Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 at
Wild strawberries look like diminutive cultivated strawberries. If you know one, you should be able to recognize the other. Photo by Gregg Davis.
I bolted upright in bed at 2 a.m., awakened by loud, forceful hail pouring down on the roof. It was June 28, just a week into summer. I got up and walked across the dark living room to peek out the sliding glass doors and watch it come down in the pitch black night. Despite the cold, hard nature of those icy pellets, the hail meant a welcome respite from a recent dry spell that had the flowers drooping in the fields and forests, starved for something to drink.
The next day dawned with a thin coat of white on the mountaintops. A patch of calypso orchids bloomed in my friend’s yard. And I found my first wild strawberries of the season.
Last year, the wild strawberries surprised me. I had become accustomed to them fruiting in the beginning of August at 11,000 feet where I previously lived in the dry hills of Fairplay, Colorado. Now we live lower at 10,000 feet in Breckenridge, where the breathing’s free and easy and the strawberries ripen sooner, compared to our old mountainside.
It was early July and I had been circling our Peak 8 neighborhood on foot when I nearly tripped over a plentiful fruiting in the road bed atop a ditch near my apartment. Climbing down into the ditch yielded a good perspective up its steep side, and a hidden world of bright red gems hiding under the low foliage. Forget all those hours spent seeking small glimpses of red at our old place. These were the real deal, many tiny handfuls as reward for climbing down into the ditch to get at them. Read the rest of this entry
Saturday, January 28th, 2012 at
Rain-kissed wild black currant goodness.
It’s wild booze month at Hunger & Thirst and again I have Butterpoweredbike to thank for motivating me to the computer to write something. That—and for getting me into the liquor cabinet for a night of distraction from my many winter obligations.
Fortunately, Gregg and I were good little alcohol squirrels over the warmer months, storing wild foraged ingredients in bottles of booze now and again. One batch of our prized bathtub gin—made from vodka flavored with juniper “berries” and wild angelica—remains, but as of the other night there were also a few experiments yet to be tried: wild grape vodka, wild black currant vodka, and wild black currant brandy among them. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, October 6th, 2011 at
Strawberry Park hot springs in fall. Photo by Gregg Davis.
This blog is just the small-potatoes-rambling of one over-exuberant semi-neophyte foraging addict, but I swear, wild food must be en vogue or something—because in the last four months I have received not one or two but three different emails from producers seeking to create TV or web shows about foraging.
One inquired as to whether my collecting missions require acts of bravery. Acts of bravery? I was inclined to reply in the negative, but, eager to please, I dug deep and ventured this response: “Does hanging off a mountainside to collect currants count?” (It’s not that I have to hang off the mountainside; it’s just that that’s where the best currants are.) I got the sense that he appreciated my effort but found the answer wanting, however.
Next he asked whether I travel worldwide for special wild foods. “Um, no,” I replied. Clearly my hobby is less sexy than TV might hope. “Mostly I forage locally where I live,” I explained. Really I’m just a poor fool working 10 jobs, scavenging my food from the wild so I can afford to live in paradise, and banging away at the keyboard about things that interest me whenever I get the chance. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at
As the name implies, soapberries foam up when cooked.
My mother always told me not to eat wild berries I found growing in the woods, and I have long heeded her advice with the exception of easy ones like blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. That is, until recently, when I found a guide to wild edible berries at our local Fairplay, Colorado public library entitled Wild Berries of the West, by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller (2001). So far, every berry I discover in the wilds here in the Colorado Rockies I can find in that book. It’s wonderful!
My most recent discovery is Sheperdia canadensis, also known as soapberry, soopolallie, or Canada buffaloberry. According to Plants of the Rocky Mountains (Kershaw et. al., 1998), S. canadensis is a spreading, deciduous shrub with small, bran-like, rust-colored scales on the undersides of leaves and young branches. The juicy, translucent berries are born on the female plants only, range from red to yellow, and feel soapy to the touch.
The nickname “soapberry” comes from the berries’ saponin content, which is an ingredient in many commercial foaming agents (Derig and Fuller) and the fact that the berries foam up when beaten (Kershaw) or cooked.
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