Trail-side Dining

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It is the beginning of July in the Pacific North West and the eating is good.

Three species Oregon Grape are well endowed with powder blue berries at the moment. Bitter to taste they supposedly make a nice, tart jelly which I hope to explore making. Please note that while edible, Oregon Grapes contain Berberine, which is potentially toxic. Do not shy away from this bitter, just be aware.

Wild strawberries are definitely hidden gems of country roadsides. Their size makes them almost impossible to see at a distance but their foliage hints and the sweet treasures obscured beneath.

Blackberries come in three varieties also. Pacific or Trailing, Evergreen and the ever popular and best known Himalayan Blackberry. Right now, the Himalayan is just starting to ripen and offer a tasty treat in numerous locations along trails and roadsides, overgrown lots and yards.

Salmon Berries are out and about too but my frequent haunts seem to offer these less often than the Huckleberries that usually keep them company beneath the forest canopy.

Huckleberries are out in full force still. perfect red, miniature globes hung amidst the verdant and delicate lace foliage.

Thimble berries have always been one of my favorite to pluck and eat while strolling. They almost look like couch cushions you would find at your Grandma’s house. They are very fragile and more often than not I end up licking them off my finger tips.

This year being flush with foraging firsts allowed me to experience Salal for the first time. While not a berry but a swollen sepal, the taste and look is indeed berry like (as you can see from the photo above). The sepals turn a deep purple and go almost black in certain light when ripe. They are slightly tacky to the touch and a bit involved to remove the stem and dried blossom but so worth it. The sweetness is that of a muted blueberry with a hint of warm spice like cinnamon. I carefully picked handfuls and ate them where I stood; my finger tips turning more purple by the minute. I  will look forward to this special find year after year.

There are of course apples to be found ranging from tart, crab apples to varieties whose names were forgotten long ago. Occasionally cherry trees and other forgotten homestead trees and bushes find themselves wild again as property lines shift as cities grow out of farmland and parks take shape in neighborhoods.

Foraging can be done anywhere that plants grow. Be mindful when gathering wild treats, that sustainability and knowledge is of the utmost importance.

 

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A Side Order of Pesticides Please, Hold The Slavery Though, I Am Trying To Watch My Morality.

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The choice between organic and conventionally grown produce seems arbitrary at times. Other than a label or sticker, the only visible difference seems to be the price. So why choose the higher priced produce? Why choose organic?

The decision for me is not made based on any information found in the grocery store isles but rather the rows and rows of manicured monocultures creating the pastoral scenes along the country roads I travel. It was here that I began noticing the small signs marking the verdant fields that will inspire a revolution on my own dinner plate.

At first they were barely seen as I drove down the ribbons of concrete trimming the patchwork plots of farmland. I began seeing more signs though. They moved, marking different rows and then different fields. The bold red caught my eye and demanded closer scrutiny. From the shoulder I could finally make out the lettering. DANGER PESTICIDES KEEP OUT. PELIGRO PESTICIDAS NO ENTRE.  Let that concept sink in, much like the sprays on fruit. The beautiful food bearing plants are sprayed with such dangerous chemicals that even the act of walking through the fields is not permitted at various times of the growing season. How is it that the fields require a warning label but the plastic clamshells of strawberries do not?

If your strawberries (or any other produce) came with an ingredients list that had the names of the pesticides and other chemicals that were applied during the growing or processing period, would you still purchase them? Fumigants, fungicides, herbicides, nemicides, algaecides, microbiocides, adjuvants, and preservatives. Those additions to my fruit and veggies do not seem like something that I can really rinse off before adding to my meal. In fact I start to wonder how it is alright to safely handle this food let alone eat it.

Next is humanure. Not sure what that is? It is the solid sewage waste that is left over after the water has been removed and treated. In other words, it is the poop you flushed down the toilet. Now I understand China has been using humanure to grow food for a substantial amount of time, but America and Canada are also employing this technique as well. You might wonder what the difference is between using animal fertilizers and humanure. Consider all of the medications we as humans take. If hormones from women who take birth control are entering our water supply and affecting fish, what do you think all the other drugs will do when it is put into the soil that grows our food? Additionally, the seeming rise in E.coli affected food recalls leads me to wonder how exactly is our waste being managed before it is used to grow our food. Using my own poop for compost is one thing. I know what goes into my body and I would properly treat my own waste to ensure any unfriendly bacteria was properly destroyed. Yet even with all that, I still would not want to grow food in it but would rather use it to fertilize trees and the like.

My final concern is with the treatment of field workers. Poor or withheld pay, unsafe working and living conditions, sexual harassment, racism, physical abuse, and even slavery is part of our food industry here in North America. Ever eaten a tomato? Then you have at some point had produce handled by slaves.

The recent grand opening of Whole Foods in Bellingham was met with protest after the decision to carry Driscoll berries. Driscoll works with Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington which has been called out on many abuse allegations against workers.

The Bellingham Food Co-op grocery store does not carry Driscoll berries because of the concerns regarding the producers. They understand that every nickel and dime can buy change in the world.

Does your dinner align with your beliefs?

 

Ono flavors of home

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I am sitting on the lanai watching the storm blow in off the ocean like a battleship coming into port. It is a menacing grey presence on a rather humid afternoon. The outdoor fire is rather ornamental and along with the fountain I am not missing any of the elements. This is bliss. Wasabi prawn crunch roll and shoyu poke, warm air fragrant with the scents of food and flowers and of course exhaust. Such is life in the city. I miss it and I have not even left yet. The birds underfoot pecking for crumbs. Even the underbelly, the homeless and questionable alleyways, the twilight hours bringing about all manner of folk with hobbies not meant for daylight. I will miss it all. This is how it goes. Roots or wings. I don’t want to think about the past. There truly is only this moment and then I move on to the next destination.

Local Flavor: Snoqualmie Ice Cream

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With exotic tastes and local inspirations, Snoqualmie Ice Cream is a really cool treat.
I tucked into Blueberry Cardamom Crisp Custard and French Lavender Ice Cream on a chilled spring evening. Nothing finishes off a discussion of hiking alpine meadows and ancient glacial ice packs in Mount Rainier National Park quite like revelling in the lingering warmth of the fire while enjoying ice cream from Maltby, Washington.
Made with local milk, cream and eggs and non- GMO cane sugar; you won’t be finding any high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, preservatives or added hormones in this creamy concoction.
Even their operation uses solar panels, waste heat recovery, and energy efficient equipment. With rain gardens, bioswales, pervious concrete and rainwater collection they have achieved zero-run off from their site. Not bad for the notoriously soggy Pacific Northwest.
This truly is handcrafted happiness.
http://www.snoqualmieicecream.com/

Cooking On The Go

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Chefs in small spaces and nomads alike will appreciate the diversity of tortillas. No matter what sort of domicile you occupy or what kind of “kitchen” facilities you utilize, tortillas will fit your lifestyle even on the go.

So what are the benefits of tortillas over other similar portable food accessories?

  • Tortillas are a way to bring food to your mouth without the need to dirty extra plates or cutlery for serving (In fact I often use them as a plate to prepare food on)
  • No refrigeration is required to keep these from spoiling
  • They store flat so they don’t take up as much room as their starchy counterpart bread which has a tendency to get crushed when jammed in a backpack or tight area
  • You don’t need to heat them up (although heating them creates many meal options that go far beyond just wraps)
  • They are relatively affordable (I bought 10 flour tortillas for $1.00, and I bought 30 corn ones for $1.19
  • They are readily available. Whether you are in Canada or the States grocery stores and corner stores alike usually carry some sort of tortilla on their shelves. There is nothing worse than incorporating an item into your diet and then finding out that it is a “specialty” item that is not carried everywhere
  • You can get them in vegan and gluten free versions which accommodate most dietary requirements
  • If they get stale you can turn them into nacho chips, or “bread crumbs”. They also make a nice addition to many hot meals

 

Don’t get hung up on tortillas being used only for wraps or Mexican inspired meals. Tortillas are very versatile and the dishes you can prepare with them are limited only by your imagination (and the food items you keep on hand). Here is a quick list to get your mouth watering and your mind mulling your next meal.

  • Use them to make wraps, but don’t stop at just lunches, make breakfast wraps and dinner wraps
  • Use them like crepes to create sweet desert treats and roll ups
  • Instead of lasagna noodles, use tortillas to create layered meals and casseroles that can be served hot or cold
  • Turn them into nacho chips to scoop up dips
  • Baked until crispy, these make a great base for thin crust pizza
  • Add to soups for added texture
  • Maki rolls (use tortillas instead of nori) one of my faves is cream cheese and lox for a West Coast feel. Cut roll into Maki sized bites and serve
  • Slather with butter and garlic for thin garlic bread or a naan substitute

The options are limitless!

 

You Are Here X

 

You are here.

Looking for a place to happen, making stops along the way

Sing it to me Gord, you know how it has been.

I have been chasing Rabbits

down dark alleyways on the wrong side of town after midnight.

Which band is it tonight?

Oh I don’t know, I only heard their hit song on the radio like five times today.

Five times?

Seriously. I memorized the lyrics.

The audience is a teenage girl personified.

The unified screams of enthusiasm reverberate.

Wisps of an encore drift in on the sweet smell of fabricated fog.

 

But they don’t see you like I do.

Did anyone even recognize you at Walmart?

And at the end of the night or is it morning (oh I don’t know)

Orion rides shotgun and I pick up groceries at the corner store again in the A.M.

The frogs are singing just for me and the stars and I roll down the window inviting the early morning in.

You can see my breath and each exhalation is concrete poetry.

The radio in the car is just for show.

But wait, that’s right

I have been waiting, sitting on roots and stones even dinosaurs have known

Watching the water wear away the Rock.

The rain is just as applause when it hits the leaves in the trees.

I snap a photo.

You cannot see me but this is where you would find proverbial X as if on a map

you are here…

and there and everywhere.

The more I see the more insignificant my life seems to be.

From the mountains kneeling at an ancient lake to the sea and here in between

This is my waiting room

I take a number, take a seat and

there is a lot of taking when I should be dedicating my life to something more.

I need a baptism of sorts

A burial at sea or setting a fire to set me free.

Maybe those are too good for me.

Discreetly shed my clothes as a chrysalis and slip beneath the surface to find myself.

I have been flirting with the frigid water, but I cannot seem to wash my wounds clean

lick your wounds anxious for the next one

It isn’t Holly, it is an Oregon Grape or communion with nature and my God

Oh how I love to feel the dirt and listen to the ferns whisper.

I smelled the sap dripping from the cedar

and the cedar smelled like me.

You are here.

This is your mundane life.

The rushing of the water carries you off to dreamland.

You make a list of things you may never see again and revel in the beauty.

You are Spring, fleeting and then gone.

Such is this life.

One day I will have roots too.

And my plants will no longer grow in pots.

Hit the road and I’m gone, What’s my number…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Space Sprouting and Microgreens Gardens

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If I want to be successful in the garden then I have to be willing to get my thoughts dirty and not just my hands.

Wandering the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays is a way to connect to my inner green geek and get inspired as well as educated. It is one thing to read about how to do something, it is another to talk to a farmer who is actually putting the concepts into practice.

Tables are beginning to burst with early greens and golds and reds for that matter as I stroll up and down the outdoor isles. As I identify the local bounty bursting from baskets and bins and table tops in turn, something caught my eye. It was unidentifiable as far as what it was destined to be, as it was currently Microgreens. The farmer was selling plastic clam shells of the verdant product. From the list you could pick the plant type. Each one made promises of shared vitality as you crunch down on the cotyledons en mass.

This got me thinking, what was the difference between microgreens and sprouts?

On further investigation I found out the main differences:

Substrate. Sprouts are grown in water, microgreens are grown on dirt.

Growing time. Sprouts happen in days, Microgreens take a week or two.

What gets consumed. Sprouts you eat seed and growth. Microgreens you trim and leave the seed in the soil.

I currently am not in the position to have a traditional garden but that does not mean that I cannot grow my own greens. Besides the bucket of Jerusalem Artichokes names Archie and the potted huckleberry named Huck that both reside on the front stoop (tucked behind a metal fence so that the deer do not devour them to the dirt) I have been happily sprouting sprouts in a mason jar. In a couple more days I will be enjoying fresh grown greens from my own countertop garden.

If you want to grow sprouts at home it is super easy peasy!

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A wide mouth glass jar (this makes it easier to clean if you can fit your hand inside)
  • A plastic lid from an old yogurt container or the like (If you want to avoid plastic completely use a square of cheesecloth or cotton)
  • A canning jar ring that fits your jar
  • Seeds! I am using mung beans because they are cheap and readily available all year long at the grocery store

METHOD:

  • Make sure the jar is clean!
  • Cut the yogurt lid with scissors to fit you canning jar ring and poke holes in it with a nail or thumbtack
  • Put new plastic lid or cloth if you chose that instead into your canning ring and ensure it securely screws onto the jar
  • Fill jar with only an inch or so of seeds. They will expand significantly during this process!
  • Rinse seeds (this is where the perforated lid comes in handy for draining and keeping bugs out)
  • Cover seeds with water and let them stand on the counter overnight (this is the only time your seeds will be fully emerged in water for an extended period of time during this process
  • Rinse and drain the next day and continue to rinse and drain twice a day until the sprouts are the desired size

NOTES:

The temperature of your house and time of year and amount of light will affect the speed of growing.

I started my process on a Monday and by Tuesday morning they had tiny tails and now that it is Wednesday they are showing real signs of growth. I figure I will have home-grown salad fixings before the end of this week!

Because of the nature of how sprouts are grown take care to look for mold growth or a rancid smell. Only sprout what you can eat as sprouts do not keep well even in the refrigerator and it kind of defeats the purpose of fresh!

Happy munching!