While restocking at Trader Joes the other day, I was surprised to find an ingredient I haven’t had in 15 years – fiddleheads. Sauteed with a bit of butter and lemon, they are one of my favorite greens.
When I was younger my family lived in central B.C. (Canada). In the spring we would sometimes collect fresh fiddleheads to eat at home. Thinking back, we used to do a fair bit of wild food harvesting when I was a kid:
Choke cherries – a small, bitter fruit with a large pit. Makes great syrup or jam.
Highbush cranberry – not really a cranberry, but has a bit of a bitter edge. Found near rivers, the berries are usually sweet enough to eat right off the tree after the first frost. Makes a fantastic syrup and jam. This is a flavor I really miss.
Soapberries – crushed and whipped, these make a bitter foam called Indian ice-cream. Add in a bit of sugar or fireweed, and it takes the edge off.
Wild mushrooms – if you know what you are doing, you can find some great wild mushrooms in BC. I remember mostly pine mushrooms, but there were probably some chanterelles and morels mixed in as well.
Wild berries – Raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, saskatoon, etc. The berries are typically pretty small and low to the ground, but the flavor can’t be beat.
Wild meat – Lots of salmon, trout, and kokanee. Occasional venison, moose, and grouse. It is still pretty common for people in rural areas to have full winter freezers from fall hunting.
I wonder if there are many wild foods to gather in San Diego. I can’t imagine quite as many down here, simply because of the desert aspect. I can only think of one wild food I’ve seen around – the lemonade berry. It seems to have a lot more uses than just making a tart drink though.