster. Plenty of air space between these local food scene stories, that’s for sure!
I’m not neglecting you, or lazy…heavens no. I’m giving you ample time to digest the previous stories, to clear your palate for the next flavor, to let your tummy settle before the next course. I don’t want to be accused of inappropriate pairings of story lines with humorous, self depreciating rambles. Everything tastes better if you’re a little hungry .. right?
Ok, that’s out of the way. And, I’m sure I’m off the hook for slacking. Even if there are some serious gaps in my writing continuity … local food never takes a break. There’s always something seasonally delicious out there to try.
This long overdue story is all about wild food. Wild as in natural, uncultivated and free.
This spring, I had the good fortune to be invited to dine on fiddle head ferns and other seasonal wild delights at a special dinner at Summer Thyme’s Deli & Bakery in Grass Valley. Amy and Chamba prepare and serve candlelight dinners after-hours at their restaurant, by reservation only, one evening each month.
The menu for this particular dinner was a celebration of local and wild foods, fresh from the foothills.
Wild Watercress Soup with Sorrel, Fiddlehead Salad with Organic Baby Greens, Roasted Lamb with Ramps & Scalloped Potatoes
I don’t know if I would “go out of my way” to find fiddlehead ferns for my salad, … but that’s just it – you don’t have to. They’re everywhere during the first few weeks of the northern California springtime.
Summer Thyme’s isn’t the only place where I found wild foods on the table this spring.
Wild mushrooms, dandelion greens, Manzanita blossoms, acorn flour. Local herbalist and author, Alicia Funk debuted her beautiful book of recipes, Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of the Sierra Nevada, introducing us to the art of local wildcrafted cuisine.
Wild food may be trendy and fresh with the best chefs, but really ! These things have been growing without anybody’s help for ever and ever, and whether the Food Network takes notice or not.
You can look at this from any direction you like – this may be just the latest trend in gourmet artful cuisine, a sustainable future for your table, respectful homage to Earth’s natural offerings, or maybe the ultimate source of convenience food, ( … just picture yourself lazily lying in a meadow, breeze blowing, bees buzzing … you reach over and pick yourself a salad, without disturbing your afternoon reverie … ) couch potatoes and the kitchen-phobic will be able to share table with the food elite.
To take this silly thread a bit further – miners’ lettuce is so prevalent in the spring, who’s to say those unguided youth chillin’ on the steps or gathered at the corner .. couldn’t be getting their quota of leafy greens by snacking on the abundant leaves that grow out of every crack in the sidewalk … just sayin’. It’s important to encourage good local eating habits in everyone.
But, seriously –
You probably should be responsible and not just go outside and graze. But, I do encourage you to be adventurous. If you know what to look for, there are tasty treasures all around us.
If you’re a little unsure of yourself, Nevada County has some great guides and mentors to help you learn the art of finding wild foods.
In cooperation with the Yuba Watershed Institute, Rachel and Matt Berry and Daniel Nicholson share their expertise in guided walks and lessons on foraging skills and “amazing fungi facts”, throughout the wonderful wilderness of the north San Juan ridge. Grayson Coney, Cultural Director with the Maidu Tribal Language and Cultural Center accompanies groups through the woods of the Sierras, introducing students to the edible and medicinal native plants.
Wild foods may be most obvious during the early spring, before our cultivated garden plots have awakened from their winter snooze. But, there are wild delicacies to be found throughout the year. Grayson explained to me how there are at least eight seasons for harvesting wild foods from plants that live naturally in these hills. Treat yourself ! These folks are a wealth of knowledge, and the experience is so definitely worth it !
Stay tuned for more ….. I promise I’ll write again !