Monday, December 28, 2009

Squirrels

There are certain oak trees around the city - I can think of three - that must either be out of the foraging range of any squirrels or must produce acorns that the squirrels don't like. Either way, the upshot is that when all the snow melts, there are still lots of acorns to be gathered, so I grabbed a bunch this morning. I might need to find replacements for my last crew of acorn shuckers since they all complained of raw fingers afterward.

On another squirrel note, my landlord, a famous squirrel hunter, has been lax lately and a squirrel has found her way back into my walls. Luckily I think we sleep the same hours, because although I hear action in there in the middle of the day, it's quiet at night. I wonder what it looks like in there. It's probably bigger than my apartment, and for a lot less money.

There are two native species of vascular plants on Antarctica.

Friday, December 11, 2009

article in progress for localinseason

There is an isolated patch of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) along the Charles River in Boston. They can be seen in the early spring, but soon they get covered up by the desert false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) that grows all along the banks. At the end of fall, when all the indigo has been cut back, the nettles make a brief reappearance. Many edible spring greens make a fall reappearance in fact. There is still enough warmth so that their leaves do not freeze, and the leaves of the tall trees and the shrubs that have been shading them all summer have dropped away, so they come out again to gather the last of the fall sunlight and fatten their roots. And so even in early December, even after a little snow, I can still go out and gather some nettles, some curly dock (Rumex crispus), dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) and ox-eye daisy greens (Leucanthemum vulgare). While the ground is not yet frozen, burdock root (Arctium lappa) and evening primrose root (Oenothera biennis) are available too.

By the time March rolls around, evening primrose rosettes are back out, making January and February the only two full months of the forager's lament. I alleviate the lament by stocking up for the winter months by jarring, drying, and freezing. Whatever I jar usually ends up in the freezer because I'm always too rushed to do a good job with the sterilization process. Too many things going on in the summer in the city to do a good grandmotherly job jarring up the apple sauce. I bought a cheap food dryer on craigslist last year, which makes drying tea herbs and apples for winter usage easy. Somehow I even cut corners on drying my apples and I noticed some fruit flies on them a few days later. They are in my refrigerator now. Although I'd like to embrace additional aggressive eco-stunts including “unplugging the fridge”, given my ineptitude with jarring and drying, I'm not ready for that yet.

Rather than spend too much time lamenting the frozen ground, I prefer to catch up on the things I've missed because of foraging too much – reading, watching movies, studying up on mushrooms. Just the other day a friend forwarded me an article on dumpster diving [link to http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/12/for_local_freeg.html] and this got me thinking: I don't need to forgo foraging afterall in the winter, I can turn to a much more urban version of it – jumping into grocery dumpsters late night and digging out the perfectly good food that gets thrown away in quantities I don't like to think about every day. One of the things that attracted to me to foraging in the first place was that foraged food is free. Dumpster food is neither Local nor In Season, but it is a sad waste that occurs on a massive scale. I am a little worried that when I do my first dive, there will be so many viable munchies I won't know what to do with myself (I sometimes have this feeling when I find a neglected apple tree loaded with fruit – I sigh and wonder when I'm going to have the time to chop and jar all of the apples that I'm stuffing into my backpack). I am really hoping I do not find OK meat. I'm a vegan usually, but my policy is, if an animal product is getting tossed, I eat it. It's bad enough that people eat factory-raised meat, but then to have it thrown out, ugh. I hope not have to face the dilemma of 'should I take those packages of ham?' Please let my first dumpster be filled with slightly bruised bananas, day old whole wheat bagels, and celery.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seeding the garden



Lest anyone think foraging in New England is over, it's not. At mom's over the weekend, we made some burdock oyaki (fried mashed potato pancakes stuffed with burdock/carrot/soy sauce mixture). I also gathered and dried a bunch of mint, and almost went for some mussels, but stayed vegan thanks to high tide.

I went "seeding" this morning along the Charles because I'm going for a "natural" garden in the style of Fukuoka next year, where I encourage all the great weeds of the area to grow in my garden. So, I gathered seeds of milkweed, burdock, evening primrose, and lamb's quarters, and put them in my garden.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Beech trees, nettles, black robes

Some highlights from my recent trip to The Netherlands.

* An hour at the Sauna Deco. I asked the lady at the front desk if they had bathing suits in addition to the towels for the spa, which was "co-ed" but primarily men > 50. She replied, "NO! we are totally nude!".

* Black robes worn by the entire thesis committee for the defense I was a part of. This was good because it hid the fact that I was wearing brown cords and looked like hell compared to everyone else in their suits and ties. The Q/A session was pretty funny, one questioner heavily citing his own research, and someone fainting on stage towards the end of the session.

* Tilburg forest filled with beech trees, black berry brambles, and nettles. And some weird running competition that I asked an older couple about and they replied things like: "Chops" and "Clogs" and "Warande" and I of course said yes, yes, yes as if I had any clue what they were saying.

* The coffeehouse scene is weird. People go in there and roll huge joints and really make a big thing about it. It's kind of like, listen, you're just rolling a joint, take it easy. Man, they go to town though, with their props and all. Flower shops selling tulip bulbs also carried pot seeds. I almost bought some but didn't want any trouble getting back into the good old U S of A.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2 Hauls

While everyone was in town this weekend (Brian, Shannon, Alex) we still found some time for foraging. Shannon, west coast forager famous for almost poisoning a dinner party of botanists, joined me both times. The haul on the first day out was a grocery bag full of oyster mushrooms. The haul on the second day, at the end of a walk in the Fells, was 2 bags of quince fruit, ripe and not too buggy. Sometime in the next 36 hours (before Holland trip) I need to find some time to chop them up. Call it global warming or something else, but foraging is still going strong. Burdock, plenty of greens (a bunch of beautiful ox-eye daisy rosettes), and evening primrose roots too still abound.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cantaloupe Dune

Two foraging highlights from my research retreat weekend in Gloucester.

1) A cantaloupe plant growing on a beach dune with a viable cantaloupe that I took. I ended up eating the whole thing later that day (it was salty, as expected for fruit growing on a beach) since the meeting started at 2 and no food was served until 8 -- that's a long time for a 95%vegan to go without food.

2) Big bands of kelp on the shore. I ate some of that raw and took a bunch home and dried it. It's already successfully gone into one soup.

Also grabbed some autumn olives and wild mustard greens, which were growing abundantly along Atlantic Road.

Retreat was very nice, even if the staff were a tad freaky. The Addams family or something going on there.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

Today is warm Halloween. I woke up with 3 hours to kill before having to be at the Gallery, so I headed out for a bike ride to Lexington, along the Minuteman Trail. First stop was some bittersweet for Sarah B's costume. Not edible.

next stop was a couple of pretty good looking patches of stinging nettles, so I bagged up some of those. I poked around in some woods around there. Mostly maple along the minuteman, so not a good chance for hen-hunting, but I did find one old hen-of-the-woods. It was taken over largely by mold but I can't let a hen go, even if moldy, so I cut out some of the better looking pieces.

Then, on my way home, I took a walk onto a meadow trail and found a chicken that was in better shape. I had run out of bags so I bundled up as much of it as I could and balanced it back to my bike. My few bags were filled up - I'm trying to get better about bringing enough but this seems to happen no matter how many I bring. And then, passing through Alewife Pond Reservation, I hit upon a high bush cranberry that was loaded. In they went, right on top of the nettles. That will be fun to sort out later.

Rob and I chatted over a couple of beers last night about an age-old topic for us: the COMMUNE. Buy some land around here (my stipulation; needs to be within 2 hours of beantown, I like beantown) and go pioneer, building up houses and gardens. Eventually it turns into a place where writers, artists, musicians, like-minded people come to stay for a brief term to get away from the grind. This idea is not a complete check-out from society, more of a picking and choosing of the prime parts, and emphasizing work and back-to-the-land, and art and creativity. Every time we discuss this, it seems a little closer to possibly happening in some baby-step capacity. Anyhow, fun to think about.

Foraged soup for the intern-dinner last night; burdock root, evening primrose root, evening primrose seeds (they are finally out, and not that hard to gather!), lamb's quarters, narrow leaf plantain, dandelion greens, curly dock, and then a bunch of stuff from Trader Joe's to make it reasonable.

It looks like The Bread Machine show might happen. Bread machines on the gallery walls, one going off or so every hour with a fresh loaf, and these loaves being tweeted about. First come first served. I have to find a local wheat producers, and get some of my mother's antique toasters...a few of them will go up also. I think this show will warm up January quite nicely.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Riddle of the Sphinx

I finally got to meet the famous and somewhat elusive Boston mushroomer Ben Maleson the other night. Ben is the guy who foragers for the edible mushrooms that you get in Boston restaurants. He taught a class the other night on boletes and polypores, but it's closer to the truth to say he stood behind a table of mushrooms and entertained the crowd with wacky half tales interrupted by himself, occasionally interspersed with a thing or two about the boletes and polypores. The edibility of the mushrooms he touched on seemed to be beyond him, and every time someone would ask: "Is that one edible" he would invariably say "You can eat any mushroom once".



I tried hard to curry favor with the mushroom man, but I need to keep this brief right now, show time with Hermann Hudde at the Gallery in 25 minutes. So I will just say that the best bit I got from him was that there was a nice chicken up high in a tree near the Sphinx. The Sphinx? Yeah, the Sphinx in Cambridge, everyone knows where that is. I figured if I found it and got that high mushroom, he might give me credibility. So I googled a little and found it. The Sphinx is in the Mt Auburn cemetery and is a civil war monument. I got there the other day, and sure enough, a beautiful chicken right up in an oak tree where a large branch had been cut off. Way too high to get right then, I will need to go back with a rope or something,



But the trip was not for naught. The best score was a haul of Chinese Chestnuts, which are just like the real thing after you get by their sea urchin-like hull. Really, the day after God made the sea Urchin, he made the Chinese Chestnut, it is uncannily similar. Here they are in the fading light of the day.



Friday, October 2, 2009

God and mushrooms

The god debate is never ending, everyone knows that. And it is easy to get real sick of it. This has come up for various people I've been talking with lately. Plus, for a few weeks I had the book "The God Delusion" by my bedside. My tactic of late for dealing/coping with the complex issue (I see the God issue as complex, even though atheists and believers seem to have no problem with it) is to have fun throwing the G word casually into conversations..."ahh, that's just God telling you to slow down", etc.

I've been finding some new mushrooms (to me) over the last couple of weeks. Wine caps were popping up all over the mulch at the arboretum, so I ate a lot of those. Then the other day I noticed, along the Charles, a patch Inky Caps. The books agree that this mushroom should not be eaten with alcohol since it has something in it that makes the liver temporarily unable to process booze. Well, it took me 4 days to finish the load that I found, so this was 4 days with not so much as a beer to end a long day. This was, of course, God telling me to chill on the consumption. Going to the chicken slacks last night sans miller high lifes just was not the same. I've made a vow, from now on when I find Inky Caps, they win over a beer, Oktoberfest or not.



The J.P. open studios was good the other day. Apparently i missed getting to see Eliza and her baby by about 10 minutes. My favorite artist that I found was a soft spoken woman who titles her paintings after lines she gets from poems and stuff, which I dig. Here is one of her paintings. I forget her name. Harvested heavily from the one autumn olive tree I know of in J.P. and made a puree with the fruits. It goes right in my oatmeal, along with the kousa dogwood berry puree I made the other day when I came across a loaded kousa tree with quality fruits. This is a good fruit for the foley mill, I didn't even need to cook it first since the inside is naturally soft.



Last night was a marathon battle with my car, which needed to be moved for street cleaning. I needed to jump it since the battery drained because I grabbed rope from it a few weeks ago, and left the interior lights on like an idiot. I've removed all the interior door lights so this wouldn't happen (the right rear door doesn't shut all the way so these lights would always be on). I should knock out the other lights too. Anyhow, I borrowed Sarah E's car to jump it, this was about 12:45 am. By 2:30 I was in bed. Where did those hours go, you wonder. Well, it took a while to get the thing started first of all. After 10 minutes of being connected to Sarah's battery, it sounded like a creaking rocking chair when I tried to turn it over. At this point I had basically decided that was it for the car, and sad that I'd have to pay for a ticket and towing, that would be a bad final date with the car. I gave it another 20 minutes or so, eating an entire bag of chips to pass the time, and it miraculously started after that. This puts us at around 1:45 or so. Next 30 minutes I spend looking for a spot. Then, finding one about a 10 minute walk from my house, I walk home.

Also, a new feature: my headlights only work when I put them on high beams - and then they are normal beams. That car needs to find a cliff.

The other day after work I made a quick trip to Brooks Estate in Medford with stef. Grabbed my first burdock root, but was really hunting for mushrooms. It had rained very hard a few nights before -- the night the Sox got rained out and we watched the rain come down from our sheltered grandstand seats. As the sun was disappearing, I was really getting edgy, and finally I saw an old tree with a bunch of mushrooms, but nothing I knew. I peaked around to the other side and bingo, chicken of the woods, young fresh and lots of it. That's me in the tree getting it. Later, picking up Stef's CSA, the farmer had a huge hen of the woods in his truck. After working hard on him, he parted with a piece of it. So I've been eating lots of hens and chickens these days. Also, in the Brooks Estate, found my first east coast thimble berries, which I'm happy about because Thoreau mentions them but I had begun to doubt they were still here.



I've started helping robert house .com with his new website, and art-based social networking site, kind of a monster. We'll see if I don't fry my computer brain with this project. Spend a week planning esophagus patients for a study I'm working on at MGH, then come to the gallery today and spend all day updating, webbing, working on a press release (for the coming show, mechanical migration, which I'm very excited about), and then, php for f-celebrities [rob's new site]. UGH! Need to go mushroom hunting ASAP. And visit NYC. And do more yoga. And record a new album. And shell those acorns in the bag in the back room.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

All the greens

All the greens are making there little fall re-appearance. Curly dock and dandelion and some fresh narrow leaf plantains have been going into my fall soups. And mushrooms, of course. Some new ones for me this week, found in the mulch patches at the arboretum: wine caps. pretty, but not extraordinary in taste, but not bad either.

Also, at the Boston mycological club foray yesterday in the Fells, I didn't find anything but one puffball, but the collective forces brought in a bunch, including some Entoloma abortivum and Armillaria tabescens (a type of honey mushroom). Staring at in-the-hand samples is the best way to learn new plants and mushrooms.

Rob might become the illustrator of my book, in return for php coding of f-celebrities.com, his latest get-rich-slowly scheme.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kousa

Kousa dogwood fruits are out. Challenge: make the inherent taste, which is usually good, outshine the paper-rough exterior texture that no one likes.

Working on my Tom Waits mix CD. At the instant, digging the tune called Cold Water.
I get angry when weather forecasts are wrong, not sure why. I should probably take the weather gadget off of my home page.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apples and Acorns

Acorns are falling now, and they might not be as tasty as the black walnuts, but they are a lot easier to release from their shells. My current best method is a swift whack with a hammer and then yanking out the nut meats by hand with a pair of pliers on hand for the more stubborn ones. Next I use my old fashioned nut grinder that I bought for almost nothing at the tiny tucked-away thrift store in Harvard square last year to grind them coarsely. Then, I get a large pot of water boiling and use it to supply water to the smaller pan in which I boil the nuts in a 4 or 5 changes until most of the bitterness is gone. To serve, I've so far tried them in pancakes and soup, and both were fine.

I need a small cider press or juicer to deal with all the apples that people just let fall down to the ground.

Another hawthorn tree, this time on the Boston side of the Charles, is giving nice big haws. And here again, due lack of time, I want to see if an automatic food mill/strainer will process these and crab apples etc faster than my hand cranked foley mill. I'd love to stick to the manual devices, but this cuts into my foraging time!

Curly dock is making its fall appearance now. I'm eating some for lunch right now, along with my Japanese knotweed beet compote, which I have to say tastes much better out of season because I'm not so sick of Japanese knotweed right now.

Grape juice and vodka drinks last night preceding Verena's going away sushi fest.

I'm currently strategizing on how to curry favor with Ben the mushroom man. I had a dream the other night that he took me in as an apprentice. In the dream, I told him I was ready to go because I had a food dryer that would dry a lot of mushrooms at once, and he said I wouldn't be needing that since it would take me years to learn the art of edible mushroom picking. Maybe it was more like a nightmare.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hawschnapps

I shelled my first acorns this morning and have them soaking in water, and the haws are out (hawthorns) and hawthorn schnapps is on its way. Will be ready in 5 months. Hawschnapps in preparation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bye Bye Blackberry

If you blink you miss the start of new construction in a city. I rode by my favorite foraging spot in the city today, the Geese Ghetto by the B.U. bridge, and it has been leveled. Some woman stopped to ask what was going on and the construction foreman told us that they were repairing the bridge, 2.5 year project, and had to make a staging area for this. There go hundreds of blackberry bushes, pokeweed, burdock, and milkweed. The guy says they are putting in a park afterward. The woman says "Oh, that sounds great..". At that point I left, pretty sad. Felt like an old man watching his favorite tree die. Then I picked myself up by the bootstraps on the rest of my ride, and imagined helping design a fruit tree park with the city of Cambridge. Apples, Juneberries, Kousa Dogwoods, Hawthorns, Black Locusts, White Oaks, Peaches, Pears. Could become a different type of foraging mecca. Will have to write a proposal, and have someone draw up an artist sketch.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blackberries for David, and swimming in the Charles River

There is a guy who occasionally pickets "Save the geese" along the BU bridge. I took a pamphlet from him the other day to check out what his beef is. Basically, he is concerned about the town of Cambridge disturbing the few remaining wild life areas. The result of this has been that the geese are now confined to what he calls "the ghetto" - the area under the BU bridge where they all hang out. I always just thought they liked hanging out there, it was sort of protected, there are so many of them they seem well-fed and all...but he had a different opinion. He said that Cambridge planted all those shrubs on magazine beach to keep them out of there. Maybe so, but they planted some shad bushes and elderberries (and way too many willows) so I can't really complain. Plus, the geese in the ghetto don't seem to care for the blackberries that are there right now, so I have been hauling them out of there for the last couple weeks, and they keep giving. Geese don't like the pokeweed or the milkweed either. We get along well.

The single elderberry bush that I have been hitting is offering up big yields too right now. I tried another jelly (crab apple/elderberry) this morning, crossing my fingers for it to jell correctly.

Brian and I took a dip in the Charles River the other day. Temperatures in the 90s plus a B++ rating was enough to get us in there, although naturally we were a tad wary about it. So, we were sitting there dangling our feet over the dock and procrastinating for a while when a large black woman with her 3 kids strolled by. They were lingering, assessing, so I asked her if they ever went in. She responded without pause:

HELL NO


Pretty sweet.

Anyhow, the water was great, and we kept our feet far away from disturbing the bottom.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I sit here in a beautiful bed and breakfast in Madison, WI and I look at the title of my blog and I feel like I should start with brief thoughts on the three topics that don't get enough attention.

YOGA. Down to twice a week, so my yoga prowess that I had going in say March has dropped. I ran class the other night at the gallery...my one night home in two weeks, and it was fine. I had to go easy on my right wrist though because on my recent trip to Seattle, Kevin D's drunk buddy Dahveeed got wasted and tackled me [jokingly, but it hurt...head went down pretty hard on the pavement] and I caught us on my wrist.

ART. I got rejected from the arboretum juried art show. Given the jpeg I sent, I thought I might get accepted, and then maybe they'd regret the acceptance when they saw the real thing. jpegs of my art always look better than the real thing. Taken to the limit, a jpeg would be a single pixel...how bad can that look? Well, anyhow, just so it doesn't become solely a collector of dust (old joke from the tuesday night magic auctions in Watertown I used to go to as a kid: "This one's a collector's item"..some genius heckler in the back .."Yeah, it collects dust"), here it is. Title: "And Washes In Dew From The Hawthorn Tree". Isn't that enough to get admitted?

ART2: Gaudi stuff in Spain was fantastic. I dug it because he used nature but only as a starting point, he didn't just copy it directly. It was more like nature meets cubism in architecture, and I fully realize I am treading into waters I'm not that familiar with when I write something like that. But really, in summer time we all have to put up with a ton of bad nature art - visit any sea-side town and go into any art gallery for the latest in wind swept beach dune scenes tacky enough to want to make you hurl yourself off the nearest pier. Those 'artists' could learn a lot from Gaudi: don't just copy...make it your own. Heck, I could too. But I've pretty much decided that if and when Art Night resumes in the fall, I'm going to use the time to crank away on my book, which I've not begun but already titled: Urban Foraging.

MUSIC: Highlight from Spain was the wanna-be Chickenslacks who did a lot of originals. Like, "I dig black music". Sarah couldn't drink but still tore it up, I got boozed up enough to find it very amusing to watch a guy buy cigarettes from a machine, so much so that I recorded the whole process with my camera, including him walking out the door and off into the evening. Last night in Madison on the water I had a tofurky bratwurst and a large beer and enjoyed some not-very-good live music, but the setting was nice and if the mayor of Boston ever gets around to reading this blog, well, I think we should have a place like that in town.

MUSIC2: Karaoke in Ocean Shores Washington. After my work trip to California, which was great, except for the Joshua Tree National Park which may as well be closed in mid summer in my opinion unless you are trying to lose weight, I headed up to Washington State to tour the Olympic Peninsula with my friend Kevin D from Williamstown. After the photo show at the gallery by Jeff Weinstock on the O.P., I decided I'd get out there soon, and Kevin was a willing participant. Well, the first day we got a late start due to our drinking and wrist injuring the night before, so we didn't even get out there till late. But not too late for karaoke in a very hick town Jersey-shore-esque. Kevin was honestly a little worried by the looks of this place, but we charged right in. Within about 2 minutes, I had a tattooed guy telling me he was just looking for a reason to punch some dude like 4 stools down. Great. Oddly enough, the first song tough-guy sang was "You send me". It was a country song karaoke feast other than that, with all the women there blasting out their polished tunes waiting for american idol scouts to jump up and whisk them away. I figured it would be a great time to try a new Morrissey song, so I did "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now." I can't say it was a hit or anything, since basically no one was listening, but one dude came up to me and said he liked it, and Kevin promises to give it a whirl next chance he gets, so I declare full success.

The photo is from the Hoh rain forest in the Olympic Peninsula, and has nothing to do with foraging, art, yoga, or bad karayoke.

Finally, a brief word on FORAGING.

In my recent world tour, here are some foraging highlights:
* Oranges and dates and purslane, all eaten on, from Spain.
* Something like sea rocket, tasted but not swallowed, on the California coast. Brittany and I also gave names to about 5 other plants that we found along the shore. Gumbi plant, Perspiring Brittany Bush, and more.
* Thimbleberries, red elder berries, salal (another berry), and a salmon berry, in the Olympic Peninsula.
* Madison WI is a few weeks behind, so out here I've been enjoying mulberries and gawking at the number of black walnut trees. If I lived out here I would quickly figure out a good way to process those guys.
* Back home for my two days in between Washington and Wisconsin, I went foraging with Becca who will write a foraging article in the globe coming soon. We had a nice meal of berries, greens, and mushrooms. The mushroom find was key, and involved me getting very excited to see a Russian woman out there getting them herself. I got so excited to ask her stuff I scared her away a bit, but I chased her down and finally she showed me her goods. She was collecting boletes, but had some of the ones that turn blue when you open them or press them. I haven't gotten to that level yet, I leave those ones alone, even though I hear they are very tasty and I'm dying for someone to show me how to positively ID them.

Also, I ate a mound of purlsane in the U.W. arboretum this afternoon. That place is big and wild and obviously hard for them to keep up, but, even though they dissed me on the art show, my heart still resides in the Arnold Arboretum, super-manicured though it is.

Ruby beach...the Olympic Peninsula.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Watermelon man

The Re-paint show at the gallery is really great and the opening was well attended, and we've sold two pieces already, so full success on that front. Yoga is also in full swing with 4 new teachers. Now we just need to get the students pouring in.

Today was the first mushroom walk of the Boston Mycological club's season. The results were not spectacular despite the heavy rain last night, which drenched a lot of people including me. I was quite happy to crawl into bed after that and curly up with the ever volatile M. Fukuoka. This book, called The Road To Paradise, sounds much more serene than it actually is. Instead of spending much time exposing his ideas behind no-till, aka natural, framing, he just goes off the spout about everything from industrial rice growers to Charles Darwin. His idea for a world which has everyone leave the cities and take up their quarter acre to farm their rice, barley, and veggies is so out of touch it's amazing this got through the publisher's sieve.

Anyhow, I hoped to pick up one new tidbit at the BMC walk this morning and I did. The prez, Ellen, told me that the Ganoderma tsugae (the shiny shelf polypore in the picture) I had found was "a very good one and perfect for making tea with anti-cancer properties". Sweet. Shannon is staying at my place for a couple weeks, we're gonna hit that. Can't have too much anti-cancer tea.

Other hits of the mushroom weekend were oyster mushrooms at the woods by a graveyard in Dorchester (how is it that Dorchester is like my top place for mushrooming???), and chantrelles on my way home from the BMC walk.





Last weekend, Henry and his infinite cuteness kept everyone feeling good. here he is with a watermelon.



Finally, although I didn't find enough time to really harvest all the juneberries and mulberries that i could have, I did go out yesterday evening to shake a few mulberry trees. I put a sheet down so they'd fall onto it, and got an OK harvest. Well, the mulberries I found yesterday were white ones, which I don't like as much. But, it's fresh fruit and it's free, so who really cares about it. Partridge berries are the same way, except they are even blander. but this got me thinking in the woods today. I'll show someone some partridge berries and they will try them and inevitably sort f shrug and tell me they don't taste like anything. This doesn't make me love them any less though. Cows don't complain that grass is bland. They just stand there and eat, and then sit there and eat again -- ruminate -- all day. We humans, so spoiled, everything has to "taste good". I'm going on a partridge berry campaign to point this out. Speaking of weird campaigns, just learned that President Polk used the poke berry plant as his campaign illustration. Weird. I also found a massive amount of pokeweed over by the oysters in the Dorchester graveyard. Next spring. Finally, I found some wild parsnips out in Littleton or so on the way to the walk today (I pulled over when I spotted their yellow buds). I will make that trip next spring too since i like them so much. I mean, they are no partridge berries, but...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Utagawa Hiroshige and the hanging foragers

Last weekend's adventure was babysitting, in order of increasing age, Callie, Sam, Jaime, and Bella. We had lots of fun and burned lots of calories. I tried out my idea of teaching kids foraging by letting them come up with their own names for plants. Sheep sorrel got renamed sour fish. It's sour, and tastes like a fish. This is a much better name than sheep sorrel. I just want to make the foraging literature even more confusing (like, if every plant had as many English names as the Shad bush does).

We came across some Indian Cucumbers on our West Hanover hike. This is a great hike a mile from their house, and so far I've gotten them on it twice, even though both times, around 2/3 in, the complaints start; are we almost done,... all that. They love it though.

Not sure if I should have, but I've started bella on her own blog. Her entries are short and simple, I could learn from that. Check it out: www.fantastic-friendship.blogspot.com.

The main thanks goes to Corina and my mother: they did all the hard work, including one unmentionable task early on, thanks to Sam+fruit. Hated to tell him the next day "no fruit" - who wants to say that to anyone (well, except if you are starting your own locavore movement and you are in New England in January), but, it was prudent. Enough said.

The rock tripe that sarah and I found on top of Red Mountain was delicious. In a strange mixing of worlds and art and foraging, I stumbled across (ok, there was some hunting) a beautiful Japanese print of people foraging for rock tripe, with a serious rigging. I can't even tell you how happy that makes me. It's by the same guy who did the big one in Sarah's dining room that I'm always gawking over. I prepared the tripe by boiling it for about 20 minutes, after a 2 hour soak in two water changes with some baking soda -- rock tripe eats rocks so you have to tame the acids. Then I added it to pasta with garlic and local asparagus.

Thanks to Kingsolver's book, I feel guilty buying avocados now since they are not local. Soon, I'll be eating only lambs quarters and wood sorrel, two weeds outside my door.

Foraging news:
* Brought some juneberries into chef Barry at The Hungry Mother the other day. he ate 'em right up, no questions asked, and then asked for them to use in a dessert that night. Then I told him on email that milkweed will be offering a crunchy edible part soon, and he is game to try it. Will try to get some recipes for the book with this collaboration. Chef Barry was voted one of the top 10 new chefs in America by Food and Wine.
* Lamb's quarters a current favorite, lady's thumb ok. Both out lots now. With all the rain we've had, mushrooms are out too. I don't really know what I'm seeing though. I grabbed what I hoped was a boletus bicolor the other day, but back at the office for an ID, I discovered it probably was not, it wasn't red enough.

* Cattail has been a challenge for me - for all the hype it gets in foraging books, I haven't really loved it yet. But I'm coming around. The young familiar cattail spike part is good like mini-corn-on-the-cob. Here I shaved it off after boiling for a few, and used it as a pizza topping along with sour fish, daisy leaves, and a tiny bit of early purslane.


* My oatmeal these days involves juneberries and knotweed compote. (I realize when you start a sentence with "My oatmeal these days.." people might fall asleep.)

Yoga at the gallery stands to pick up. Four new teachers coming soon, stay tuned. Also, the gallery now has it's own blog, The Scene, thanks to Intern Melissa.

More pics from the babysitting, recent foraging.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Berry season has begun

With all this rain I should have more time to blog, but things -- a trip to Vermont, half a day's walk through Boston to hand-deliver the application for 501(c)3 non-profit status recognition for the gallery, seeing Brian off for his trip to Spain, painting a Repaint for the juried art show, and starting my hawthorn tag painting for the arboretum juried show -- have been keeping me busy.

But, in the spirit of keeping this blog up to date with what's edible now, berry season has begun in earnest. Juneberries (aka service berries aka shad berries aka saskatoon berries aka Amelanchier sp...does any berry have more names? i guess this is what happens when a berry has a fairly wide native range but it has never been commercialized to give it a single common name) and mulberries are out. A classic foraging moment happened yesterday when Shannon and I came across some shad bushes out in front of the federal reserve bank in downtown Boston. We were filling up a large cup's worth of them and this older gentleman comes up to us all awkward and says - "are you going to make a pie with those? those..Amelanchier canadensis..". I just identified big time because I also love nothing more than to bust out the Latin name of something any chance I get. Like in yoga when you bust out the Sanskrit. We just all like people to know that we know our stuff. Or at least me and that guy do.

Anyhow, here's a nice vegan Juneberry pie Sarah and I whipped up the other night. Photo courtesy of Perez E.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lunch from Dorchester

Eating cattails, curly dock, and onion buds from along the river down in South Dorchester.

Last night some friends and I met up at Middle East. Meghan's boyfriend Mark is in town for an MIT conference so we all went to dinner. Dinner was nice, chit chat about art and such, until the COMEDY SHOW started. Not just comedy...open-mic comedy. Talk about stressful and not funny. I had to get out of there. At this points, a few pitchers in, we headed down to the Cantab for some bluegrass, and brought our typical Thursday night shenanigans there on a Tuesday night. We picked up a straggler named Shannon Senn on the way and had a blast. No one lost any shirts, although it was close at times.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grape leaves

One of my purposes for keeping this blog (which would more appropriately be called simply Forage since I never discuss art yoga and music) is to remind myself of what's out when for a book on foraging that I may eventually right. Anyhow, grape leaves are out right now and abundant at bussey brook meadow, a small section of the Arboretum I came across the other day with Jody and Shannon. In short, this small section, which used to be farmland in the 17th - 19th centuries, has instantly become my new favorite foraging spot in Boston. I've never seen even close to that many stinging nettles before. I might go commercial with them next spring. And tons of wild grapes -- get me some bottles and throw me over there in august and I'll have the whole city drunk by december. I still need to read a good wine book, I don't even know how long it takes to make wine.

Right now the grape leaves are perfect for stuffing. Last night I stuffed a bunch with brown rice and assorted wild greens - lady's thumb, lamb's quarters, clover blossoms, plantain. And I made them correctly so they are moist and ... yummy, which is apparently the only word I know to describe good food.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer unofficial

Memorial Day came in with a cold dip in Walden Pond. I still have to see the movie Yes Man because I feel that all the time, plus I love Jim Carey. Kate and Brian jumped in so I had to follow. It was a good way to usher in summer.

Last night we ushered in movie night (to replace art night..maybe not the best idea regarding creativity, but certainly more relaxing). 400 Blows, a French movie about a kid who has shitty parents so he gets in trouble a lot at school, and finally just leaves altogether. He gets caught stealing and gets sent off to Observation Camp to be watched by shrinks and juvenile officers. The movie ends with his escape, a long run to the ocean, which he's never seen before. I thought it was a great flick, and the tofurkey sandwich which Jordan made for me could have qualified as art, so art night didn't die quiet yet.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Who has time to blog with all this foraging to be had?


Last weekend I joined Brian for a 4-borough bike tour of NYC. Towards the end of our loop, back in Inwood, we re-visited the black locust trees I pointed out to Paul and crew last fall, and sure enough, they were in the perfect stage for eating the flowers. This was the first time I ate them, and I completely understand why Sam Thayer devoted a whole chapter in his book to them, they are great. I brought a bunch home and showed them to Romanian Corina, who flipped out, like usual "WE HAVE THOSE IN ROMANIA!!". She says this about every plant I point out to her...dandelions, grass,... Well, in this case her Romanian upbringing came threw big, she taught me how they make fritters with them and we did a vegan version that was excellent. Next time I'll try with whole wheat flour I think, for more substance.
And next time might be soon, because the next day after we ate them, and after I complained to her that beantown doesn't have enough of them, I came across a boatload of them near Ringe Ave in Cambridge. I was up there because she dragged me to an "opera" which turned out to be a mess in several ways. First, it was the CSO, not exactly the most in tune orchestra I've ever heard. Second, it was in the vineyard church, one of those new touchy feely christian congregations that make my skin crawl. but, I found black locust so totally worth it.

Came across a great book at Rodney's in central. despite their total lack of decent fiction, they do pretty well stocking nature books. Sure, there are occasionally titles like "Weed Survey of Michigan, 1968", but there are lots of gems too. Bought Ghosts of Evolution, a book about fruits and seed pods that no longer have natural dispersal agents (animals who eat them and crap out the seeds far from the tree). Like, avocados, mangoes, papayas, honey locusts (everywhere in cambridge - a tree adored by urban arborists for its deep roots that don't crack the sidewalk, and its ability to grow in all sorts of soil qualities). Anyhow, where are those dispersal agents? They are extinct! 13,000 years or so they vanished, but the plants have hung on and now we cultivate them. Kentucky Coffee Tree is on the list, and so I gathered a bag of last years seed pods and will roast them soon to try the coffee substitute enjoyed by colonists in Kentucky. Since there are no dispersal agents for this tree left, sure enough, under on of those trees, or the honey locust, you find an abundance of fallen pods. So this is great, we're not stealing from the squirrels!

Lots of pokeweed over the last couple weeks, some in suspect places, see photo, but I'm still kicking, so all good.
It's too bad you have to cook it to death before eating it since it's so juicy and pretty when you pick it.

A trip out to upstate NY a few weeks ago to visit and forage with my friend Sarah from the yearly Rhode Island Rhythm and Roots music festival proved extremely fruitful. My personal highlight was finding the roadsides abounding with wild parsnips. This was the classic exciting 'first find': I'd seen the pictures of the notable leaf pattern so many times in books I recognized it right away, and it was really yummy (it's the same as cultivated parsnip). Apparently it's classified as an invasive, which just means it's strong and successful, and so, to celebrate its strength, I named my newest computer at work after it - pastinaca. Some other items of note on that foraging trip where trout lily, wild mint, nettles, and some yellow violets. Here's the feast.

Lady's thumb is out now and it's a good potherb. Despite this blog entry, I think there's a slight lull in great edibles right about now, so I go after things like lady's thumb and lamb's quarters. Here's lady's thumb, easy to spot to the the centered dark splotch on each leaf.

Lastly, another word on knotweed: that stuff will grow anywhere. Saw it in a stream the other day, a lone, skinny one. Cut to ten years from now and the stream has a knotweed damn. At least any beavers left won't have to work so hard.

OK, one more last thing. As I type these final sentences, my mouth is full of watercress from J.P. Watercress is a sneaky little one, but somehow the seeds adrift always find the places that make you say, "yep, that's just where watercress ought to be."

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Tab (and Bigfoot)

Last night was an eventful one at the Cantab. Before making it to the tab, our thursday night haunt with the Chicken Slacks, we had a great opening reception at the gallery for Miriam's show. Then some drinks at the Middle East and some vegan grub, then off to the tab. I think I worried some of my friends who didn't see how the whole following went down, but here it is in brief.

I walk outside for the set break and there's a tall black (only important because he kept bringing up race and how I "don't know anything", etc) homeless (also important for the same reason), self-professed alcoholic 59 year old guy. Anyhow, he's singing really well, and tapping some rhythms on his legs, and it sounds so good and I've had a couple of drinks so I sit down and join him in song. He feeds me the bass line which I sing, and I think we're sounding pretty good. Then it went down hill right after that song. He tore into me, getting in my face. Which was fine, because I knew he wasn't going to do anything bad and it was obvious he was sort of all over the place, canned lines, not listening to me, so I took it for a while, then decided that I thought he wanted some action. So I started barking back a little at him...this is when my friends were worried something was actually going down, which of course it wasn't. Anyhow, we calmed down after a bit, and then for about 30 minutes, I got some seriously nutty tales. He was obviously well-educated somewhere along the long line of life, dropping interesting words and phrases. He told me he used to be an industrial psychologist, ok fair enough, his friend had been a clinical psychologist. But then there was a refrigerator in a field somewhere (he could not disclose the location, there was some military tie in, but it sounded like southern U.S.) locked up, and he was hiding behind it to not get shot. Enter Saskwatch - aka BigFoot, although Al also refered to him as Billy. Billy saved him, and was huge, and had a fat girfriend, but with a very cute face, but Al hasn't seen him since it all happened. After that story, Al asked me, "Are you an abductee." He claimed to have been abducted by aliens. It went on like that for a while.

We ended on a good note, both fed up with the world but agreeing on that at least, and we stood up and I moseyed back into the tab. And I guess to clear my own conscious, I am not posting this in a way of saying "hey look at all the fucked up crazy people out there, check this one out...". I like talking to people, and if I can talk to someone who got the short end of the stick, all the better. I generally try to listen and do my best to commiserate on the sadness of how the world stamps some people down so hard. It would be great to know his story, and all the other stories. Afterward, his friend saddled up to me and told me I had lots of patience.

Then, we got freindly with Sam, who we only ever see serving us falafel late night at Moody's, but he was out and about last night. Nice guy. Apparently "suspended" from the job until Monday -- issues with the boss. We still got ourselves a great couple of falafels, which we really didn't need given that we all consumed tons of homemade hummous with japanese knotweed and dock, and another with all sorts of wild greens, including linden leaves which are out in full force right now. We alsohad the treat of a Mike "Not Art" appearance, who tagged brian's T-shirt and my gray button down. The Not Art movement is going strong thanks to it's one foot soldier, Mike.

Monday, May 4, 2009

All in one week

My how things change during one good week of Spring in Boston. I come back from a great trip to the Vineyard to find all the leaves of the maples, oaks, and lindens out, and the last-week dormant honey locust leaves popping out too. So, on my ride in today I gathered my lunch salad: linden leaves, cleavers, dandelion greens, plantain, and curly dock. And bought some annie's asian sesame dressing to make it all taste yummy.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Martha's vineyard greens salad


From the violets up top around clockwise:

  • violets and their leaves
  • wild mint
  • dandelion leaves
  • wild carrot
  • cleavers
  • narrow leaf plantain
  • curly dock
  • j-weed
  • orpine aka sedum aka live-forever aka frogbellies

For the salad, I cooked the carrots, steamed half the dandelion leaves, the cleavers, the plantains, the dock, and the j-weed. Then cooled it, and added the rest of the greens raw, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. It was yummy. It's satisfying when the land can look pretty barren but still yield such a good variety of eats. Going foraging with Lindsey Lee, author of Edible Wild Plants of Martha's Vineyard, tomorrow. If you're on the vineyard at this time, you can also be tantalized by the serviceberry trees blooming in the meadows and the autumn olive leaves coming out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"I'm hungry but I don't want to eat plants."

I stopped at my brother's in Hanover to pick up his bicycle for my trip to the vineyard. Instead, I got my nephew Sam. We really tore it up for the couple days he was here with my mother and me too. Up at 6 am, in bed at 7 pm, and for those 13 hours, non-stop action.

Some highlights:

Feeding the horses using our flat palms (dandelions, violets, and dock).

Picking dandelions for dandy bread, and making it. And eating it. Sam didn't want to have jam on his because I wasn't and my mother wasn't, but then he tasted it: "I want jam on mine."

Sam and I took a bike ride along a nice easy bike path. Every time we went downhill he'd say, "Oh no I can't look I can't look," but I'd look back and he'd be looking. I guess he just likes to say that. I saw an old beat up car in the woods so we stopped to check it out and take a pee break, and then he piped up with "Hey...pea and pee is the same word." We have been talking a bit about peas lately since we planted some at his house and the beach pea plants are out too. No pictures of all this sam fun because my camera out of juice right when I opened it first day here. So I just fired up my webcam to snap me and Henry.

We did some good monkey swinging from the twisty tree in Cedar Neck Sanctuary. At some point when he got hungry, I think this was back by the horses, he came out with the soon to be classic: "I'm hungry but I don't want to eat plants." I'm not discouraged, he'll make a good forager. He helped my scrub in the ocean the evening primrose roots we found in Biddy's yard.

Whiffle ball and 'ping pen' and harmonica playing and lego building were our at home fun time activities. Like I said, we packed in the days really well. When 7 pm rolled around each day, I felt a certain sense of accomplishment, not to mention quite a sense of fatigue too.

Now we have Henry with us, but he's all Lorena's job basically, and he's doing just fine. We just got back from a walk around the woods here and found enough wintergreen berries to actually make it worthwhile to collect them. I've also sucked it up and just been making strawberry Japanese knotweed crisp. Although I'm still searching for the best savory preparation, I want to hook people in to wild plants, so I'm selling out and making the crisp. And, we were actually able to 'forage' the strawberries yesterday -- as we were leaving Stop and Shop, I noticed in the trash a big container of strawberries with one moldy one on top. I paused, looked around and snatched it. True foraged Japanese knotweed strawberry crisp.

Here's me, webcam: .

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Art night

Finally did a painting last night at art night, haven't done one in weeks. Grabbed some knotweed and a dandelion (entire plant, with root) and painted them. I like the idea of painting from the real objects in front of me, but I think they always come out worse than when I work from photos, and I think that's because with a photo I don't feel rushed, and I guess it's also easier from photos because everything is already flattened onto 2D for me. Anyhow, when I was doing this painting I was thinking about japanese ink paintings, which I know almost nothing about but I totally love. Read this blog for more, by a local writer. But, alas, I can't do it. My friend Valeria took a photo of my little watercolor last night, from her iPhone, mailed it to me, this morning I threw it through an oil filter using gimp, and voila, kind of nice. Japanese/watercolor/iPhone/oil/tech painting of knotweed and dandelion root and greens.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Knotweed, the movie

Thanks to Rob House for filming and editing this.



I'm going to try something like knotweed thyme soup soon, and also I want to try frying them. Think fried artichokes. I also ate some with peanut butter last night. Other than the fact that I gobbled up way too much peanut butter in a short amount of time, causing me to be swallowing for the next 20 minutes or so, it was pretty good. I've also been cutting up raw pieces and adding them to any hot savory dish and they work well there as little bursts of lemony crunch.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Island #2

Last week I went to the Cambridge department of public works for some free compost. They had a mountain of the stuff. The former City Arborist happened to be there, so I took the chance to let him know I was a forager and see if he had any cool trees that I should know about. He hooked me up big time. A couple female ginkos on Church St, some june berries in Inman Square, a Kousa dogwood over by the library. That info was worth more to me than the free compost, but I'm pretty excited about both.

Today, Brian and Sarah E and I hit the minuteman trail to harvest some knotweed. It was pretty fun to barrel through the old stalks, they crunch away pretty easily and create quite a ruckus. Brian and I are both pretty scraped up as a result but it was fun. We had to get a bunch of knotweed for the competition we are hosting here tomorrow. It looks like we'll have about 12 contestants or so, so it should be pretty fun, and funny.

The other night I ate a nice meal of nettles and knotweed that grabbed in the Fens. here it is. I've decided that when people say, Hmm, that's pretty good, all it really means is that I can cook pretty well. These vegetables, like all vegetables, are all about how they are prepared. There's very few magic vegetables that are just good no matter what you do with them. Sweet corn, garden tomatoes, they come to mind. For everything else, add some olive oil and garlic and salt and fry it up fast, and you probably have a hit.

I'm still hoping that Cambridge Tab covers me, they called me and chatted for a while yesterday about my knotweed cookoff, but I haven't seen anything yet. But I sent them some nice pics, and if they don't publish them there, well, at least they are going up here.


I finally convinced myself that all the marsh marigold I have been seeing is in fact marsh marigold. I cooked it up last night, 3 changes of water boiled for a total of 30 minutes to get rid of all the toxins. And sure enough, totally tasteless after that. And then Noah asked me a perfectly reasonable question: after all that boiling, is there any nutritional value left? Well, I guess what i should have answered is, imagine you were on an island with either 1) only water or 2) water an marsh marigolds. I'm sure you'd live a lot longer on island number 2. Still, I see his point. And to roughly quote Sam Thayer, "The problem with marsh marigold is, they inherently taste bad." Pretty funny coming from a great foraging book. So why include it in the book? Because it's an old standby for New England foragers and it's one of the first greens aplenty to come up in Spring. It really tastes like nothing though, and I doubt I'll grab much more of it.

I've probably blogged about this before, but I have to vent a little more. it drives me absolutely buts that no one asks me what the heck I'm doing out there when I am digging up and plucking wild plants. I mean, we were crashing through knotweed stands today and no one asked a single question. PEOPLE!!! Finally Sarah E got some people to ask me questions which made me infinitely happy. She later told me she prompted them discretely, but whatever, once they started talking they asked more questions and were excited to learn.

Since I knew I'd be around for a straight month or so with no trips, I decided to finally undertake sourdough; I started a couple weeks ago. 6 days to make the barm, aka the mother starter.
I've had a little success with the actually bread, but nothing to write home about (although, evidently enough to blog about...). Basically, it's a huge pain in the ass and I'm going to probably leave it for the San Franciscans. The picture here makes it look better than it actually came out. Well, truth be told, it has been some of the best bread I've ever made, but not 8 days of effort good. After spending 8 days, the stuff oughtta taste like bacon wrapped scallops. Plus, I ended up using some active yeast for the final rise since it wasn't moving with the wild yeast that should've been naturally in there. It tasted somewhat sour.

On Easter, my brother Jay and I took 3 of his 4 kids on a great walk through the woods of west Hanover. Here you seem them all happy and fun. What you don't see is 30 minutes from that shot, when they are all complaining: how far, when do we get home, I'm hungry, I'm tired. Meanwhile, Jay and I are having a blast because we stumble across the old West Hanover graveyard, home to all the dead bodies of the 1860s of West Hanover. And the kids were alright once we came out of the woods and got them candy at the liquor store. It was Easter afternoon, but apparently they hadn't had enough candy yet. I had potato chips. I can never have enough of them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Things in the Fens

Turns out the Fens has more than just community gardens and homosexuals in the reeds. It also hosts a good deal of stinging nettle, some evening primrose, a turtle in one of the ponds, and I'm pretty sure some marsh marigold which I will have to return to soon and verify, because that one will be a new one for me. It is a little strange though to harvest these plants from the Fens when there's very likely a used condom three feet away. Such is urban foraging.

I'm adept at getting nettle without needing my nettle gloves now. I'm a little slower at it, but I think that's fine, there's no rush. made a nice pesto last night of galric mustard weed, dandelion greens, spring onions, primrose roots, garlic, evoo, salt, etc. Threw it on a past with Andrew and crew, it was great. And a side dish of nettles with some very early japanese knotweed shoots. So small it's ridiculous to be harvesting them already, since in two weeks they'll be everywhere and crazy. But, you have to ease people into them, after all. They need a better name. I'm going to post a contest online I think for best vegan j-weed preparation. Should get a little stir in the community going. If it goes well, will do it for other local forageables.

Linden leaves will be out for the munching soon. Annie at the gallery brought in a branch of linden, which has sprouted it's yummy leaves earlier by being inside in the warm gallery. Gallery nibbles.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Walk

When you live in Cambridgeport and you like to forage - the Charles River is the best place for a little fix after work or something. On Wednesday, art night, which has sort of turned into music night with me, brian, rob and dan rehearsing old folk and soul numbers, brian decided we'd go with ethiopian food.
We did, but it was Ethiopian food with a side of evening primrose roots and wild onions (with berbere, of course).

The roots are starchy parsnip looking vegetables with a spicy taste but they're one of those foraging items that makes you proud to be a forager because they are so hearty and cool and unseen. Last year when I started foraging, the books said the evening primrose was one of the first edibles available, but I had no idea how to find it. I mean, they say it's everywhere, but is it really. One thing I've learned over the past year is, when they say that something is found everywhere, it really is. Seeds fly and go everywhere, and in habitats that are conducive to their growth, you will find them. The other thing I've learned is, walk, no cycling, you'll miss the basal rosettes, you'll miss the early nettles (which I saw the other day too - but am holding off until they get a little more substantial).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Caterpillars and butterflies

I don't get it at all. A caterpillar eats leaves creating a big squishy soft body, then wraps itself in a cocoon. Then a few months later out emerges a butterfly. Completely insane.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wild onions on the Charles

A little over a year ago, my friends Brian and Alex left me a little surprise when I came back from a week away. My bed was covered with bananas. Trader Joe's was selling them for 20 cents each, they bought 100. For weeks afterward I ate 3 bananas a day - part of the genius of this particular surprise prank gift is that I can't waste food of any sorts, so right away I knew I was in for a lot of bananas. I ended up having to freeze a bunch [ :) ] of them, and I'm still working on them - I took a break for a while - but almost done. Anyhow, Brian also has this aero herb garden that is awesomely productive and he mowed down the field the other day and gave me a bucket of herbs to mow through. The combination is the result. Banana and herb smoothies, with some assorted whatever like pineapple, lemon, and also some nut milk like almond or hazelnut. And the verdict: excellent. So soon, instead of herb smoothies, it will be wild edible greens smoothies.

We always want spring to come quicker than it does, and we always get teased. The warm weekend in early March is the teaser. Today, the last Sunday in March, is cold and rainy and I'm sitting in the gallery awaiting the Muse Stew jazz show. But what I'm really awaiting is the coming of the foraging season. Here I've been teased too. I found some wild onions on the Charles the other day, and gobbled some up on the spot. Then i returned for more and put them in my miso soup. So I thought - foraging is on. I even think I've spotted lots of evening primrose stalks from last year so i am diligently returning to those spots to look for basal rosettes that I can yank up for a big yummy root. No luck yet though. And yesterday poking through my brother's woods, the most I found was some old wintergreen and some old puffballs, which amused my nieces and nephew. I tell them - don't eat these - as if a child would want to pop a weird dried out old mushroom in his mouth. Still, they've seen me pop in plenty of weird things in my mouth out there, so I gotta be clear.

Briefly, the 3 books in my life right now: Dragon Mountain - memoirs of a late Ming man. Sometimes I'm at a bookstore and I see a book that looks good and has high praise, and I know jack squat about the subject, so I buy it and see what happens. So, I'm learning about the life of one upper class Chinese guy born around 1500 who was an essayist. Upper class in the Ming apparently studied their entire lives away preparing for state exams, each rung they passed allowing them a better state job. So, nights of socializing and partying, and taking boats out across the lakes, and attending and organizing lantern festivals, and days reading ancient texts, Confusious, that sort of thing, preparing for exams.

History of Anesthesia. This topic has always fascinated me. I mean, there are plenty of things that "shouldn't exist" - sea horses being a prime example. The world is already strange enough that it exists as it does, and then you throw in the sea horse and it just pushes us over the edge. OK, so you have sentient life, which is _obviously_ whacked out. And then the straw breaking the camel's back - you can find not just one but several chemicals that shut off consciousness and allow doctors to saw off limbs and remove internal tumors and yank out teeth, with the patient having no feeling or memory of pain. The stories from the book that I like the the best so far are these 1840's science guys sitting around passing out as they experiment with ether, chloroform, nitrous oxide, what have you. Science doesn't happen that way anymore.

Just finished "Changes in the Land" which I picked up for free at the irate hippy Harvard square sidewalk book seller who is getting thrown out by Cambridge, so giving all the books away. Slim pickings, definitely now. A couple of months ago I stumbled on this book on their shelves, it's about how the ecology of New England changed when the colonists came over and pushed out the Indians. Briefly, the settlers were not about to be roamers like the Indians, and grazing and farming a single piece of land wears it out pretty fast. Indians working the land were constantly moving and burning undergrowth and had a pretty steady state sustainable thing going. This all changed come 1620, and the book details the process. Also, the book prompted me to look into the story about how the settlers gave smallpox infested blankets to the Indians to wipe them out. This always depressed me a lot. turns out, it's not true. There seems to have been one letter written by someone suggesting this as a possible tactic, but there is no evidence that it was ever done - and certainly if it was done it was a small time operation and not massively organized and repeated. Anyhow, a relief.

Jazz time.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A quick walk - oenothera by the tracks.

Today I'm sitting the gallery all day. Lots of people came in - the good weather gets people out. Pete kindly offered to sit and relieve me for a couple hours. I took this time to do a walking loop: I took 3 bags of clothes and dumped them in the Planet Aid box, which brought me along the railroad tracks through Cambridge. I suspected I might find some old evening primrose stalks, and I did (I think). In less than a month rosettes should be out and I can dig them up and eat that spicy root vegetable that is supposed to be underground from them. I searched for these guys last year, but I was a real amateur then (now I'm a real intermediate), and had no clue. In the case of evening primrose, it's all about looking for last year's dead stalks. So, today then marks my first official foraging day of 2009, which is pretty exciting.

Then, I found my way to the salvy and bought my third microwave in the past half year. I have bad luck with them, they die suddenly. I'm feeling good about this one. It's the same model as the one at the gallery.

Drinking watery coffee. Allowed to drink a lot of it, even if it's past 4 PM.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pipe lights

I'm developing some new ways to get vegan food at a restaurant without being totally annoying and pretentious. Here's how I go: 'Do you have anything vegetarian?' (start them off gently). Then maybe they rattle something off something vegan in which case I'm good to go. Otherwise I say, that sounds good, but can you leave off the (cheese, milk, whatever), and everyone's happy. This might sound simple but it took some time to polish it so the whole vegan thing doesn't become mount vesuvius every time it comes out while out. I've been having much success with the technique here in Stockholm. I think it helps that I go to nice looking places, under the assumption that they have good chefs who are also hopefully decent people. Last night at a restaurant called the blue door (blo dorren or something) I got rice and ratatouille with asparagus, capers (HUGE capers, had to ask what they were), mushrooms, and spinach. It was fantastic. Also started off with some snaps. Their English spelling. They meant schnapps. They had some crazy flavors, including sweet gale, which I felt like I'd heard of. Back on the internet, I looked it up and it's similar to bayberry. Then I looked up schnapps recipes on the web, and it turns out that you can throw vodka over just about anything and make schnapps. Some examples - I'm not making these up: oak branches, pussy willow puffs (technically, "catkins", linden flowers and leaves, dandelion buds, and mountain ash berries). Foraging meets getting hammered Swedish style.

My days here, similar to in Costa Rica, have fallen into a nice workable pattern. Up at 7 or so for hotel breakfast, which is a great shmorgasborg of options that honestly tests my vegan will power every morning (all that cold herring and salmon, mmm) but I've passed thus far since they have lots of bread, fruit and veggies and mustard and nuts. I'll tell you though, the food that people waste kills me. Here I am not eating a slice of cheese and people are tossing out slices left and right. Hrrmph.

Found two great yoga classes thus far (much more impressive than Rekjavik, where I couldn't find a single yoga studio). Will go back to the first place tonight for a vinyasa class. I'm sort of going about this without the best yogi attitude. I'm essentially totally proud of all the yoga I've been doing and I know that I'm kicking butt in there. Oh well, one thing at a time, the yoga mindset is harder to instill than vriksasana (tree pose).

Stockholm is a great city and people should bump it up on their lists of places to visit. I keep finding new parts, which is a nice side benefit of searching out yoga studios. Last night's yoga, www.shaktiyoga.se, was in such a beautiful part of town I stood for a few minutes at an overlook just gazing at the city below. Then I saw some person far below on a path and it appeared that he was lighting his newspaper on fire. Turns out he was just lighting his pipe, it took a while and the flame looked bigger than that. After yoga I strolled around some more, and walked by tons of art galleries. The quality of the art in most of the galleries was poor. Makes me feel good, of course. I wonder what fraction of art galleries across the world are similar to all those Brooklyn boutiques you see: something besides sales keeping them afloat. I bet it's high.

Dark chocolate is a vegan life raft. I'm always on the prowl for it now...even the 7-11's here have it! And more than one type! Actually, the CVS at Charles/MGH also has a strangely good selection of dark chocolate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From paripurna navasana to enlightment in 8 steps

I'm back from the three week intensive yoga trip to Costa Rica, in body if not quite in action. In action, I've been going to bed early, like costa rica, waking up early, and hitting some yoga. I had to buy myself a new yoga pad (a lotuspad, made in cambridge!) because after 3 weeks of sweating mine up in the rainforest, that guy did not smell good at all. And doing yoga on a nasty yoga mat really detracts from the experience.

Some pics from the trip are up at snapfish. Supposedly everyone from the class (34 of us) are to post there, but everyone else must be stick in bird of paradise or something because no one it moving on it.

If I ever get bored, all I need to do is get a book of tropical edible and medicinal plants and head down to the tropics. It was like starting over down there, I didn't know what to forage. Luckily, I didn't need to, they fed us well, and we ate a ton. After hours of yoga, meal time, and when you know the next meal isn't for 3+ hours, you pack it in. Especially when it's vegan.

Lorena and Adam had Henry, who seems like a decent enough individual. Corina had much success keeping him settled. I didn't. I usually think I have a certain touch with kids, but I failed.

Here's a neat fact regarding yoga. Over the past 1000s of years, the yogis have laid out a path to enlightenment (which I'm just throwing out there as a word...not saying I know what it means). Anyhow, in the yogic view, the steps are basically as follows.

1) become a decent person to yourself and others.

2) practice your poses.

3) turn inward, removing your senses from the outside world and turning them on yourself.

4) but, lose yourself. meditate, detach from and eventually lose the thoughts that scamper across your brain.

5) after meditation practice, where you see firsthand that you are the same as the Oneness of the universe, the sense of self being an illusion (we didn't really talk about why this illusion persists or why on earth the whole shebang is set up this way, which dismayed me, but these types of why why why questions always pop up to me, and I got sick of hearing myself ask them while everyone else was just throwing around words like 'pure consciousness' and 'we are all one' with no problem).

So, anyhow, the interesting thing is, to real-deal yogis, the poses (yoga class here in the states) are only meant to train the body to be able to sit still and comfortably in meditation.

Thoreau called the original yogic texts some of the heaviest most worthwhile things to consume that the world has put forward...far more impressive and substantial than anything similar put out by the West. Of course then, this makes me want to read them. Add them to the every growing list. Also added to the 'to read' list this trip: The Road, some Nietszche, some book that brittany just finished that the teacher gave her, called orynx and crake or something.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

YOOOOGGGGGAAAAAAA

Good God there's a lot of yoga going on out here in Costa Rica right now. It's all great, but we are certainly packing in the material. Every day is identical, so I'll just spell out one for you.

Alarm clock goes off at 6, Jordan hits snooze twice, I'm glad it finally went off because I've been tossing and turning since 4:30 or so anyhow because this whole ultra-structured situation has not really sunk in with me yet. But, I'm trying to let it go and just keep on plowing. 6:30 - tea or coffee in silence with the other 34 people. 6:45 - in circle, meditation for 30 minutes. Then 2 hour yoga practice. Then breakfast. Oatmeal and local fruits and coffee. Then 3 hour class. In class we review all the sanskrit we've learned thus far, talk about yogic philosophy, people volunteer to read the essays on whatever topic was assigned the previous night, discuss discuss. Then we learn more poses and how to teach them, we practice. Then lunch. 2 hour break - nap, beach, pool, study, something like that. Then 3 hour anatomy class. Then dinner, then I', so darn tired I cannot even think about emailing everyone and blogging although I want to, but I have homework to do and it's late, so this is my first blog post from here yet. I thought I'd have tons of them!

Twice a week we get the afternoon off. That was today. Went zip-lining through the jungle, saw a couple sloths, it was awesome. Exhilarating.

The food here is fantastic and mostly vegan. The instruction is great. Meditation is a huge challenge for me, my mind likes to race, well, I guess everyone's does, and that's why it's such a challenge for us westerners to meditate. We are in a beautiful place though, howler monkeys in the trees, lots of nice people. It feels like we've been here forever already though. Man are we going to be cooked in yoga by the time we are out of here.

Off to dinner. Tonight's homework: write essay on aparigraha - the fifth yama, and learn the sanskrit for all the new poses, and learn like a thousand muscles it seems.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The preservation of knotweed

One crucial omission on my "things wrong with my car" list. I don't know how I forgot this one, it's great.

14) You have to sit on the back trunk to close it. Slam as hard as you want, to no avail. Sitting on it is the only way to close the back trunk.

For some reason in my old age, I'm getting picky with Cambridge businesses and swearing them off one by one. At ZuZu the other night, after we had had a drink and got there early enough to avoid the line and the cover charge, which has gone up to $5, the bouncer comes around collecting money from us if we wanted to stay. We got that place going back in the day, now they charge us once already inside. No good. India Palace the other night didn't know what the word 'vegan' meant. Then Indian food in Inman Square suckered us into paying for a henna tattoo. The quote from the waitress was something like "we have someone doing henna now, and it's free". The way she said it implied to all of us that it would cost nothing. Turns out she meant, "there's no one getting a henna right now" OF COURSE NOT, who wants a henna while enjoying dinner? I was excited for Indian food as a vegan, but I have to make it myself because it's too painful trying to make sure whatever you get is vegan. More on that in a few...

There have been at least 3 more restaurants/bars I've sworn off but I can't remember them. Old age again :). But, one place that has a solid A+ right now, and so I'm recommending it to all, is Amelia's in Kendall Sq. Nice people, chef who actually makes you feel fine about ordering vegan, and great food and great bar. Plus, it's off the beaten path and so it's a cool find.

Regarding making my own Indina food, so far so good. Coconut curry veggie stew the other night rocked. All supplies easily obtained at Shalimar in Central (although very hard to get the store staff enthused about white man cooking Indian food. So far, zero success on getting a smile, let alone a 'how 'bout that!'). Coconut milk - a food of the Gods, a creamy delicious vegan sauce.

Play last night, The Corn is Green, at Huntington BU theatre, fantastic. The last decent play I saw was Seafarers in NY. There have been a lot of duds out there, so it was a pleasant surprise. I am still crossing my fingers for the new central square theatre, but really, they gotta get some better programming in there. Just do Chekhov for a while, everyone's happy. Or Tennessee Williams, or Eugene O'Neill. Are the rights on those plays significantly more money or something? I have no idea.

I have my cell phone back, and a word of advice to anyone who loses their cell phone: figure out the insurance policies rules before you go blabbing about what happened. In my case, I lost the phone on the slopes because I was wearing a ridiculous old man's suit outfit and it popped right out...no zipper pockets on that ski outfit. But, I felt like that was too dumb, so instead I told them (truthfully) that my phone had been shutting off all the time in the cold weather and so (untruthfully) I got so annoyed the final time I just upped and threw it out. They read it back to me to confirm, and hit enter. Then they told me they don't cover thrown out phones. But they do cover lost phones. So I stuck my tail between my legs, called back the next day, and told the truth, all with levity of course. Got nowhere. Instead, received two letters in the mail - not sure why two, they were duplicates - highlighting that my phone could not be replaced via insurance because the client (me) misrepresented the facts of the case. So, the lesson learned is either 1) tell the truth, but, that's too much of a Latter Day Saint's type of lesson, and it won't necessarily always work, so I prefer 2) Figure out what story will get you a new phone, tell that one.

The weather is very cold right now. So, let's turn our thoughts to Spring. One of the first plants out in abundance around here for foraging is Japanese Knotweed. Check it out online. It's only around for good eating for about the first 3 weeks of its growth, so it goes fast, but there's tons of it. I'll be sponsoring a contest this year, the best recipe for it and the best way to preserve it. Sort of...The Iron Chef of urban wild edibles. Start brainstorming. It tastes a bit like rhubarb.