Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Love what grows in your back yard.

The makings of a great meal are right in your back yard, across the fields, within walking distance. I'm talking about what grows naturally around you.

Here is the list of typical Oregon produce: mushrooms, hazelnuts,  cranberries, berries of all kinds.  Mushrooms and berries are cultivated commercially; the same for hazelnuts and cranberries. 

Most of our fresh mushrooms end up in Japan, in fancy restaurants, before they reach the local markets.  In every town adjacent to forests there is a We-buy-mushrooms-Shed at the end of a major road, seasonal places where crates and crates of mushrooms are brought in by local foragers. Sometimes we hear of a neighbor who went out after a rainstorm to pick mushrooms, and didn't return home. Many are those lost in forests when at the end of the day, too tired, too cold, they cannot find their way out.  Morells, Chanterelles, Lobsters, grow in special places, under certain canopies known to the specialists who search and recognize.

The local college has mushroom recognition lectures and field trips for those hardy enough and curious enough to pursue this passion.

Cranberries end up on every body's table at least once or twice a year. I have a good friend who grows them commercially, sharing tid-bits about the hard work of growing such a fruit.  Here, cranberries grow in bogs, below level, like vines, slowly turning red when the fruit is ripe. Then, the bogs get flooded, to better harvest the fruit, and people go in the bogs with waders, rubber pants and boots all in one, to rake the fruit and collect it for Ocean Spray.   If you have not cooked with cranberries, check out the cranberry board website and get cooking. I keep a few bags in the freezer for days when I want something red and deliciously tart to kick start my mornings.

On Today's menu: Pasta carbonara with fresh mushrooms and peas and fresh greens from the garden; grilled local fish; cranberry-nut dessert.

What local foods are you eating today?


  1. I'm doing something with chicken but your pasta carbonara sounds good, I may have to give that a try.

  2. What a lovely post! I love mushrooms, but have never foraged for any. I remember my father telling me that he would forage in Ohio with his mother and they would put a silver coin in the pot of mushrooms, believing that if the coin turned black, the mushrooms were poisonous! I doubt that I would trust a coin! We just returned from the Farmers' Market and tonight one Item we are eating is roasted root vegetables...carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips tossed in olive oil, salt and chopped rosemary!

  3. Sally, grill and cut up your chicken before tossing it with pasta carbonara. Yumm!

    Patricia- Way to go, roasted root vegies at this time of the year fits right in with seasonal and local. However, where you are, your growing season is ten months or more!

  4. The only thing in my back yard these days is snow! lol

  5. I figured that much, Eva. Stay warm.

  6. your meal sounds delicious
    We buy at farmer's markets in the summer..
    we buy from an AMish family that bakes great bread and pies and cans tomatoes and beets

  7. I'm definitely a mushrooms person and sometimes I wish my family shared that passion with me more. That's a fab post you've written. I love cookery columns, especially when combined with the marvellous outdoors.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  8. I am afraid I am not eating much locally in the winter. Here in Ketchikan, seafood would be my only choice. But, I do order a box of as local as possible veggies twice a month. They come from Oregon! That is as close as I can get to local unless I build myself a greenhouse.

    In the summer, the forging is bountiful with berries, mushrooms, and more. The natives that have lived here for hundreds of years have a saying: "When the tide is out, the table is set". They eat barnacles, clams, and lots herring roe, seaweed, and lots of other goodies. I can't quite bring myself to do it, city-raised girl that I am.

    I am glad I found your blog and am glad to meet you!

    Please check out my blog too!


  9. Rosaria, We have a local County park (Hovander Park) in Ferndale, WA that is maintained by the university's agriculture department. One of the old homes on the property has an aroma garden, full of wonderful herbs and heavenly scented plants of all kinds. The other old house has the traditional gardens, including a salsa garden (hot peppers, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, etc., etc.) But my favorite separate garden of all is their weed garden, nice neat rows with labels on every type of weed that is prolific here in the northern part of WA state. I can walk up and down and find exactly what I grow so well in my own garden.

    Thanks for the great posts.

    Nancy at the Boat House