Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at
October snow hovers in the high country.
It’s mid October and it just keeps snowing here in the high country at 11,000 feet in Colorado Rockies. You’d think foraging season were over, but it’s not.
Two days ago I awoke to a steady snow and found myself unable to focus on work. By noon it stopped but the wind kicked up; the way it whipped around the house inspired Gregg to curl up by the fire and swear he’d stay inside all day. I felt exactly the opposite, however: I needed to go outside.
It’s hunting season so the hand-me-down pink bell bottom cords and orange puffy vest were in order. It was hat and gloves weather too with all that wind.
The mining road was vacant and the snow plentiful. I reveled in getting fresh tracks as I hiked through 3”- 4” deep swaths of pow. At a switchback I clambered over the fallen tree trunk that obscures the footpath to the secret meadow, which I descended brushing snow off the low bushes as I went.
There were many non-producing low juniper shrubs en route but eventually I found the one I was looking for, which I’d spied a few days prior. It is the most fruitful creeping juniper shrub I’ve ever found, and despite the snow it was still laden with plump, blue berries. Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at
Wild black currants with distinctive Ribes leaves.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I absolutely love making jellies and jams!
Mind you, this is a complete about-face from how I felt about them yesterday, especially after Gregg read aloud the brochure that came inside the box of MCP pectin and it said we had to “Measure ingredients exactly” because “ALTERING RECIPES or INGREDIENTS could cause a set failure” (the caps are MCP’s emphasis) while I was failing to get my first-ever jam to set. I felt like Julie Powell about to throw a fit over a Julia Child recipe gone wrong. What do you mean I have to measure the ingredients exactly? I near wailed as one nervous boyfriend tried his best to disappear into the background.
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Monday, September 13th, 2010 at
Rocky Mountain huckleberries foraged near Fairplay, Colorado
The high country huckleberry season (Vaccinium species) is winding down now, but it was such a success at its peak that I feel obliged to write about it. This is because not only did we find the berries plentiful (and literally in our very own back yard at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies), but also because Gregg used them to make what was quite possibly the best wild edible dish I’ve had yet to date.
I ate huckleberries last fall in New Hampshire that looked and tasted very much like blueberries, but the local huckleberries near Fairplay, Colorado are very different. When plentiful in mid-August, our back yard berries were translucent and ruby red, dangling like tiny gems from the lush, green, low-lying plants that carpet the forested areas behind our house. I tentatively identified them as grouse whortleberries (V. scoparium), which I read about in Wild Berries of the West by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller. Even as of yesterday there were a few ripe patches out there, although the remaining berries seem to be purpler. (Whether that means the reds eventually turn purple or the purples ripen later I couldn’t tell you. Suffice it to say that the fruits range from red to blue-purple in color.) Read the rest of this entry