Foraging for yummies
February 24, 2009 11:44 AM   Subscribe

What can I forage (for)?

Aside from mushrooms, which I'm not quite comfortable identifying on my own, what kind of edible flora can I search out in Northern California, when, and where? Fiddleheads? Wild ramps? Wild asparagus? (I guess the latter is a longshot, since it doesn't appear to grow out here.)

Am familiar with wild fennel and jerusalem artichokes, so I've got those covered.

I'm in Davis and am willing to drive two hours or so.

posted by mudpuppie to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Miner's lettuce! It's delicious. It's also basically a weed, and you should be able to find it in any shady-ish spot in the (lowlands) winter.

In the summer, blackberries and raspberries, of course. Wear long sleeves and consider gloves, since all the brambles I see are intertwined with poison oak.
posted by rtha at 11:51 AM on February 24, 2009

Dandelion greens, of course.
posted by dersins at 11:55 AM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: Stinging nettles, too - boil them.

I'm betting that there's someone with East Bay parks who runs a "hike and eat" thing out of one of the larger parks - maybe try contacting them to see if they do.
posted by rtha at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2009

No first hand experience in Northern California, but miners lettuce is delicious (though tiny).

Googled about and found the Incredible Edibles list (including some pictures), more handy links here, and some more pictures, as well as a few books by James S. Wiltens (may be out of print, but are available here and there). You are not alone in your interest of eating things around you in Northern California.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:06 PM on February 24, 2009


Actually, the site that I linked to is the Forager Press and they have a foraging forum. Worth a look I'd imagine.
posted by tim_in_oz at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2009

You can probably find creeping woodsorrel (which we've always called sour clover, but, apparently, that's something different) and purslane in your front lawn.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:44 PM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: Huckleberries in the fall in the east bay hills and along the Mendocino coast. Blackberries pretty much everywhere in the bay area, all summer and fall. Watercress, mint, and all sorts of other greens grow along streams for most of the year. There are a fair number of wild fig trees in parks and open spaces. Some wild mushrooms are really really easy to identify, if you go with someone who knows what they're doing you should be able to identify morels, hedgehogs, chanterelles, boletes (porcini), and a few others with very little effort. Morels and porcini grow in the sierras in the spring, everything else grows during rainy season all over the bay area.
posted by foodgeek at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2009

Response by poster: Oh yeah, I have a plot in the community garden that is a virtual purslane farm.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2009

If you go to the north coast in July, you can find big stretches of blackberry bushes. You can harvest kelp off of rocks at low tide (in moderation).

Around Davis, you can forage for packaged food just past its expiration date. ;)
posted by salvia at 1:16 PM on February 24, 2009

The Neighborhood Forager
posted by jammy at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2009

Stalking the Wild Asparagus and other Euell Gibbons titles are classics on this subject.
posted by jon1270 at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2009

California bay leaves taste like ordinary Mediterranean bay leaves but are way stronger. The trees grow wild in the East Bay (and elsewhere in California, but that's where I've seen them personally). Pick a few leaves, wash them when you get home, spread them out to dry, then store in a glass jar like regular bay leaves. I like the flavor better than ordinary bay, but maybe that's because they were fresher.

The park ranger who told us about California bay leaves also gave us this fun fact: raccoons like to climb into bay trees to poop. If you see a tree with a bunch of raccoon poop around it, go smell the leaves. (That's why washing the leaves is a good idea before you dry them for cooking!)
posted by Quietgal at 5:30 PM on February 24, 2009

I agree with pretty much everything above, except for boletes. The edible ones are usually maggotty, and there are poisonous varieties. The mushrooms I forage for are chanterelles, candy caps, pine spikes, puffballs, and elfin saddles. Morels will be showing up anyplace in the sierras that burned last summer.
You can eat the blossoms of wild mustard and nasturtium; madrone berries, coast or woodland strawberry, wild currant (ribes species), and blue elderberries (red are poisonous); the leaves of cheeseweed (mallow); and make tea from yarrow, yerba buena, the tips of douglas fir, and white clover.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:52 PM on February 24, 2009

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