Foraging for Food

Day 184

Yesterday as I walked through our local Fresh Market grocery, I ran across a very familiar sight. There in the middle of the produce section was a plastic shrink-wrapped package of fiddlehead ferns with an accompanying placard explaining what they are.

When I lived in Maine and then in Alaska, we frequently foraged for fiddlehead ferns. They were cleaned, blanched and then frozen for consumption during the winter months. It was laborious especially if you gathered a large volume, but so delicious!

Seeing the fiddleheads reminded me of a place in Asheville, No Taste Like Home which offers foraging tours to learn about foraging for wild foods in this area. This is something I have wanted to do since we moved back here and this is the year!

It is a very cool concept. No Taste Like Home promotes itself as an ecotour company that specializes in foraging. Their tours vary in length and location with each including an appetizer whipped up with the findings of the day. There is also an option to take the items you foraged to one of four well-respected restaurants in Asheville where they will create a free appetizer using your provided ingredients. The dinner is on you and that’s as it should be!

I remember going into the woods with my grandfather as a young child. He taught me a lot about plants and he gathered many for health purposes. We were closely bonded through the experience and it has had a life-long impact on my respect for mother nature.

Growing up, we planted a garden, of course, but we also picked wild blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. We also gathered the plentiful black walnuts for drying and eventual cracking for consumption — finger smashing work — and also chinquapins (a dwarf chestnut). Oh, how I loved chinquapins! There were also apples and grapes but most of those were no longer wild when I was growing up.

Thinking about my foraging roots brings back memories of my little blackberry bucket. We each had one — they resembled a beach sand pail. We had our own responsibility for filling our buckets but only after the blackberry patches had been checked for snakes.

April is upon us and it is almost time for ramps to be gathered, too. Another wonderful one of nature’s bounties. Their flavor is very similar to a strong garlic/onion combination. They are only here for a short while and, unfortunately, they have been over-harvested. This is why learning the proper way to forage is so important.

Last year I made ramp butter which is divine on top of a grilled steak. I also made some fantastic scrambled eggs with ramp leaves. I cannot wait!

Have I mentioned I love where I live?