Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Foraging for Food

According to, foraging is the acquisition of food by hunting, fishing, or the gathering of plant matter. I've continued to come across this as a method of food sourcing in many sustainable living guides, including some of my favorites such as Organic Gardening magazine and The Backyard Homestead. But honestly, it seemed like too much work... I mean, really, with a full time job, who has time to go out and hunt this stuff up?

Until I realized that I already do this in some ways. Picking summer blackberries along our road is technically foraging; I am acquiring food by gathering it from a wild source, in this case an overabundance of blackberry canes. I gather apples from our school yard and plan to go with a friend who knows most of the apple trees along public sidewalks in our area (she propogates apple trees by taking cuttings, so she makes it her business to know where they are in town). I use these apples for applesauce, canning pie filling, and making apple butter. When we hike, I love looking for wild berry patches (I am always careful to take my field guide so I know what I'm eating is what I think I'm eating).

Some foraging guides mention common weeds as edibles, such as dandelion greens (which I love for their spicy flavor in salads) and even our dreaded pokeweed for cooking greens (though I hear it stinks to high heaven when cooked, which has kept me from trying it thus far). Lamb's quarters are also edible greens, and the wild daylilies apparently make fabulous little fried fritters when battered like squash blossoms. I know that wild mushrooms and morels are another source of foraging fodder, but am a little too hesitant to try them on my own. I'd love to find someone local who knows what to look for who could show me how to ID these things.

We're also considering having a neighbor or friend get a deer for us this fall so that we have this source of low fat, high protein meat this winter and next spring. We live in an area where processing fees are minimal, making this meat only about $1 per pound, well below supermarket and farmer's market prices. In other areas of the country, it's easy to acquire wild protein sources through fishing or hunting other game.

One of the best things about foraging is that it's a free source of organically grown food (which helps us stick to our food budget and our ever increasing commitment to eat locally and organically). For me, it's also a great time to enjoy nature and spend some quiet time alone, or pleasurable time with friends or family. It also allows us to enjoy the flavors of fresh produce in the off season. By freezing wild blackberries, strawberries(these are the tiny ones that most people rip out of their yards--I try to transplant them when I dig them up and have managed to make my own little strawberry patch for free!), and grapes, we can have them on our cereal in the morning or in smoothies or desserts (they're fabulous over homemade icecream!). Another added benefit is that if I have an excess, I can these items (jams, jellies, preserves, sauces, etc.) and donate them to our local food pantry. Some food pantries will take fresh donations, so you might check your location to see what they prefer.

If you're interested in foraging, Organic Gardening magazine (Feb/March 2011 issue) has a great article and source list on the subject.

What about you? Do you forage for things in your area? What's your favorite "wild" food? Maybe it's salmon berries in Alaska or clams in Maine (mmm, clams... wish we were closer to the coast so I could do some seafood foraging!) I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fabulous Sale and Date Day

On Friday, Benny and I took a trip we'd been planning for a while to Troy, NC. This tiny dot on the map is my cousin's old stomping ground and birthplace of Capel Rugs, and just down the road from Seagrove pottery country. The reason for this trip was two-fold: 1) Benny had the day off and we wanted a date day together, and 2) the annual clearance tent sale was going on at the original Capel store.

After an early, but leaisurely, breakfast of scrambled eggs with chorizo and garlic scapes (from our CSA) and homemade rolls with yummy blackberry jelly, we loaded up our picnic lunch into a cooler and loaded ourselves into the Jetta. Roadtrips are always fun times for us, and uninteruppted time to talk about things without being distracted by the "to do" list of the moment. The trip took about three hours, one way, so we had plenty of time to chat and to listen to the current book on CD (The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis for this trip).

We arrived in Troy easily (thanks to Oliver, our British accented GPS phone app), and parking was thankfully a breeze. The tent sale outside was where the best bargains were, so we pulled out our paint chips (which now live in my purse, along with my small retractable tape measure) and began sifting through. We knew our budget, $100, for a large area rug for the living room and two smaller rugs for either side of our bed. Tall order, yes, but my cousin had said the prices were so good here we could definitely make that budget work. (Did I also mention these purchases were our anniversary gift to each other?) I fully intended to snap a few pics of the sale event, just to give you an idea of the place, but I fogot in the excitement. Most of the large rugs (5 x 7 or 6 x 8) out front were under $70 and they had many small rugs for as little as $10.

The traditional braided rugs were the most deeply discounted, so these were the ones we gravitated toward. I also liked these because they are primarily wool, a natural fiber, and because they are double sided, so when one side wears out, we simply flip it over, which gives it double the life.

After much discussion, comparison, and a little haggling with another customer over a rug we both liked, we came home with a large 5 x 7 oval rug for the living room and two smaller ones for either side of the bed. With tax, the bill was slightly over $110, just barely over our budget. But for rugs that will last us a lifetime, we both felt like we'd scored a deal. We love how the rug in the living room isn't too "matchy matchy" and has a rainbow of colors, so that if we decide to paint the room a different color one day, the rug will work with practically any color scheme. The rugs beside the bed follow a similar pattern, though the colors are more muted than those in the living room rug.

Once we had our purchases securely stuffed in the back seat of the Jetta (wonder car that it is), we ate our picnic lunch on the road (pot roast sandwiches, granola bars, and water in our reusable bottles), headed for Seagrove. Along the way, we hunted for a produce stand to buy some peaches, but found none. The mission to Seagrove was really just to check out the route and collect a map or two from the visitor's center to see if it was something we'd like to come back and do some other time. (Our concensus was that it should definitely be one of the next road trips, perhaps with other family who also enjoys handmade pottery.) Leaving Seagrove, we employed the help of Oliver, our friendly GPS, since we were leaving from a different place than we started.

We managed to time our trip back so that we just made Sonic's happy hour (with two minutes to spare!), so Benny enjoyed a half price strawberry limeade (90 cents), while I enjoyed a full price (shame, no icecream things on the happy hour menu) Butterfinger blast thing. (I've always been a sucker for those!) Since there's no Sonic in our hometown, hitting the Sonic happy hour was a small big deal to us; we love cheap thrills.

Of course, when we hauled the rugs inside once we got home, Lavender had to give things her sniff of approval. She also went over the top with the all-out roll and back scratch routine once we had the rugs in place. She seems to appreciate the softer rug underfoot in the living room; it has become her new favorite spot to attack the massive rawhide bone she got for Christmas. (Pictures to come later today.)

Have you found any fabulous end-of-year (fiscal year) sales on home goods? Had a great road trip or date outing with someone special? I'd love to hear about it!