Finding Fibert (Corylus avellana) by Jade Bisson

 Hazel nut trees.

Hazel nut trees.

Greetings! Thank you kind weather gods for this long, warm, dry fall! It is disgustingly perfect for collecting deliciously ripe edibles and being able to store them properly for winter. At this time of year, I like to look to my friends the squirrels for inspiration. These guys are pro-foragers and "storagers", as I like to call them. They know cold is coming and that now is the time to collect and save for thinner times. They know what's up! I should be more like a squirrel, really.

 Hazel fruit.

Hazel fruit.

Well today, the squirrel inside me stirred while I scavenged a near-by hazelnut tree for fallen fruit. Corylus avellana, the common Hazel, is not technically a 'wild' edible, but is so omnipresent that you can find them 'in the wild' on abandon homesteads or public parks, (note: we are not advertising trespassing here!). Many Hazel shrubs were planted as hedgerows to mark the boundary of a farm or property, which is why they are pretty common in all types of vegetation zones. Not to mention their wood is useful for fencing. An all around advantageous homestead plant! They reach about 3-8m tall and are usually surrounded by other Hazels, as they need cross-pollination to produce nuts. That is, you need a mommy and a daddy tree to make baby nuts, awwww..... Now, lets eat those babies, er, baby NUTS! The way to do it is to wait for the fruit to fall off the branch on their own. This is the time to make friends with squirrels, if you can. Seriously, these dudes are fast. They will devour all the nuts and leave none for you. Finders keepers. So, yes you have to be ahead of the squirrels and collect your bounty almost as soon as they fall. Wait until the nuts are good and dry before collecting. This means waiting until they turn brown. Fresh ones are green and wont ripen properly or taste good if picked this way.

 Baby collecting baby nuts.

Baby collecting baby nuts.

 The awesomest movie of all time: Willow, where hazel trees were used to make magic staffs.

The awesomest movie of all time: Willow, where hazel trees were used to make magic staffs.

Collect the nuts up from under the tree, let them dry for a few days and start a'crackin'! It is a tedious job, but well worth it as the flavor of freshly dried hazelnuts can't compare to store bought. To further the operation and make the flavor even more intense, carefully roast the cracked nuts in the oven or over a fire. In conclusion, if you want a tasty treat this fall, think like a squirrel, go 'nutting', as they say, and stash your little treasures up until a special occasion presents itself!

PS Here are some interesting facts on Corylus avellana and it's fruits:

-Hazel was one of the more dominant trees after the last ice-age in northern and central Europe

-The wood of Corylus avellana has long been used to craft magical staffs or wands (please see the movie "Willow" for more details)

-Hazel fruits were the most important source of calories for out Neolithic ancestors!

-It is an excellent energy conductor and is used to make dowsing rods

-They are a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, making it an aphrodisiac food!

Oxalis oregana (Shamrocks)

 Sweet shades.

Sweet shades.

Now, let me introduce Oxalis oregana. As a species of the wood sorrel family, it goes by many names; Redwood sorrel, shamrocks, or just sorrel! Its got a definite tangy taste, like lemon, and is a great addition to salads or stir fries, or any other dish you are cooking up. Munching on a bit will give you a boost of vitamin C!

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Native to moist Douglas-fir and Coast Redwood forests, Oxalis oregana has long been collected by coastal First Nation tribes from South Western B.C, down to Northern California. The Cowlitz tribe of Northern Washington state harvests this species to make a poultice for sore eyes and as a remedy for a digestive tonic. The sour taste of the plant comes from the compound oxalic acid, which is also found in spinach. Steaming or boiling the plant will reduce the amount of oxalic acid, which can disrupt nutrient absorption (please don't eat too much RAW sorrel, or raw spinach for that matter!). 

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So, if you are frolicking in the Redwoods this summer, or even taking a stroll in your Pacific Northwestern back yard, impress someone and point out this common ground cover. They are easy to identify as they have three heart shaped leaves with a burgundy or pink underside. You will see them during most of the year. From spring to summer, look for small white flowers stretching a couple centimeters above the green foliage. Maybe even stay and watch them a few hours to observe how they bend downwards in direct sunlight and stretch again when the shade returns! Have a "Double Rainbow!" experience! Thanks guys, and stay tuned for the delicious Rubis ursinus otherwise known as the trailing blackberry!

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) by Jade Bisson

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Its SPRING! Well, not yet. But after a long winter of eating pine cones and cattail roots, it is a nice treat when you can finally eat something green. Now, the best motto for this edible is 'if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em'. HA! That is exactly what we'll do. I can't say enough about these plants. I love them. I once thought of getting a tattoo of it on my leg or something. Maybe not. Last time I had this idea, I almost got a Canadian flag tattooed on my derrière.

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Uhhh, anyway......Taraxacum officinale! The Common Dandelion. Tidbit: From the old French words Dent-de-lion, which means Lion's tooth. Appropriate because of its long, lance-shaped leaves. And the color. Lion's teeth are green because they can't hold tooth brushes with their paws, right? Riiiiiggggghhhhhtttttt. Lets get serious! I hope you have all seen a Dandelion. The are ubiquitous alright! However, the best place to harvest them is in the wild. And the best time to harvest them is in the spring or fall when they are young and not flowering. The flowers make the leaves much more bitter. Look for rich soils and moist, shady conditions to get the best results. Definitely not on the sidewalks or the grass in front of Tim Horton's. Many-a-gallon of Round-Up and other deadly chemicals have been put in to the earth trying to eradicate these poor things. You will get sick. That is why spreading the word about their medicinal, nutritional and delicious properties is very important.

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Spring is a wonderful time of year to collect because the greens are so fresh and tender, perfect for a camp salad, in a chip sandwich, steamed or raw-dawg. And! There are no poisonous look-a-likes, so you're set. There is a list of nutritional values and medicinal properties of the dandelion. They are the most nutritious green you can have. They have more beta-carotene than carrots, and the iron and calcium content is phenomenally greater than spinach!

Medicinally, it stimulates the liver and gallbladder, aids in digestion by promoting the proper levels of hydrochloric acid in your stomach and reduces inflammation in the bile ducts to help get rid of gall stones (an increasing disorder among 25-35 year olds, look out!). You can also do many things with the flowers (such as wine)  and the roots (dandelion coffee, or hippie coffee, I love that stuff!). Amazing! Have I sold you on these yet? Are you going to go pick some right now for dinner? Ok, good! DANDELION RESPECT Y'ALL! 'Til next time.......

Finding Food in Hawaii by Jade Bisson

Hawai'i. Land of sun, surf and getting lei'ed! Also, land of abundant delicious fruits and year round growing seasons! There is much to be foraged on these islands, as I found when I arrived on the Big one. Of course I have been studying tropical fruit books and endemic Hawai'ian plants AND I have been to Hawai'i before, however, there was a lot to learn.

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Lets start at the start. What plants are native to the islands? Well, none, technically. You can't eat lava! Which is all that was there at the beginning. Over time a couple lucky plants took root by way of wind, tide, birds and insects. Apparently only one plant each 90,000 years was added to the islands. (I don't know how anyone can estimate this, but, wowo!)

When the First Peoples arrived on the shore, there was many fish, shellfish and seaweed (limu), but of the 1200 or so "endemic" plant species, none were really edible! Luckily they brought some snacks! 'Ulu (Breadfruit), Mai'a (Banana), Kalo (Taro), 'Uala (Sweet Potato) and Uhi (Edible Yam) were the most important of the crops and fed the Canoe Peoples for thousands of years, and still feed Hawai'ians today. You can't really find these walking through the jungle though. They are cultivated crops.

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What you can survive off of are a bunch of introduced and invasive species. But don't hate! Even though some of these plants out grow and endanger the natives, they are opportunists and survivors and deserve to be enjoyed! Most of these I identified while hiking or bush whacking through the different climate zones (on a friend's property). What I found were Coconut, Avocado, Citrus, Guava, Bananas, Papaya, New Zealand Spinach, Lilikoi (Passionfruit), Wild Raspberries, Peaches (whaaa? yes, its true) Mountain Apples,  Ohelo Berries, Mulberries, Kumquats, Star Fruit, Macadamia Nuts and Rambutan and the rare Sausage Tree (not realsausages). Pretty COOL, right?

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Most of these are easy to identify with a little smarts and a reliable tropical fruit/nut book. Some advice, get a machete for the coconuts! I've spent way too many hours trying to break one open cave (wo)man style! Hopefully, some of you find yourselves in Hawai'i one day, and if you do, make sure to study up and take advantage of the abundance of free food. Aloha, brah!

Johnny Jumpers by Jade Bisson

Hola Adventurers!

 A beautiful Johnny Jumper

A beautiful Johnny Jumper

It's Spring! Whoop, whoop! Forget those roots and twigs you were foraging for this winter. It is that time of year again when abundance returns to the land and collecting edibles is such a joy. With so many choices, where do you start?!?

 Lots of Johnny Jumpers

Lots of Johnny Jumpers

Here is one beauty to look for: Viola pensylvanica, a member of the violaceae family, or more commonly known as, violets. These young guns are wild though. There are over 800 or so species in the genera, so imma just stick with these yellow ones I found in the meadow behind my house. You really can't miss 'em. 

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They are one of the first colors to emerge from the dark forest floor. With heart-shaped green leaves and little yellow petaled flowers, how could you not pick a few? Pay attention when walking through a shaded meadow or on the edge of a forest. The plants can grow from 1-12 inches, producing a single yellow flower with 5 petals (3 lower, 2 side) rising above a carpet of heart-shaped leaves with sharp tips. This species spreads by rhizomes, so you will find them growing in dense clumps. I have yet to find a source which confirms the leaves as edible, so stick to eating the flowers only.  A fun fact that I ran in to is that the flowers are the larval host and/or nectar source for the silver-bordered butterfly. I know, right! So don't pick all of the flowers, leave some for the larvae! So, in conclusion, you definitely CAN'T make a meal out of violets, but you CAN impress your friends by adding them to a dish you've made. Pretty up that bowl of wieners and beans that you made for your girlfriend by adding some edible wild violets, she'll thank you for it!!! Adios for now!

Lovely Wild Rose Hips (Rosa nutkana) by Jade Bisson

Hi Adventurers,

Oh, lovely, wild roses. Lets go prancing through the thicket and collect rose hips for Grandma and drink tea! I know what you are thinking.....'What does this have to do with Adventuring? I want to build a fire and cook meat!, Rose hips are girlie!' Well, stop right there nature boy or girl. Let me tell you that there is nothing girlie about scurvy! And that is what you will get if you don't go out and collect these little vitamin C balls. Well, maybe I am being too hard on you. You probably wont get scurvy at all. However, an extra boost of non-synthetic vitamin C will come in handy this winter, especially on the trail. So lets get on it.....

 

There are many types of wild roses in the Pacific Northwest. You've definitely seen them around. Two of the main ones go by the name of Rosa nutkana and Rosa woodsii. But also you can find Rosa hispidaRosa gymnocarpaRosa acicularis, the list goes on. They are all members of the Rosaceae family. You can tell wild roses by their characteristic feathered leaves, brambley like growing pattern and their five-petaled pink/red flowers. I can't give  you any clues on exactly where to find these guys, because they grow everywhere! Some types tolerate no drainage and clay soils, while others prefer the opposite. However, timing is important. The roses flower in the spring. Bright little pink flowers with yellow centers. This is a good way to spot a patch beforehand and go back in the winter when everything just looks like a bunch of sticks.

After the first frost is when to collect the hips or 'berries'. They are bright red, sometimes orange, depending on the variety. Collect a nice little basket of those, split them open and check for larvae (which happens here in our damp climate) and dry them. You can scoop the seeds out if you want. Make sure to pick ripe ones, which means, not to firm and not too soggy. After the first frost, they should be supple enough and have a good flavor. Make sure to leave a few hips for next years flowers as well as for other hungry animals. After drying you can do a couple things with them. Tea is fun and easy! Just steep the dried hips in some boiling water and enjoy some wild vitamin C for free (more than in an orange, now that is a good deal!). This is easy to bring camping or hiking too! You can also make jams and jellies, but who wants to do that when camping. Talk about girlie! Well, hopefully I've convinced you to not get scurvy this winter, I'll definitely be able to pick out the ones I didn't!!!! Happy collecting!

-Jade 

 

*Just a reminder to make sure to collect off bushes that have not been sprayed with pesticides or engine exhaust. Many towns use these wild roses in native plant gardens that reside alongside banks, grocery stores and highways. So use your common sense. The beach and forest thickets are good spots. 

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) by Jade Bisson

To be honest, I was weary of telling the world wide web about this tasty treat, however, yesterday, when I went collecting nettles, I realized that there are enough nettles for the whole WORLD! And when I say 'nettles', I mean stinging nettles!  The same stinging nettles that gave you a nasty uncomfortable rash when you were a kid. Who knew you could eat them?

Well, you can! Urtica dioica is not a native species. It was a gift from merry ol' England, same as the annoying but tasty edible, the common black berry bush. Nettles are special to me because they are one of the first green, nourishing plants that appear in our forests, sometimes as early as February. After a long winter of eating twigs and nuts, thats pretty special.

Nettles are a very rich source of iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and D. The medicinal properties are endless! Everything from cleansing the liver and kidney to stimulating the immune system to treating inflammation of the prostate! Look for them in moist, rich soils along deer trails, meadows and man-made structures like barns or roadsides. The best time to harvest is early spring, when the tender green shoots are the most nutritious. Make sure to wear gloves and use scissors or a knife for a clean cut so you don't damage any root systems by pulling on the plant.

There are a couple of ways to eat and/or preserve nettles. To eat fresh, make sure to steam or pour boiling water on the nettles so they can release their stingers. After that, you can use them as you would spinach. Reserve the water that you used to cook the nettle and use it as a base for a soup or a nourishing tea. If you picked too many, you can preserve by drying the nettles above a wood stove or in the sun. Dried nettles are also good in soups and tea.

If you want really, really fresh nettles, you can travel to Dorset, England and enter the World Nettle Eating Championships. Competitors attend from all over the world to eat fresh stinging nettle! I wouldn't have recommended it, but after looking at the website, it looks kind of fun? Check it out, and good luck!