In the spirit of experiential learning, a few of us from the Timber Press office headed out to Trillium Lake for an afternoon of foraging and bird-watching. Beside proper rain gear, we brought along several copies of Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Northwest Foraging. Do you sense a theme? That’s right, fun!
More after the jump.
Here’s a tip for budding bird-watchers: If you want to document sightings, best to bring something more powerful than an iPhone. While we did see a few Steller’s jays and a couple of bald eagles, the only good picture we got is of these friendly ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris), which, truth be told, came to us. Apparently, they don’t need a book to tell them where to find food!
Foraging rule number one: Don’t eat anything unless you are certain it’s safe! Here, Megan demonstrates how hunger can cause a lack of good judgement. While not fatal, blackberry leaves won’t do your stomach any good.
So, we checked our manual to find something Megan could eat.
The flowers of the bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) plant will give way to small clusters of bright red berries which are good fresh, cooked in jams, or dried for later use. Bunchberry is one of a few edible ornamental groundcovers which makes it an excellent choice for native plant gardens as well as a source of wild food.
If you find bunchberry to be a bit too mealy, then you might try thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus). Its flowers will give way to small clusters of berries which look like fine-grained raspberries. These are excellent when fresh but also work well in baked goods. The leaves have berry-flavored overtones and can be dried to make tea.
Common plantain (Plantago major) is another option. It often has a high nutritional value, providing vitamin A, calcium, and other nutrients. Leaves are good when young and fresh, suitable for salads. It can also be used in soups or cooked green mixes but don’t rely on it for primary flavoring. The seeds are small but can be used to nice effect in seed mixtures for porridges and baked goods.
Whatever you do, don’t eat apples growing on conifers! Despite what your foraging mates say, these are not “pineapples,” but are actually Christmas decorations and their sole purpose is to Keep Oregon Weird.
It was too early in the season for many of the plants to be useful as food but we didn’t go hungry. Thanks to Andrew’s impressive foraging skills, demonstrated below, we were all able to enjoy sandwiches from Grand Central Bakery*.
“Pacific Northwest Foraging may change the way you see the world.”—Valerie Easton, Pacific Northwest Magazine
“The photos are gorgeous, and the informative writing is a true pleasure to read. … This book will get you outside, make you slow down, look, and listen.”—TravelOregon.com