Wednesday, October 24, 2012

3D Pareto surface foraging

The world needs a nice picture of a 3D Pareto surface. I am always looking for one, so I took the time to make on. This has nothing to do with foraging, but this will at least make the thing available for public use. Hoping a google search for "3D Pareto surface" will have this as  a first hit soon enough.

In terms of FORAGING, my latest trip to California for the wedding of Melissa and Jeff included some nice new finds.   Foraged and ate a bunch of dragon fruits, a lot easier than the other red cactus fruits I've gotten before that require gloves because they are full of prickers.

Then there were the fallen oranges and grapefruits and persimmons. Black walnuts right at the wedding site provided a nice distraction, cracking them open on the rocks right there.  But my favorite item was the olives.  Lots of people grow olive trees, and I stopped at one point in San Bernadino and found about 5 full of olives on the street itself...not in someone's yard.  So I got a whole bunch and have various people (Stef, Helma) curing them for me. I took some home myself but didn't want to get them taken away by California Agricultural rules at the airport, which is why I convinced my California friends to cure them themselves. But I got mine through so am curing a small batch. They should be ready to try in about a month.

And once more, for search engine reasons: 3D Pareto surface.  And buy urban foraging on amazon!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I've been busy this summer rehearsing for 3 things: 2 choral performances and a play. Hopefully some of you can get to some of these. They will be cool in different ways so pick your poison. In order of the performances:

Chorus 1: (award winning)Mercury Orchestra sings Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe. This is a haunting, moody piece with hard jazzy voicings, and it should sound great in Sanders Theatre.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18 . 8:00 pm. More info here. Advance tickets are $20, $15 for students.


Play: Rumors, a wacky comedy by Neil Simon. I play the befuddled cop at the end of his rope, at the end of the play.  I get to yell a bit, which is fun. This is going up at the Georgetown Community Theatre, 22 Pleasant St.  Georgetown, MA 01833. You might remember me as Gene Scechi in Back in Your Own Backyard, an original Hanover High School production c.a. 1990. 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23-26. 23-25 are at 8 pm and 26th is a matinee at 3 pm. Tickets are $10. 


Chorus 2: This we've been rehearsing for all summer. Calliope is a non-profit chorus/orchestra in Boston, and besides sounding great, they give away proceeds from all of their shows to area non-profits.  They have creative programming, and this summer the concert is "A Mass in Pieces", which is a collage of great pieces from various composers' masses.  Bach, Beethoven, Rossini, Bloch, and more. 

First Church, Boston, 66 Marlborough Street.

Mayapples. These are the ones we didn't eat because they are not ripe enough. The ripe ones tasted unbelievably good - sweet like a passionfruit meets a guava. We all swallowed but didn't chew the seeds, and no one suffered any ill effects or feelings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

M & M s

Last week on the vineyard brought a ton of foraging. I'm getting better about picking only things that I know people will like (although my friend Jody didn't seem to like the watercress soup, but everyone else did enough so that we sucked down at least 10 gallons of the stuff). So, for example, I didn't prepare anything "knotweed". I stuck to pokeweed, daisy greens, milkweed, and watercress as the bulk foraged items.

Here are my milkweed pickers.

And here is the haul.

I cut off the white part of the stem and boiled the rest for 10 minutes and.. no bitterness! I think I have, at least for the time being, satisfied myself that it is the white part that has produced the bitterness confusion in the foraging literature.

On the ferry boat home, I got a phone call from a friend in Cambridge saying she had possibly found morels in her back yard. The next day I verified that they were in fact morels and proceeded to eat them for lunch. Thanks Julia!!  So, Cantabridgians, keep your eyes peeled.  Look in your mulch, and even look where the foundation starts and the mulch begins.  The deformed one (which I split into two to make the "haul" look more impressive) was coming right out of such a crack.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mountains of chickweed after a bit of rain

In preparation for tonight's dinner, hosted at Harvard, I headed out to my favorite one-town-shopping foraging spot - J.P. It started pretty mildly with some not so great tasting linden leaves, but started to pick up speed the deeper I got.  I was able to gather a quick bag of nettles and some milkweed shoots, and then I headed over to the giant composting dirt mound area at Peter's Hill in the arboretum.  Mountains of chickweed, lamb's quarters, and pokeweed, three top notch spring veggies.

Of course, while I was upon a mountain of lamb's quarters, I get a call from my work. It was 9:30am. I was supposed to be at the 9:00 meeting.  Instead of "I'm on a mountain of great edible weeds!" which I was tempted to say, I went with "Oh...I'm not there", to which I got a reasonable "Duh" response.

I ate some of those weeds during the 12 o'clock meeting. But I'm really looking forward to getting into all that pokeweed!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is good for the goose?

First, a couple comparably mundane things. And then a strong kicker at the end.

Mundane 1) It's been a good year for shepard's purse. Here's one right outside my office. But the other day in the arboretum, Sarah B and I found some super plush ones which made great salad greens.

Mundane 2) I guerrilla planted 2 apricot trees and 1 aprium (apricot/plum hybrid) with Rachel the other night, somewhere in Cambridge.  They are still alive and looking pretty good. They get a couple of ball jars full of water each per week.  Hopefully Jay and the kids are watering the ones we planted in Hanover a bit more.

Kicker) I got a phone call the other day from a girl who does a lot of farmer organizing ( is one of her many recent projects...she also runs the greenhorns) asking me if I'd like to come over with a bunch of her friends for roadkill dinner. It was kind of a garbled message, but I was pretty sure I heard roadkill.  So I took Sarah E to see what this was all about, stopping to grab some elm branches with young seeds and some redbud buds, in order to contribute something. They invited me because of my urban forager status after all, and I had to show up with something. No time to return home to my fridge which is already overflowing with wild edibles.  Anyhow, sure enough, on arrival, we were treated to a fine dinner including dried seaweed, black quinoa, and a roasted roadkill goose from the Charles river. Apparently Severin and her friend Dan were biking on the river, talking about how it'd be nice to try a river goose one day, and lo and behold, right up ahead moments later they came across a warm one, just bumped off. They plucked it, brined it, and cooked it. Hardcore, to say the least.  I had a bit, it was tough but tasty. God help me if I ever come across that situation.  I'll be torn.

No picture, but imagine a turkey with much darker meat.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stinging Nettles

Easter Sunday brought me out to the burbs to visit Jay and Jodi and the kids, and then down to the Cape to visit with my mom for a couple days. I took my usual walk around the block on arrival -- she lives on a little peninsula of land adjacent to Waquoit bay (which should be famous for its mussels), full of mushrooms in the fall and a good variety of weeds the rest of the year. Towards the end of the loop I spotted a nice nettles patch -- by eye and by smell -- so I went back to the house for my nettle gloves and another plastic bag. I decided to pay a parking ticket on the walk back to the patch, which was voice activated and kept getting interrupted by this barking dog named Bruin. It took far longer to pay the ticket with him yapping in the background then it would have if I'd just mailed the check in.

Anyhow, my mother likes to show me the latest from this pacific northwest blog called fat of the land, and there they had a recipe for nettle soup. Of course, the "fat" in fat of the land was apparent in their recipe, heavy on chicken broth and heavy cream. We made our own version of it which came out good enough for me to post the recipe.

Creamy vegan nettle soup

In a large soup pot, sauté an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, and a chopped sweet potato in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. After 10 minutes or so, add a couple pints of either veggie broth or water or some combination. Bring to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and lightly boil for 10 minutes . Carefully dump in a plastic bag of fresh nettles. Then add one package of silken tofu. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, then blend the whole thing. We served ours topped with a basil leaf.

This is a spring or late fall recipe. In late spring and summer, nettles are too tall and tough for eating and should be gathered instead for drying for tea. The illustration below is a mid summer depiction of stinging nettle.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring chickweed

I've decided to forage for old botanical illustrations to supplement this year's blog. Not that my point and shoot pictures were not great, but, good drawings help people learn plants better because they can caricature a plant, highlighting the identifying features. Botanical illustrations also often capture a plant at various stages of development. Although I haven't found an early illustration of daylily that shows its "shoot" stage, where it looks like a green haircut dude buried in the ground, hair poking through. But I did find a nice illustration of flowering chickweed:

For most of the foraging year, when I spot chickweed it is just stems and leaves, no flowers. This spring though, it is out in abundance and it is a matted white flowering ready-to-go salad. The leaf shape is a helpful indicator: like a spade on a deck of cards. Chickweed (called so because it's eaten by chickens, so I read) is Stellaria media, Stellaria means star in Latin; the white flowers look like little stars.

I am continuing my investigations of daylilies. Specifically the fact that I am allergic to them. good. Had a tiny amount the other day, felt it a little. So, had some for breakfast today, cooked, and feeling fine. More to come on this.

I weeded my first urban garden this past weekend and almost already had an "incident". A gardener came in and asked me my name, but it wasn't like she was curious about my name, I could tell what she really wanted to ask me (what with my backpack open and my spade out) was if I was a member. But I distracted her with plant chatter ("all the weeds are up..yummy wild onions...") and then ducked behind the shed and hopped the fence out of her line of sight. Anything to avoid a conflict, even when I know I'm in the okay zone. I yanked plenty of chickweed and evening primroses for people, saving them a few moments, and aerating their soil for them.

Here's what those primroses would have become had no one touched them:

Instead, they are pickled, in my backpack, and waiting for me for lunch.

The spring begins!