Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Reflections

The last few days have been pretty quiet on the foraging front.  I made some more apple butter, and have cracked some acorns, but the majority of our efforts have been focused on packing up our apartment.  We are moving to Bellingham.  A chapter in our lives is rapidly coming to a close.  We will both participate in our graduation ceremonies next week and I can’t help but reflect on all that I have learned and all the wonderful people that I have met over the four years that I have lived here.  As a rather trivial measure of my graduate education, I kept a list of all the wild foods that I ate during the four years it took me to finish my Master’s.  The first year I ate 107 different wild foods, 41 of which I had never tried before and 31 of which I had never collected before.  The next year I tried another 25 new foods and collected 14 new foods and the third year I tried 21 new foods and collected for the first time 20 more.  During my last year I tried 13 new foods and collected 9 new foods.  It amazes me how many different things there are to eat in this world—even this bioregion—and still so many that I haven’t tried!  Such a shame that our society mainly eats different combinations of corn, wheat, sugar, and beef!

Katrina and I have endeavored to follow the phenology of Chestnuts (Castanea sativa or C. dentata) closely this year so that we can get the nuts before they fall prey to squirrels or get squashed by car tires.  It hasn’t always been very convenient to bike to the few Chestnut trees in town, but we watched last month as they started dropping empty and immature nuts, and a couple weeks ago, as they started dropping some mature nuts.  Today, a kindred nut from the Victoria Nut Tree project tipped us off about two entire streets lined with Chestnuts that are practically in our backyard!  We stopped by for a quick peek on our way to meet Kate for a hike up Mt. Work and had enough time to grab a couple handfuls of nuts.  In general, the nuts aren’t as large as those we found in Fernwood, but they are more abundant, and it looks like some of the trees have plenty more still to fall.

On our hike up Mt. Work we saw many Bleeding Milk Cap mushrooms (Lactarius rubrilacteus).  Katrina and I have been talking about trying to salt some Milk Caps, but most of the ones we picked today were too buggy to keep.  Near the summit we found some dead camas (Camassia sp.) flowers and I dug down to examine the bulb.  Camas, like many members of the lily family, begins to sprout in the fall.  The sprout overwinters just below the soil frost line, and then emerges and flowers early in the spring.  Here in this mild, wet climate, there are other plants that follow a similar strategy of getting a head start on the spring.  The Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia spp.) have already sprouted and established themselves ahead of the winter.  I hope Katrina and I can establish our roots in fallow soil before it gets too cold as well.
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